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American Gods by Neil Gaiman, 10th Anniversary Edition, Enhanced Edition

I finished reading American Gods by Neil Gaiman.  The first book I’ve read by this author.  For me, it was an epic read.  I never thought the book would end and even after it ended, there was an interview with the author, a reading group discussion guide, and words by the author.  The first 1/3rd of the book I was leaning toward not finishing it…but a little further and I was beginning to “get it” and it had me pondering and wondering and questioning about our society and how it is structured and what drives it.  What does it mean for a country to call itself a melting pot and what happens to the cultures, beliefs, ways of life to those who melt?  It was a very visual read that created a world that engulfed me in the last half of the book.  The movie, The Book of Eli, is a good companion to this read although they are two separate worlds but the theme of faith and belief strike through both of them.

The main character, Shadow, is an ex-con recently released from prison.  His wife has died, and on the way to the funeral (which has its obstacles) a man called Mr. Wednesday keeps turning up with a lucrative job offer to be his driver and whatever else he needs…okay well enough you say.  The creepy man who keeps turning sets the story up as sci-fi but then in a following chapter, a prostitute engaged in the act with her john swallows him up with her vagina…at this point, I’m thinking bizarre and wondering what the point is of this…

Mr. Wednesday is proving to be a sleezy man and Shadow has a conversation with his dead wife who is appears in his hotel room.  Shadow is taking everything in stride although the occurrences are unexpected and new to him.  I’m still not feeling this is worth a read as I’m annoyed with Shadow but I continue on…

It is not until the gods begin to reveal themselves and the stories of how they came to be American that I get an “aha” feeling and am wanting to know more of them and wondering what will be Shadow’s revelation for this journey he is taking as a result of being employed by Mr. Wednesday.

The last half of the book had me enthralled but I still had the feelilng that the book would never end!   

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Appalachian Elegy, Poetry and Place by bell hooks, University Press of Kentucky, 2012

In light of hooks’ scathing review of Beasts of the Southern Wild, I’m perplexed by the parallel  in her discussing her own wildness growing up here in Kentucky found in the Introduction.  “They were not wanting to tame the wildness, in themselves or nature.  Living in the Kentucky hills was were I first learned the importance of being wild”, page 1.

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Lion’s Blood by Steven Barnes

The byline describes the tale as a story of enslavement in an alternative reality.  I’m less than 15% into the book and at first I was just plodding along and was feeling kinda sci-fi-ey futuristic about the story and then today while having brunch with my daughter and grandchildren and looking around with the underpinning thoughts about Trayvon Martin, I looked around in the comfortable and familiar environment and saw the place was filled with mostly White women appearing pleasant and relaxed and I thought “I wonder what its like to live in a world were the world’s resources are garnered all for your well being and comfort?”  I’m not blind to the fact that just by living in America that I’m a recipient, if even marginally, of some benefits, but not without extreme struggles and sacrifices of my cultural ancestors.  But how would life have been different for Africans world wide if the shoe had been on the other foot?  This is what Barnes is exploring.

The story starts in 1863 in a Gaelic village when after a night of celebrating, invaders come in the early morning dawn and raid the village for what will become the slave trade with Black people at the helm of the industry and Whites as the pawns.  It will be interesting to see how Barnes justifies the reversal.

More, later…

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Makeda by Randall Robinson, Akashic Books/Open Lens, Kindle Edition, 2011,

I completed Stand the Storm some days ago.  It was a gentle, slow read the way I vaguely recall River, Cross My Heart, her first novel, as being.  The story had a sense of being biographical in that it could have belonged to any African American…the characters were familiar, not endowed with any special traits that set them apart.  They possessed a cultural trait of not wanting to be “torn asunder” and were the recipients of a series of blessings that enabled the family to rise.  The blessings came in the form of opportunities that revealed each character’s personal strengths and weaknesses.  For example, when Gabriel, a tailor, had to face the decision to spend his savings to save his sister’s adopted daughter, who never met with favor from Gabriel, to save her from being sold further south.  Another example, when he wrestled with joining the USCT in the Civil War and leave his family; his aging mother, sister, and wife with 3 daughters behind to run the tailoring shop.  It was a relaxing read.

