Thursday, December 29, 2011

A review of Living Violet (and more new content coming!)

Watch for giveaways, reviews and interviews in the new year! 2011 was a great year for books by black authors and 2012 also looks promising. I can't wait to read and learn more about them myself.

For example, Jaime Reed is entering the wildly popular YA paranormal field with a series. The first book is Living Violet and (while technically a January release) it debuted this week. If you like YA or have a daughter with a bookstore or e-reader gift certificate burning a hole in her pocket, check out Living Violet.

The synopsis

Samara Marshall is determined to make the summer before her senior year the best ever. Her plan: enjoy downtime with friends and work to save up cash for her dream car. Summer romance is not on her to-do list, but uncovering the truth about her flirtatious co-worker, Caleb Baker, is. From the peculiar glow to his eyes to the unfortunate events that befall the girls who pine after him, Samara is the only one to sense danger behind his smile.

But Caleb’s secrets are drawing Samara into a world where the laws of attraction are a means of survival. And as a sinister power closes in on those she loves, Samara must take a risk that will change her life forever … or consume it.

Living Violet is a fresh, funny voice in the paranormal genre, with a strong heroine of color and also explores the world of cambions: the offspring of incubi and humans.

The review

I received an advanced copy and sent it to a middle schooler I know who gobbles up YA paranormal, and this is what Jacque Howard (an aspiring writer herself) had to say:

Living Violet by Jamie Reed is an amazing read that any teenage girl would enjoy. It has romance, fantasy, and a little bit of comedy. When I read this book I couldn’t put it down! The lead female character, Sam, is smart, strong, and sarcastic. She wasn’t really interested in falling in love but she was interested in the boy with the strange violet eyes (Caleb). A little bit of action and an awesome story altogether. I defiantly would recommend this book to anyone who loves these genres. Can’t wait for the next book to be released.

You can read an interview with Jaime about her new series here.

Happy New Year everyone! Here's to more good books in 2012!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Books for a young black man?

I got the following request from a blog reader to recommend books that "a young black man should read." Off the top of my head, I would suggest the YA novels of Walter Dean Myers, Coe Booth, Rita Williams-Garcia, Sharon Draper and Booker T. Mattison. More suggestions can be found at Reading in Color, the blog for black teen readers, on this great list compiled by author Zetta Elliott of middle grade and young adult novels by black authors released in 2011 and on this list of YA books by other minority writers put together by the Happy Nappy Bookseller.

But my additional advice would be to find out what the young man enjoys. Sports? Find sports books. Horror? Get him some scary books (Try Brandon Massey, L.A. Banks, Tananarive Due, Terrence Taylor). Maybe he would enjoy graphic novels and comics: let him read about some black superheroes. Fire up his imagination by introducing him to science fiction.

Too often I think people assume that if a book is about a kid about the same age in about the same situation as the young reader then the young reader will automatically like the book. Maybe, but maybe not. The writer I loved the most when I was in high school was Stephen King, and even today I'm a big Harry Potter fan. I don't think it's a good idea to only focus on the outside circumstances of a person's life when thinking about books he might actually enjoy. Part of the pleasure of reading for me is escaping from the circumstances of my situation, if only for a short time.

Enjoyment. Pleasure. Fun. Keep those words in mind when shopping for a book for anyone. Instead of thinking what he "should" read, think of what might blow his mind or tickle him.

Teachers, librarians, booksellers, parents, young readers, read below and then if you have recommendations for this person, let us know in the comments. Thanks! 


I would like to kindly ask if you had the time to suggest the top ten or twenty books, you feel, a young black man should read. I am looking to develop a list to find books for a young man, for the holidays and birthdays, who reads, slowly, with resistance and complaint, is struggling with his racial identity, his poverty, life with his mother and his sister, and without his absent father and extended family. Thank you very much for any thing you can suggest! I have posted this question, in greater detail, as the beginning of a new blog I have started on wordpress.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Good books for holiday gifts

It's that time of year again. In 2008 I launched a campaign to promote the idea of giving books by black authors to non-blacks for the holidays. In 2009 I offered a list of gifts for the 12 Days of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa--12 days, 12 books.

Three years later, it still seems like a good idea. But I fear I lack the energy to do it justice this year. Last year, I was able to pull off a big giveaway of books and guest posts by bloggers, but this year I'm feeling pretty wiped out. So I offer this round up of links for folks who like the idea and want to tell others. Please tweet your little hearts out. Book bloggers please link away.

