Camilla’s Roses

Camilla’s Roses is Bernice L. McFadden’s sixth novel.  I’ll have just reached the halfway mark on my book challenge to read all of her books in order of publication this year. So far this has been an interesting challenge.  I’m enjoying observing how her writing style has developed and improved with each novel.

Not knowing what to expect, I have to say that Camilla’s Roses took me on a rollercoaster ride of emotions.  The novella is separated into three distinct parts – the present, the past, and the present.  McFadden uses the section on the past to show us img_4109Camilla’s upbringing, her relationship with her family, and her coming of age.  She is born to two parents who are weak, incompetent, and driven by their personal demons.  Luckily for Camilla she is raised by her grand-parents despite the difficulty of having to take care of so many people in their home.  With all the difficulty of growing up that Camilla had she only wanted to leave and to never look back once she went off to college.

The novella develops twists and turns in ways you won’t be able to predict.  With sensitivity McFadden exposes the good, the bad, and the ugly of the ups and downs of life.  “We forget about the people we love sometimes.” (Camilla’s Roses, p. 120)  Camilla learns that she can’t hide from her past and her family, for this is what has  made her who she is.  However, is she ready to reconcile with all of those difficulties in her past and become an even better black woman in the end?

Bernice L. McFadden’s writing style in Camilla’s Roses can be described as rhythmic and  sharp.  At times the transitions are so quick that if you’re not paying attention you just might miss a piece of important information that’s been dropped unexpectedly.  This story is tightly recounted and gives loads of information throughout, which is probably why the second part, the past, is the longest part of the novella.  It gives Camilla’s and her family’s back story.  Despite it’s 203 pages, I didn’t feel too unsatisfied at the end, although I’d have liked to have seen what became of her husband.

For any of  you out there interested in reading more from black women writers Camilla’s Roses wouldn’t be a bad place to start.  I’d say it’s a little snack of what is to come if it’s your first read of Bernice L. McFadden.  I think I’d have to suggest  Sugar as the ideal first book to pick up from McFadden’s list of novels because it is an incredible story with complex and unforgettable characters.   If you’re interested in themes that touch on black women, black community, mother/daughter relationships, colorism, and more Camilla’s Roses is for you too.  Check out the video below to learn more about how Bernice L. McFadden started her writing career.

My copy:  Camilla’s Roses, hardcover, 203 pages (Dutton)

My rating:  * * * * 

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Born on a Tuesday

Born on a Tuesday opens following a gang of street boys, who are hanging in the streets and getting up to no good. They spend time smoking wee wee, pillaging, committing random acts of violence and even murder. We are introduced to the main character, Dantala, “born on a Tuesday”, alias Ahmad. His poignant first person voice recounts his coming of age story in northern Nigeria.

This poignant novel takes us through friendships, political strife, islamic extremism, and death. We as readers learn more about the real life difficulties of growing up a boy in northern Nigeria. Dantala is a boy who has seen a lot already from the beginning of the novel. In spite of this, he is still not enough street smart. He is away from his home and is supposed to be studying the Koran, Arabic, Hausa, and Math. He’s an excellent student but a horrific incident sends him running for his life from Bayan Layi. We have no idea how old he is but it’s quite clear he can’t be more than 15 years old. He finds himself weak and sick in a town called Sokoto. This is where the growth of Dantala and Born on a Tuesday continues.

I have to say I was excited to buddy read this novel with The African Book Addict. We both owned Born on a Tuesday and were anxious to get to it.  This book touches on many typical themes as most coming of age stories but this one goes much further. It explores political power, religion, and how religious extremism starts and can envelop a community and the innocent.  This novel depicts all the complexities that we can’t think of.  The writing style and the author’s capacity to make the reader feel so many different emotions in so few pages are the best things about Born on a Tuesday.  I was engrossed immediately and liked Dantala’s personality. At times I found myself mentally rooting for him and urging him not to make bad choices.

