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I was so delighted to get an early copy of this buzed-up novel by the amazing young writer Justin Torres. I met him a few years ago at Breadloaf and was knocked out by his reading. And since then he has been racking up all kinds of awards. So far, this novel is a very short book that packs quite a punch. Cannot wait to finish it.
Pearl Cleage’s lastest Blue Hamilton novel stays #winning. This novel combines all the noir-ish intrigue of Baby Brother’s Blues and the optimistic romance of Some Things I Never Thought I Do. And you would think that would be plenty. But then, she adds vamipres. Black women vampires living in the West End area of Atlanta. I wanted to save this book for when my book tour took me far far from home, but I just couldn’t wait.
Here’s an excerpt, and you can click on the image to buy it from an indie bookstore.
Today I participated in the PEN World Voices Festival. It was kind of a quirky event– 10am outdoors at the Highline, which meant that we were reading on a brigde over a very busy street. The audience were high school students who were kind of into it and kind of not. I was lucky– I was early on the schedule when the kids were still feeling pretty perky. I read from LEAVING ATLANTA and SILVER SPARROW, answered a few questions and that was then. Much later in the program, the students were getting antsy. Pizza was delivered and there was a little bit of a frenzy as the food was distributed and people wanted to know if there was going to be any soda, and what flavor. I didn’t envy the folks on the second half of the program.
Right after the pizza, Rachel McKibbens took the stage to read from her poetry collection, PINK ELEPHANT. Rachel has a presence and she has a look. When she took the stage, the teenagers looked up from their pizza and coke to see what this woman was all about. When she started reciting her poetry about growing up in a working class community in Orange Country (“a part of Orange county they don’t show on TV except for on “cops”)– the kids forgot about pizza and texting and everything else except the raw humanity issueing forth from Rachel’s arresting verses. She tells the hard stories with beauty, vulnerability, and fire, too. After the event, young girl mustered their courage to approach the poet, “We really liked what you said,” one explained. Another broke in, “It wasn’t just what you said. It was how you said it, too.”
I can’t recommend this book enough. Rachel calls it a “memoir in verse. I call it brilliant.”
Human Traficking is an epidemic in the United States. When I say that, you probably have a hard time getting your head around what I am talking about. I am talking about teen age girls who are forced into prostitution. These girls are on the streets of every city in the country. When they are apprehended by law enforcement, they go to jail, ruining their lives. I have always felt uncomfortable when people toss the word “pimp” around in casual conversation, for example “Pimp my novel”, “Pimp my car”, etc. Pimps enslave women and girls. It’s not cute. It’s not funny. It’s not manly or sexy. It’s cowardly and criminal.
GIRLS LIKE US is a new memoir by Rachel Lloyd who was, herself, trafficked, but managed to escape. She is the founder of GEMS, an organization that helps traficked girls. It’s an amazing book and this is a serious problem. Buy it. Read it. And then do something.
Yesterday, I talked to Doug Seibold, publisher of Agate Books. I don’t get to talk to him often, but when I do, it’s always a pleasure. This time he wanted to talk about Rosalyn Story, author of the new novel WADING HOME. “She is a demon when it comes to plot.”
WADING HOME is about New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. We all know that this is a watershed event in American history– so why hasn’t this novel by an acclaimed writer gotten any attention? We all have our theories, but Doug isn’t interested in throwing blame around. He wants to get this excellent novel in the hands of readers. So, for the rest of this month, you can have the ebook for free. He’s confident that if you read it, you will love it and you will tell other people.
I haven’t heard anything about this book– and I like to think of myself as being in the loop! This, I think shows, how certain stories get all the limelight. I would usually wait until I have had a chance to read something before urging you all to check it out, but the free download will be gone by then. And besides, it’s free. If you take my advice, download it, and don’t like it, what have you lost.
Here is information about getting your FREE ebook from Agate, or you can cruise over to Amazon. And here is Doug’s blog post about the plight of serious novels in this uncertain climate and great info about Rosalyn Story, the author.
Go ahead. Let’s give this book a chance.
Why am I so in love with this video? An entire love relationship that lasts the length of subway ride.
So, I went to see “For Colored Girls” this weekend. I didn’t really like it, but I didn’t know how to go about saying why not. But I think I have put my finger on it.
When I was first exposed to the play by Ntozake Shange, I was a young girl. My mother had gone to see it, which was unusual. I have very few memories of my mother getting dressed to go out, so I knew that this was an important event. I didn’t go, of course, but I have a vague memory of Mama coming home, impressed, or maybe emotionally spent.
I read the play and saw a production of it when I was a student at Spelman College. I remember feeling moved by the tragic scenes, but also amused by the more light-hearted monologues, and ultimately SEEN by the story.
Although I was about seventeen years old and didn’t know much about such heavy business, I could empathize with the actors’ emotions. At the time, one of my biggest concerns in life was Not. To. Get. Pregnant. So the abortion monologue represented my greatest fear come to life. At the understatement, “I was pregnant and ashamed of myself,” I wanted to run on stage and give the actress a hug.
