Ama Ata Aidoo gives a glimpse into post-colonial life in Ghana. The eleven short stories are well written vignettes revealing a nation and its people in transition. Higher education abroad is highly sought after. Massive conspicuous wigs become an unfortunate symbol of a loss of confidence. The ubiquitous "big man" is a role once played by white men but now one of black Africans deemed to have status and wealth. Probably my favorite and the most telling story of the changes occurring at the time is "For Whom Things Did Not Change." Zirigu, a servant, and his wife, Setu discuss the social acceptance of young girls sleeping with "big men" because of the material possessions they can provide. Zirigu also struggles with his past as servant to white men for whom he prepared English dishes and the young black man he now serves begs for traditional Ghanaian cuisine. The character driven stories of No Sweetness Here are entertaining and informative on a country in the midst of change to a western-influenced society.
Here are the winners:
Bitter Sweets: Katia
In the Name of Salome: Tracita Linda
Congratulations to the winners and thanks to everyone who entered. Thanks for all the well wishes for my first book blogoversary. I love book blogging and only wish I'd started sooner when my gut and my best friend were nudging me to do so. I've reviewed lots of great books and, fortunately, only one complete bummer. I've connected with some awesome authors and one who even sent me patchouli oil. *wink*
I was asked to join the staff of the wonderful Color Online which focuses on women authors of color. It's an honor to be in the company of such amazing women bloggers of color working on that website.
Last, but not least, all the book bloggers I've become acquainted with are just...lovely. The book blogging family is the best there is in the virtual world and in real life (IRL). Thanks for being part of the journey. Onward and upward...
Sorry gang about not having this posted on Monday as I mentioned last week. I was caught up in school work. But without further ado, I'm spreading some book love to celebrate my first anniversary as a book blogger. It's been an interesting year that actually feels like a few years, but in a good way. I've connected with some fabulous authors and some extra fabulous bloggers. I love this book blogging family. Now, on to the swag...
Corruption by Tahar Ben Jelloun
Casablanca and Tangier provide the backdrops for Corruption, an exotic and erotic tale of modern-day morality, reminiscent of Camus's The Stranger. Mourad is the last honest man in Morocco. Much to the chagrin of his boss, his colleagues, and his materialistic wife, he adamantly refuses to accept "commissions" for his work. But his honesty goes unappreciated. Criticized for condemning his family to a life of poverty, encouraged by his boss to be more "flexible," Mourad finally gives in: just one envelope stuffed with cash, then another... Ben Jelloun's compelling novel evokes the universal dangers of succumbing to the daily temptations of modern life, as Mourad lives the consequences of betraying his own conscience after a lifetime of honesty and resistance.
And I have a short review here.
Bitter Sweets by Roopa Farooki
Henna Rub is a precocious teenager whose wheeler-dealer father never misses a business opportunity and whose sumptuous Calcutta marriage to wealthy romantic Ricky-Rashid Karim is achieved by an audacious network of lies. Ricky will learn the truth about his seductive bride, but the way is already paved for a future of double lives and deception--family traits that will filter naturally through the generations, forming an instinctive and unspoken tradition. Even as a child, their daughter Shona, herself conceived on a lie and born in a liar's house, finds telling fibs as easy as ABC. But years later, living above a sweatshop in South London's Tooting Bec, it is Shona who is forced to discover unspeakable truths about her loved ones and come to terms with what superficially holds her family together--and also keeps them apart--across geographical, emotional and cultural distance.
Roopa Farooki has crafted an intelligent, engrossing and emotionally powerful Indian family saga that will stay with you long after you've read the last page.
In the Name of Salome by Julia Alvarez
It's 1960, and 65-year-old Camila Ureña decides to join the New World. Castro's new world, that is, which she has been following on the news with a heated excitement she hasn't felt for years. Forced into early retirement from her 20-year post as a Spanish teacher among the perky white girls of Vassar College, Camila faces a choice: whether to move to Florida and live down the block from her best friend or to fly over Florida and into Havana where her brothers live--and thereby land in a place of upheaval and hungry ghosts. The hungriest ghost of all is Camila's mother, Salomé Ureña, whose poems became inspirational anthems for a short-lived revolution in the late-19th-century Dominican Republic.
