Archive for the ‘African American’ Category

The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates

December 5, 2012

Author:  Wes Moore

Title:  The Other Wes Moore:  One Name, Two Fates

Genre:  Non-Fiction, Biography/Memoir

Publication Date:  2010

Number of Pages:  233

Geographical Setting:  primarily in Baltimore (MD), the Bronx (NY), and Wayne (PA)

Time Period:  1982-2010

Series:  N/A

Plot Summary:  In 2000, Wes Moore read a series of stories in the newspaper about a robbery/homicide in Baltimore; one of the young men arrested and convicted of the crime was also named Wes Moore.  Wes contacted the man, who was serving a life sentence in prison, and discovered through their letters and conversations that they shared much more in common than a name alone.  As boys, both had lived in poor neighborhoods, were fatherless, struggled in school, and had run into trouble with the police- yet their paths would diverge and lead to different ends.  Alternating between their stories, this insightful and thought provoking book follows the lives of the two boys named Wes Moore as they grow up, exposing readers to various factors that would influence their choices and opportunities (or lack thereof).  An extensive resource guide of over 200 youth-serving organizations across the country is provided at the end of the book.

Subject Headings:  Biography/memoir, African Americans, Childhood & youth, Baltimore (MD), Social conditions, Urban life, Family relationships, Life choices, Criminal activities, Prisoners, Education, Military service.

Appeal:  Character-driven, Coming-of-age story, Reflective, Thought provoking, Inspiring, Life choices and expectations, Second chances, Memoir, African American characters, Family relationships, Single-parent households, Mother-son relationships, Mentors, Leadership, Urban street life, Drug dealing & gangs, Baltimore (MD).

Three appeal terms that best describe this book:  Character-driven, coming-of-age story, urban life.

Similar Authors and Works:

Three Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1. The New Jim Crow:  Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander.  Readers interested in learning more about the social justice inequities exposed within The Other Wes Moore may want to read this title- it addresses issues surrounding the high rates of incarceration for people of color in our country’s prison system.

2.  The Beautiful Struggle:  A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood by Ta-Nehisi Coates.  Both The Other Wes Moore and this memoir are coming-of-age stories about African-American young men, set in Baltimore, and involving life expectations, choices, and consequences.

3.  My American Journey by Colin Powell.  In his book, Wes Moore describes Colin Powell’s memoir as being influential in his life, and more specifically in his decision to join the military.

Three Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1.  Muchacho by LouAnne Johnson.  The Other Wes Moore and this novel are both thought provoking, inspiring, coming-of-age stories in which young men struggle to overcome their circumstances.

2.  Yummy:  The Last Days of a Southside Shorty written by Greg Neri and illustrated by Randy DuBurke.  A graphic novel based upon a gang-related murder that happened in Chicago in 1994, this title could be a good match for readers who found the violence, drug selling and gang life depicted in The Other Wes Moore to be compelling.

3.  Slam! by Walter Dean Myers.  Both Wes Moore and the main character (Greg Harris) of this novel are African-American young men who come from tough, city neighborhoods and have to adjust to life at new, mostly white, schools.  In both stories, the young men find supportive mentors who help open their eyes to life’s possibilities.

Name:  Nicole

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The Help

November 28, 2012


Title: The Help
Author: Stockett, Kathryn
Publication Date:2009
Pages:464 pages
Geographical Setting: Jackson, Mississippi
Time Period: The Sixties (20th century)
Genre:Historical fiction
Series: N/A

Plot Summary:
The author tells a sombre story using three women’s perspective as they share their experiences in Jackson, Mississippi in the mid 60’s. Aibileen and Minny are African American women working as maids in white holds. Aibileen, though has had her own share of personal tragedies, however she is dutiful, loyal and loves the white children she takes care of. Minny on the other hand is sour, resentful and does not hesitate to speak her mind. Skeeter, a young white graduate has an inner struggle about finding who she is and settling down like all of her friends. As the story develops, Skeeter an aspiring writer, feels compassion for the plight of these black maids as they are mistreated while working for these families. She tries to convince the maids to tell their story about how it feels to cook, clean and take care of these white children under such degrading circumstances. As we learn about these women’s lives, we also get an insight into the racial prejudice and discrimination in the the south during the mid 1960‘s. The story moves very fast urging you to follow the characters they develop to find out what eventually happens.
Despite the evocation of sadness and melancholy in the story, the occasional interjections of humor help liven up the overall tone of the book.

