Posts Tagged ‘lifelike’

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.

I Am J

November 9, 2011

Author: Cris Beam

Title:  I Am J

Genre: Realistic Fiction, GLBTQ

Publication Date: 2011

Number of Pages: 352

Geographical Setting: New York

Time Period: Early Present Day

Plot Summary:  J always felt different.  He was certain that eventually everyone would understand who he really was; a boy mistakenly born as a girl.  Yet as he grew up, his body began to betray him; eventually J stopped praying to wake up a “real boy” and started covering up his body, keeping himself invisible, from his family, from his friends, from the world.  But after being deserted by the best friend he thought would always be by his side, J decides that he’s done hiding, it’s time to be who he really is. And this time he is determined not to give up, no matter the cost.  This is an inspiring story of self-discovery, of choosing to stand up for yourself, and of finding your own path.

Subject Headings: Transsexuals, Rejection(Psychology), Emotional problems of teenagers, Identity (Psychology), Friendship, Transgender teenagers, Female-to-male transsexuals, Seventeen-year-olds, Teenagers

Appeal: Character-driven, Issue-oriented, Emotionally intense, easy, dramatic, evocative, moving, thoughtful, inspiring, lifelike, realistic, sympathetic, well-developed, inspirational, though-provoking,
contemporary, urban, engaging

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: Character-driven, Issue-oriented, Emotionally intense

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Transitions – A Guide To Transitioning for Transsexuals and Their Families by Mara Drummond

Having a gender identity that conflicts with one’s physical gender is a huge emotional burden. The anxiety, stress and depression that can result from having such a conflict can push a person to the point where everything in life that is held dear is risked to undertake one of the hardest challenges a human being can make: transitioning from one gender to the other. Anyone with interests in transgender and how they deal with the transition should pick up this book.

Helping Your Transgender Teen: A Guide for Parents by Irwin Krieger

According to the author, “Today’s teens have access to a wealth of information on the internet. Teenagers who are wondering about gender identity soon find out what it means to be transgender or transsexual. Parents, on the other hand, know little about this topic. When a teenager declares he or she is transgender, parents fear that their child is confused and is choosing a life fraught with danger. I wrote this book to help parents of transgender teens gain an understanding of this complex subject.” “Helping Your Transgender Teen” begins with the basic information you and your family need.  Another good source for anyone wanting to know more about what J goes through in the book.

Letters For My Brothers by Zander Keig

In today’s fast paced world, the internet can provide quick answers to personal questions. But when an individual raised by society to live, breathe and look at the world with female eyes transitions to male, some of the most enlightening, helpful and profound advice can only come in retrospect. Letter to my Brothers, features essays from respected transmen mentors who share the wisdom they wish they would have known at the beginning of their journey into manhood.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

f2m (the boy within) by Hazel Edwards

School-leaver Skye plays guitar in her all-female Chronic Cramps band. Making her name in the punk/indie scene is easier than FTM (female to male) transitioning: from Skye to Finn, from girl to man. Uncovering genetic mysteries about family heritage tear the family apart. Trans gender identity is more than injections and surgery, it’s about acceptance. Going public, Finn sings ftm lyrics on TV. With a little help from bemused mates and family who don’t want to lose a daughter, but who love their teenager, Finn is transitioning.  Anyone who finds the subject matter of I am J interesting will fall into this book’s story.

Almost perfect by Brian Katcher

Logan Witherspoon recently discovered that his girlfriend of three years cheated on him. But things start to look up when a new student breezes through the halls of his small-town high school. Sage Hendricks befriends Logan at a time when he no longer trusts or believes in people. Sage has been homeschooled for a number of years and her parents have forbidden her to date anyone, but she won’t tell Logan why. One day, Logan acts on his growing feelings for Sage. Moments later, he wishes he never had. Sage finally discloses her big secret: she’s actually a boy. Another realistic portrayal of teens and sexual identity that fans of I Am J will like.

Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger

Angela Katz-McNair has never felt quite right as a girl, but it’s a shock to everyone when she cuts her hair short, buys some men’s clothes, and announces she’d like to be called by a new name, Grady. Grady is happy about his decision to finally be true to himself, despite the practical complications, like which gym locker room to use. And though he didn’t expect his family and friends to be happy about his decision, he also didn’t expect kids at school to be downright nasty about it. But as the victim of some cruel jokes, Grady also finds unexpected allies in this thought-provoking novel that explores struggles any reader can relate to.  Fans of I Am J will find this novel interesting for the emotional journey the main character takes from female to male.

