National Black Book Festival

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Saturday, January 21, 2012

New Year, New Drama!!

NUMBER 107
Well, I’ll be ding dong.  Didn’t know my “Top 100 Black Kindle List” was going to receive so many comments.  Not bad comments, just, “I didn’t know that list exist.”  “I didn’t know I made the list and thank you,” and the best one was, “why are there old books on this list? Shouldn’t these be only 2011 books?”  I told her no.  This list represents the Past, Present and Future of books by us for us.  We cannot forget the ones who struggled during the worse and best of their lives.  The ones who started Urban/Street Lit, slave narratives, Harlem Renaissance, Blaxploitation (I still love me some Shaft!!!, ‘what a man, what a man, what a mighty fine man!!),  are still struggling to get keeping it strong.  We need more and more black writers to tell their stores.  Not the ones in Urban, but good old fashioned stories of love, liberation, rage, damage, drama in the church.  You name it, we got it, and we are different.  No other race has as many stories to tell of every type of human drama than black folks.  We may not have money or fame, but we got a heart and soul that no got damn body can take away.  We got SOUL!!!  Let’s get to some books.
TRAVIS HUNTER – DARK CHILD (ZANE PRESENTS - $9.99 - - - I was volunteering at the library when I ran across this book.  Always looking for black male writers and after reading the back, I think I’m going to like, I mean love it.  
Urban Brown is a white man who grew up in the dark recesses of the inner city where he was the victim of torment, abuse, abandonment, deception and murder. Urban overcame his horrid past to live a peaceful and prosperous existence in his upper-class community. He has everything a man could ask for: a career, which he loves; a sprawling estate and a drop-dead gorgeous fiancée, Sierra. Then out of the blue, he receives a phone call that changes his life.  Jamillah is Urban’s sister, and unlike her brother, she wasn’t able to overcome the horrors of her past and turned to drugs to ease the pain. Life on the streets is hard enough, but once a baby comes along, she tries to sell him on the black market. Urban won’t hear any of it, and he and Sierra resolve to raise the child as their own. But upon further investigation, Urban realizes that his sister is involved in a dark and sinister scheme to steal black babies from poor girls in small, rural towns and sell them to the highest bidders. As Urban digs deeper and deeper into the kidnapping network, he gets dangerously close to the heart of the matter and is disgusted and disheartened by what he discovers. 
TRAVIS HUNTER – SOMETHING TO DIE FOR: A NOVEL - $9.99 - - - At the start of this touching novel from Hunter, Nasir Lassiter, a once promising college basketball player, returns to his old Atlanta neighborhood after serving five years of a life sentence for a murder he didn't commit. He tries to reconnect with the most important people in his life, but his mom, Marcy, has become a drug addict, while his girlfriend, Ayana, has taken up with Alonzo, a successful businessman. Nasir is especially surprised to discover that he has daughter by Ayana, Brandy. In his quest to learn the truth about the past, Nasir must fight to confirm his love for Ayana and save Brandy from an unexpected threat. Once again Hunter skillfully reveals the heart beneath the tough exterior of an African American man.
SHELIA GOSS – THE KANDIE SHOP (LOVE BITES) – 99 Cents - - - OK, so it’s just a cute and short love story.  Give it a try.  Sweet and sour not only describes Kandie Taylor's latest candy concoction, but it describes her last relationship. She vows to never date another professional athlete.  Trent Lee Davis, former NFL star, finds Kandie intriguing. Will he be able to tackle her barriers?  Can Kandie resist the chocolate-licious urge every time she sees Trent, even though he's an athlete?
MARY MONROE / VICTOR McGLOTHIN – BORROW TROUBLE: “NIGHTMARE IN PARADISE” and “BAD LUCK SHADOW” - $8.69 - - - Monroe (God Don't Like Ugly) and McGlothin (Down on My Knees) each contribute a short novel to this curiously packaged product. Monroe's Nightmare in Paradise features 31-year-old Renee, a second grade teacher and self-proclaimed "Miss Goody Two-Shoes" who, with wild best friend Inez, goes to the Caribbean to "get loose." Frustration with her own meek nature and an admission by Inez—she slept with Renee's husband before they married—propel Renee into a one-night stand that results in her arrest for prostitution. When husband Leon won't pony up the fine, Renee is jailed for three months—plenty of time to decide who stays in her life. Monroe's earnest melodrama suffers, however, from its proximity to McGlothin's dazzling Bad Luck Shadow. Set in 1946, the story's hero is Baltimore Floyd, a dashing scoundrel with charisma to burn. Fleeing Harlem and a gambling debt, Baltimore steals into a neon-lit Kansas City, where he holes up in old love Franchetta's cathouse and plans the take down of a high-stakes card game. McGlothin's tale is sophisticated and sexy, with the plotting and pacing of first-rate noir. 
TIMMOTHY B. McCANN – EMOTIONS - $5.75 Paperback - - - McCannJoi Weston is forced to give up her dreams of a Hollywood career when the Tinseltown powers that be decide she's too long in the tooth to star in a feature film. Frustrated, she moves to Florida, where her husband of 18 years, Phillip, is launching a political career. Despite the couple's occasionally rocky past, Joi trumpets: "I'd never have an affair." Famous last words. Enter slightly younger hunk Michael Brockmier, an aspiring writer with his own identity crisis: unable to get his work published, he becomes part of a scam in which he's the front man for a more talented but reclusive writer. When Joi and Michael meet, passion ensues, threatening Joi's marriage even as it affords the lovers the opportunity to come to terms with their lives. McCann gets the celebrity downside of successful authorship in the current publishing climate right, but scores with little else. Most of the Composition 101 admonishments Michael receives could be leveled at McCann as well. No metaphor goes unmixed, no cliche unused; cardboard secondary characters and Hallmark-ready platitudes round out the list of offenses. A neat ending in which everybody finds redemption may supply instant gratification, but it falls far from offering true satisfaction.
K. ELLIOTT – DILEMMA – 99 cents - - - Tremaine is good for Natalie—well at least on paper—but Natalie has a secret. She craves women and it’s become a feeling she can’t resist.  Natalie meets Jaharie, a beautiful biracial woman, who wants a relationship with a man or a woman. Love is the only thing that matters to her. Natalie is thoroughly intrigued with Jaharie. She wants her, but being with a woman full-time isn’t what Natalie has in her plans and she knows her mother will never approve. She wants a husband, children, a ‘normal’ life, and is on track to acquiring this.

