For those unaware, I started a web ring of sorts several months ago for those who blog about POC books. After starting this book blog, I found myself frustrated in my search for more book bloggers of color or those that read books by people of color in a significant quantity. I found one or two so sporadically that I decided to create something that would  easily identify those who fit the description. A button would do it! To take it a step further, I figured I'd link it to a page that housed links to everyone "wearing the badge". My hopes were that other newbies wouldn't have to dig so deep to find kindred reading spirits to follow and get book recommendations.

Now, in the wake of the issue of whitewashing and other issues in publishing regarding POC books, I see the IRIC web ring as something a bit bigger. It's another tool that will hopefully invoke change. It's a very simple statement, I Read In Color, but a strong one. With many "voices" behind it, IRIC should send a clear message to publishers.

So, join us here and below the form is the button. Be sure to use the html provided as it's important to have the button link back to that page so that all the member blogs are discovered.
Up From Slavery is Washington's autobiography chronicling his life from his childhood spent in slavery in Virginia to his being the famed orator and driving force of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Unsure of the year of his birth, Washington always had a strong desire to improve his life through education. He struggled to put himself through Hampton Institute where he cultivated a stern belief in hygiene, agriculture, and trade skills.   Booker T. Washington's brilliance is easily displayed in his idea that the institution of slavery harmed both slaves and slave owners' families. Labor was forced upon one group while the other had little to no training in trades altogether and that lack of self sufficiency became most evident during Reconstruction. This also fueled his desire to have the students of Tuskegee educated in agriculture and trades like brick making with as much emphasis as traditional school subjects. This was so much a focus that the first students, literally, helped to build the school brick by brick. This was also due to very little funding which eventually changed once much wealthier admirers took notice of Washington's work with southern Blacks. He was an unshaken, organized, and disciplined man who wholeheartedly believed in each person's need to be competent in some trade and be the best one could possibly at it. Today, as we try to climb out of this economic depression and see our fellow man and woman in dire need in Haiti, we can still take heed to his words of wisdom delivered in his famous Atlanta Exposition Address: Cast down your buckets where you are. Do what you can- with full effort - with what and who you have around you.

African Diaspora
Black Classics
POC Reading

After consulting, Nina Forsythe has been selected the winner of an autographed copy of Silvio Sirias' novel Meet Me Under the Ceiba. Nina will hopefully respond within 48 hours. After that time, a new winner will be chosen. Congratulations Nina!

And thanks to Silvio Sirias for a writing a great book exposing me to Nicaragua and to Bronzeword Latino Virtual Book Tours.
Religious freedom should be about people freely practicing the spiritual belief of their choice or none at all without persecution and without detriment to others. Just as those who are harmed or even killed because of their faith are not free in their religion, those who do the harming and killing in the name of some belief are not free in theirs. Those with religious freedom will be able to nurture their spirituality without concern of being harmed or the need to harm others who don't believe what they believe. I assume for the intents and purposes of the challenge, religion is being used interchangeably with faith. Normally, I differentiate as religion is more organizational and faith is individualized. Having said that, religion/faith should be and is a personal decision. There's no place for it in government which is what often leads to the issue of religious persecution. When this life is over, it'll be between you and God...if that's what you believe.
The request: What we'd love for you to do is take a moment to write a paragraph or two on why this challenge and/or this issue is important to you.

The response: Mine is not some profound statement or even one touting my vehement belief in the need for equality for the LGBT community. I do think that members of this community should be able to live and love as they so choose. They're humans, with human emotions and desires, just like heterosexuals. But, my reasons are a bit more selfish. I simply like to be well read and saw this as another opportunity to read with purpose. I'd like to be more informed on this issue, especially as it relates to people of color, and beyond what I've seen on two wonderful TV shows ("The L Word" and "Noah's Arc"). So, cheers to the challenge that dare not speak its name.

Check out the GLBT Challengeto join.
Gut-wrenching. Moving. Heartfelt. Truth. Those are just a few words I'd use to describe Bernice McFadden's novel, Sugar. This year is the tenth anniversary of its publication and it's taken me all that time to finally read it. Once I finished, I stopped regretting not reading it sooner. I think I was supposed to read it now, where I am in my life. Only now can this story bring tears to the brink of spilling forth. Only now can I empathize with the title character, a prostitute, who begins to realize there is more for her in this world than a piece of a life. Sugar's story unfolds when she returns to Bigelow, Arkansas, a town near where she was born, to start over. But since she knows only one way of life, she falls easily back into it and much to the delight of most of the men and the chagrin of the women of the town. The women want her gone and she's a tough, defiant woman who, initially, can't be moved. She slowly develops a friendship with her neighbor Pearl who lost a daughter, who Sugar seems to bear quite a resemblance to, fifteen years earlier. While Sugar is learning secrets of her own past, the secrets of some of the other townsfolk are revealed who share a link to her. McFadden does an excellent job of exploring morality and judgment through a number of startling back stories involving some of the same women who gossip about Sugar. A real testament to the author's storytelling abilities is the nuanced friendship that blossoms between Pearl and Sugar that allows Pearl to truly begin healing from the loss of her daughter. The story reads like it will be one of redemption for the protagonist, but McFadden keeps it real and doesn't tie everything up nice and neat at the end. McFadden's writing is accessible and a bit haunting. It has a foreboding tone that didn't allow me to put my guard down. Sugar has a very open ending that I'll hopefully find resolution to in the follow-up, This Bitter Earth.