Name: Jason Rock

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

August 17, 2011

The House on Mango Street

Author:Sandra Cisneros
Title:  The House on Mango Street

PublicationDate: 1984

Pages:  110

Genre:  Non-fiction.

Available: Spanish, Audio

Geographical Setting:  Chicago, Illinois

Time Period:  1980

Subject Headings:  Latina Women; Short Stories; Vignettes; Esperanza Cordero; Sandra Cisneros; Hispanic Americans; Mexican American; Illinois (Chicago)

Appeal: easy, unhurried, atmospheric, poignant, lifelike, strong secondary characters, authentic, character-centered, detailed setting, intimate, conversational, lyrical

Plot Summary:   Sandra Cisneros (Esperanza Cordero) uses lyrical vignettes while retelling her youth as a poor Hispanic American in Chicago, Illinois.  The very short chapters (2 – 3 pages) are dedicated to describing various memories of family members and childhood friends.  The reader receives a very intimate look into the Hispanic culture revealing the struggle of Hispanic women to become independent of male authority figures.

Three terms that best describe this book:  authentic, lyrical, character-centered

Similar authors and fiction works:

How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julie Alvarez

Four sisters adjust to life in the Bronx after moving from the Dominican Republic.  Told in fifteen short stories from each of their perspectives.  builds in intensity (told in reverse chronological order), multiple points of view, authentic

Maud Martha by Gwendolyn Brooks

Lyrical account of a young black girl growing up in Chicago, Illinois in the 1940’s to 1950’s.  unhurried, sobering, hopeful

The Book of Lamentations by Rosario Castellanos

A story about a Mayan uprising against the white ruling class set in the 1930’s.  relentless, disturbing, dramatic

Similar authors and non-fiction works:

From My Mother’s Hands by Nellie Campobello

Bedside table book about mother/daughter relationships told by thirty-three notable Texas women. Recipes included.  leisurely-paced, compassionate, inspiring

American Immigration (The Chicago History of American Civilization) by Maldwyn Allen Jones

Study of immigrants and the adjustment of their lives in America. stately, academic, accurate

Blowout!: Sal Castro and the Chicano Struggle for Educational Justice by Mario T. Garcia and Sal Castro

The account of the 1968 movement for equal education for Hispanic Americans.  engrossing, humorous, historical details

Name:  Debbie

Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace…One School at a Time

August 8, 2011

Author:  Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

Title:  Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace…One School at a Time

Publication Date:2006

Pages:  331

Genre:  Non-fiction

Geographical Setting:  Pakistan

Time Period:  1993-2003

Subject Headings:  Greg Mortenson, Pakistan, K2, Korphe Pakistan, Pakistan Schools, Muslims Pakistan, Afghanistan, Central Asia Institute

Appeal: steady, contemplative, moving, detailed, lifelike, complex, layered, flashbacks, political, informal, unusual, character-centered, (meandering)

Plot Summary: Professional mountain climber Greg Mortenson, tackles Pakistan’s K2 mountain in an effort to bury his deceased sister’s necklace.  Failure to do so takes him on a journey to a remote Pakistani village, where he discovers exceptionally poor conditions and lack of education for the children.   This  experience launches his lifetime commitment to building schools in various remote villages in Pakistan and Afghanistan, making unusual friendships and enemies along the way.

Three terms that best describe this book:  character-centered, political, unusual, (meandering)

Similar authors and fiction works:

Murder on Everest by Charles G. Irion and Ronald J. Watkins

Murder mystery about the death of a multi-millionaire’s son as he attempts to climb Mt. Everest.  fast-paced, details of mountain climbing, dangerous

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi

A memoir of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution.  Graphic Novel.  builds in intensity, dangerous, family-centered

Christy by Catherine Marshall

A young woman moves away from her life of privilege in order to teach the children of an impoverished community in the Smoky Mountains. detailed setting, character-centered, disturbing

Similar authors and non-fiction works:

Children of Dust: A Memoir of Pakistan by Ali Eteraz

This book is a coming of age memoir written by Ali Eteraz, who was born in Pakistan and raised in the United States by the age of 10.  He struggles with his religious upbringing versus western way of life.  introspective, informative, authentic

