The Book of Night Women is my absolute favorite read of 2009. The author, Marlon James, tells the story of Lilith who's the daughter of a young female slave and a white overseer. She's born on a Jamaican sugar cane plantation in the 18th century and is deemed somewhat special from the onset. As she grows up, she becomes acquainted with Homer, a house slave able to read and who recognizes that she may be the key to an insurrection ten years in the making. As Lilith grows into a young woman, she becomes more aware and fearful of a "darkness" present within herself. This darkness she will have to choose to embrace or suppress.

I absolutely love this book. I was ready to re-read it almost immediately. The author, a man, has done a wonderful job of writing women characters that are real women. They each have their own voice and personality and none are too passive or aggressive. He writes all the characters well, for that matter. They are all so human. The whites who are upholding slavery are obviously flawed but not just because they uphold a system of treating people like chattel, but also because some of them can't even keep up the charade of heartlessness. James makes strong use of the patois dialect and the dialogue between characters was often crass and vulgar. For me, there was quite a bit of nervous laughter while reading this book and I never got completely comfortable with the harsh language. But, I think this is good as it exemplifies how well paced the novel is and how Marlon James is a master story teller. No matter what was said and how it was said, I was completely engrossed in the narrative.

The idea that a group of women could come together to attempt something so dangerous and requiring such cunning and craftiness makes the story appealing. It was refreshing to read a story of plantation life that didn't depict the women as all merely helpless creatures susceptible to being ravished by any and every man. This does occur but these women are not afraid to take control be it through physical violent recourse or Obeah. Elements like Obeah, patois dialect, and maroon communities in cooperation with slave owners made for a rich tale of Jamaican plantation life. The most important element were these women who were bound in body but not in mind and spirit.

Women Unbound

2009 is coming to a close and it was an alright reading year for me. On one hand it was a vast improvement. I doubled what I usually read in a year. This is largely due to being a SAHM. However, I'm still getting a groove with homeschooling two years in and didn't reach the goal of 75 books I set for this year. Now that I've confessed my shortcoming, moving forward I plan to read at least 75 books in 2010 and complete ALL SIX challenges to which I've committed myself. Here's a recap in case you missed one:
Women Unbound
African Diaspora Reading Challenge
GLBT Challenge
South Asian Author Challenge
Social Justice Challenge
Black Classics Challenge
There's actually a seventh, but it's a perpetual challenge...Reading Africa.

I'll also be doing more vlogs. They'll mostly focus on indie bookstores. Speaking of indie bookstores, I have resolved to patronize them more, though they're scarce in my hometown. So, we got more reading, more vlogs and a new feature. I hope my reviews improve and I write more thought provoking posts on the book industry especially as it pertains to POC writers and literature. My most epic plan is to attend what is, for me, the mecca of book fairs- the Harlem Book Fair.

And one final word, I planned to host a challenge with an awesome theme (hint: Harlem Renaissance) for Black History month. It was all mapped out months before the year long challenge I tossed in the ring on the fly. I'm still debating whether to save it and make it a year long challenge for 2011 or go ahead with it for February 2010. Lemme know what you think.
I know, I know, I'm joining another challenge. Now I'm at the "what the hell" point.  One more won't kill me.

So, Lhea of the Black Bookshelf has created a great Black Classics Challenge to read books by Black authors published before 1920. Participants are encouraged to also read non-Western authors of African descent as well. Another very doable challenge that will simply require me to visit my overflowing bookshelves full of not yet read books. I haven't made a list for the last few challenges so I'll do one for this one. I'm committing to the experienced level which is 7 books. My tentative list includes:
The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man by James Weldon Johnson
Iola Leroy by Frances E.W. Harper
The Magazine Novels of Pauline Hopkins (comprised of 3 novels)
Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington
Our Nig; or, Sketches from the Life of a Free Black by Harriet E. Wilson
The Conjure Woman by Charles W. Chesnutt
A Voice From the South by Anna Julia Cooper
Blake or The Huts of Africa by Martin R. Delany (*re-read)

I'm assuming that re-reads and crossovers are acceptable in this challenge. I think this makes 7 challenges...I've lost count. I may do a post next week to recap all the challenges to which I'm committed.
I almost forgot to post that I'm joining yet another challenge in 2010. The social justice challenge is not only about books but also, a call to action. The level of commitment is flexible from month to month with a commitment to at east three months, of your choice, at the Activist level. The Activist level includes participation in all that month's activities and reading a full length book and another media form. The other levels are Intern, Volunteer, and Observer. Each month has a different focus such as Genocide, Hunger, and Domestic Violence/Child Abuse. It's a year long challenge and I'm really looking forward to it. This will be a fabulous way to take our reading pleasure to new heights and help others in the process.