Subject Headings: African-American women, Civil Rights Movement, College graduates,
Domestic workers, Housekeepers, Interracial friendship, Race relations, The Sixties (20th century)

Three Appeal Terms: Fast-paced, Compelling, Thought Provoking,

Appeal: Touching, thought-provoking, humorous and compelling, provocative, lively, dialect-rich, upbeat, moving, strong sense of place, engrossing, captivating, Fascinating

Fiction Read-Alikes:

The healing by Odell, Jonathan
A historical fiction – a personal account of a former slave’s experiences during pre civil rights movements in the south. This is a great read alike for those who truly enjoyed The Help and are curious about the lives of the slaves and how they coped.

We are all welcome here by Berg, Elizabeth
Here again, like the The Help we find three women but facing different types of struggles and survival – a bedridden mother, a teenager looking for freedom and an African American caregiver. The author portrays the relationship between race and class during the civil rights movements. This book would appeal to those interested in women’s quest for survival under grave circumstances, but with a lighter tone than in The Help.

Roots: the saga of an American family by Alex Haley
This award winning novel takes you right into the authentic story of slavery portrayed by this African American family. You follow the protagonist Kunte Kinte directly from capture in Africa, his resistance and eventual arrival and forced into slavery. This story spans seven generations of this family recounting their history through work in plantation, civil war and reconstruction period.

Non-Fiction Read-Alikes:

Song in a weary throat: an American pilgrimage by Murray, Paulie
Find a real personal account of Pauli Murray on the civil rights movement, women rights and advocacy. This will appeal to those who would like to learn more about race integration and major works on women’s rights.

Civil rights movement: people and perspectives by Michael, Ezra
For those who are interested in civil rights movements and its effect on the nation, this is a great resource. The book is comprehensive and gives various perspectives on the events of the civil rights era.

W.E.B. DuBois: biography of a race, 1868-1919 by David Levering Lewis
The biography of DuBois is an intelligent and detailed work. It is a great resource with in-depth account and analysis of the history of racism, civil war and civil rights movements. A well researched book and a credible source. Those intrigued by the level of racism and prejudice as portrayed in The Help would appreciate this resource.

One Better by Rosalyn McMillan

November 27, 2012

Author: Rosalyn McMillan

Title: One Better

Genre: African American Literature, Women’s Lives and Relationships

Publication Date: 1997

Number of Pages: 360

Geographical Setting: Detroit, MI

Time Period: 1990s

Plot Summary:  Having come from a life of abuse, drugs, prostitution, and poverty in Mississippi, the Witherspoon family and their friends have succeeded in creating thriving restaurant and development businesses in Michigan. The author eloquently tells the story of the lives of Spice, Sterling, Mink, Otis, Carmen Enriquez, and Golden Westbrook as they struggle with their successes and failures, addictions to drugs and alcohol, tragic accidents and death. Individuals interested in reading about the redevelopment of Detroit may really like this book. However, there is a lot of explicit sex and drug dealing, so it is not recommended for teenagers.

Subject Headings: Family, Detroit, MI, Illegal Drugs, African American Women, Restauranteurs, Domestic Fiction, Love Stories

Appeal terms:  measured pace, dramatic, episodic, realistic, detailed, melancholy, well-developed, explicit sex, family-centered, urban, literary, details of drug and alcohol addiction

Three appeal terms: family-centered, urban, details of drug and alcohol addiction

Similar Authors and Works:

Fiction:

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston- This book is about the life and marriages of an African American Woman in the 1930s.

The Interruption of Everything by Terry McMillan- Terry McMillan is Rosalyn McMillan’s sister. Both authors write about the lives of African Americans. This book is about a woman, her marriage, and her family as she struggles with the idea of being a perfect wife and mother. Terry McMillan is best known for her books, Waiting to Exhale and How Stella Got Her Groove Back.

The Color Purple by Alice Walker- This is the story of 20 years in a woman’s life as she experienced abuse and rape by her father and husband.

Non-Fiction:

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou- This is the autobiography of the poet, Maya Angelou. The book is about the painful stories that she experienced as a child.

Terry McMillan by Bruce Fish- This is the biography of Rosalyn McMillan’s sister. It tells the story of how she survived a violent childhood to become a bestselling author of books and the screenplays for the movies.

The Honeymoon’s Over: True Stories of Love, Marriage and Divorce edited by Andrea Chapin and Sally Wofford-Girand- This is a book of essays by female authors, including Terry McMillan, about love marriage and divorce.