She plans to keep Jaharie a secret until she meets Tamala, a powerful, successful attorney and very attractive Lesbian who wants to take Natalie away from both Jaharie and Tremaine. Tamala has the savvy and financial power to woo Natalie right into her arms. Their relationship works for a while, until a past lover of Tamala’s vows to kill Natalie if she doesn’t stop seeing her. Natalie fears Tamala’s deranged lover but doesn’t leave until she learns a huge secret of hers.
Got to get one in for Black History Year:
SISTER SOULJAH – The Coldest Winter Ever - $7.99 - - - Another classic African American.  If you have never read any of her work, you need to read this one.  I met her last year while she was touring on her latest book, MIDNIGHT  - $7.99 Midnight, with those Pom Poms in her hair and I thought she was taller, with big eyes and soul oozing from her skin.  The girl is black, beautiful and intelligent with funk. 
Hip-hop star, political activist and now writer, Sister Souljah exhibits a raw and true voice (though her prose is rough and unsophisticated) in this cautionary tale protesting drugs and violence among young African-Americans in the inner city. Winter Santiaga, the 17-year-old daughter of big-time drug dealer Ricky Santiaga, is spoiled and pampered, intoxicated by the power of her name and her sexuality. Riding high on the trade, Santiaga moves the family out of the Brooklyn projects to a mansion on Long Island where things start to disintegrate. Winter's mother is shot in the face by competing drug dealers, the FBI arrest Santiaga and confiscate the family's possessions. 
Then, while visiting her father at Rikers Island, Winter discovers her father has a 22-year-old mistress and a baby boy. For the first time, Winter feels anger toward her father and pity for her fallen mother. Being the ruthless hood rat that she is, however, Winter leaves her weakened relatives behind and sets off to regain her stature and reinstate her father. Attracted to power, intolerant of those without it, ill-equipped to deal on her own and predisposed to make all the wrong moves, she deceives and steals from those who help her and yet, somehow, she remains a sympathetic character. Winter's obsession with money, possessions and appearances, her involvement in the drug trade and the parade of men she uses lead her down the wrong path. Sister Souljah herself appears as a "fictional" character who voices her belief that Winter's vices are shared by many, and that greed, drugs and violence devalue the lives of urban youth. Souljah peppers her raunchy and potentially offensive prose with epithets and street lingo, investing her narrative with honesty albeit often at the expense of disciplined writing. But this is a realistic coming-of-age story of debauchery with a grave moral.