I’m now reading Makeda by Randall Robinson. It is a novel and before this, I had no clue that he wrote fiction.  I believe this is his 2nd novel.  Makeda is the grandmother of Gray, whose story is being told.  Makeda was blind from birth and a mystic.  Gray gains self-confidence growing up by way of sitting with Makeda in her parlor sharing dreams and secrets.  

I’m just at the point (about 20% from the beginning) where Gray, who is narrating the story from his literary pen, is going off to college in the early 60s.  Much of the time while reading, I keep finding myself wishing that Mo and Ade would give this a read.  Most of what I recommend to them only receives a condescending nod.

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The Warmth of Other Suns-The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, Kindle Edition, by Isabel Wilkerson, 2010, Vintage Books and The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin, 2010, Harper-Collins E-book.

You might be wondering why I’m discussing these 2 books in one post.  The Warmth of Other Suns is a Pulitzer Prize Awarded book that chronicles narrates the history of  migration by African-American in post-Reconstruction through the 50’s/60’s.  The strength of the history is highlighted by narratives of 3 people during the decades of the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s.  Three people who took different routes, propelled by different circumstances, but all for the same reason of escaping the strangulation of the Jim Crow South for Freedom and Dignity and Life itself.

(click on either photo image for more info)

This is a FANTASTIC pairing with The Grace of Silence, my previous read.  Both of these books that have gotten inside of me and I’ve become an advocate that both are must-reads for everyone!  Of course I recognize that sly hopeful, maybe naive, current that if everyone understood and  knew the details of the African-American experience we would be respected for what could be described as a story of Biblical greatness and thus Reparations would begin in earnest and without conflict.  But then I am who I am, and the snarky self arises and I know that even if everyone read these books and knew, they wouldn’t care…but at least, it couldn’t be said that not knowing was the cause of ignorant and fearful behavior.

The 3 main narratives in this book cover the events prior to individual decisions to migrate away.  First is Ida Mae and her husband George, cotton sharecroppers, who left Mississippi in the 3o’s after an in-law had been murdered by a mob for stealing turkeys which later found out not to be true at all.  The next narrative covers George, a fruit picker with a year of college in Florida, who decides to leave in the 40’s after orchard owners discuss plotting to kill him over his attempts to organize labor. The third narrative covers Robert, a surgeon from Louisiana, who couldn’t stomach the indignities after returning from military service in Austria where he was afforded some freedoms and respect.  All their lives are placed squarely in the larger narrative of millions of people who formed this historical phenomenon.

This book and The Grace of Silence have filled me with inescapable reflecting on my own family and their journey.  Back in the 80s when I was actively writing poetry and researching genealogy and collecting oral histories, I wrote a series of poems using the information I had gathered.  The reflecting gets intense and fills me so that I feel like I’m going to burst.  As a way of lessening the internal feeling of pressure I wanted something light, humorous…I first reached for a book by David Sedaris but it wasn’t doing the trick. Solely by accident, well maybe not true since Amazon analyzes my buying habits and searches  I found The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.

Rubin’s book was the literary prescription.  She explores her own personal life happiness, not because she was unhappy or depressed, but to challenge herself to maximizes her life to the fullest appreciation of it.   She went all far-reaching by reading everything and everyone on the subject of happiness and then sets out to personalize her own journey and observing the effects upon her life and those around her.  She has just enough of the keeping-it-real attitude that gives the book a humorous touch while not being dismissive about what she is attempting to do.

I haven’t finished either one of them but I’m enjoying both of them for different reasons!

Isabel Wilkerson’s website

Gretchen Rubin blog

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Rootwork: Using the Folk Magick of Black America for Love, Money, and Success by Tayannah Lee McQuillar, Fireside Books, NY; 2003, Kindle Edition

From the title alone, I’m betting this to be an ejoyable and somewhat enlightening read.  I’m starting it tonight and hope it leads to at least one quilt on the subject if not the beginning of a series.

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Renewal of this blog

I’ve got several books going now and am bearing down for the cold weather. Since downloading the Kindle on my PC and oogling the Nook at B&N, my reading energies have are renewed.

My current reads are Breaking the Sound Barrier by Amy Goodman (my copy is autographed 🙂 ), Joplin’s Ghost by Tananarive Due, and The Artist Rule: Nurturing Your Creative Soul with Monastic Wisdom by Christine Valters Paintner.

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