Name: Rachel Fischer

Devil in a Blue Dress

October 17, 2012


Title: Devil in a Blue Dress

Author: Mosley, Walter

Genre: Mystery, Historical Mystery, African American Fiction

Publication Date: 1990

Number of Pages: 215

Geographical Setting: Los Angeles, California

Time Period: 1948, Post WWII

Series: Easy Rawlins

Plot Summary: Set in Los Angeles in 1948, this gritty novel follows Ezekiel Rawlins who goes by Easy.  An African-American WWII veteran, Easy just wants to enjoy his life and hold onto the house he worked so hard to get but he has just lost his factory job.  Easy tries to forget his troubles at his friend Joppy’s bar when he is offered money by the mysterious, white gentleman DeWitt Albright.  All he has to do is track down French beauty Daphne Monet, a lady who is said to frequent black jazz clubs, and he will have enough money to pay this month’s mortgage.  But what starts out as a straightforward mission leads to increasing danger and threats to his life.  With bodies piling up and the police eager to pin the crimes on him, Easy must find Daphne and solve this mystery in order to stay alive.  Winner of the Shamus best P.I. novel award and the first in the Easy Rawlins series, this book introduces a complex and engaging protagonist who goes from reluctant to empowered private investigator while also dealing with racial tensions during the 1940’s Los Angeles.  Mystery lovers can enjoy this private investigator novel that looks at social issues while also delivering an atmospheric, evocative story that has the feel of a film noir.  They can also watch the movie version of this starring Denzel Washington and Jennifer Beals.

Subject Headings: African-American Fiction, Mystery Fiction, Los Angeles, California, Private Investigators, Race Relations, Rawlins, Easy, African American Men, Organized Crime, Missing persons investigation, The Forties (20th century), Gangsters, Political Corruption

Appeal: Builds in intensity Pacing, Edgy, Character-driven, Suspenseful, Intriguing Characters, Well-drawn Characters, Gritty, Historical Details, Issue-oriented, Stark, Investigative, Thought-provoking, Strong Language, Time period dialect, Atmospheric, Evocative

Three Most Relevant Appeal Terms: Gritty, Historical details, Investigative

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

A Dangerous Road by Kris Nelscott

Set against the racially tense backdrop of Memphis in 1968, this historical mystery follows the activities of African-American private investigator Smokey Dalton.  He finds out that he is the recipient of $10,000 through rich,white Chicago heiress Laura Hathaway’s mother’s will.  Laura wants to know why Smokey was named the beneficiary, as does Smokey.  This search for answers leads to danger and mysteries for Smokey.  Another historical mystery novel that features an engaging African-American private detective narrator, while also offering an atmospheric story that deals with racial issues.

L.A. Confidential by James Ellroy

In this noir fiction set in the Los Angeles of the 1950s, the story follows three troubled LAPD officers Ed Exley, Bud White and Jack “Trashcan” Vincennes as they deal with crime, corruption and violence over a 10-year period.  Enjoy this mystery novel that deals with corruption and violence during a similar time period.  Like Devil in a Blue Dress, this was made into a movie.

The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

In this classic noir novel, San Francisco detective Sam Spade must deal with his partner being killed in a stakeout, a valuable statue of a falcon being wanted, the appearance and disappearance of a mysterious redhead and enemies demanding a payoff that Sam does not have.  The stakes are high and Sam must figure out how to get out of this mess and get some answers.  Here is the go-to novel for a gritty, noir detective story.

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

The Invisible Line: A Secret History of Race in America by Daniel J. Sharfstein

If you want to delve a bit deeper into some of the racial issues explored in Devil in a Blue Dress, try this book that explores three American families whose self-identified race shifted from black to white over the years.

L.A. Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of America’s Most Seductive City by John Buntin

Delve even deeper into the seedy underworld of Los Angeles from the1920s through the 1960s.  It dives into the world of crime, corruption, and violence along with the racial tensions of the city.  This book is suggested for those who wanted more details regarding the historical setting presented in Devil in a Blue Dress.

The Film Noir Encyclopedia by Alan Silver, Elizabeth Ward, James Ursini and Robert Porfirio

Did you enjoy the book as well as the movie?  Then try this encyclopedia that covers film noirs in detail.  It explores the themes and motifs of the genre, while featuring pictures and stills of the movies and their stars.

Name: Margita Lidaka

Mama Black Widow

August 15, 2012

Author:  Iceberg Slim

Title: Mama Black Widow: A Novel

Genre: African-American, Urban Lit, GLBTQ

Publisher/Publication Date:  Old School Books, 1998

Number of Pages:  240

Geographical Setting:  Southside Chicago

Time Period:  1930s-1970s

Plot Summary:  Mama Black Widow tells the tragic tale of Otis Tilson, a 40-year-old gay drag queen living on Chicago’s south side during the racially turbulent 70s.  Much of the novel is told in a realistic way by Otis about how his family moved to Chicago from the south in the 1930s, and the hard times they had to endure from then on.  Most of the novel is spent examining Otis’s mother “mama,” a vile, manipulative, downright evil woman who basically destroys every member of the Tilson family.  She drives her husband away, coerced one of her daughters into prostitution, and a lot of innocent people suffer greatly by her hands.  The author of this novel, Iceberg Slim (former pimp) writes in a way that is both shocking and insightful.  The language is often blunt, candid, and very, very offensive.  Sex scenes are described in explicit detail, and tone often changes from jovial to deadly serious.  Issues such as integration, trade unions, Chicago’s underground gay scene, police brutality, and hatred for the white man are discussed at length throughout the novel.  Slim even admits in the introduction that he is not the greatest writer, but he writes for the common people, and “tells it like it is.”