My top 10 reasons you should read a book by a black author. And a few more for good measure.

Fall 2011 book releases and some cool books from this spring, which would make great gifts.

Over the last few years, I've run Q&As with 20 authors. You can learn about them and their books here.

I've run a bunch of reviews from guest authors of fiction and nonfiction.

I made a video welcoming everybody into the African American section of the bookstore (if your bookstore has one).

Here are Ernessa T. Carter's summer book suggestions and her list from last Christmas.

And some good books for kids, recommended by Denene Millner and by Heidi Durrow. The Happy Nappy Bookseller also offers a great list of great gift book ideas for children and young adults on her blog.

But wait, there's more! Fiction and poetry suggestions from Tara Betts.

What books are you buying this holiday season? If you have other suggestions for books that would make great gifts, let us know in the comments. Thanks!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

National Book Award

From left, National Book Award winners Stephen Greenblatt, nonfiction; Thanhha Lai, young people's literature; Nikky Finney, poetry; and Jesmyn Ward, fiction. (Tina Fineberg, Associated Press / November 16, 2011)

Hearty congratulations to Jesymn Ward, who just won the National Book Award for Fiction for her latest Salvage the Bones (reviewed in the Washington Post)!

Delighted for Nikky Finney won for her Poetry with Head Off & Split!! And apparently she gave a hell of a speech, which I'm watching here.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Dear TNT, more TV mysteries please

I saw a commercial for the new TNT Mystery Movie Night, a great idea: original movies based on mystery novels. I hope the ratings are good and I hope they do it again next year. If you do, TNT, here are some books you need to read:

Casanegra. The Tennyson Hardwick series has three books now, but this is the first in a contemporary series about an actor-gigolo turned detective. Already has a TV star attached! Or do what NBC is doing with Walter Mosley's Easy Rawlins books and make it a series!

Black Orchid Blues. You say you "know drama"? This book is filled with it. And a great female protagonist (which you seem to like to) in society columnist Lanie Price.

Want something set out west? Try Robert Greer's CJ Floyd mysteries. The Devil's Hatband is the first in the series.

Or how about a teen detective? Check out Kimberly Reid's Chanti Evans, private school chick, daughter of a female cop in My Own Worst Frenemy.

Or, if you really want to make me happy (and why wouldn't a cable TV channel want to make this little blogger happy?), do a movie based on one of my favorite sleuth's: Barbara Neely's cleaning lady Blanche White would make an excellent movie heroine!

And those are only a few suggestions. This list of black mystery writers and the Myst Noir blog offers many more good ones. And bonus! one of them is also a TV writer! Just sayin'.

Readers, what mysteries would you like to see on TNT?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Round Up

Howdy folks. Checking in to let you know that I have two blog posts up on how writers cope with self-doubt, one on the Girlfriends Book Club and one on Writer Unboxed. Both posts offer great advice and inspiration for writers or anyone hoping to achieve a goal. As you may note, I quoted black authors extensively. It's part of my not-so-secret mission to make sure we get included when the topic is something other than race and diversity. I think you'll get a sense of the authors from their answers. If someone intrigues you, I hope you'll click the link to their site and check them out...even purchase one of their books.

In other news:

Jesymn Ward's Salvage the Bones was recently named a finalist for a National Book Award! Congratulations!

Last month Pym author Mat Johnson received the Dos Passos Prize, which "honors American authors whose mid-career works focus on American themes and the human experience, while embracing an experimental approach to literary form"!

On October 30th, #blacklitchat celebrates one year of talking with authors on Twitter! The anniversary celebration will be hosted by Tayari Jones. Congratulations Bernadette and Dee!

Jacqueline Luckett's forthcoming Passing Love got a rave review in Publishers Weekly!

Bernice McFadden has a couple of new releases coming in January. Dennis Lehane, author of Mystic River, says about Gathering of the Waters: "As strange as this may sound, Bernice L. McFadden has created a magical, fantastic novel centered around the notorious tragedy of Emmett Till's murder. This is a startling, beautifully written piece of work."

Martha Southgate, author of The Taste of Salt, recommended three books for finicky folks on NPR.