The structure of the novel was cleverly done.  It is separated into five parts ranging from 2003-2010. Part 3 begins with a chapter called Words. It’s from here where we read Dantala’s English word journal. These sections, written in italics, explore words that he had learned in English and through his journal we go deeper into his thoughts about what is going on in his life through them.  It is a diary of sorts disguised as a simple word journal. Some of the words he writes about are obsess, anthropology, terrify, discovery shrug, etc.  These passages are some of the more vulnerable moments of Dantala’s thoughts. It’s a clever device that Elnathan John uses for us to see what Dantala really thinks and feels about things.  Despite this being a first person narrative, we are immediately sucked in and believe everything he recounts. He’s a pretty reliable narrator too since he doesn’t try to lie about his feelings or actions when he is embarrassed (and there are quite a few embarrassing moments) or wrong.  I know usually readers feel first person narratives get a little too close for comfort but I can’t explain exactly why but this one could only work in that point of view.

This is the first novel I’ve read by Elnathan John and I can’t wait to get to another one. His writing is unfaltering and informative. Born on a Tuesday was shortlisted for the NLNG Nigeria Prize for Literature in 2016. After reading this one I’d like to know which title won.  Elnathan John is a writer and novelist and is one of Nigeria’s most well-known satirist.  If you’d like to read more of Elnathan John’s writing check out his blog Elnathan’s Dark Corner.

My copy:  Born on a Tuesday, Elnathan John (Cassava Republic), paperback 261 pages

My rating:  * * * * *

I’m an affiliate for The Book Depository. It would be much appreciated to click the link below if you’re interested in picking up any of my recommendations. It will help fund my incessant book buying, reading, and reviewing.
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Reading Baldwin…

IMG_0956I used to run my hands along the books on the wooden bookshelves that were in the hall upstairs in my home.  It contained a myriad of first edition African-American novels from Frederick Douglas to Malcolm X.  Growing up I was particularly intrigued by the title Giovanni’s Room.  I wondered what the story could be about.  I remember reading the back cover but still not being so sure.  I always heard my mother and especially my uncle persuasively explaining to me the importance of James Baldwin’s works, emphasizing  Another Country (my favorite so far)Going to Meet the Man, and Go Tell it on the Mountain.  I grew up having these titles in mind but Giovanni’s Room, for some reason, was always in the forefront, probably because it was the first book of his that I held in my hands.

Sadly it has taken me forty years to read one of Baldwin’s novels.  I read lots of African-American authors at college for my major but Baldwin surprisingly never came up.  Four years ago, I read and thoroughly enjoyed If Beale Street could Talk. The year after I read Giovanni’s Room. I’m so glad I finally got to the book that perked my interest at such a young age because of the title alone.  I followed up by reading Another Country and The Fire Next Time.  Both are incredible literary works that everybody should read before they die. I still have more to discover by Baldwin.

So I guess you’re wondering why I’m writing about my reading discovery of James Baldwin. Well I thought I’d let you all in on a reading project that one of my Booktube buddies, Denise D. Cooper ArtBooks Life (Awesome creative Booktuber go check her out!) will be doing next year.  It’s called The Blackout for Books 2018.  She’ll be reading books by African-American authors for twelve months.  The rules are the following:

  1.  Only read African-American writers
  2. Read 1 independent writer each month
  3. Read 2 African-American Women Writers each month

It’s as easy as that.  I commend her for this and I’ll be joining her for January, February, and March of 2018.  I can’t wait.  It would be great if you all could join in too for any amount of time you’d like.  So, now you know a bit more about why I started this post talking about James Baldwin.  I’ll punctually be writing posts about some of my favorite African-American writers and about those that I haven’t read yet but are looking forward to read in preparation for this reading challenge.  This will give you some ideas if you aren’t sure what you’d like to read.  If you decide to participate, don’t forget to link your comments with #the blackoutforbooks2018 everywhere.  Let me know below what you think about this reading challenge and if you’re interested in joining in. Happy reading y’all!