Subject Headings: Chicago (Southside)–Police (Brutality)–House of Corrections–Plantations–Trade Unions–Black Power–Bars (Gay)–Drag Queens–Cross-dressing–GLBTQ–Pimps–Drugs–Guns–Prostitution–Religion–False Preachers–Sex–Erotica–Rape–Pedophiles–Martin Luther King, Jr.–Street Cars–The El

Appeal: Realistic, Shocking, Character-Driven, Blunt, Candid, Erotic, Frantic, Intense, Dramatic, Serious, Political, Steamy, Graphic, Comical, Gut-Wrenching, Tragic, Sad, GLBTQ, Sexy

3 Appeal terms that best describe this book:  Serious, Steamy, Graphic

3 Similar Non-Fiction works and authors:

Soul on Ice, Eldridge Cleaver

This non-fiction memoir by Eldridge Cleaver will appeal to Iceberg Slim fans for its ability to shock, outrage, and question the readers’ ideas of what it means to be black in America.  His memoir is both sincere, raw, and very engaging.  He says at one point, “I’m perfectly aware that I’m in prison, that I’ve been a rapist, and that I have a higher Uneducation.”  Cleaver made indeed be too offensive to some, but he always savagely honest.  He tells the truth and he knows it.

Manchild in the Promised Land, Claude Brown

Claude Brown is a young, streetwise criminal growing up in Harlem in the 1940s and 50s.  This novel does an excellent job of describing northern black ghettos in New York in a turbulent, thrilling way.  Everything from pimps, drugs, street vendors, local shop owners, police brutality, gangs, sex and violence, and the gay underground are discussed in this book.  This book is however, quite inspiring and affirmative because Claude Brown is one of the lucky few who “made it” in this brutal world.

Out and Proud in Chicago: An Overview of the City’s Gay Community,  Tracy Baim

This handy reference book guides the reader through Chicago’s long and rich history of the gay community.  Those interested in Slim’s descriptive scenes of obscure bars and drag clubs will enjoy the multiple photographs presented within these pages (both in color and black & white).  The book draws on many scholarly, historical, and journalistic sources and covers time periods from pre- WWI to WWII-1960s, and 1970s to the present day.

3 Similar Fiction works and authors:

Blow Your Mind, Eric Pete

The description of the book reads,”In this erotic novel of sex and revenge, Eric Pete takes the consequences of dark sexual fantasies one step further.”  This story is about Tanner Coleman, his wife Bianca, and her wild sister, pumpkin.  When a man named Henry shows up and blackmailed Tanner, their lives are changed forever in a truly twisted way.  Not for the squeamish, this hardcore erotic, steamy, violent novel will appeal to Slim fans for its challenging dialogue, absurd situations, and the pessimistic world view that “we all die, and it will probably be sooner rather than later.”  Very popular!

Drag Queen, Robert Rodi

Considering the titles mentioned above, Rodi’s novel Drag Queen is a bit more light-hearted and comical, but also very engaging.  One review describes it as “The Parent Trap meets Priscilla, Queen of the Dessert.”  Gay attorney Mitchell Sayer has just found out from his mother that he has an identical twin, who happens to live not far from him in Northern Chicago.  The thing is, Mitchell’s brother is now named “Kitten Kaboodle,” gown-wearing, stillet0 strutting star of Tam-Tam’s “All-girl” review.  Furious, Mitchell tries to force Kitten into “the real world,” but Kitten feels she has a few lessons to teach as well.  Comical, insightful, and full of the Chicago landmarks Slim famously paints throughout his books.

Last Exit to Brooklyn, Hubert Selby, Jr.

This graphic, brutally raw novel of characters living in Brooklyn during the 60s and 70s examines the anger and rage of many diverse individuals in a time where justice seemed non-existent.  Considered a classic of modern American writing, this book, as Slim would describe it, “tells it like it is.”  There are crooks, hoodlums, pimps, prostitutes, drag queens, gay men and women, police riots, and strikes galore.  Gritty and serious, blunt and brutally honest.  Truly essential.

Salvage the Bones

August 14, 2012

Author: Jesmyn Ward

Title: Salvage the Bones

Genre: African American

Publication Date: 2011

Number of Pages: 258

Geographical Setting: Rural Mississppi

Time Period: 2005 (Hurricane Katrina)

Plot Summary: In the days leading up to Hurricane Katrina, Esch, fifteen, finds out she is pregnant. She and her brothers are leading a hard-scrabble life in rural Mississippi. Randall hopes to get a basketball scholarship and Skeetah is breeding his prize fighting pit bull. Things come to a dramatic conclusion as the Hurricane hits.