Educating Esme by Esme Raji Codell

Esme Raji Codell is a first year teacher working in an inner city school.  This is a diary account of the obstacles she faces including non-supportive administrators, abusive parents and angry students.  candid, authentic, humorous

K2: Life and Death on the World’s Most Dangerous Mountain by Ed Viesturs, David Roberts

Harrowing true stories about six expeditions attempting to climb the second highest mountain in the world. dramatic, compelling, informative

Name:  Debbie

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand

August 3, 2011


Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson

Author:Helen Simonson

Title:  Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand: A Novel                                   

Publication Date:   2010                                                                   

Pages:  355

Genre:  Romance

Geographical Setting:  Edgecombe St. Mary, England

Time Period:  2010

Subject Headings: Romance, English Culture, Pakistani Women

Appeal:  leisurely-paced, relaxed, emotionally-charged, humorous, romantic, lifelike, character-centered, resolved ending, intimate, small-town, breezy, witty

Plot Summary:  Widower Major Pettigrew develops an expected friendship with a Pakistani woman, which causes a stir in the small town.  Their racism causes the Major to view his friends and family in a different manner.  This breezy novel about the decline of English gentility is charming and humorous with an unmistakable undercurrent of social intolerance.         

Three terms that best describe this book:  leisurely-paced, romantic, humorous

Similar authors and fiction works:

The Widower’s Tale by Julie Glass

Seventy-year-old Percy Darling’s life changes when he allows a preschool to use his old barn.  The story takes place in contemporary Boston.  densely written, character-centered, breezy

Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear   

In post-World War I England, Maisie Dobbs starts her own business as a private investigator.  Her first case uncovers much more than proof of infidelity leading her into a dark web of secrets.  She realizes she must face the truth about her lost love.  This is first in a series and National Bestseller.  unhurried, historical details, flashbacks

A Place to Call Home by Deborah Smith

This is a love story about a young girl and her boyfriend that lives across the tracks.  After a tragedy separates them, they reunite twenty years later leading to a rediscovery of their feelings.  emotionally-charged, humorous, character-centered

Similar authors and non-fiction works:

Me: Stories of My Life by Katharine Hepburn

This is an autobiography written by Katharine Hepburn that discusses her movie career,   relationships and 27-year love affair with Spencer Tracy.  introspective, rich and famous, straightforward

The Wrong Side of an Illness: A Doctor’s Love Story by Owen Surman

The sobering story of a psychiatrist who’s life changes when his wife battles ovarian cancer. candid, authentic, intimate

Dear Bess: The Letters from Harry to Bess Truman, 1910-1959 edited by Robert H. Ferrell

An intimate look into Harry Truman’s love for his wife.  historical details, dramatic, nostalgic


Name:  Debbie


August 1, 2011

Author:  Emma Donoghue

Title:  Room

Genre:  Literary Fiction, Psychological Suspense

Publication Date:  Sept. 2010

Number of Pages:  321

Geographical Setting:  Unknown, probably America or Canada

Time Period:  Today

Series (If applicable):

Plot Summary:  Ma has lived in Room for seven years, a shed converted into a soundproof locked prison by a disturbed middle-aged man.  She was kidnapped from her college campus at 19 and had her son Jack two years later.  The story is told from Jack’s innocent point of view as readers are introduced to life inside Room, their daring escape plan, and life after their rescue in Outside.  The world is brand new to Jack and we explore this big, strange place alongside him in this hauntingly sad story.

Subject Headings:  Psychological Suspense, Kidnapping

Appeal:  Fast-paced, compelling, disturbing, haunting, suspenseful, poignant, lifelike, vivid, character-driven, linear, tragic, colloquial

3 terms that best describe this book: haunting, lifelike, compelling

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

–       A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard – This is the memoir of Jaycee Dugard, a woman held prisoner for eighteen years by a deranged couple.  Jacyee had two children by this man and raised them in conditions similar to those created by Donoghue in Room.

–       Escape by Carolyn Jessop – The story of a forced into a plural marriage in her teens and how she escaped with her eight children.  Similar to Room, it deals with family and relationships and escaping a terrible situation.

