Natasha Trethewey on Fresh Air Today

Tune in to NPR today to hear Natasha Trethewey interviewed on Fresh Air. Her new book is a non-fiction work called BEYOND KATRINA. I am really excited about this book. I am Natasha’s biggest fan and I love all her work, but there is something really urgent about this new project. I really urge you to listen to what she has to say about the way that Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast of Mississippi and also the way that the criminal justice system can devastate a family. The audio of the show won’t go up until this evening, but there are some really interesting excerpts already posted. Go check it out.

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If You Love Poetry Like I Love Poetry

You know what they say.. if you say you love poetry, yet don’t buy poetry, then you’re part of the problem. And with that, I will end the guilt-strategy. The rest of this post is about the awesomeness of The Rumpus Poetry Book Club. This is how it works. For $20 a month, you get a copy of a poetry book, chosen by the very discerning poetry board of advisers. Then you can participate in an on-line discussion.(My favorite detail is that you get the book before publication so you can be the star of every cocktail party, talking about how you read an advanced copy of the most fabulous new book….)
Check out the site for more info. Meanwhile, the inaugural selection is Ceiling of Sticks by Shane Book. This debut which won the 2010 Prairie Schooner Prize was chosen by Camille Dungy. She is explains her choice here, but the summary is that she really really loved it and thinks you will love it too.

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Adichie (and me) at Tenement Museum

Genius Becomes Her

Originally uploaded by kleopatrjones

I just finished THE THING AROUND YOUR NECK, a short-story collection by the amazing Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. What can I say besides I loved it? I guess I can also say that she is a brilliant. Her characters are so real that I felt guilty that I was drinking coffee without offering them any. You may know that I attended ninth grade in Nigeria. Adichie’s descriptions at times made me feel warm and nostalgic and at other times I felt sad at what has happened to that world I once knew.

On Thursday, June 17, 6:30 pm, I will have the honor of interviewing Ms. Adichie at the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side. She will give a reading and then we will have a little Q&A. I am very excited about it.

The event is free. More details here.

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I Don’t Want To Be An Honorary White Writer

This Toni Morrison interview is fantastic. She takes on the issue of being called a “black writer.” Why do you call yourself a black writer, a woman writer? Because it’s true. Then she gets down to the nitty gritty.

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Woman To Man

by Ai

Woman to Man
Lightning hits the roof,
shoves the knife, darkness,
deep in the walls.
They bleed light all over us
and your face, the fan, folds up,
so I won’t see how afraid
to be with me you are.
We don’t mix, even in bed,
where we keep ending up.
There’s no need to hide it:
you’re snow, I’m coal,
I’ve got the scars to prove it.
But open your mouth,
I’ll give you a taste of black
you won’t forget.
For a while, I’ll let it make you strong,
make your heart lion,
then I’ll take it back.

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Read This!

Y’all, this is a delicious book! If you like mystery/suspense/crimefiction, this is a novel for you. I am listening to Black Water Rising, by Attica Locke on audiobook and it is interrupting my sleep. Last night, I was lying in bed thinking, maybe I could get up and listen for one more hour. Granted, it is pretty risky, me endorsing a book a I haven’t even finished yet, but it’s so engaging, that for now, it is all I can think about. And I will confess, that the narrator of the audio book, Dion Graham, has a lovely voice. (And you know with that name- Dion – he is a true son of the south.) It feels like a southern gentleman is hiding in my iPod telling me a bedtime story. I should bake him a red velvet cake.
(Voice off screen interrupts: Don’t nobody care about the silky-smooth chocolate-dipped narrator, Tayari. Can you at least tell us what the doggone book is about?)
It’s set in Houston. (Did y’all know I used to live there?) It’s the story of Jay, a lawyer whose practice has devolved into ambulance chasing. He used to do loftier things, like represent people whose civil rights had been violated, but doing the right thing don’t pay the bills. Also, his wife is pregnant. Well, they sorta semi-witness a crime. The black union workers are going on strike– could shut the whole city down! Somebody is following him and he don’t know why. And what about the white lady that fished out the bayou, more dead than alive? And don’t forget Jay’s activist past, and the fact that when she was in college, the mayor was a radical.. shhh.. And her and Jay used have a little somethin going on!
I can’t tell you any more, because this is as far as I have gotten. But oooh, it’s good! And go read this dynamite essay where the Attica Locke tells you where she got the idea for this novel.
P.S. I get my audio books from (I have a basic membership) But I believe this title is widely available at public libraries.

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T-n-T at Greenlight Books

Tayari and Tiphanie!

Originally uploaded by kleopatrjones

Monday night, I will have the pleasure of introducing Tiphanie Yanique at Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn. Tiphanie will read from her OMG-It’s-So-Good collection on stories, How To Escape From A Leper Colony. Afterwards, she and I will sit down for a Q&A session. We’re going to get down to the writerly nitty gritty.

Tiphanie is an amazing writer; she’s got talent to spare. You may remember when I first discovered her a couple of years ago when I stumbled upon her essay, “My Super Hero Secret.” I blogged about it and when I met her in person at Bread Loaf, we became instant friends.

I I hope you’ll come to Greenlight Books and hear Tiphanie. She’s the real thing.

Here’s what I said about her on the back of her book and I meant every word of it:

Tiphanie Yanique is a writer to watch. Although How to Escape from a Leper Colony is her debut, she writes with the wisdom and confidence of an old soul. The title story alone is worth the price of admission, but each of the stories contained in this gorgeous collection is clear-eyed, honest while still zinging with emotion. Tiphanie Yanique is blessed with an electric imagination, an expansive heart, and an unflinching gaze. I can’t wait to see what she does next. -Tayari Jones

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Kendra, Take Me Away!

I have been control-freaking my life lately in order to meet all my goals. I have been scheduling myself from when I wake up, until when I go to bed. I have been very disciplined, but sometimes things happen that you can’t plan for. Case in point: I was on my way to work– arms full of books and papers, trying to balance my umbrella– when I saw that someone had busted the windows out of my raggedy car and snatched my pathetic little radio. I just took my unhappy self back into the apartment and called the police and the Gecko.
On a cold miserable day like this, I need me some Kendra.
Kendra Clayton is the protagonist of the mystery series by Angela Henry. I love reading the adventures of a GED teacher who finds herself at the center of all the action in her Ohio hometown.
When I find myself stressing out and want to escape, this is exactly the type of book I like to curl up with. Angela’s books are sort of like the Sue Grafton alphabet series, but with a sister-girl touch. The other characters are delightful, too and there is just enough romance to keep it interesting.
Angela sent me the latest in the series, “Schooled in Lies.” I noticed that the cover was different than the others. From her blog I learned that her publisher had opted not to renew the series. Angela Henry is a determined and resilient as her characters. She published the latest book herself.
I have to go to work in a little while, but while I wait for the cops to show up, I am taking a little Kendra-break.

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Here Rests, by Lucille Clifton

This is one of my favorties. An elegy for her sister
here rests
my sister Josephine
born in ’29
and dead these 15 years
who carried a book on every stroll.
when daddy was dying
she left the streets
and moved him back home
to tend him.
her pimp came too
her Diamond Dick
and they would take turns
a bible aloud through the house.
when you poem this
and you will, she would say
remember the Book of Job.
happy birthday and hope
to you Jospehine
one of the easts
most wanted.
may heaven be filled
with literate men
may they bed you
with respect.

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Friday Pick Me Up

The poet Lucille Clifton says one should wish to celebrate, more than one should wish to be celebrated. So here she is, reading her poem, “Won’t You Celebrate With Me.”

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