Subject Headings: African American teenage girls-fiction; Motherless families-fiction; Brothers and sisters-fiction; Rural poor-Mississippi-fiction; Hurricane Katrina 2005-fiction.

Appeal: descriptive, gritty, flawed characters, sympathetic characters, realistic, bleak, poignant, sexually explicit, profanity, earthy, rural.

3 terms that best describe this book: realistic, gritty, rural setting.

Similar Authors and Works (why are they similar?):

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:
Hurricane Katrina: The Mississippi Story by James Patterson Smith. Tells of the impact of Hurricane Katrina on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, including the devastation of sixty five thousand homes and the precarious days of food and water shortages that followed.

Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
A true-life story of one man’s ordeal in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Mr.Zeitoun was allegedly mistaken for a terrorist and detained for over 20 days without ever standing trial.

Breach of Faith: Hurricane Katrina and the Near Death of a great American City by Jed Horne
An editor of New Orleans’ Times-Picayune presents victims’ tales and the politics behind the disastrous relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove, an African-American girl in an America whose love for blonde, blue-eyed children can devastate all others, prays for her eyes to turn blue, so that she will be beautiful, people will notice her, and her world will be different. Literary, character-driven, bleak, haunting, lyrical.

Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison
Semi-autobiographical novel of a childhood in 1950s-60s South Carolina. The protagonist, nicknamed Bone, is a victim of poverty and physical abuse, including sexual abuse. Her family, like Esch’s, are poor, loving, and protective.

Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat
Set in Haiti’s impoverished villages and in New York’s Haitian community, this is the story of Sophie Caco, who was conceived in an act of violence, abandoned by her mother and then summoned to America.

Name: Sonia Reppe

Let the Church Say Amen

August 13, 2012

Author: ReShonda Tate Billingsley

Title: Let the Church Say Amen

Genre: African American Fiction, Christian Fiction

Publication Date: July, 2004

Number of Pages: 289

Geographical Setting: Houston, Texas

Time Period: Modern Day

Series: Book 1 of the Amen series

Plot Summary: In book 1 of Billingsley’s Amen series, we are introduced to Reverend Simon Jackson, dedicated pastor who puts his church first  and in working hard to build it up from nothing, ends up neglecting his wife and three children.  Although he runs a tight, successful ship in his congregation, his children are another story. One son is having problems with drugs, one son is confused about his identity and his daughter has her own problems regarding the fathers of her two children.  Jackson’s wife Loretta is the heart of the family and after realizing that she has allowed her husband to focus more on his pastoral duties than their family, works to reunite them despite the shadow of secrets which are revealed. A more urban take on Christian Fiction in that there is some sex  and mild profanity, this is a story of how one African American family turns to God, eachother and their community to figure out what really matters in life.

Subject Headings: African American families; Christian life; Family problems; African American clergy; Children of clergy; Spouses of clergy; Church membership; Christian fiction; Domestic fiction

Appeal: Character-driven, Compelling, Candid, Flawed characters, Inspiring characters, Family centered, Details of Christian Church, Thought-provoking, Urban, Conversational, Melodramatic, Poignant

3 Terms that best describe this book: Character-driven, Family-centered, Compelling

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1) The Black Church in America: African American Christian Spirituality (Religious Life in America)by Michael Battle

This book provides a historical perspective about how the Black Church in America came to be including its African roots, the doctrine and practices of the churches and how denominations were formed. Battle also discusses current beliefs, practices and modern day dilemmas facing the church today. This book might appeal to those interested in learning more about the background of the African American Christian Church which is one of the main “characters” in Let the Church Say Amen.

2) I Told the Mountain to Move by Patricia Raybon

Raybon’s frank book is part memoir and part tutorial about how she’s struggled with prayer among life’s many challenges and what readers might learn from what she’s discovered. This book might appeal to those who enjoyed the messages of faith and forgiveness through prayer prevalent in Let the Church Say Amen.

3) How We Got Over: Testimonies of Faith, Hope and Courage by Trevy A. McDonald and Bettye J. Allen (editors)

This collection of stories about real people who overcame a variety of obstacles from life-threatening situations to broken family relationships might appeal to those readers who were inspired by the Jackson family’s courage and ability to keep the faith regardless of life’s problems in Let the Church Say Amen.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1)  The Reverend’s Wife by Kimberla Lawson Roby

This book centers on the story of Reverend Curtis Black as he struggles to decide whether to forgive his unfaithful wife who is working hard to reconcile or consider a proposition by another woman who loves and wants to marry him. Those who enjoyed Let the Church Say Amen because it’s a character-driven story about African American clergy might enjoy this book.

