Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Being an author, especially a black author, sometimes makes me feel like one of the Who’s in Whoville. Remember Horton Hears a Who? The Whos were little creatures screaming to be heard. They all banded together and yelled, “We are here. We are here. We are here. We are heeaar!” And Horton heard them.

That's what I do on this site. And that's what I'm currently doing to promote my new novel, so I feel like my screaming voice is a little hoarse right now. So I don't have much to blog.

Just want to remind all readers that whether you're looking for high quality literary fiction or fast-paced juicy beach reads, black authors are here and we're writing what you like.

You may have to search us out, but find us. Read us.

We are here.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Late June Links

Attica Locke's new novel Black Water Rising was well-reviewed in the NY Times.

The Times also interviews Michael Thomas about winning the International Impac Dublin Literary Award for his novel Man Gone Down (Thomas worries about becoming a "poster boy for uplift.")

Penguin launched a site to bring more attention to their books that miss out on mainstream media attention. Nordette Adams marvels that Penguin's black authors must be getting lots of media play as they weren't included on Penguin's new site.

Author Lori Tharps is running an interview with me and giving away a copy of Children of the Waters, my new novel out today!

On The Root's Book Blog Felicia Pride wonders if people are going to pick up books written by President Obama's relatives (and discusses a few other cool topics, like Victor LaValle's new novel The Big Machine and the nominees for the 2009 Hurston/Wright Legacy Awards.)

Worucopia reminded me June is Gay Pride Month. James Baldwin, a black gay writer once said, "The price one pays for pursuing any profession, or calling, is an intimate knowledge of its ugly side." All too true.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

More good books!

Here's one way to get on the radar. Go Michael Thomas! I haven't read Man Gone Down, but I look forward to it. Anybody know it?

Some other books I learned about this weekend at the Go On Girl Book Club annual weekend:

Black Water Rising, a thriller by Attica Locke. James Ellroy, author of L.A. Confidential calls it "A superlative debut...the best bad town novel in some time. Attica Locke is a stand-out in every imperative-young-writer way."

From Harvey River by poet Lorna Goodison. A memoir about a mother and her life in Jamaica. The New York Times book review said, "Like sitting down at the family dining table...You'll stay for the day then on into the evening as each new character pulls up a chair. You could not be in better company."

Wounded: A Love Story by Claudia Mair Burney sounds fascinating. From Publisher's Weekly: Burney's offbeat story, which explores what it might mean to literally share in Christ's suffering, demonstrates an edginess that both attracts and repels. Burney's protagonist, Regina Gina Dolores Merritt, is a 24-year-old black, health-conscious, bipolar, once suicidal single mom with fibromyalgia and migraines and a history of mental illness. It's a lot to put on one character. When she appears to receive the stigmata on Ash Wednesday at her Vineyard Church in Ann Arbor, Mich. (perhaps based on real-life pastor Ken Wilson and his church), a circus of sorts ensues. Druggie Anthony Priest shows up to help, as does Priest's alienated mother, Veronica Morelli. Events catapult toward an unexpected conclusion. Burney pushes the boundaries for her faith fiction audience sexually, especially in references to Christ as lover. The multiple first-person perspectives work well, but stories about saints seem inserted rather than integral, and a few characters feel overdrawn. However, Burney's unusual voice, gritty themes, and ecumenical blending should help this uninhibited novel find a home, especially with emergent church readers.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Father's Day Books

IF YOU POSTED A COMMENT ON THE I *HEART* BLACK AUTHORS BUTTON POST, PLEASE EMAIL ME YOUR SNAIL MAIL ADDRESS. Carleen (at) carleenbrice (dot) com. Abiola Abrams has a great shot of what they really look like. If you haven't, it's not too late to get a button and help spread the word about great books by great authors.

Now on to Father's Day! If you're shopping for Dad or for yourself, here are some books for fathers or about fathers.

Like Trees Walking by Ravi Howard. Howard's first novel is based on a true story of a lynching in the south during the 1980s. Yes, folks, the 1980s. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution called it "a breathtaking debut." 

Gods and Soldiers: The Penguin Anthology of Contemporary African Writing. Edited by Rob Spillman, editor of Tin House. For those without time to read a whole novel or for those who would appreciate an introduction to African literature. Spillman says, "My hope is that people read this book and see past the headlines of war, AIDS, and corruption to see that the majority of Africans are concerned with love, music, literature, and that many are global citizens who surf the web and are engaging in a dialogue with the rest of the world."

Before I Forget by Leonard Pitts Jr. From a starred review in Publisher's Weekly: In a seamless transition to fiction, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Pitts Jr. delivers an unsettling, compelling first novel about secrets, illness and the role of African-American men in society and family life." 

Dad an academic? Try the riveting novel The Fall of Rome by Martha Southgate, the satire Erasure by Percival Everett or On Beauty by Zadie Smith, a lovely story about an academic and a father.