 

 

Bedrock Faith Live Show Discussion

 

Bedrock Faith by Eric Charles May – 432 pages – Akashic Books

Rating – 4,5 stars

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#ReadSoulLit 2017

Hoping you’re all gearing up to celebrate Black History Month 2017 through literature.  This year I’m hosting a read along on Goodreads of Bedrock Faith by Eric Charles May published by Akashic Books.  You can sign up here to become part of the group and take part in the discussion.  All discussions will be happening over there and will be followed by a live discussion on my YouTube channel Brown Girl Reading, at the end of the month.  On Instagram I’ll be co-hosting a photo challenge with Danielle from dani! dany! danie!.  I’ll be doing some updates of what I post over there here in case any of you aren’t on either Goodreads or Instagram.  I look forward to exchanging with you and I’m sure this is going to be great.  Oh and if you’re interested in seeing how #ReadSoulLit started click here to watch the playlist of #ReadSoulLit videos that were made the first year by some of our black Booktubers.  Happy reading!

readsoullit2017

Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America

The inauguration of the newly elected president of America is upon us. Racism has shownimg_3313 to be very alive and well  in the United States, contrary to popular belief. People are all questioning how we could go from President Barak Obama to what was elected on November 7, 2016.  Deep down I think we all know why and aren’t really surprised, but in essence most of us don’t want to admit what the problem really is.  Tears We Cannot Stop : A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson delves profoundly and with precision into the murky racist history America keeps holding on to, as it seems, for dear life.   Do YOU really want to know what the problem is? Or, do you prefer to keep pretending you don’t see color and that racism doesn’t exist?

Dyson opens Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America showing the reader that we are all different, living and seeing the world from our own points of view.  However similar that is, black people’s experiences are being minimized and ignored.   The realization that black people are still viewed today as inferior and the struggle for white people to acknowledge their white privilege are only two of the many problems Dyson analyzes in Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America.  Dyson chose to structure this novel to resemble a church service, henceforth giving the book a very heart-felt, sincere tone.  Instead of being separated into simple numbered chapters, they are each labeled with a part of a full church service, Chapter I. Call to Worship, Chapter II. Hymns of Praise, Chapter III.  Invocation,  Chapter IV. Scripture Reading, Chapter V. Sermon, VI. Benediction, VII. Offering Plate, and finally VIII. Closing Prayer.

Written in only 188 pages, Dyson incisively takes “beloved” (white people) through the 360° lesson on race and understanding it from a black person’s point of view.  He leaves no stone unturned.  He demystifies whiteness in exactitude and with unflinching truth.  Yes it’s uncomfortable, which he states right from the beginning, but it’s necessary.  Dyson utilizes pop culture, expressions, lyrics, tv shows, famous people, and most of all real examples from his own life.  He uses all of this to demonstrate white America’s inability  to accept their part in racism still exiting so strongly today.  Despite sounding negative, Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America is not all gloom and doom.

I don’t want to give anything more away, but EVERYONE white, black, hispanic, asian, or other NEEDS to read this book, as well as those of you who aren’t American but want to understand America’s race struggle better.  Dyson’s writing is truthful and informative, while being equally interesting.  It will be hard to avoid understanding some of the problems of racism in America today, after reading this book.  Those who read it won’t have any excuses.  This book isn’t a cry for help or a plea for pity, it’s a demand for REAL respect, understanding, and action.

You may not know who Michael Eric Dyson is but every black American does and you should too.  He is an author, radio host, and professor of Sociology.  He teaches Sociology at Georgetown University.  He became an ordained Baptist minister at 19.  He’s obtained various degrees from Knoxville College, Carson-Newman College, and Princeton University. Dyson definitely has his finger on the pulse of America’s race problem because  he’s written many books discussing race and related topics, such as Why I Love Black WomenKnow What I Mean? Reflections On Hip Hop,   Debating Race: with Michael Eric DysonHoller If You Hear Me: Searching for Tupac Shakur, among many others and Tears  We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America  is his nineteenth.

*I was sent this book for an honest review from St. Martin’s Press.

Tears We Cannot Stop A Sermon to White America, 188 pages  – St. Martin’s Press

My rating: 5 stars

Recommended to: Readers interested in reading about race relations in the United States

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