Knots by Nuruddin Farah
A strong, independent, modern woman who was born in Somalia but brought up in North America, Cambara returns to Mogadiscio to escape a failed marriage and an overweening mother. Her journey back to her native home is a desperate attempt to find herself on her own terms-however ironically-in a world of veils and burqas. And she has given herself a mission to reclaim her family's home from the warlord who has taken it as his own. Cambara finds emotional refuge and practical support with a group of Somali women activists working to broker peace in a country that has been savagely riven by its drug-addled, power-hungry men.
Darjeeling by Bharti Kirchner
Novelist and award-winning cookbook author Bharti Kirchner has written a sweeping family saga, a first class fiction about forbidden love and family honor.
Set in the mountainous tea plantations of Darjeeling, India and in New York City, "Darjeeling" is the story of two sisters - Aloka and Sujata - long separated by their love for Pranab, an idealistic young revolutionary. Pranab loves Sujata, the awkward, prickly, younger sister but, out of obligation, marries Aloka, the gracious, beautiful, older sister. When all of their secrets are revealed, the three are forced to leave Darjeeling. Aloka and Pranab flee to New York City and Sujata to Canada. The story opens ten years later, when their Grandmother summons everyone home to the family tea plantation to celebrate her birthday. Despite the fact that Aloka is still very much in love with Pranab, they are in the process of getting a divorce. Sujata, who is still single, runs a successful business importing tea, a business that doesn't fill her broken heart. This trip forces the sisters to wrestle with their bitterness and anger and to try to heal old wounds. What complicates matters is that Pranab, too, is going to India and is intent on rekindling his relationship with Sujata now that his marriage is over.
Although filled with the rich foods, smells, and social confines of another culture, "Darjeeling" is really about the universally human emotions of jealousy, rivalry, love, and honor. It is a complex novel about family, exile, sisterly relations, and how one incident can haunt us for the rest of our lives.
Now the deets on the giveaway...
I'm keeping it simple for the entries. The main entry is to leave a comment telling me which book you'd like to win. This one must be done to qualify.
+1 Tweet this giveaway (@browngirlspeaks) and post the URL in a comment (you can grab this from the time stamp which is a permalink of the tweet found in your timeline)
+1 fan me on facebook and leave a comment telling me you did so
+1 subscribe to my feed via a reader or email and leave a comment
That's it folks! This is open to U.S. residents only (sorry, limited funds). The giveaway ends Friday, July 30th at midnight. I'll announce the five winners on my official blogoversary: Saturday, July 31st.
My WRITE Way
The first thing I discovered when deciding to self-publish is that by and large, the marketing and selling of my books was up to me. Did I say me? Trust me when I say I didn’t learn this overnight, in January 2006 when I published my first book I was as green as I could be and I innocently thought that joining groups and paying everyone who said they had a sure way for me to sell books. I tell you I spent hundreds of dollars before I got it. It being that you really have to put in work, you must make your targeted audience know who you are and what you offer and recognize that most people in ‘groups’ are trying to do what you do, sell their work, not purchase others work.
Mind you I did sell a few books that way, but not enough to make a difference. What I did garner from the groups such as RAWSISTAZ and BlackExpressions2005 is a plethora of information from other authors who had taken the route I was trying to take about how to truly self-publish. I would often say little; but I absorbed the wisdom and information that went before me. I also discovered that regardless of what anyone else had done. I would have to do it for ME.
So by 2007 when my second, third and fourth books was published I had learned to work what I knew, my community, local book clubs, my church, the libraries, local radio and print and guess what? People became interested and began to purchase my books and talk about my work to others who were not local and they in turn purchased my work. Many still felt I should do it differently but I knew what I needed and wanted and I am methodical. My intent is to write books for a long time and to do that I am taking my time; creating an audience and working on providing a product that will make readers come back and bring other readers with them.
To date I haven’t tried traditional publishing and am not saying I never will, however, for now while my cup runneth over with so many things I am quite pleased to be known as a local author who sometimes appeals to a much broader readership.
Angelia Vernon Menchan considers writing to be the elixir of her soul. Since learning penmanship at age four, most days have found her jotting down thoughts in a notebook. After decades of journal-keeping she decided to try her hand at writing and publishing books, from which was born her small publishing company, M.A.m.m. Productions through which she publishes her own books that she has coined, 'Fictionalized Truths, Ageless Fiction and Ramblings.'
When not writing, Angelia is a wife, mother, mentor and nana who loves reading almost as much as writing. Angelia is also an Avid Blogger and posts blogs most days to her blog, RAMBLINGS at http://acvermen.blogspot.com or for Skirt Magazine at http://skirt.com/angel08.