That Devil's No Friend of Mine by J.D. Mason.  A man's death reshapes his daughter's life and the lives of others around him, including a creepy business partner, a female vocalist who may breakout if she can control her addiction, and a famous young boxer with a pretty f-upped fashion model wife. (He's the one I ended up feeling the most for.)

Shifting Through Neutral by Bridgett M. Davis. Also a story of a daughter-father relationship--which seems fairly rare in fiction. Booklist called it, "A riveting family drama filled with sharply drawn individuals who love and fail each other with stunning intensity."  

The Making of Isaac Hunt by Linda Leigh Hargrove. A novel about a young man in search of his birth mother and the truth about his identity. (Linda hosts a great blog on racial reconciliation and progressive religious issues.)

A Mighty Long Way: My Journey to Justice at Little Rock Central High School by Carlotta Walls Lanier. To be released in August, but you can pre-order for Dad (or yourself).

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. Mosaic Literary Magazine has a fascinating interview with Diaz in the current issue. One quote on writing about being a Dominican smarty pants: "Who am I? What really is my home? Why does nobody in my 'culture' understand me? It sounds pretty normal, but because we're immigrants, we're taught that it's more than that."
Step by Step by Bertie Bowman. I gave this one to my grandmother last year, but it's a good true story for men or women. Bowman worked for 60 years on Capitol Hill and saw it all. Truly a remarkable story, now in paperback.

America I AM Legends: Rare Moments and Inspiring Words.  A collection with a forward by Tavis Smiley. From the book: "This lavish photography book captures the dynamism of 75 legendary African Americans through powerful images and penetrating words, showcasing the indelible imprint they have made on the United States and the world. A comment on each iconic figure—made by someone who knew the legend well or is carrying on their legacy today—captures the vision and contribution of each subject." 

God Says No by James Hannaham. "Imagine Candide…—okay, imagine Candide as a black man, a southerner, a Christian fundamentalist, middle-class, obese, married, a father, and utterly, even profoundly gay. If a comedy, in the classical sense, is a story then ends in a marriage, and a tragedy is a story that ends with a death, then what do you call a book that ends with a split and a resurrection?" - Jim Lewis author of Why the Tree Loves the Ax

If your dad has already read Dreams From My Father, consider The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama by Gwen Ifill. And check out Literary Obama for news, reviews & commentary about other Obama books.

Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud. A memoir by Cornel West that's not out till the fall, but you can pre-order it for Dad now.

The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons and an Unlikely Journey to Manhood by Ta-Nehisi Coates. "a small and beautiful epic about boys trying to become men" written by a son about his Vietnam vet father.

Anything by Walter Mosley, but I'm especially fond of his Easy Rawlins mysteries and the brilliant character Mouse (Don Cheadle played him in the movie with Denzel as Easy. Why isn't this a "franchise"?)

Dad looking for some (Mom-approved) thrills? Check out Gar Anthony Haywood's crime novels. (And see his clever rebuff to "proud non-reader" Kanye West's new so-called book.)

Dad like to cook...or need a little help in the kitchen? Try Make It Super Simple by Chef G. Garvin. From the book: "Written in an approachable and friendly tone, this collection of super simple recipes is perfect for everyday cooks who want something punchy, flavorful, and healthy—without a lot of fuss—to serve their families and friends."

Handle Time by Lincoln Park According to a reviewer on Amazon.com is "pee-in-your-pants funny." A story about American call centers recommended by a reader of this blog.

For sci-fi-loving dads, Dark Reflections by Samuel R. Delany.

A must-read classic if you or your father haven't read it: Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man.

And, finally, if your father likes comics and graphic novels, go here for all kinds of cool books.

Take that Kanye!

Gar Anthony Haywood sent me his answer to Kanye West's book of bullet points, and gave me permission to post it here. Gave me a chuckle. Only hating on Kanye because he's a "proud non-reader." Otherwise, I'm a fan.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

BEA Buzz

A commenter remarked on my last post about being surprised about how segregated BEA (Book Expo America) seemed and asked my thoughts.  I'm not sure I can form any cogent response (my body arrived home yesterday, but my brain is over Iowa somewhere), except to say: welcome to publishing and bookselling.  This separation isn't the life I lead or what I see around me (my cousins' book club in Philly is reading My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult), but some in the biz seem really late to the party. Which is why this site exists.

The panel I was on about book promotion through social networking with Felicia PrideAbiola Abrams, and Daaimah Poole attracted about 200 people, most of whom where black, but there were some nonblack folks in attendance too.  And I'm sure some nonblack folks weaved their way through the trade show floor to get to the African American Pavilion, and there were definitely some when Cornel West and Tavis Smiley spoke.  But it's no joke that the book biz has a way to go.

A few of the interesting titles by black authors I learned about at BEA:

Rhythms of Grace by Marilynn Griffith
Unsigned Hype by Booker T. Mattison
Worth a Thousand Words by Stacy Hawkins Adams
The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi Durrow (coming next year)