Category Archives: Library book

Silver Sparrow…keeps it real.

One devoted man to two families, two daughters born months apart by two separate wives living in the same city.  One daughter, who is the secret, knows about the other daughter all while growing up.  Imagine that for a minute…going through all the changes and stages growing up girl and you know this story is filled with dramas…not way out there dramas for the entertainment of the community (i.e. reader or community inside the story), but deeply personal ones that show them wrestling, questioning, fumbling, seeking in earnest.

The first half of Silver Sparrow is narrated by the secret daughter Dana Lynn…whose formative years are deeply marked by the loss of a full fledged but loving father and his “other family” and her mother’s determination to ensure Dana Lynn has a better life than her “husband’s” other daughter who is only a few months younger than Dana Lynn.  The second half of the book belongs to Chaurisse…whose formative years are marked by the lack of “specialness” which she refers to as “silver” and no sense of achievement and loneliness.

This is now the 3rd book I’m reading consecutively by Jones and what I’m loving is how well she pulls back the layers on personal agonies and dramas.  She takes very few glossing overs or global leaps, opting instead to isolate circumstances, events, and thoughts into specific moments without burdening the story with a straight, flat linear style filled with unnecessary descriptions.  The story has history, rooted in the lives of the parents and their parents and what occurs even before we arrive on earth shows up as baggage in our lives.

In all three novels, there is a strong theme that the unknown is way more powerful in our lives than the known…whether it is a future we can’t foresee or the weight of living with untruths, half-stories and lies.  What also appeals to me is that the main characters grow and do not languish in some self-defacing pity.  I’ll be keeping my eye out for future work by Tayari Jones.

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Filed under African American, african american women, Fiction, Kindle, Library book, Silver Sparrow

The Untelling and Leaving Atlanta by Tayari Jones

Last night I completed Jones’ 2nd novel, the Untelling.  Both books, Leaving Atlanta and The Untelling, have very strong first person narrations.  For me, it was the strength of the characters voices that I found most compelling.  In Leaving Atlanta, there are 3 sections distinguished by the voices of 3 different fifth-graders in the same class, Tasha, Rodney, and Octavia…all impacted by The Atlanta Child Murders.  To my knowledge, it is the only work of fiction that draws from the travesty.  The story presents the vulnerabilities of childhood by using the language of children (very convincingly…first time I ever saw “flicktedy” in print) in creating a believable perspective on the behaviors and words of adults.   According to Jones’ Amazon page, she selected this subject to draw from for her first novel because, “This novel is my way of documenting a particular moment in history. It is a love letter to my generation and also an effort to remember my own childhood. To remind myself and my readers what it was like to been eleven and at the mercy of the world. And despite the obvious darkness of the time period, I also wanted to remember all that is sweet about girlhood, to recall all the moments that make a person smile and feel optimistic.”

The Untelling’s main character is Ariadne, who was impacted by the death of her father and youngest sister in a car accident when she was ten, and the scars and secrets that resulted in her, her mother, and older sister, survivors of the tragedy.  Ariadne seeks to offset the alienation she feels from her mother and sister by being of service in a field of social work and living vicariously through the lives of others.  After suspecting she is pregnant she becomes engaged to marry her boyfriend and deliver her baby, being consumed with this being the answer that will complete her in someway.  Through events that make her even more unsettled, she learns the power and damage of secrets and things left unsaid.  Jones’ statement on The Untelling, “The Untelling is a novel about personal history and individual and familial myth-making. These personal stories are what come together to determine the story of a community, the unoffical history of a neighborhood, of a city, of a nation.”

Because of the strength of narrative, I thought about the short stories of J. California Cooper and wondered if Jones’ novels would have been better rendered in short story format.  Even though I can’t quite describe why, I thought the unfolding of the plots was less well done to sustain in novel format.  In the Untelling, I was not drawn into the story as much as I like to be when reading a novel…as a reader, I remained outside the story, more than I did with Leaving Atlanta.  Maybe Jones’ made Ariadne’s voice to reflect her weaknesses and shortcomings, possibly her concern she showed for one of her GED students was intended to offset that aspect of her…not sure, but I remained outside of the story.  But in reflecting on Jones’ statement above, possibly my own myths keep me from engaging in a larger way with the lives of others in my community and not just someway of maintaining healthy boundaries????

With her first novel, it was definitely the language of the children and their parents that allowed me to “enter” inside the story as if I was among them versus standing outside of it.  I started Jones’ third and current novel last night, Silver Sparrow.

 

 

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Filed under African American, Author Links, Fiction, Kindle, Leaving Atlanta, Library book, The Untelling

Leaving Atlanta by Tayari Jones

Here are video interviews with Randall Robinson  with Amy Goodman and Morning Joe.  Click here.  He describes the overall book as a “love story of Black people for themselves, as we rediscover ourselves”.

Did I mention I love the cover art of this book!  Must investigate to find who the artist is!

Randall Robinson’s website.