African Diaspora

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Arte Publico Pr (September 30, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 978-1558855922
On Christmas Day, Adela Rugama disappeared. She was murdered because she was in love with a woman that was the object of an old man and her mother's obsession. Adela's lover, Ixelia, was the object of desire for most men in the Nicaraguan town of La Curva. She was uneducated and had been pimped by her mother from an early age when she met the handy, swift coffee plantation worker Adela and they became lovers. As Adela seemed to step on others' toes, she was simply "the cochona" they despised and wanted to be rid of...permanently. A college professor, who learns of the murder, becomes engrossed in telling Adela's story. He conducts a number of interviews including Mariela, Adela's older sister, Lizbeth, a mulata shopkeeper and one of Adela's previous conquests, and even those involved in the crime. From them he learns not only the events leading up to and the subsequent murder of Adela but also, of many secrets and shortcomings of the townsfolk.

Meet Me Under the Ceiba is more than a murder mystery of sorts. It presents harsh criticism on the homophobic attitudes still rampant in Nicaragua and towards all GLBT Latinos. One way Sirias exemplifies this throughout the novel is that most of the characters constantly refer to Adela derogatorily as cochona (dyke). This is, for some, to make light of her murder. Silvio Sirias has done a wonderful job of writing a variety of female characters that all (except Ixelia's mother, Erlinda) exhibit a great deal of strength and independence in spite of a number of unpleasant circumstances and typical marginalization of women. There is also a strong propensity towards the idea of "women's intutition" as each woman in Adela's life all claimed that their last encounters with her were apparent. With one exception, the men are all portrayed as jealous, obsessive, controlling, and sometimes abusive. Some might want to pull the man bashing card but that's moot since this is based on a true story. Those characteristics have to be in place for a man to be driven to kill because of a beautiful woman. Against the backdrop of what seems to be a well described town in Nicaragua, Sirias sharp, colorful writing explores the little discussed issues of homosexuality in that country and the flaws behind human emotions.

GLBT Challenge


Silvio Sirias has been kind enough to make himself available for any questions today and will also be giving away an autographed copy of Meet Me Under the Ceiba to the question or comment of the day. Feel free to join in the discussion.

Silvio Sirias Blog Tour Dates:
Monday 11th: Book Lover Carol
Tuesday Jan 12th: Brown Girl Speaks
Wed Jan 13th: Regular Ruminations
Thursday Jan 14th: The Tranquilo Traveler
Friday Jan 15th: Pisti Totol
Monday 18th: Mama XXI
Tuesday 19th: Farm Lane Books
Wed 20th: Sandra's Book Club
Thurs. 21st: Latino Books Examiner
Friday 22nd: Una in a Million
The latest Diversity Roll Call wants us to list our favorite read of 2009 by a non-white author. If you have more than one, you can do a top 10 list or a selection for each genre read or whatever suits your fancy. These books did not have to be published in 2009.
Trust me when I say you couldn't go wrong with any of these.

So, here's my top 10 for 2009:
The Book of Night Women by Marlon James - A young female slave may be the key to a long planned, female led insurrection on an 18th century Jamaican sugar cane plantation. (fiction)

Atlas of Unknowns by Tania James - Two sisters distinctly different discover themselves and solidify their bond once they are separated by time and two countries-India and America. (fiction)

Woman At Point Zero by Nawal El Saadawi - An Egyptian prostitute shares her story in prison as she awaits her execution. (fiction)

Slumberland by Paul Beatty - A Black Los Angeles DJ travels to Berlin in search of his musical hero he has nicknamed "The Schwa". (fiction)

The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Adichie - A collection of short stories by the new heroine of Nigerian literature covering a number of topics from love to immigration. (fiction)

Kinky Gazpacho by Lori L. Tharps - The author's travelogue and memoir of falling in love with Spain and her interracial relationship with her Spanish husband. (nonfiction)

Children of the Waters by Carleen Brice - A story that examines the idea of race in America with the revelation of a mixed race woman's secret adoption as the catalyst. (fiction)

Harlem Summer by Walter Dean Myers - A young man, who hopes to be a jazz musician, spends his summer in Harlem in a mixed up adventure with Fats Waller and encounters a number of key figures if the Harlem Renaissance along the way. (YA fiction)

Passing by Nella Larsen - A novella that examines racial identity via the lives of two women who are able to 'pass' for white. (fiction)

Race Matters by Cornel West - A collection of essays on race relations in America. (nonfiction)
Last month I read and reviewed Children of the Waters, the second novel by Carleen Brice. The story examines the idea of race in terms of identification and romantic relationships using adoption as a vehicle. As promised, Carleen Brice has been so gracious as to be interviewed by BrownGirl BookSpeak.

