- Book Tour
- Cambridge Chronicles
- Cocktails With Writers
- Community Service
- Current Events
- D.C. Diaries
- External Posts
- From The Archives
- Guest Bloggers
- Jersey Journals
- Leaving Atlanta Film
- Living For The City
- Real Lives, Real Stories
- Surviving The Draft
- The Artist's Way
- The Writing Life
- Toni Morrison
- Travels & Rambles
- Writing Life
- Writing Rituals
Leaving Atlanta, my debut novel, published in 2002, will always be my baby. In many ways, it’s my most personal work, grounded heavily in my experiences growing up in Atlanta during the Atlanta Child Murders. Many Americans don’t know that between 1979-81 almost thirty African American children were murdered in my hometown. Those of us who grew up in Atlanta will never forget. It’s no wonder that I chose this as the subject matter for my first book.
And while child murder is a dark topic, I had a lot of fun writing Leaving Atlanta. I got to go back and remember lots of wonderful details from childhood. I pulled up memories that were on the edge of being forgotten forever. There were little things like a weird orange colored, peanut butter flavored candy called a “Chick O Stick”. I also pulled up a photo of a boy I had known who was murdered. He was a couple of years older than I was, and a bully. In my memory he was this huge kid, but when I saw his photo, I realised that he had been just a baby, really. Understanding this was maybe the hardest thing about writing the book. My personal connection to this project as so deep that I added myself as a minor character.
Well, about three years ago, Leaving Atlanta and my second novel, The Untelling, were put on “print on demand.” This basically means that if someone wants a copy of the book, she has to wait for the publisher to print one up. The books were expensive and took FOREVER to get to the reader. In addition, they were never available when I gave readings. I was very unhappy about this, but there was little I could do.
But there was something that readers could do, and they did it. Thanks to the success of Silver Sparrow, more people have discovered my work and have been curious about my other titles. Enough people have shown interest in Leaving Atlanta and The Untelling that Grand Central Publishing has begun printing them again. I was so delighted when I gave a reading last week and saw a stack of Leaving Atlanta and The Untelling on sale beside Silver Sparrow.
Thank you, so much, everyone for making this possible. It means everything to me.
Like everybody, I have a long list of books that I have been meaning to read. I have another list of books I am in the middle of reading. Yes, I am one of those people that have one book that I am reading at home, another at work to read at lunch, and then there is always an audio book on my iPod. And then, there are the books that I have actually read. So, here’s a quick round up.
Passing Love by Jacqueline Luckett. It’s a lovely, romantic novel. If we ever get some snow this winter, I would recommend curling up with this in front of the fire with a nice hot chocolate.
Contents May Have Shifted by Pam Houston. I have been hearing Pam Houston read from this for years and now it’s finally out. It’s a hard book to summarize, but I’ll try. This is a collections of vignettes about her live and loves as she travels all around the world. See, that doesn’t do it justice. Trust me. It’s really good. And, I am in it, as myself. (My first cameo!)
Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight Against Medical Discrimination by Alondra Nelson. I gave this to my dad for Christmas.
After the Altar Call: The Sisters’ Guide to Developing a Personal Relationship With God by Jacqueline Holness. I am trying to branch out and read more non fiction and spiritual works. I am also interested in just hearing the stories of women who have had so many different experiences with the church.
A Gathering of Waters by Bernice MacFadden. It’s a new look at the story of Emmit Till. Very creatively rendered. NPR is doing backflips.
Wild by Cheryl Strayed. It’s a memoir and basically everyone in the entire twitterverse is madly in love with it.
Creatures Here Below by O.H. Bennett. I think I need more books by brothers in my life.
Okay, that’s all for this list. I’ll update every month. And after I finish the books, I will post my thoughts on Goodreads. Tell me, what’s on your TBR list?
I am thrilled to see that Silver Sparrow is a Semifinalist in the Goodreads Readers Choice Awards thanks to write-in votes from readers. Now, I am asking you to help Silver Sparrow to make it up to the next round.
Thank you so much for being so supportive and just generally awesome.
I actually read Anita Hill’s new book, Reimagining Equality this summer, but it was just released yesterday. This is the what I wrote for the back of her book. It doesn’t really do justice to this complex and full-of-heart book that is clearly a labor of love.
“Combining the sincerity of memoir and the rigor of sociology, Anita Hill looks at home as a physical space, but also as a microcosm of American society. The women profiled in this engaging and moving book illustrate the challenges of living in America as a raced and gendered person while simultaneously demonstrating the beauty of resistance and the triumphs of family, community, and faith. Hill connects the dots between the home-making efforts of African Americans just after Reconstruction and the heartbreaking (and enraging) consequences of the subprime mortgage scandal. After reading this book, you will never see a house as just four walls and a roof. It is a dream and we, as Americans, are the dreamers.”
—Tayari Jones, author of Silver Sparrow
(In other words, read this book.)
I just finished reading THE FAMILY FANG by Kevin Wilson. I scored a free copy at ALA this summer but I was too busy moving and touring to settle down to read it. About a month ago, I heard Kevin give a delightful reading at Harvard Bookstore so I scooted it up my to-read list. I am so glad I did.
If you are a person who enjoyed The Royal Tannenbaums, this is a book for you. It has all the idiosyncrasy of that film, but the richness that makes a novel really satisfying.
I started off reading it just for the quirkiness. Here’s the plot– two kids have grown up in a most bizarre family. The parents are performance artists and use the kids as part of the act. Sometimes, the children don’t even know there is a act. Now Buster and Annie, grown up and messed up, are forced to move back home. (I could go on, but I don’t want to spoil.) I chuckled my way through the first third of the story– what wacky parents! But somewhere around page 150, the narrative snuck up on me and got deep.
This is a novel that made me re-examine my own childhood and childhood as a concept– To what extent are kids bit players is all of our parents’ performances? Can you ever really grow up? And while we’re at it, what is art, anyway? What is love? What is sacrifice?
All of this, and it’s damn funny, too.
Bravo, Mr. Wilson. I am so proud of you!
This lovely coming of age by Bridgett M. Davis is one of my favorites. I love coming of age stories. This one is set in Detroit, so all you Michiganders should check it out. I was knocked out when I first read it a few years ago, and I decided to read it again. Rae is a character you will fall in love with. It’s a great book club pick, but also a great read if you happen to be on a really long book tour and need to lose yourself in a terriic story.
Michele Norris’s engrossing memoir is about the stories our families leave untold. This book is about the way that ordinary people resist prejudice with a quiet dignity. It also makes the case for women who put their pride aside to feed thier families. There’s no shame in taking care of the people you love. THE GRACE OF SILVENCE is a tough book in sections, but always inspiring and really well written. These are stories to be passed down through the generations.
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.”