(click pic to read review)
In this world, which is so plainly the antechamber of another, there are no happy men. The true division of humanity is between those who live in light and those who live in darkness. Our aim must be to diminish the number of the latter and increase the number of the former. That is why we demand education and knowledge. -Les Miserables, pt. 4, bk. 7, ch. 1 (1862)
We believe in an educational system that will give to our people a knowledge of the self. If you do not have knowledge of yourself and your position in the society and in the world, then you will have little chance to know anything else. -Huey P. Newton
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 5,300 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.
Zoom zoom up I-94 freeway off the ramp onto service drive over to Woodward turn at red light past David Whitney Mansion at Forest to Cass past Twingo’s Euro Café and Cass Café and Marwil’s and Barnes and Noble on towards Ferry Street to get South End photographer Tyler to drink a bucket of beers before heading to Virgil H. Carr Cultural Arts Center for a “twilight evening” with Tracy E. Christian and Adra L. Young and a much-hyped presentation of “The Live Ladies of Literature: The Mocha Monologues From The Inside Showing Out, Male Edition.”
Chilling weather and deep snow did not stop the show. Detroit’s art community came out to show solidarity and support. An eclectic collection of musicians, poets and writers intermingled with bright lights, merchant vendors and pepper-jack cheese trays while a Cincinnati artist named “Wisdom” served pink bubbly wine to dilettante crowds and thirsty paparazzi. Dr. Janice K. Connor gave extemporaneous mini-lectures on faith and God and the virtues of Timothy 1:7, hoping to persuade anyone listening to purchase her new book, Propelling Faith. Comic and playwright, Heather J. Henderson chatted with authors Monique Mensah and Cheryl Lynn Pope while filmmaker Lenderrick Jones snapped BlackBerry Curve shots of Kimle Mitchell and Trinity Film Coalition founder’s Janaya Black, Rockey Black and Marshalle Montgomery. Over by the cash-bar I stood with entrepreneur Ken Bryant and his younger brother Aaron, discussing a documentary project on Detroit history. FocusOne Entertainment filmed the spectacles while artist and story-teller Sandra Epps painted faces and henna tattoos at a distant vendors-table….(continue)
This list merely reflects the collection of books reviewed at PNR for the year 2010. As for how I graded the books, I did not bother with genre, nor did I focus too much on presentation, but rather the content of the book and the value of the overall message. That stated, while some books may’ve been better written, they could’ve lacked overall moral message (in the sense of the degree to which the author wrestled and grappled with the morality of the matter), and philosophical/intellectual value. Some encompassed all these points, while some had few and missed others. Books like Dabney’s Magic Pencil, Yusef’s Window, and even Black’s Beautiful Rage had strong moral/philosophic themes, while Meisels’ book, Family at Booknook, is simply a beautiful written novel. Kennebrew’s book dealt with very important social matters, and her book thoroughly engages the community. Through lectures, activism, community outreach, etc, Thank God For the Shelter is active and prominent in current Detroit affairs. Again, it’s just my opinion based on personal reading habit/preference. For further idea of why I chose these books…click on the title and READ THE REVIEW! Thank you!
LaShaundra Seale’s new novella, Circle of Empty Arms, is about a circle of women trying to come to terms with infertility. These fictional and diverse women teach us all a lesson or two in faith, hope, and redemption.
I find it difficult to trust that a novel of this genre will be worth the read, but Minton’s novel is no disappointment. His writing is smooth, passionate, engaged, and has a certain craft of storytelling that is not commonly seen in this genre of writing – evocative of deep feminine sensibilities somewhat uncommon among African American male writers (of the same genre). As well, Minton does a fairly good job of titillating our senses with vivid imagery, sensual smells, and candid observations, bringing the reader into the fold of the moment.
Hardie is cynical, analytical, witty, and humorous. His antics are critical but his motives are genuine and humanitarian: “We all deserve to be treated equally, black, white, gay, poor, Latino, rich, whatever. We need to strive for a society that acknowledges our differences and rewards our contributions.” And, even though IAJTS is not perfect, Hardie’s unflinching courage to open up and sustain dialogues on multicultural issues, as well as his persistent engagement with everything that is wrong with American society, certainly makes a lasting contribution to the struggle. On that note, while I am critical of IAJTS, I am Hardie’s biggest fan.
Floss is a stunning narrative of sophisticated living and diamond ambitions – all served up in a feisty cocktail of drama deluxe and ghetto flair. Monica’s theatrical tale-telling spins hard and fast on a treacherous Dionysus to produce a cold-blooded lesson of what happens when we choose money over morals.