2)  Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin

This book is about John Grimes who experiences a religious conversion while his family struggles with guilt, bitterness, and spiritual issues. Like Let the Church Say Amen, this book is centered on an African American family who turns to faith and the church to solve life’s problems.

3) Have a Little Faith by Jacquelin Thomas, ReShonda Tate Billingsley, J.D. Mason and Sandra Kitt

This collection of stories from four bestselling African-American authors introduces a group of women who discover how life can open up if one has faith. A book for those who enjoyed the themes of faith, family and forgiveness in Let the Church Say Amen.

Name: Bridget Optholt

Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir

August 13, 2012

Author: Hadjii

Title: Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir

Genre: African American Biography

Publication Date: 2008

Number of Pages: 219 p.

Geographical Setting: Georgia

Time Period: 1980s and 1990s

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: This fast-paced, character-driven, and humorous autobiography consists of stories from Hadjii’s childhood and teenage years.  Throughout the autobiography, Hadjii covers many interesting situations, like attending a predominantly white school, relating to his traditional parents, going to family parties, visiting church on Sundays, celebrating Christmas, drinking for the first time, taking a test for AIDS, and getting his first job.  In the author’s note, Hadjii admits that some parts of the autobiography are true while others are not although one consistent theme throughout many of the stories is Hadjii’s highlighting of the differences between people who are black and white.  In each chapter, Hadjii’s first-person language and voice are clear.  He is chatty and frank, and he uses this voice to plainly describe and comment on situations and characters from his early years.  Unlike many autobiographies, Hadjii’s story is not tragic or sentimental, but is sarcastic, critical, perceptive, and generally optimistic.  Nonetheless, even though the tone throughout the autobiography is generally light, Hadjii’s sharp observations often present deeper perspectives on issues, especially regarding being a black American growing up in the United States in the 1980s and 1990s.

Subject Headings: African-American Families; African-American Young Men; African-Americans; Family and Relationships; The Eighties (20th Century); The Nineties (20th Century); Southern States – Social Life and Customs; Southern States – Race Relations; Autobiographies (Adult Literature); Humor Writing; Memoirs;

Appeal: fast-paced, candid, contemplative, edgy, exuberant, humorous, introspective, playful, thoughtful, upbeat, closely observed, detailed, eccentric, lifelike, recognizable, and vivid primary and secondary characters, character-centered, episodic, family-centered, issue-oriented, strong language, thought-provoking, evocative, small-town, accessible, chatty, colorful, concise, conversational, descriptive, direct, frank, informal

3 Terms that Best Describe This Book: frank, funny, episodic

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Mama Makes Up Her Mind: And Other Dangers of Southern Living by Bailey White, like Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii, will appeal to readers who are looking for another character-driven reflection about family and relationships in a small town in Georgia.  Although Bailey White recounts these stories as an adult and does not include an African- American perspective as in Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii, readers of Mama Makes Up Her Mind: And Other Dangers of Southern Living by Bailey White will appreciate her humorous episodic tales, closely observed and eccentric characters, and conversational dialogue throughout the novel.

Life on the Color Line: The True Story of a White Boy Who Discovered He Was Black by Gregory Howard Williams, like Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii, will appeal to readers who desire another autobiography that highlights family, relationships, and race relations in the United States.  Even though the tone and style ofLife on the Color Line: The True Story of a White Boy Who Discovered He Was Black by Gregory Howard Williams is far more serious and formal thanDon’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii, both autobiographies focus on how race affected their childhood and teenage years.  Another difference, however, is thatLife on the Color Line: The True Story of a White Boy Who Discovered He Was Black by Gregory Howard Williams takes place in Indiana in the 1960s unlike Hadjii’s upbringing in Georgia in the 1980s and 1990s.

How to Be Black by Baratunde Thurston will appeal to readers of Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii because it too is a satiric memoir that humorously focuses on perceptions and stereotypes that people have about African Americans in the United States.  Similar toDon’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii, Thurston tries to present a more nuanced and detailed impression of race relations and his background of growing up and living in America, and like Hadjii, Thurston deemphasizes the need for every black individual to represent his or her entire race.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Betsey Brown by Ntozake Shange will appeal to readers of Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii in that it is another character-driven novel about an African American, Betsey Brown, growing up in a middle-class family and dealing with race relations in the United States.  Although the novel is set in Missouri in the late 1950s, Betsey is dealing with many of the same family issues as Hadjii inDon’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried MemoirAlthough Betsey Brown by Ntozake Shange is more poetic and atmospheric thanDon’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii too, it also is episodic and frankly humorous in many sections and contains a compelling story.

