Category Archives: Multi-racial

How To Be Black by Baratunde Thurston (Kindle edition)

If you’ve ever wondered what a well-adjusted, political astute, educated, happy, comedic Black man would have to say if he wrote a book…this is it!  I’ve been seeking out humor in lit for some weeks now and this satisfied!  Thurston is described as “a technology-loving comedian from the future who cares enough about the world to engage with it politically”.  So it isn’t funny for the sake of just being funny…far from it…it is funny with a purpose.

At the first chapter I was somewhat leary that it was going to be a book with an intended white audience as it’s primary focus and he would address his reader with that assumption which I associate with a slight aspect of minstrel behavior…but I stuck with it and withheld judgement and it paid off.  Thurston is addressing everyone in the room with some funny, intelligent, thoughts….part, memoir, part political/cultural essays, part humor.  Well written, straight-forward, and poignant and timely.  He covers his formative years shaped by his mother and education in the 80’s right up through Post-President Obama’s election, giving advice on how to be the black friend, how to be the black employee, to how to be the 2nd, 3rd, or even 4th Black President.

He included a panel of friends to add commentary and thus the book embraces “community”.  He writes from a pov that “blackness” is not a limiting life and makes fun (in a serious way) of all the imposed upon limitations no matter who asserts them.  Underscoring in the end of the book that it is more important to do you and in doing you, any and all things become Black.

When I enjoy an author, I first check to see if they have a Facebook page and website…Thurston has a fancy position at The Onion (one of my fave magazine), Director of Digital, so he was easy to find on the web.  Here and here  and here and here.   Click on the book image below to be taken to Amazon.com.

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Filed under African American, Author Links, How To Be Black, Kindle, Multi-racial

The Grace of Silence, by Michele Norris, Pantheon Books, NY, 2010, Kindle Edition

Michele Norris, journalist and host for NPR’s All Things Considered, set out to help Americans have deep and honest conversations on Race,  post-Obama’s inauguration.  Jumping from a community conversation in York, PA into her personal history and how it played into the larger scale of history, she discovers family events kept secret.  Events which held a profound impact on her upbringing, events, once discovered propelled her to want to reconcile the discrepancies between what she thought she knew and what was.

The central focus in on her father, (someone who she thought she knew well until after his unexpected passing), and his upbringing in Alabama and his own initiations into manhood.  She first opens with the secret held by her mother about Norris’ grandmother.  She was one of the women hired to promote Aunt Jemima Pancakes back in the days before Auntie got her makeover.  This translate into being in costume and character of the caricature.  Norris’ was stunned to discover this about a woman who took carried herself with great personal pride and dignity.

From page one to the end, Norris’ family history felt familiar and personal.  I knew the people she was kin to.  They were my own family members and Uncles, and Grandparents and neighbors.  The language, the discussions, and the family strife were so close to my own family that it almost could have been me telling my own story.

The ending of the book has about 20 questions for discussion and encourages readers to actually explore their own family secrets with openness and grace.  Back in the 80’s I attempted to do just that through poems.  I put together a manuscript based on interviews with family members.  I’m now continuing to work with those poems by finding ways to incorporate them into my art quilts.   I want my adult children to read the book.  I purchased the Kindle edition but would love to have the hard copy of this wonderful book.  At the end I found myself in tears reflecting on the depth and scope of what is lost to history about African American lives and over the potential we have yet to fully articulate and live.

Michele Norris’ website.

I started The Warmth of Other Suns today which I think will be a great companion to The Grace of Silence.

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Filed under African American, Author Links, history, Kindle, Multi-racial, The Grace of Silence

Joplin’s Ghost, Tananarive Due, Atria Books, New York, 2005, Kindle

I abandoned The Artist’s Rule…not due to any reason associated with the book but my I’m not ready to focus on any spirit/life work right now.  Instead I found myself reading Joplin’s Ghost by Tananarive Due…my second foray into what is labelled sci-fi/paranormal genre.  My first was an Octavia Butler novel (I can’t recall which one) that I commanded myself to finish.  It was among the first books I dropped for Bookcrossing.