–       Invisible Chains: Shawn Hornbeck and the Kidnapping that Shook the Nation by Kristina Sauerwein – Similar to Jaycee Dugard’s story, this was another national case of abduction and recovery examined and retold here from the third-person.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

–       Me & Emma by Elizabeth Flock – Story of two siblings that plan to runaway and escape their abusive stepfather, similar to Jack and Ma’s escape from their horrible situation.  Similar to Room, the story is told from the point of view of a child.

–       The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold – Though more detailed and gruesome than Room, this book also deals with rape and abduction and its impact on the victim’s family and is narrated by the affected child.

–       Still Missing by Chevy Stevens – Story is also about the abduction of a woman, told as she recounts the year she spent as a prisoner hidden in the woods to police while they search for her captor.

Name:  Julie F.

the lock artist

May 26, 2010

Author: Hamilton, Steve

Title: The Lock Artist: A Novel

Genre: Crime Fiction, Thriller, Romance

Publication Date: 2009

Number of Pages:  304

Geographical Setting: Milford, Michigan and both coasts

Time Period: From 1991 to the present

Series: Not as of this writing

Plot Summary:  In a first person narrative, 18-year-old Mike imparts to the reader that a traumatic experience when he was 8-years-old has left him unable to speak.  He also reveals that a unique talent for picking locks has brought him into association with unsavory characters and resulted in his current wardrobe, an orange jumpsuit. He wants to unburden himself of his story, revealing a journey that takes him from his Michigan home to both coasts, while working for a mysterious boss in Detroit whom he is warned never to cross. Mike longs to find his voice and reconnect with his one true love, Amelia, with whom he shares an artistic talent for drawing.  Hamilton drops clues about Mike’s childhood trauma throughout the book, which contains a lot of research about safecracking, sign language and the effects of childhood trauma on the human psyche.  Will Mike dare to escape prison using his special skills?

Subject Headings: Lock picking fiction, Criminals fiction, Mystery fiction

Appeal:  deliberate, bittersweet, candid, dangerous, earnest, melancholy, unpretentious, intriguing, lifelike, character-centered, flashbacks, plot twists, frank, well-researched, direct

3 terms that best describe this book: non-linear, tantalizing, well-researched

3 relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Boxman: A Professional Thief’s Journey by William J. Chambliss

Written by a professor of sociology at the George Washington University and past president of the American Society of Criminology and the Society for the Study of Social Problems, this book offers insight into why someone becomes a professional thief.

Catch Me If You Can: the amazing true story of the youngest and most daring con man in the history of fun and profit by Frank W. Abagnale, Jr., with Stan Redding

This book is similar to Mike’s story in that Abagnale leaves home at a young age to pursue a criminal lifestyle because of a disrupted home life.

The Untouched Key: Tracing Childhood Trauma in Creativity and Destructiveness by Alice Miller

Following a childhood trauma, Michael becomes a gifted boxman and visual artist. This book connects childhood trauma to adult creativity and injurious behavior.

Three Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Nobody’s Safe by Richard Steinberg

This is a story about a master thief who finds himself in great danger after a murder occurs while he is burglarizing an apartment. He finds what the murderers wanted, in the apartment’s safe.  Like Mike, he finds himself involved in something bigger than his own not quite legal goals.

The ha-ha: a novel by Dave King

In a similar theme to The Lock Artist, the protagonist is mute but finds a way to reconnect with life through his high school sweetheart.

Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers

Like The Lock Artist, this story is told by a teenaged first person narrator who is dealing with life in the justice system.

Rosemary Sullivan

Sag Harbor

April 21, 2010

Author: Colson Whitehead

Title: Sag Harbor

Genre: African-American

Publication Date:2009

Number of Pages 288:

Geographical Setting: Sag Harbor, New York

Time Period:1985

Series (If applicable): n/a

Plot Summary: In the summer of 1985 fifteen year old Benji Cooper and his brother return to the traditional vacation spot for middle class African Americans in New York City, Sag Harbor. This time they get to spend the summer living on their own with their parents visiting only on weekends. The book follows Benji through his summer job, attempts to gain the attention of girls and lots of time hanging out at the beach with his friends. Whitehead provides a detailed view of racial and class divisions against the backdrop of a nostalgic coming of age novel.