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My current read is Leaving Atlanta by Tayari Jones.  It is narrated by fifth-grader Tasha just as the Atlanta child murders are gaining attention.  Even though I knew that going into the book, it did snatch me back in time at the point when Tasha, her younger sister, Shaun, and her mother were watching tv at the dinner table when the news of a recent child victim was announced.  It started me wondering what the sociological imprint has been on those who were children then.

This is Jones’ first novel. She has since published 2 others and my plan is to read them consecutively.  I checked all 3 from the public library via Kindle…sweet!

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Filed under African American, Author Links, Kindle, Leaving Atlanta, Library book, Makeda

Daughters of the Stone by Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa, completed

This is the first multi-generational novel I read that was set in Puerto Rico.  The author condensed a lot into her characters and at times I felt it was rushed in order to cover a lot of ground and at times I thought she relied on the familiarities of broad history to create the personalities of her characters.  But overall, I enjoyed being swept across time and the magic of their lives and gifts.  It is a coming of age story for each of the 5 generations of women.  It starts somewhere in West Africa with a village raid in 1800’s  and sweeps across to Puerto Rico to New York and back to Puerto Rico and coming full circle to West Africa.  It is a story of the responsibilities of the gifts we inherit and the victories and consequences of using them.  I recommended it to my 21 year old daughter to read during Kwanzaa.  She, however, selected a book by Walter Mosely.

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Filed under african american women, African Diaspora reading challenge, Daughters of the Stone, Embroidery, Immigrant Experience, Library book, plantation life, Puerto Rico, Spiritual Life, Story Telling

Amazing Grace-A Life of Beauford Delaney, by David Leeming

Oxford University Press, New York, 1998, hardcover, 221 pages.

I started reading this last night.  I checked it out from the public library after stumbling over it while looking for another book.   To my knowing there are just so few biographies of African/American Artists.  The author has also written a biography of James Baldwin and at the time of publication was a Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Conneticut. 

The book opens with the author sitting with two elderly nieces in the Delaney home in Knoxville, Tennessee.  One of them, Imogene, is playing Amazing Grace on the piano as they sing along as if conjuring the spirit of Mr. Delaney.  Amazing Grace was his favorite song. 

Having befriended James Baldwin, the author was introduced to Beauford Delaney, whom Baldwin referred to as his “spiritual father”.  Leeming recognizes that his personal contact with Delaney was limited but having meet him, the time spent impacted him greatly, along with the personal stories that Baldwin and others relayed which kept him alive after he had passed on. 

I didn’t get very far before dozing off to sleep, but having discovered that Amazing Grace was his favorite song and that he faced serious mental health issues, and he life ended while in an aslyum in Paris, I’m wondering what his art meant to him and how he worked.

Read Chapter 1 online.

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Filed under African American, Beauford Delaney, Biography, Library book, Painters

The Slave Ship: A Human History, by Marcus Rediker, Viking Press, 2007

I’m starting this one tonight.  Its been on my Amazon list for a while now.  This is a library book.

Tuesday Update:  I’m going to attempt to blog along as I read…often times while reading I come across a phrase, new info, etc. that spurs me off into another direction.  I’m going to attempt to use my post as notes to comeback to later.  So some posts might simply be a question or a phrase or even just an image that I may select to explore later. 

For example, in the introduction of this current book, Rediker references an author I’ve never heard.  Normally I would stop reading here and google to see what I can find, which leads to getting lost on line and taking time away from reading the book.   I’ll see how this works out for me.

Find out more about Ottobah Cugoano.

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Filed under history, Library book, The Middle Passage

Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route, (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007), by Saidiya Hartman

Here are links related to the author:  interview with Tavis Smiley; another review; and another review; an essay from the book.

Decades ago when I graduated with my undergraduate, I was only 12 hours from having a double major in Pan-African Studies.  It was my goal at the time to obtain a doctorate degree in Pan-African Studies or African America Studies.  I wanted to become (among many things) a scholar on the Middle Passage.  Being short-sighted on the pushes and pulls of life, my life didn’t unfold as I had planned.  However, books that address this industry of attempting to commodify human beings, particularly African people, for purposes of profit are always on my radar.  Lose Your Mother has been on my Amazon wish list for a nearly 2 years.  I picked it up from my library last week.

Hartman fuses her scholarly research on documenting one of the slave routes with her personal reconciliation and discovery for what it means to be an African America woman.  I’m a third of the way through the book and its like working through fresh grief…her’s and mine.  There are times I’ve found myself wanting to minimize her grief and comfort her broken heart at the realizations of the current impact (dispossession, alienation and anger) of an old wound that scabs over and sometimes festers (ain’t that right Langston Hughes?!) like a sore and then runs. 

The other train of thought is wondering what her views are on the current movement of “hope” we working on now.  I’m certain that 40-50 years from now a young scholar will write as perceptively as she on how this generation’s romanticism or naievete or short-sightedness or whatever-ness fail short of healing the pains of alienation, dispossession, and malaise among common folks. 

Lose Your Mother is a strong companion to Middle Passages by James T. Campbell.  Will write more later.

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Filed under Author Links, history, Library book, sociology, The Middle Passage