Life is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper will appeal to readers of Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii in that it is another character-driven novel about African-American families, friends, and neighbors in a small town.  Although the book is more sentimental in tone and takes place in Oklahoma, as inDon’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii,Life is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper contains multiple stories told by humorous main characters in a witty and lyrical style.

The Thang That Ate My Grandaddy’s Dog by John Calvin Rainey will appeal to readers of Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii in that it is another humorous novel about a young African-American boy, Johnny Woodside, growing up in a small town in Florida.  Like Hadjii, Johnny tells many stories about his adventures and the friends and family that he relates to on a regular basis as he learns many lessons about life.

Just Too Good to be True

August 13, 2012

Author:  E Lynn Harris

Title: Just Too Good to be True

Genre:  Multi-cultural

Publication Date:  2003

Number of Pages:  336 (audio: 9 hours, 52 minutes)

Geographical Setting:  Georgia

Time Period:  Present

Series (If applicable):

Plot Summary:  Brady Bledsoe is the only son of single mother Carmyn Bledsoe and the star senior on his college football team.  They are very close and Carmyn is proud of the fact that Brady has been involved in their church and is part of the “Celibacy Circle”.  As his final football season ends changes start building between the two.  Brady gets his first serious girlfriend; aggressive sports agents start knocking, and secrets about Carmyn’s past and Brady’s father start coming out.  The relationship between mother and son is tested in ways it never has been before.

One interesting thing about the audio book is that three different readers read each point of view. 

Subject Headings: Mothers and Sons- Fiction, African-American college athletes-Fiction, Family Secrets- Fiction, Celibacy- Fiction, Football- Fiction

Appeal:  compelling, deliberate pacing, dramatic, multiple points of view, character centered, episodic, layered, strong language, racy, hard edged, candid, colorful

3 terms that best describe this book:  character centered, candid, multiple points of view

Similar Authors and Works (why are they similar?):

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Fifty Years of College Football- Bob Boyles and Paul Guido

Jam-packed with information about college football, the book is perfect for the reader looking up a fact or in search of a good read.  As the ultimate college football reference book, it is a must-read for true fans.  Readers who enjoyed the college football aspect of Just Too Good to be True and want to know more about the sport will enjoy this book.

License to Deal:  A Season on the Run with a Maverick Baseball Agent by Jerry Crasnick

During baseball’s evolution from national pastime to a $3.6 billion business, the game’s agents have played a pivotal role in driving the sport.  License to Deal follows Matt Sosnick as he deals with up-and-coming clients while trying to keep his love of baseball and his integrity.  The integrity of sports agents is a big subject in Just To Good to be True and this book examines one sports agent and his quest to keep his honor in this profession.

Raising Sons Without Fathers: A Woman’s Guide to Parenting Strong, Successful Boys by Leif Turdel and Patricia Kennedy

Dr. Leif Terdal and Patricia Kennedy describe the problems faced by sons without fathers and advise single mothers about how to raise more self-reliant young men. Providing practical, hands-on advice, the authors offer solutions to a variety of problems, including but not limited to, raising a boy’s self-esteem; discipline from preschool to adolescence; helping a boy get the best education he can; and how mothers can survive alone.  Readers who appreciate the dynamic between Carmyn and Brady will enjoy this non-fiction parenting book.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

The Preacher’s Son by Carl Weber

Bishop T.K. Wilson, popular pastor of the largest African American church in Queens, New York, has decided to run for borough president. In public, his wife and two children are a shining example of respectability. Yet privately, the Wilson kids are giving in to the same temptations as any other young adults. And their parents have no idea what’s going on behind closed doors.  This page-turner also deals with the way family dynamics can change when secrets come to light.

Mothers & Sons by Jill M Morgan, Diana Gabaldon, and others

This book is an anthology of memoirs and fictional stories about relationships between mothers and their sons.  Some stories are wonderfully sweet, while some are painfully sad.  Readers who enjoyed the dynamic between Brady and Carmen in Just Too Good to be True will appreciate this collection of stories about mothers and sons.

Romancing the Zone by Kenna White

Liz Elliott is a business woman and single mother to nineteen-year-old daughter, Becca. Becca is a freshman at Ashton College and a star of the basketball team, like her mother was years ago. But in those early days, a dirty little secret collapsed Liz’s world.  When Liz accepts Becca’s challenge to return to college and complete her degree as well as play her last year of basketball eligibility, she is met with resistance from the new head coach. Coach Sheridan Ross has no patience for babysitting an over-the-hill athlete, but sparks soon begin to fly. This is another sports fiction book that deals with family secrets.  Romancing the Zone is similar to Just Too Good to be True, but with GLBTQ themes.