This makes challenge #6. Let's hope this is it. I hope I haven't spoken too soon...
2010 holds mad promise in the reading department. Check out these upcoming works of fiction, two by veterans Levy and McFadden and one by newcomer Shilpi Gowda. For what 2010 books can't you hardly wait?
UK cover
The Long Song by Andrea Levy

From Amazon-
  Told in the irresistibly willful and intimate voice of Miss July, with some editorial assistance from her son, Thomas,
The Long Song is at once defiant, funny, and shocking. The child of a field slave on the Amity sugar plantation, July lives with her mother until Mrs. Caroline Mortimer, a recently transplanted English widow, decides to move her into the great house and rename her “Marguerite.”

Resourceful and mischievous, July soon becomes indispensable to her mistress. Together they live through the bloody Baptist war, followed by the violent and chaotic end of slavery. Taught to read and write so that she can help her mistress run the business, July remains bound to the plantation despite her “freedom.” It is the arrival of a young English overseer, Robert Goodwin, that will dramatically change life in the great house for both July and her mistress. Prompted and provoked by her son’s persistent questioning, July’s resilience and heartbreak are gradually revealed in this extraordinarily powerful story of slavery, revolution, freedom, and love.

Amazon shows a US release date of April 27,2010 and Levy's website shows a UK release scheduled for February 2010.

Glorious by Bernice L. McFadden

From Amazon-
Glorious is set against the backdrops of the Jim Crow South, the Harlem Renaissance, and the civil rights era. Blending the truth of American history with the fruits of Bernice L. McFadden’s rich imagination, this is the story of Easter Venetta Bartlett, a fictional Harlem Renaissance writer whose tumultuous path to success, ruin, and revival offers a candid portrait of the American experience in all its beauty and cruelty.

Glorious is ultimately an audacious exploration into the nature of self-hatred, love, possession, ego, betrayal, and, finally, redemption.

Harlem Renaissance...enough said. Amazon shows a release date of May 1, 2010.

Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

From the author's website-
  A stunning debut novel that explores the emotional terrain of motherhood, loss, identity and culture, witnessed through the lives of two families, one Indian, one American, and the daughter who indelibly binds them. On the eve of the monsoons, in a remote Indian village, Kavita gives birth to a baby girl. But in a culture that favors sons, the only way for Kavita to save her newborn daughter’s life is to give her away. It is a decision that will haunt her and her husband for the rest of their lives, even after the arrival of their cherished son.

Halfway around the globe, Somer, an American doctor, decides to adopt a child after making the wrenching discovery that she will never have one of her own. When she and her husband Krishnan see a photo of the baby with the gold-flecked eyes from a Mumbai orphanage, they are overwhelmed with emotion for her. Somer knows life will change with the adoption, but is convinced that the love they already feel will overcome all obstacles.

Interweaving the stories of Kavita, Somer, and the child that binds their destinies, Secret Daughter poignantly explores issues of culture and belonging. Moving between two worlds and two families, one struggling to survive the fetid slums of Mumbai, the other grappling to forge a cohesive family despite diverging cultural identities, this powerful debut novel marks the arrival of a fresh talent poised for great success.

Author's website and Amazon show a release date of March 1, 2010.

The African diaspora speaks mainly to the dispersion of African descendants in the Americas and Europe due to the Atlantic slave trade. Yes, Africans were enslaved or migrants to other parts of the world but the term is usually in reference to the aforementioned areas. So, for this challenge, books read will be by Black authors and set in Africa, North America, South America, Central America, Caribbean Islands, and Europe. Yes, this is broad but it means the possibilities are endless. Hopefully, those who participate will gain more incite into the myriad of Black cultural experiences.

Now, for guidelines:
*This challenge will run from January 1, 2010-December 31, 2010
*Crossovers are allowed
*Fiction and nonfiction hard copies or e-books from any genre (no audio books)
*Participants should visit different geographical regions in their reading (i.e. not all African American or Afro-Brit or Haitian or any one group representing the diaspora)
*Levels of participation
  Novice: commitment to read four (4) books
  Versed: commitment to read eight (8) books
  Scholar: commitment to read twelve (12) books
*If you need ideas,here's a list of authors and titles in the African diaspora.
*There will be a prize drawn amongst those who complete the challenge.
*I may host a mini challenge at some point as well and there would be a prize. Only challenge participants will be eligible.

So, if you're all to thrilled to join me, sign up below. Stay tuned for the post to submit links to your reviews. Grab a button (and save to your server). If you're on Twitter, we'll use this hashtag: #afrodiaspora. Make sure you follow that hashtag for updates and possible mini challenges.

Again, be sure to share the links to your reviews.
1st Quarter Reviews (Jan.-Mar.)
2nd Quarter Reviews (Apr.-Jun.)
3rd Quarter Reviews (Jul.-Sept.)
4th Quarter Reviews (Oct.-Dec.)

Sign Up Here

Grab a button!

Children of the Waters is the story of two sisters separated by racism at its finest. One sister, Trish, is raised by her white grandparents after her mothers death. The other sister, Billie, is adopted by a Black family and unknown to Trish until years after her grandmother passes but begins to speak to her in a unique way. Billie has never known she was adopted and Trish was told her sister and mother were both dead. When Trish discovers Billie, she finds her to work through the truth of their separation and to, hopefully, develop the type of familial relationship she never had with her grandparents.