Subject Headings:African American, adolescence, 1980’s

Appeal: Closely observed, detailed, evocative, familiar, lifelike, recognizable, character-centered, episodic, family-centered, linear, detailed setting, small-town, humorous, intimate, lighthearted, nostalgic, unpretentious

3 terms that best describe this book: Nostalgic, Engaging, Recognizable

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Philistines at the Hedgerow: Passion and Property in the Hamptons by Steven Gaines

In contrast to the much more down to Earth town of Sag Harbor, this book looks at the nearby towns known as the Hamptons and their super-rich inhabitants.

Places of Their Own: African American Suburbanization in the Twentieth Century (Historical Studies of Urban America) by Andrew Weiss. Explores the phenomenon of African American middle and upper classes moving outward from cities creating uniquely black suburbs.

We beat the street: how a friendship pact helped us succeed by The Three Doctors. A story of three African American teen boys who use their strong friendship to propel themselves out of a troubled neighborhood and though college.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Caucasia by Danzy Senna. Set in the 1970’s a young girl with a Caucasian mother and African-American father is abandoned by her father and is forced to move with her mother to find a new home. Similar to Sag Harbor in its exploration of racial identity and how a children can be placed between

Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem. Like Sag Harbor this book is set in the New York City of the 1980’s and explores racial and class differences among young adults.

The White Boy Shuffle by Paul Beatty. In this coming of age novel author Beatty explores the nature of racial identity. A young African-American boy is forced to adjust as he moves from the predominantly white suburb where he spends his childhood to a town filled with minorities (blacks/Asians/Latinos).

Name:Kris Harrison

Mama by Terry McMillan

April 21, 2010

Mama by Terry McMillan

Genre: African American fiction
Publication Date: 1987
Pages: 260 pages
Setting: Detroit, Michigan; Los Angeles, CA; New York City
Series: n/a
Plot Summary: Mama (Mildred Peacock) is a single mother raising 5 children in an impoverished area outside Detroit after she divorces her abusive, alcoholic husband.  Her focus is on raising her children as she struggles with money issues – sometimes working, sometimes on welfare; with drinking – her ex-husbands, her daughter’s and her own.  She moves between men and between cities looking for a better life.  As her children grow and find their own paths, Mildred is alternately satisfied and despondent.
Subject headings: single parent family – Michigan; single mothers; African-American families – Michigan; African-American women; motherhood; The Sixties (20th century); The Seventies (20th Century); Detroit, Michigan; African-American fiction – 20th century; domestic fiction; women’s lives and relationships.
Appeal: compelling, steady, evocative, insightful, lifelike, realistic, strong secondary (characters), vivid, authentic, character-centered, domestic, family-centered, contemporary, details of poverty; bittersweet, candid, edgy, emotionally-charged, gritty, haunting, hopeful, optimistic, philosophical, cadenced, earthy, frank, natural.
Three terms that best describe this book: gritty, powerful, moving.

Similar works/authors
Rattlebone by Maxine Claire
This book is a collection of stories about the citizens of Rattlebone, a black community in the Midwest in the 1950s.  Chosen because it features a variety of characters before the civil rights movement much like the early years of Mildred Peacock’s family.

If I Could by Donna Hill
This novel features a strong black woman who tries to rebuild her life and raise her children alone, after she divorces her husband.  She does what she thinks is best for her, despite the advice of her family and friends.  Chosen to illustrate another woman who must make tough choices to keep her family intact.