Follow the tour:
First up, the winner of a copy of Precious Williams' memoir, Color Blind, is...Lori Tharps! Congrats Lori! Unsolicited Plug Alert: Yes, it's the same Lori Tharps who's the author of Kinky Gazpacho and the upcoming novel, Substitute Me. She also blogs at My American Meltingpot. So, readers do yourselves a great service and pre-order both Color Blind and Substitute Me today. End plug.
Next, my one year blogoversary as a book blogger is in just under two weeks. After about five years of blogging, I finally found where I'm most comfortable in the blogosphere. My bee eff eff had pushed me from the beginning to blog about books and in my crazy mind I thought: who would read a book blog? Crazy, eh? But I was a newbie and it never occurred to me to even see if there were book blogs already out there. I guess it shouldn't have mattered. Nonetheless, I found my way home to an amazing blog family.
So, be sure to stop by here starting Monday, July 26th and see what kinda goodies I offer up for the humble celebration which is officially Saturday, July 31st.
From The Feminist Press--
When His Own Where was first published in 1971, it gained both praise and notoriety. A finalist for the National Book Award, June Jordan’s first young adult novel was considered controversial for being written entirely in Black English. Would children be encouraged to shirk the mastery of standard English, or would they, as Jordan proposed, become more engaged in a story about urban survival and the power of love, written as people actually speak?
Jordan did more than drop verbs and dangle participles in this short piece, which I did not find off-putting. In spite of the use of broken English, His Own Where manages to eloquently relay the harsh realities of two teens and the tenderness of the their budding relationship. Buddy's father is a patient in the hospital where Angela's mother is a nurse. Their relationship is spawned from Buddy's desire to protect Angela from her abusive family. This is a classic tale of young runaway love. The use of street vernacular is an appropriate vehicle that makes this story accessible to young people and augments a story that might have fallen flat had it been written in standard English. Juxtaposing lives still young and filed with boundless hope against death, Jordan's poetic prose came together as an endearing tale.
Many thanks to The Feminist Press at CUNY for getting this title back in print.
Disclosure: This book was supplied by the publisher.
Precious Williams is practically born into foster care. It's at ten weeks old that she's brought to Mrs. Taylor whom she'll call Nanny. Meanwhile, Precious Anita Williams will be known as "Nin" in reverence of Nanny's beloved literary character, Topsy who is described as a pickaninny in Uncle Tom's Cabin. This sentiment adds to the propriety of this seemingly loosely regulated and trendy practice She's placed with Nanny by her Nigerian mother via an ad in a publication specifically for arranging foster care. The practice was often done between the birth parents and the foster family while the former attended school in England. These arrangements were typically between African parents and white foster parents.
Precious' mother however, is not a student and is descended from Nigerian royalty. She simply doesn't want to be a mother. Yet, she maintains this inconsistent presence in her daughter's life for most of her childhood. Her complaints that Precious is "dull" and the taunting of schoolmates about her being "coloured" leave Precious floating aimlessly between two worlds. One world sees her as Nigerian though she has no connection with this side of herself and the other world is the one she lives in surrounded by white caretakers and school children. She feels thoroughly British but longs to have a sense of blackness.
Color Blind is a fascinating, though often heartbreaking, memoir of a girl navigating race in that she not only wants to find her identity as a person of color, but also who she is beyond the color of her skin.
Disclosure: This book was supplied by the publisher.
About the author
Precious Williams was first published aged eight when her poem took first prize in a poetry competition (she won £2).
Since then she has been a Contributing Editor at Elle, Cosmopolitan and the Mail on Sunday. Precious' work has also been published in The Times, The Daily Telegraph, the Financial Times, Glamour, Korean Vogue, New York magazine, Wallpaper and several other publications. Her journalism focuses on health and lifestyle features and celebrity interviews. Notable interviewees include Nina Simone, Yoko Ono, Jon Bon Jovi, P Diddy, Bryan Ferry, Lenny Kravitz and Naomi Campbell.
Born in the UK, Precious is of Sierra Leonean and Nigerian descent and she has lived in London and in New York. She studied Periodical Journalism at the London College of Printing and English Language & Literature at Oxford.
Her first book, Precious: A True Story is a memoir about her childhood in foster care. The book is titled Color Blind in the US. Both editions will be published by Bloomsbury in August 2010.
Now I'd like to extend a chance to my readers to win a copy of this amazing memoir. In keeping with a central theme of Color Blind, I'd like the comments to respond to this question: What defines you? This does not have to be a dissertation but a simple statement on how you self-identify. Entries will be accepted through 11:59 pm (CST) Sunday, July 18 and a winner announced Monday, July 19. Open to U.S. residents.
Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion
Author: Gregory Boyle
Free Press, March 2010
Hardcover, 240 pages
About the Book
How do you fight despair and learn to meet the world with a loving heart? How do you overcome shame? Stay faithful in spite of failure? No matter where people live or what their circumstances may be, everyone needs boundless, restorative love. Gorgeous and uplifting, Tattoos on the Heart amply demonstrates the impact unconditional love can have on your life.As a pastor working in a neighborhood with the highest concentration of murderous gang activity in Los Angeles, Gregory Boyle created an organization to provide jobs, job training, and encouragement so that young people could work together and learn the mutual respect that comes from collaboration. Tattoos on the Heart is a breathtaking series of parables distilled from his twenty years in the barrio. Arranged by theme and filled with sparkling humor and glowing generosity, these essays offer a stirring look at how full our lives could be if we could find the joy in loving others and in being loved unconditionally. Tattoos on the Heart reminds us that no life is less valuable than another.
Jesuit priest, Gregory Boyle initially began patrolling what he called "the gang capitol of L.A." via bike instigating peace treaties and truces among rival gangs. He decided to go in another direction as he felt his treaties and truces still perpetuated gang activity. Boyle's initiative of getting gang members employment, counseling, and tattoo removal services became Homeboy Industries.
Boyle seems to have found an easy rapport with many of the gang members who come to him when they are ready to change their lifestyles. His faith has allowed him to be giving of his time and resources and receptive to these young people who often have dangerous criminal backgrounds. Each essay reveals the humanity of various men and women involved in gang activity. Their stories are insightful, encouraging, and often heartbreaking. Boyle not only tells of triumphs like former rival gang members coming together and building a child care center, but those of tragedy like a young mother gunned down after sharing with Boyle an inexplicable dream of a dove flying from a coffin that was either an epiphany or an omen. This is the beauty of his story that is obviously meant to uplift and inspire, for success cannot be achieved without disappointments. You cannot package such a tale in a neat bow and disregard the fact that changed behavior may not eliminate consequences for past erratic behavior. What Tattoos on the Heart does right is show that change is always possible and that, with the right people and tools facilitating change, a lost person can find themselves and discover that "nothing of [their] humanity is to be discarded."
About the author
Father Gregory Boyle was ordained a Jesuit priest in 1982. He received his Master of Divinity from the Weston School of Theology; and a Sacred Theology Masters degree from the Jesuit School of Theology. In 1988, Father Boyle began what would become Homeboy Industries, now located in downtown Los Angeles. Fr. Greg received the California Peace Prize, the “Humanitarian of the Year” Award from Bon Appétit; the Caring Institute’s 2007 Most Caring People Award; and received the 2008 Civic Medal of Honor from the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce.
Since 1986, Father Gregory has been the pastor of Dolores Mission in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles. The church sits between two large public housing projects, Pico Gardens and Aliso Village, known for decades as the gang capital of the world. There are 1,100 gangs encompassing 86,000 members in Los Angeles, and Boyle Heights has the highest concentration of murderous gang activity in the city. Since Father Greg—also known affectionately as G-dog, started Homeboy Industries nearly twenty years ago, it has served members of more than half of the gangs in Los Angeles. In Homeboy Industries’ various businesses—baking, silkscreening, landscaping—gang affiliations are left outside as young people work together, side by side, learning the mutual respect that comes from building something together.
About Homeboy Industries
Homeboy Industries traces its roots to “Jobs For A Future” (JFF), a program created in 1988 by Father Gregory Boyle while he was serving as pastor of Dolores Mission parish in Boyle Heights. Begun as a jobs program in 1988, offering alternatives to gang violence in one of the toughest neighborhoods in the city, the program soon grew beyond the parish.
With the addition of a small bakery in a run-down warehouse across the street from Dolores Mission, JFF had its own business, one where it could hire the most challenging, difficult to place young people in a safe environment. The hope was that they could learn both concrete and soft job skills, to make them stronger, better prepared candidates for permanent employment. A tortilla stand in Grand Central Market downtown solidified the evolution of JFF into Homeboy Industries.
In only a few years, Homeboy Industries has had an important impact on the Los Angeles gang problem, with young people from over half of the region’s 1,100 known gangs seeking a way out through Homeboy. Thousands of young people have walked through the doors of Homeboy Industries looking for a second chance, and finding community. Gang affiliations are left outside as these young people work together, side by side, learning the mutual respect that comes from shared tasks and challenges.