Tina McElroy Ansa is one of the storytellers for The Moth's 5th radio season. Go here to stream or to check to see if one of your local radio stations is broadcasting stories from The Moth. Or, if you've got a story to tell, hit 'em up!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Meet: Patricia Raybon

Today, I'd like to introduce you to my friend Patricia Raybon, another Colorado-based writer and author of one of my all-time favorite memoirs, My First White Friend: Confessions on Race, Love and Forgiveness. This Q&A discusses her two new books. (I was honored to receive copies of them and especially enjoy the lovely coffee table book Bound for Glory.) I think you'll get a real feel for her as a person and a writer here, and once you do, I know you'll want to check out her work.

White Readers Meet Black Authors: Tell us about your latest work(s).

Patricia Raybon: I write memoirs. My two new books, however, shake me out of that box. God’s Great Blessings is a One Year® devotional—or a daily study guide—published by the Christian publisher Tyndale House for its One Year® brand. It explores 52 virtues that God promises to bless. A life-changing project. I loved wrestling over this subject and writing it!

My second book, Bound for Glory, also from Tyndale, is a beautiful tribute to African American spirituals. A full-color gift book, Bound for Glory features the art of renown calligrapher Timothy Botts, with me acting as contributor. But Tim desired a Black voice on the pages, that is, so he invited me to collaborate. The book showcases 52 illustrations by Tim of 52 spiritual songs, plus his reflections on 26 of his pieces along with a Bible verse. For the other 26 illustrations, I wrote short reflections in free verse—a new format for me. More than anything, the book honors the African slaves in America who wrote this amazing music, and Tim did an astounding job telling this story through art. So it’s a stunning book. Great for showing off on coffee tables and book shelves. But the message inside is one of deliverance and hope. It’s truly a gorgeous book.

WRMBA: What are your goal(s) as a writer? Do you set out to educate? Entertain? Illuminate?

PR: I write to learn. Then I share what God is willing to teach me. With my first memoir, My First White Friend, I set out to learn how to forgive. The surprise? First I needed to forgive myself. Then with my second book, I Told the Mountain to Move, I vowed to learn how to pray. I grew up in church, but didn’t have a clue what prayer was. Writing a book to figure out a spiritual mystery—like prayer or forgiveness—changes my life. Readers tell me the books change their lives, too. My First White Friend came out in 1995. But people still read it to learn how to forgive. The same is true for Mountain regarding prayer. I give talks all over the country now on both prayer and forgiveness. Writing to learn has made all of that possible.

"I try to honor the dignity of that human spirit in my writing. So I try to give readers my best. To respect readers’ intelligence. To never talk down to an audience—whether they’re teen felons in a county jail or senior citizens in a church."

WRMBA: How does your faith inform your writing?

RP: It inspires me, first, to keep going. To stay with it. To finish the writing. To stay in the race—and if I fall out of my lane, to get back in it. This going the distance is central to the theology of Christianity. We follow a Savior who didn’t turn back, not from his calling—or even his crucifixion. In my own life, as a writer, the example of Christ inspires me to stay in the game. I love that about my faith.

Secondly, of course, my faith inspires what I write. My focus is spirituality, regardless of the topic. I did a piece on cleaning my windows for The New York Times Sunday Magazine, but the focus was spirituality. My faith is my life. As a writer, I aim to show that connection.

WRMBA: You went from journalism to writing books. Does your experience as a journalist affect your writing?

RP: It keeps me grounded. As a journalist, I wrote feature articles—called human-interest stories—most of my career. But even the feature pages of a newspaper focus on real life. And life is complicated. Life is hard. Life can be heart-breaking. But life is good! So people display amazing resilience, imagination, and downright sheer guts to make the journey the best way they can.

I try to honor the dignity of that human spirit in my writing. So I try to give readers my best. To respect readers’ intelligence. To never talk down to an audience—whether they’re teen felons in a county jail or senior citizens in a church. Both these groups deserve my best, from the story and message to the spelling and grammar. Journalism is a big part of why that matters to me.

WRMBA: I know you’re taught writing at the university level and you do workshops now. What advice would you give to a new writer?

RP: Figure out who you are. Your writing voice lives in that identity. In fact, your different identities—and everybody has several, depending on your life and where you are in it—is where your writer’s voice resides. I’m a journalist, yes, and I have written in that voice many times. But I’m also a wife and mom, and I’ve written and sold scores of personal essays about the complications and challenges of those relationships. In fact, my second memoir, I Told the Mountain to Move, is on prayer, but I wrote it as a wife—because the story takes place when my marriage is at a low point and, at the same time, my husband was critically ill. I had to learn to pray for my husband—but also learn again to love him—and write about it. Married Christian women really relate to that book!