Joplin’s Ghost went beyond what I expected! The story is woven seamlessly and beautifully with  gems of history (and I guess that all good fiction writers do this) which captivated me to want to know so much more about Scott Joplin and kept me reflecting on the trails  and trials that early artists had to create and blaze.  Due made the personal agony very real by pitting Joplin’s thoughts and emotions and ego against the thoughts and emotions and ego of an uprising young woman coming of age in current times.

The book opens with Scott’s voice and the next chapter is the voice of Phoenix, the artist in contemporary times and continues to flip back and forth until their experiences merge intimately and passionately in the middle of the book (which held me wondering where it was all going and not at all predictable) and the end of the book their lives (Scott’s and Phoenix’s) battle to separate.  But what is history if not a mirrored reflection for us to study as we go forward…can you say Sankofa.

Due creates two parallel love stories; one being Scott’s love and passion for his second wife, Freddie; the other, Phoenix’s and Carlos’s,  a young music journalist who is the only one willing to believe Phoenix’s encounters with the ghost of Joplin.  There are a hosts of supporting characters which are interesting but slightly predictable in their roles…but the story development makes up for what lacks in character development and the central characters have strong situations and good personal dialogue.

In addition to exploring musical history, Due also handles the world and violence associated with hip-hop moguls, along with the dynamics of family relationships to create a very natural feel to the tensions and the dramas.  I think it would be a great cross-generational read with teenager not only for the educational resource but the action in the story is fast-paced enough for young people and the situations the characters continually face sparks plenty of opportunities for moral and philosophical and financial discussions.

To find more out about the book:

http://books.simonandschuster.com/Joplin’s-Ghost/Tananarive-Due/9780743449038

I will be reading more books from Due.

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Filed under African American, Authors, developing artists, Fiction, history, Joplin's Ghost, Kindle, Multi-racial, musical, musical

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot, Crown Publishers, New York, 2010, 369 pages

This blog was not intended to be just a basic review of books but more of a documentation of my relationship with the content of what I read.  This book reminded me of my mission.

I started this book on the first day of Kwanzaa.  But less than 60 pages into it and I must have cried on nearly every page.  Not solely due to the story as it laid on the pages but because of where the story landed and continued to expand in my head.  This true accounting for how one simple, poverty-strickened, African American Woman’s ill health impacts science and the lives of millions around the globe is a forceful spinning of just about every major and minor areas of life as we know it became too much for me and I didn’t want the ending of one year and the beginning of another find me covered in grief.

The book continued to lay on my bedside table until a few days ago when I took it with me to the hospital while sitting with my 10 month old grand-daughter who was born with chronic lung disease.   When I took a break from reading I intentionally laid it so that any staff who entered the room could see it and although I intentionally chose not to bring it up, I waited to see who would be curious enough to want to know what I was reading or either for someone to recognize the book from their own reading.  In this case it was a good thing my expectations were not high because no one asked or recognized.

In trying to find a way to discuss or even summarize it with my daughter, the story is still overwhelming.  Do I start with the injustice and inequality of health care, or ignorance, the impact of slavery, or misogyny and abuse, racism, capitalism???  Why isn’t there a word that conveys all of this and yet explains it clearly????  The story is omni-present and burdening as it should be.   What keeps crossing my mind is how it makes me “smell” history.  “Smell” history? What is that?  If I figure it out before I end the book, I’ll write more about it.

To give a brief summary since this is my first post about the book, it is the story of HeLa Cells.  The first human cells that scientist found that could grow outside the body and how it impacted disease research and cures.  It is not a dry story at all but Skloot does a superb job of keeping humanity central to the accounting.   Also, if you can, purchase the book!  Some % of the proceeds go into a foundation Skloot started for the descendants of Henrietta Lacks.  You can read more about it on the author’s link.

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Filed under african american women, Author Links, economics, history, Medical, Multi-racial, Science, sociology