BGBS: What prompted you to write a story not only on adoption, but also one that crosses color lines?

Brice: Children of the Waters is partially based on a true story. My former sister-in-law is biracial and was put up for adoption because her birth father was black. In real life she was adopted by a white family so when she met her white birth sister, race wasn't really an issue. I started thinking what if she had been adopted by a black family? What if she hadn't even known she was adopted?

Also, I am intrigued by stories that include people of different races because that's the life I know and lead. I know many people in this country rarely interact with people outside their same race and class lines. But there are plenty who do--plenty of interracial families (our president being a prime example) and it's the life I know and lead. I grew up playing with white kids, black kids, Native American kids. I have another sister-in-law who's Latina. My husband is white. I wanted to write about the world as I experience it, where things aren't so, pun intended, black and white.

BGBS: It's refreshing to read a novel featuring a pair of successful, educated, and cultured Black parents. Why do you think this image is often lacking in the literary landscape?

Brice: I wish I knew, but I truly don't understand it. Again, I am trying to show the world as I know it. I know plenty of dysfunctional families of all races and plenty of together people of all races. It's important to me to show the variety within the black community. Just like any other group, we have it all.

Mostly I write what I do because they say write what you want to read.  So I write about people and situations that are interesting and important to me and hope they will be to others.

BGBS: In Children of the Waters, you delve into a hodgepodge of cultural and spiritual beliefs-Christianity, African ancestral spirits, etc. that add beautiful layers to the characters. Why was it important to include those characteristics?

Brice: At the risk of repeating myself, it was important because these are all beliefs that I know people have and are beliefs that I respect. My grandmother has been a member of the same church for over 70 years. Yet, I myself, am not a church-goer. I like seeing and showing the diversity of beliefs. I love that my grandmother has had the comfort and support of her church her entire life.  I love that Michelle Obama has a cousin who's a rabbi! Back to the rich diversity that I see within our community and outside our community.

BGBS: One of your blogs is called "White Readers Meet Black Authors". Would you explain a bit about your mission with this blog?

Brice: My mission there is to help black authors reach a wider readership. Too often black authors are marketed only to black readers, and it can hurt our careers. I'm trying to get readers, booksellers and publishers to broaden their ideas about who the target audience is for a book. So readers who like mysteries, for example, should be hearing about ALL the mystery writers there are, not just white readers hearing about white mystery writers and black readers hearing about black mystery writers. That's such a limited and limiting way of perceiving the world.

BGBS: What literary endeavors are up next?

Brice: I'm working on my third novel. My working title is Calling Every Good Wish Home. We don't have a release date yet, but I hope to firm things up enough this year to know what will become of it. I'm having a lot of fun with these new characters. It's about a woman who's estranged from her father and becomes close with his wife.

BGBS: Anything else you'd like to add...

Brice: I'm so excited that my first novel Orange Mint and Honey has been made into a movie called "Sins of the Mother"! It stars Jill Scott and will air on the Lifetime Movie Network, LMN on Sunday, February 7th-Super Bowl Sunday!

There you have it folks! The fabulous Carleen Brice has a new novel in the pipeline, a movie adaptation of her first novel- Orange, Mint, and Honey, and she's spreading the gospel of Black authors to the masses. And Browngirl BookSpeak sings her praises!

Keep up with Carleen Brice:
White Readers Meet Black Authors
The Pajama Gardener

Update: Since this interview, the air date for Sins of the Mother has been changed to Sunday, February 21 on Lifetime.

This collection of nine short stories is my introduction to literature by a Sri Lankan author and about the island country south of India. In this collection, Gunesekera paints vivid pictures of life for Sri Lankans at home and abroad, namely those in London.

In "Batik", husband and wife, Tiru who's Tamil and Nalini who's Sinhalese, are living in London during the civil war between their respective ethnic groups in Sri Lanka. The strain of the horrific events happening thousands of miles away still have strong emotional affects on them individually and as a couple. This is probably my favorite story because there's a quiet intensity to the characters as Tiru becomes consumed by the news coverage of the civil unrest.

"Ullswater" has one of the best examples of Gunesekera's poetic descriptions: "In the evenings, in the afterglow of sunset, when parrots darted across the sky, her face would absorb light and slowly become luminous like the moon. She was a lovely girl in those days." Yet, it's a sad story of a man filled with regret over his brother's death.

"Carapace" fetures an unnamed woman who is in like with a beach cook, a man opposite the well to do one, now living in Australia, her mother has chosen for her. It, too, comes off as a story of regret.

Regret or loss seems to be what binds these stories together. I recommend it for whetting the appetite for more reads about Sri Lanka. My interest is definitely piqued.

South Asian Author Challenge