With well developed characters and writing just right in tone and pace, Brice has really tackled the issue of race in a no nonsense manner. Everyone clearly and boldly states their ideas on the subject. Even Trish does not shy away from her thoughts on race. But sometimes, I wonder could her opinion be afforded to her by white privilege. It's easy to say to heck with skin color when it never adversely affects you. But it was still nice to see that characterization was fair and not the "strong Black woman" v. the "wimpy white woman." Not just race/ism but colorism (light skin v. dark skin) is examined as well. There is also much debate on religion that could be unsettling to those of a certain faith but is resolved intelligently in the end. Meanwhile, there is a strong reverence for ancestral spirits.  The good pacing is in regard to the relationship of Billie and Trish. It's not some magical reunion with these two sisters accepting each other immediately (at least not on Billie's end). And last, but not least, no Black men are vilified, though one's intentions are still questionable.

This novel will leave you mulling over the idea of a post-racial America, what it means to be of mixed race/ethnicity, and the definition of family. Can American society ever move beyond skin color?

Stay tuned for an interview with Carleen Brice.

Once again I'm reading all day and night. Well, this time I may not be able to do the full 24 hours because I have a prior commitment Sunday morning. I'll be here at least 16 hours for sure. So stay tuned to this post for updates on what and how much I read...
Hour 2 Update (10:48 am cst)
Time spent reading
: 2 hours 44 minutes
Pages read: 72
Distractions: Mom duties- preparing oatmeal for the kid and finding a suitable distraction for him; feeding my own face
Reading thoughts: Enjoying The Hunger Games so far. It's frightening to think this foolmongery is possible in the not so distant future.

Hour 4 Update (12:21 pm cst)
Time spent reading: 1 hour 33 minutes
Pages read: 57
Distractions: the kid keeps asking for PB&J (making it now); took a 42 minute break during last update but didn't mean to break that long. aiming for only 15 minute breaks.
Reading thoughts: Hunger Games still going well. Starting Part Two.

Hour 8 Update (4:19 pm cst)
Time spent reading: 3 hours 20 minutes
Pages read: 129
Distractions: potty break and PRESSURE! Pressure to read faster, to be done with at least one freakin' book by now! oh and fixing the kid a snack.
Reading thoughts: Why is it taking me so long to finish a YA novel? It's good though.

Hour 12 Update (7:45 pm cst)(The 12th hour actually begins @ 8 pm)
Time spent reading: 3 hours 4 minutes
Pages read: 112
Distractions: fixing the kid dinner. nothing major. starting to struggle with sleep monsters. I'm slowly accepting that I'm a slow reader. No! I'm taking a speed reading course dammit!
Reading thoughts: The Hunger Games was very entertaining and I look forward to Catching Fire.

Hour 14 Update (10:06 pm cst)
Time spent reading: 2 hours
Pages read: 65
Distractions: nothing major. potty break. made a turkey sandwich.oh wait the mr. started rubbing my tootsies. *sigh*
Reading thoughts: Am happy and kicking myself for waiting so long to read a Carleen Brice novel. She's been on my radar since her first novel, Orange, Mint & Honey, was published. I'm reading her second novel, Children of the Waters.

Hour 19 Update (3:10 am cst)
Time spent reading: 3 hours 11 minutes
Pages read: 82
Distractions: 32 minute nap, potty breaks. I had to crash for a few minutes. I can't even claim stamina this time.
Reading thoughts: I'm really enjoying Children of the Waters. I can't wait to interview Carleen Brice.

Hour 21 Update (5:05 am cst)
Time spent reading: 2 hours 5 minutes
Pages read: 52
Distractions: only the sleep monsters
Reading thoughts: I really don't wanna stop reading this book, but I should so I can retain it for my review and interview.

Total time spent reading: 17 hours 57 minutes
Total pages read: 569
Total books read: 1 2/3

Thanx to Dreadlock Girl for hosting another fun and challenging read-a-thon!

Here's one more awesome challenge for 2010. The GLBT Challenge is one I thought would fit in nicely with some other challenges as overlapping is allowed. So, since I know I'm reading more Audre Lorde for the Women Unbound challenge and I have other books I haven't read yet on my shelves, it's a go.  Anyway, I'm going for the Lambda level which is four books and am open to more. The challenge runs the full year. This is no more than a prospective list of what I might read:
Zami by Audre Lorde
Go Tell It On the Mountain by James Baldwin
Tommy's Tale by Alan Cumming
The Other Side of Paradise: A Memoir by Staceyann Chin

I already own the first three and probably have a few more that would qualify. Suggestions are welcome. Of course, all should know by now that I prefer authors of color. And, yes, I know Alan Cumming is not a POC. That selection is another story.

As you can see, I made a button too. If you're joining and want to use it, feel free to save it to your server and link to the challenge site.