And the monologue about the little girl who discovers Toussaint L’oevuture in the library- that was me! And the little hard-headed boy she met afterwards, Toussaint Jones- I had a little boy like that in my life. His name was Roy. (And I loooooved him like only a ten year old can.)
And, to be honest, I am sure the production of the play I saw couldn’t have been very good. Teenage actors reading “Beau Willie Brown?” We really didn’t have much “stuff” for somebody to run off with. But still, there was something of US in there and, as the play said, “we loved her fiercely.”
Flash forward twenty years and I am going to see “For Colored Girls”, the movie. In theory, I should be even more affected as I have enough miles on my personal odometer that some of the experienced in the play are my own, too.
But, something about this movie locked me out. I wasn’t able to identify with anyone. All I could think was, “That’s not me.” Janet Jackson’s type-A career woman looked like what people who wanted to keep me back warned me I would become if I kept achieving– hard, unlovable, emasculating brothers left and right with all that scary accomplishment.
Maybe it was the hyperbole that got me. Who gets a back-alley abortion in 2010? The back-alley-ness eclipsed any thoughts about what it means to be a pregnant teenager “and ashamed of myself.” Terminating a pregnancy is plenty serious and plenty scary even when performed in a clean, well-lighted clinic– which is most women’s experience.
Ntozake Shange made being a “colored girl” serious business, a dangerous proposition, a “metaphysical dilemma” to be conquered, but a rich life if you worked on it.
Watching this movie, I felt like the film makers were saying, “Black girl, it sucks to be you.” (Side bar: Dear Whoppi, in the name of Pecola Breedlove, please stop accepting roles that require you to describe yourself as “ugly”.)
And don’t even get me started on the men! Y’all know I am a black woman of nearly 40 years, so I have seen some thangs. But the men in this movie are the low-downest, dirtiest, no-count– yet preternaturally sexy and shirtless– men I have ever heard of. I couldn’t help but think, “Why don’t I ever get dogged out by somebody that looks like that!”
But seriously, I vote with Linda Villarosa here. This production reduced the men to menaces with six packs. I am no apologist for men and their misogyny but this was way way over the top. If I didn’t see myself in the film, Lord knows I didn’t see my daddy, my brothers, or even my trifling ex boyfriend. (Not calling no names, but if he reads this, he’ll know it’s bad that it didn’t even remind me of him!)
It’s an amazing and affirming thing to see yourself in art. That mirror can be the things that convinces you that you really exist, that you really matter. But with this movie, it was like looking into a funhouse mirror– and despite some gorgeous performances by the actors– I saw myself and everyone I love pulled stretched and bent until I couldn’t recognize us anymore.
Here are the winners of BEFORE YOU SUFFOCATE YOUR OWN FOOL SELF. Email me the way you can email almost anybody in America– firstname.lastname at gmail to claim your book.
Before Yuor Suffocate Your Own Fool Self is Danielle Evans amazing debut short story collection. The Washington Post loved it and everybody on twitter is saying how much they want a copy. Well, guess what, Beautiful People, I have an extra. So how about we have a little raffle?
To enter leave a comment here, and if you can’t, you can leave a comment on this post on my facebook page, or send me an email. And when you comment, recommend a book that you think folks should check out. I need something new for my bedtable.
And for those of you who are out of the loop, here’s an interview of Danielle talking with the editor of the WaPo Book world. (And here’s his love letter,, I mean review.
You can enter the raffle until Mondnight on Wednesday October 6. I’ll do the raffle on the next morning!
Last night I went to the NYC premiere of “Blood Dazzler”, a choreoplay based on Patricia Smith’s award-winning book of poetry. Wow. That was an intense 50 minutes, and I mean “intense” in the best possible way.
Blood Dazzler is a book of mostly persona poems imagining the experiences of New Orleans residents in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. One especially gripping series is short poems remembering the lives of 34 nursing home patients left to drown. But also included are poems in the voice of Katrina herself.
In the play, Katrina the storm/woman really came to life. She is sometimes a drill sergeant, a temptress, a chastened daughter. The genius of Paloma the choreographer is on full display as Katrina herself paints a red X on a house where victims are entombed.
Not only is the source material amazing, the dancers and actors were exceptional. How can a man adopt the body language of a doomed dog named “Luther B” and break your heart like that? Hurricane Besty came onstage looking like Glenda The Good and told Katrina about herself. (“I thought I taught you better than that.”) And the old woman who died in the sun outside of the superdome waiting for buses– well she has her say.
I know that I am making this seem really dark– and yes, it’s dark subject matter– but there was something soul stirring and healing about hearing and seeing these stories told.
I hate that I waited until the last day to see it because I would have liked to have told you about it in time for you to see it.
(here are a few pictures on the Blood Dazzler fb page.)