Baruti’s letters are passionate and profoundly insightful; his sociopolitical observations pensive and intellectual, tender and sharp. He is a scholar, legal student, theologian-of-sorts, who could have achieved many great accomplishments if life had only spun a tougher web…if only the sacred geometry of chance had been less mathematical; if the signpost, perhaps, had been a little less blurred. But Baruti’s no victim (nor does he claim to be), and Scribe’s is nobody’s protest novel, but Bigger’s last rant. By the end of this book we come to realize that Baruti’s search for redemption places him right back on the same beaten path, with incandescent letters post-marked with revolutionary stamps.
Shakur, a former member of the notorious Zone 8 gang made a career of whippin’ ass and dodging bullets, but eventually caught a case and got sent to prison for nine years. While inside, he made amends with an absentee father, changed his game, and returned to his old stomping grounds with a new agenda. Along with his entrepreneurial spirit, activist goals, and a new bookstore, Shakur also returns with a book which he hopes will engage the people, uplift the community, teach the children, and inspire change.
Several years ago, life’s imminent struggle had placed Kennebrew between a rock and a hard place, leaving her homeless, broke, cold, and hungry. Faced with crippling despair, no resources, emotionally bruised by the wicked wrench that life had thrown into the spokes of her once prosperously spinning wheel, Kennebrew eventually fastened her bootstraps, restructured her life, got it together, and made a vicious comeback.
Dabney’s characters are richly textured, and she worked extra hard not to surrender her characters to age-ole stereotypes, giving meticulous consideration to cultural detail, as well as a useful lesson (and critique?) on the Shakespearean question of colloquial language – to use it or not to use it. As a matter of fact, Dabney’s grasp of the colloquial language is so masterful that, at times, I felt as though I were reading a Geneva Smitherman book.
Family at Booknook is a beautifully written book. It is the story of a grieving widow, a young mother and her daughter, Finch, who, over a span of two decades, helps the family to deal with the real life dilemmas of motherhood, loss, and redemption. This is a story of hope and determination.. Meisel’s poignant novel is finely crafted, richly layer, and meticulously written, and, therefore, should certainly find a place among the best written novels of the year. Her story-telling ability is pleasant, with a style as graceful as Capote’s Summer’s Crossing. She handles nostalgic moments with historical accuracy, deals with real family relationships with vivid imagination and prescient insight. This book comes highly recommended.
Beautiful Rage is a story about pride, redemption and forgiveness, and is told from the perspective of Dawn Langston, a prison inmate who decides to take part in the journalistic exploits of Vanessa Jackson, aka, “the Voice”. Jackson visits with Langston (an interesting choice for a surname) at the Wayne County Women’s Correctional Facility on several occasions to record her story of how she carefully and methodically executed a well-thought out plan to avenge the death of her sister. Truman Capote once said that “great fury, like great whiskey, requires long fermentation.” And Black plays on that notion, not only with the way she masterminds the abduction and murder of gangster Ross Styler, but the sinister act of deception and deceit with ninja–like precision. Dawn’s furious obsession – “blood lust” as she calls it – to avenge her sister, and her inability to forgive Styler becomes the point of focus and deep examination of hatred for Black, who, in turn, exploits Carmen’s death, giving an extended analysis of our own visceral humanity in the face of cunning vengeance – a spiritual examination of our inner incandescence, a moral indictment of our naked capacity to “take [a] life in cold blood.” For Black, it is the question of hatred and forgiveness and pride that sits at the center of the entire drama.
Worst book of 2010:
…the book is so poorly written that we never get to move beyond its noble pretenses. The dialogue is saturated with clichéd matters, unbelievable conversation, uncritical discussions, with generalized solutions. (Do people actually talk this way?!) None of the book is original, and we are ultimately imprisoned in a steel caged holding cell where we are forced to endure what is possibly one the year’s worst novel (with the timeless exception of T. Nicole Robinson’s terrible novel, My Own Terms). But, for the sake of getting something for our hard-earned money – $14.95 US / $18.95 CAN – we tire through the boring session of this sloppy novel hoping for redemption, but all we get is a grand lesson in disappointment and regret.
Book that seemed to have missed my radar, but I really would like to review it:
Martian observation: Hmmm…it appears as though authors put more time into fancy books covers than they put into actually learning the craft of writing thus writing a good book. And they seem to pump them out in rapid movement, mistaking quantity for quality. hmm…