Homeboy became an independent nonprofit in August of 2001, and has since grown into a national model. This year, we will celebrate our 20th anniversary as an organization in our new headquarters located in downtown Los Angeles, just two blocks from Union Station. Homeboy serves as a beacon of hope and opportunity for those seeking to leave gang life, for whom the barriers and challenges are great, and for whom there is virtually no other avenue to enter the mainstream.
In addition to providing job training and placement assistance and other free programs, a distinctive feature of Homeboy Industries continues to be its small businesses, where the most difficult to place individuals are hired in transitional jobs, thus giving them a safe, supportive environment in which to learn both concrete and soft job skills, while simultaneously building their resume and work experience. Former rivals find themselves working side by side, finding true community and friendship in place of the limited community of gang life. Homeboy’s businesses now include the Homeboy Bakery, newly re-opened in our new Headquarters downtown, Homeboy Silkscreen, which prints logos on apparel and provides embroidery services; Homeboy Maintenance, which provides landscaping and maintenance services; Homeboy Merchandise, which sells t-shirts, mugs, tote bags, and mouse pads with the Homeboy logo, now with a retail storefront in the new Headquarters, as well as online ordering; Homegirl Café, newly expanded in the new building with 86 seats, plus a dedicated Catering kitchen provides a training ground dedicated to female clients in all aspects of the restaurant and service industry. Homeboy Press has been publishing a literary magazine since 2008.
100% profits from book sales of Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion go directly to Homeboy Industries. In this difficult economy, Homeboy Industries has had to lay off some of their staff. Your purchase of this book helps support a much needed organization in our country today.
100% commissions generated through book sales through Condor Books, at our Products page, will be donated to the Homeboy Industries Review, a yearly publication of poetry and essays written and published by the young men and women involved in Homeboy Industries' writing and publishing skills program. Please support by purchasing a book.
Disclosure: This book was provided by Condor Book Tours.
Post read-a-thon update
Thanks to the ladies who participated. I hope everyone enjoyed what they got a chance to read today. I finished two books (His Own Where by June Jordan and No Sweetness Here by Ama Ata Aidoo) and I started a third (Color Blind by Precious Williams). I have selected two winners for a book of their choice from The Book Depository valued up to $15.
Congrats Beverly and Goddesspt2!!
Welcome to the 12 hour read-a-thon and if you're joining for the first time, welcome to the challenge. The only rule is that books must geographically reflect the diaspora meaning authors should be from North America, South America, Africa, and the Caribbean. The diaspora refers to the dispersal of people of African descent as a result of the slave trade.
This mini-read-a-thon is a way for those new and established challenge participants to catch up on the amount of reads to which we've committed. I've surpassed my commitment but haven't been geographically diverse as much as I planned.
As promised, I'm giving away a prize. Actually, I'm going to be really generous and give away two. I'll select two participants to win their choice of book (valued up to $15) from The Book Depository. This makes it open worldwide. And I hope the choices are from the diaspora (*wink*). What do you have to do? Just come by here updating us on what you're reading. The more you comment, substantially that is, the more chances you have to win. When I say substantial, I mean comment thoughtfully on what you're reading or what someone else is reading. Please no frivolous random comments just to get the swag. :)
Don't forget we're also on Twitter and the hashtag is #afrodiaspora.
So, let's get into some comfortable spots and enjoy African diasporic literature today.
For those participating in the African Diaspora Reading Challenge, this is where you can link to your third quarter (July-August) reviews. If you don't have a blog, you can add reviews to LibraryThing as it permalinks each member's review. This is how we'll format links: enter link title as your blog name (book title), i.e. BrownGirl BookSpeak (The Wife of His Youth).
Challenge Sign Up
First Quarter Reviews
Second Quarter Reviews
Authors and publishers feel free to check out my review policy and contact me regarding review requests.
A Striped Armchair
Authors In Color
Black Eyed Susans
Book On the Train
For the Love of Books
In Spring It Is The Dawn
Love of Literature
Notorious Spinks Talks
Reading In Color
Rhapsody In Books
The Brown Bookshelf
The Feminist Texican [Reads]
The Happy Nappy Bookseller
With Extra Pulp
Nnedi's Wahala Zone
Lori L. Tharps
White Readers Meet Black Authors
Awards, Gotta Love 'Em!