Taming it down: a novel by Kim McLarin
In this novel, Hope Robinson is a young black journalist who is struggling to define her life amid complicated personal and family issues.  She is also trying to overcome self-destructive behaviors.  Chosen because it is so similar to the story of Freda, the oldest daughter in Mama.
Shifting through neutral by Bridgett M. Davis
The main character in this novel is trying to find her place as a young African American woman in the 1970s while she deals with other family issues involving her mother, her sick father, and her older sister’s return to the family.  Chosen because it parallels many of the issues found in Mama.
Dear self: a year in the life of a welfare mom by Richelene Mitchell
The author wrote this journal as she struggled to raise seven children while fighting poverty, racism and the humiliation of the welfare system.  She moved to Philadelphia from the south to get an education and wrote this journal during a year of living in public housing projects in Connecticut.  Chosen because it is a real life chronicle of the types of struggles Mildred Peacock faced in Mama.
Children of the movement: the sons and daughters of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Elijah Muhammad, George Wallace, Andrew Young, Julian Bond, Stokely Carmichael, Bob Moses, James Chaney, Elaine Brown, and others reveal how the civil rights movement tested and transformed their families by John Blake.
This book of essays features the children of civil rights leaders reflecting on the changes the movement made in their families. Chosen because Freda was learning about the civil rights movement and educating her family, particularly her mother.
Sugar’s life in the hood: the story of a former welfare mother by Sugar Turner
A first person chronicle of the struggle of a welfare mother trying to raise a family, make ends meet with welfare and low paying jobs, find a relationship and avoid the pitfalls of substance abuse.  Chosen because it mirrors the struggles in Mama.
Unsung heroines: single mothers and the American dream by Ruth Sidel examines the lives of singles mothers and their needs for comprehensive healthcare, adequate childcare, and jobs at a living wage to succeed.  Chosen because these topics were relevant in the struggles Mildred Peacock faced in Mama.
Dreams to reality: help for young moms: education, career, and life choices by Laura Haskins-Bookser.
This book draws upon the real life experiences of a young teenage mother and offers advice on setting goals, and well as information on relationships, finances, college, paternity issues, job training, and travel.

Getting ghost: two young lives and the struggle for the soul of an American city by Luke Bermann
This author describes the effects of discrimination, combined with the loss of major industrial employers, focusing on the illegal drug trade and the lives of two young black drug dealers in Detroit.  Chosen because similar events happened in Mama – factories closing, difficulties finding jobs, and drug use.


April 21, 2010


Author: Octavia Butler

Title: Fledgling

Genre: African American Lit

Publication Date: 2005

Number of Pages: 317

Geographical Setting: New Orleans

Time Period: Present Day

Series: N/A

Plot Summary:  A girl awakens, starving, injured, and near death with an overwhelming thirst for blood.  As she recovers, she becomes aware that she has lost her memory and doesn’t know who she is or where her family has gone.  She appears to be a nine year old girl but she begins to wonder if she is actually human.  After a few days of confusion, Shori is found by her father and learns she isn’t human, but Ina, an alien race that forms symbiotic relationships with humans.  As Shori learns about her people, she realizes that her family is under attack by unknown assailants.  Fleeing for her life, Shori must use her wits and her newfound abilities to combat those who seek to kill her and her allies.  Before long, it becomes clear that she is being targeted by members of her family who disapprove of the genetic experiments which created her.   Despite this book’s fantastical frame, it deals with very modern and realistic issues of race.  It is a story that entertains while provoking thoughts about racial equality.

Subject Headings:  Genetic research; Women vampires; Racism; Miscegenation; African-American vampires; Vampires; African-American girls; Amnesiacs; African-American women; Families of murder victims; Sexuality; Experiments; Horror stories

Appeal:  compelling, deliberate, engrossing, detailed, dramatic, evocative, intriguing, lifelike, realistic, vivid, complex, explicitly violent, layered, racy, strong language, detailed setting, dangerous, thoughtful

3 terms that best describe this book:  racy, thoughtful, dramatic

Similar Works/Authors:


3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Vampires: The Occult Truth by Konstantinos: This book examines vampire folklore and the modern vampire subculture.  This book provides an all inclusive look at vampire history, legend, and reality.

The Subject of Race in American Science Fiction by Sharon DeGraw:  This book examines the science fiction genre and its tradition of examining racial issues.  DeGraw argues that speculative fiction has a lot to add to the modern discussion of race and racism.

Human Genetic Engineering: A Guide for Activists, Skeptics, and the Very Perplexed:  This introductory text provides a summary of this complex and controversial science.  This is a great way for the curious reader of Fledgling to become more familiar with this increasingly important topic.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood: This speculative novel uses a dystopian future to examine issues of women’s rights and feminism.  Readers who appreciate Butler’s unique handling of sensitive topics will appreciate Atwood’s similar style.

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin: In this book a space traveler must overcome societal prejudices and obstacles to complete his mission.  Le Guin’s exploration of the outsider will remind readers of Shori’s feelings of alienation in her society.

My Soul to Keep by Tananarive Due:  If you enjoyed the horror elements of Fledgling than this novel of an African American family under attack by supernatural powers will thrill and satisfy.

Name:  Bethany Bates