When Kit de Waal was growing up in 1970s Birmingham, no one like her – poor, black and Irish – wrote books. Forty years on, the author asks, what has changed?

Source: Kit de Waal: ‘Make room for working class writers’ | Books | The Guardian

Reading Round-up 3.3.15

March 3, 2015

As of this date I have accomplished the monumental task of reading two books from start to finish. It might seem counter- intuitive for a writer to have a problem completing the reading of a book but such is the nature of my life now. The two books read were Watershed by Percival Everett and Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson.

Watershed – I don’t know what I think/feel about this book. I read it and continued reading it waiting for some “action” to happen.  Considering that the story involves Black Panther history as well as the Indigenous struggle at the Pine Ridge reservation, some action was bound to happen, was it not? However, whatever action did take place seemed muted by the main character, a hydrologist named Robert Hawks’ emotional disconnect. I am not yet sure whether that is an indication of the author’s talent or my response to the novel’s very understated action scenes. I will say this: at the end of the novel, after wading through various chapters being prefaced by hydrologist jargon, I felt like the author was smacking me, the reader, by stating that the prefaces were fictional. In researching the author, I discovered that he is considered a satirist or at the very least includes aspects of satire as one of his literary tropes. I’m just not sure yet whether I appreciate that or not. I shall have to read another book or two of his to figure it out.

Brown Girl Dreaming – First of all, chalk it up to my ignorance that I was surprised to find out on opening the book that it was poetry. I don’t pay as much attention as I should. That aside, from start to finish, Brown Girl Dreaming was a delight. So much so, I plan on it being the foundation of a poetry unit for my home-schooled son.

Deeper than that, however, is the strong sense of love and peace I felt upon finishing the book. In that way, it reminded me of how I felt when I finished Clare of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat. Some writers have the incredible ability to write in such a way that reading their works opens up the gentleness of the world. Considering that the world isn’t truly a gentle place, that is a remarkable achievement.


The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey
The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey by Walter Mosley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I thought about writing a review of this book but when I finished it, I read the back cover text and saw this quote by Edwidge Danticat. It says what I feel about it so aptly, there is no need for me to reinvent the wheel.

“A beautiful meditation on love, fraility, and old age…as much a page-turner as it is a heart tugger. It is a novel that stays with you.” Edwidge Danticat

View all my reviews


And a Happy New Year!

December 31, 2010

Well. Another year’s over and another one’s about to begin (or so they say). I’ve laid out my goals and objectives for 2011. This is not the place for the discussion of them but it is a place for discussion of my literary goals – or more precisely what will be on my reading list for 2011; considering my developing interest in reviewing books. So here it is – my haphazard, in no particular order reading list for 2011:

Omeros by Derek Walcott
The Odyssey by Homer
Ulysses in Black by Patrice Rankine

The three books listed above are a kind of trifecta of research into epics and the way in which epics can be utilized by writers in a more modern configuration.

Wild Seed by Octavia Butler – I read it years ago. Reread it again very recently. And will be reading it again since I’m going to be reviewing it.

The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent – Almost a year ago, I wrote an initial review of this book where I basically panned it. However, I said I would go back and actually finish it. That’s why it’s on this list.

The Black Jacobins by C.L.R. James – I’ve had this book in my possession for almost two decades now but have yet to finish it – even though history is one of my major loves. I vow to finish it this year!

The Autobiography of Leroi Jones by Amiri Baraka – I got this book a few years ago and it’s been transported from the bedroom to the bathroom to the front room until finally taking up residence on an upper book shelf. It’s time to take it down, dust it off and finish it.

So much of what I read seems to be by well-established writers so I’m happy about the following three books:

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – I’ve been seeing her name everywhere and then someone on facebook posted the video of her talking about the dangers of a single story. Couple that with knowing next to nothing about Biafra and the book becomes a logical choice for someone who, sometimes, approaches history through literature first.

White Teeth by Zadie Smith – I had won this after answering a difficult quiz question over at Color Online. I started it and the humor of it reminded me of John Irving whose books I’ve found hysterical in the past.

Graceland by Chris Abani – This book has been sitting quietly on my shelf for quite a few years now. So it’s long overdue.

Aké by Wole Soyinka – I had started reading this shortly after I bought it earlier this year but notions of the Wild Christian sent me off into the deep end of laughter and I haven’t returned yet.

2011 looks to be quite a reading year.

Reading is Evolutionary

March 18, 2010

Two years ago a blogger for Circle of Seven Productions posted a blog/rant on my space in favor of reading and literacy. As part of it, she issued a challenge: “I challenge anyone reading this blog to write one blog…just one…encouraging people to read. Encourage them to encourage others to read. READ ANYTHING!”

As I find myself getting almost orgasmically excited by my latest read (The Book of Night Women by Marlon James), my mind traveled to my response to the challenge.


Reading is Evolutionary

It was the diary of a young girl living in an era I could never go back because time moves forward.

Just like time, my eyes moved forward through each page growing more and more enamored of the first book that touched me in my black girlness. It was beyond affirming.

That book, The Color Purple by Alice Walker set me on the path to being a writer because it enabled me to see how our life stories can contribute to literature.

It also helped me to redefine the definition of fiction. I have heard a lot of people (black men in particular) say that they don’t read fiction because they’re tired of “lies” or some statement to that effect. I believe however that those statements miss the point of black “fiction”.

It is (or should be) indisputable that prior to the mid to late 20th century our voices were censored. What better way for a people to get in where they fit in that to position their works under the banner of fiction. Is Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man total fiction? Or does it resonate with the experience of black men, regardless of their generation? Toni Morrison’s Beloved was based on the life of Margaret Garner. Margaret Garner’s story isn’t fiction. Is Sethe’s? My favorite James Baldwin novel is If Beale Street Could Talk. I recognized the main character, Tish, in the faces, lives and pride of my sisters. Black fiction is not automatically fictional.


Even though I am an advocate and a believer in well-written, reality-based “fiction”, that is not the only thing I read. As someone who intimately understands the saying “those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it”, I also read history. In high school, a teacher slipped me the Autobiography of Malcolm X on the sly. It was a thick paperback that I had to rubber band together in order not to lose any of the pages. Reading that book led me on the path to researching the Black Revolution of the Sixties. My research deepened my awareness of black resistance. At no point were we passive.

Regardless of the danger, we struggled to learn to read when it was dangerous to the point of death. Frederick Douglass described in his autobiography of the poor white boy who showed him how to read. The Free African School movement is an indication of our desire to reclaim what was stolen from us and learn.


Reading is Evolutionary.