Name:  Becky Ozinga

Chyna Black by Keisha Ervin

August 13, 2012

 Author:  Keisha Ervin

Title:  Chyna Black

Genre:  African American, Urban Lit

Publication Date:  2004

Number of Pages:  259

Geographical Setting:  St. Louis, Missouri

Time Period:  Contemporary

Series (If applicable):  N/A

Plot Summary:  Seventeen-year-old Chyna Black catches the eye of Tyriek James, a handsome 22-year-old drug dealer living a life filled with fast cars, expensive jewelry, and designer name clothes.  Unheeding her girlfriends’ advice that Tyriek is nothing but trouble, Chyna is blinded by her passion and pursues a relationship with him, forsaking everything else.  Chyna, infatuated and caught up in his lifestyle, goes from straight-A student to high school dropout, begins to isolate herself from her friends, and gets thrown out of her mother’s house.  Although things go well for a while between her and Tyriek, their relationship soon becomes fraught with jealousy, infidelity, violent physical and emotional abuse, passionate make-up sex, and insincere promises of devotion.  Chyna learns all too late the unhealthiness of their relationship, returns to her mother’s house, and begins dating an old boyfriend, LP, who gets her pregnant.  Without LP’s support, she decides to keep the baby and get her life back on track by getting a job and her GED.  One year later, at her daughter’s first birthday, Tyriek reappears with new promises of devotion.  Chyna Black is a fast-paced, gritty tale of urban fiction written in a raw, conversational style that is heavy with dialect and loaded with profanity.  Chyna and Tyriek’s relationship is a maelstrom of drama and passionate eroticism that is sure to engage readers who enjoy these elements.

Subject Headings:  African American Teenage Girls; Inner City Life; Teenage Pregnancy; High School Dropouts; Drug Dealers; Unhealthy Relationships; Responsibility; Coming-of-Age Stories

Appeal:  Conversational, informal, unpretentious, authentic, raw, gritty, dialect-rich, sexually explicit, strong language, erotic, romantic, melodramatic, hopeful, inspiring, fast-paced, open-ended

3 terms that best describe this book:  Dialect-rich, raw, and strong language

Similar Authors and Works (why are they similar?):

            3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

1)  Dear Diary, I’m Pregnant: Ten Real Life Stories by Anrenee Englander

This book is a collection of candid interviews with ten teenage girls from various socioeconomic backgrounds, ethnicities, cultures, and faiths about their experiences with pregnancy.  The girls’ stories also touch on topics such as abortion, adoption, and deciding to keep their babies.  This title is suggested to those who want to read true-life stories about teenage pregnancies after reading about Chyna’s experiences.

2)  A Piece of Cake by Cupcake Brown

A harrowing yet inspiring memoir of how the author overcame her history of childhood neglect, abject poverty, trauma, rape, prostitution, gang affiliation, and substance abuse and became a California attorney and motivational speaker.  Like Chyna Black, this is a gritty, raw, and inspiring story of an African American woman taking back control of her life.

3)  Brothers (and Me): A Memoir of Loving and Giving by Donna Britt

An honest and introspective memoir about how the author, growing up as the only daughter in a middle-class African American family, sacrificed her own ambitions and self-identity for the men in her life: her three brothers, her father, her boyfriends, and her husband.  After the police shoot and kill one of her brothers, she reflects on the ways in which she has continually given of herself to others at the expense of her own individuality.  Chyna Black comes to a similar realization when she breaks things off with Tyreik and begins to take responsibility for her future.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

1)  Every Thug Needs a Lady by Wahida Clark

Roz puts her personal aspirations of becoming a physical therapist aside when she meets and gets involved with Trae, a drug dealer.  She soon realizes the cost of getting into a relationship with a gangster.  Every Thug Needs a Lady and Chyna Black are similar urban tales of young African American women blinded by their passion for handsome, wealthy thugs at the expense of everything else.

2)  Black: A Street Tale by Tracy Brown

When her mother throws her out of the house, 17-year-old Kaia is forced to live on the streets.  Trying desperately just to survive, she meets and gets involved in relationship with a local hoodlum named Aaron.  Although this relationship changes her life, she questions whether it has changed for the better or if it is stifling her freedom.  Suggested to readers looking for another story about a young African American teenage girl who is thrown out of her home and becomes romantically involved with a dangerous man.

3)  Push by Sapphire

Sixteen-year-old Precious Jones lives in a severely abusive household where her father routinely rapes her and her mother emotionally and physically abuses her.  When she finds herself pregnant with her father’s child for the second time, she enrolls in an alternative school in Harlem to overcome her illiteracy.  Her teacher, Blue Rain, encourages and pushes her to learn how to read and write.  By learning these skills, Precious is able to find an outlet for communicating her tragic existence.  Push is suggested to readers looking for a grittier, bleaker, and more harrowing tale of a pregnant African American teenage girl gaining the confidence she needs to confront the adversity and trauma she has suffered.

Name:  Zach Musil