A lot of aspiring writers run from who they are—and what they’re dealing with in life. But our stories reside in those places and spaces. Own up to your life! Walk in it. Write it!

WRMBA: What’s next for you?

RP: With God’s good help, I hope to develop a detective series with a faith angle. I finished a draft and got good suggestions back from my publishing house. So I’m excited to rework it—to start fresh and give it another go.

I’m also starting to blog again about life as a black writer of faith who works at home. I love every part of that description. So stay tuned.

Meantime, I’m having fun releasing my new books.

WRMBA: What’s the best book (or who’s the best writer) that not enough people know about?

RP: Great question! Surprising answer? The Holy Bible. I finally read it all. After a lifetime in church, I finally read the whole thing. And what did I learn? That everything I wanted to know about writing, and about life, is right there. Highly recommended!

Blessings and thanks to you, Carleen. Much peace and love.

WRMBA: Thank you for Patricia for your time! Can't wait to read that detective series!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Banned Books Week

It's easy to be righteous about banning books until you run across a book that is offensive to you personally. Last year, I was running around wearing my I Read Banned Books bracelet when the brouhaha erupted about the handbook for pedophiles being sold on Amazon. (Google it if you're curious. I'm not going to link to it.) There was no way to possibly to defend the sale of that book...except that there was no way to possibly argue for banning it without that same argument applying to other books.

It made me really think about how far I'm willing to go to defend freedom of speech. Ultimately, I didn't get caught up in the online hysteria because I just didn't believe the book was being read by anybody (I think Amazon had reported 1 or 2 sales), and pretty quickly the author idiot who wrote the book was arrested. I didn't follow if he was successfully prosecuted or not.

I attended a panel discussion this summer in which there was lots of discussion about how to "save" black books. The conversation turned to the types of authors and books that the attendees and panelists felt were hurting the industry. But here's the thing: I'd bet a lot of money that in another room somewhere this year was a similar panel and a similar discussion, only that conversation centered on the kinds of books that were written by the panelists I was listening to. I'd also bet someone, somewhere has railed against the kinds of books I write. Though, dang it, nobody has tried to ban or challenge them that I know of.

I know most of the readers of this blog don't like the street lit. And that's cool. I'm glad to have connected with people who like the kind of books I like. But as I've said before if we're really going to be all gooey-hearted about supporting banned and challenged books, it's going to include standing behind some books we don't necessarily like.

Enough lecture. The fun part about Banned Books Week is being able to read a book that you like or think you might like knowing that it's pissing somebody off. In fact, think of this week as Books That Will Piss Somebody Off If You Read Them Week.

To get you started, here's a list of the 100 most frequently banned or challenged books 2000-2009, including Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers (#11-yay Mr. Myers!), a whole lot of Morrison and Walker, and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor.

Let freedom ring. What are you reading for Banned Books Week?

The winner of No Ordinary Noel is....

'Cilla, who was chosen using

Congratulations 'Cilla! Email me (carleen at carleenbrice dot com) your snail mail info for me to give to Pat so she can send you an autographed copy.

Everyone else: thanks for commenting! No Ordinary Noel is on sale today so if you're interested, please purchase it.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Win a copy of No Ordinary Noel!

It's not too early to start thinking about Christmas and that other holiday that happens in December. Author Pat G'Orge Walker's new one is No Ordinary Noel, a book about a small-town congregation learning the real meaning of the season. It's Christian humor folks. Yes, you heard me right: Christian humor.

To gear up for December, Pat offered to give away a copy of her book to my blog readers. If you'd like to win, all you have to do is leave a comment here before midnight Eastern Daylight Time. Using a random generator, I'll pick the winner and announce it here tomorrow when No Ordinary Noel goes on sale.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Taste of Salt

Martha Southgate's new novel The Taste of Salt just got a rave review in the San Francisco Chronicle. The reviewer Meredith Maran even shouted out that Martha's website links to this blog. Please read the review and definitely check out Martha's novel. And if you're in Brooklyn, D.C., Cleveland, Miami and a few other places east of the Mississippi, check out her tour schedule. She might be coming to your neck of the woods!

Lori Tharps reviews the book here.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Fall book releases

On shelves now
 NOTE: * Are for titles I added after this post was first published.

Fall in love with books!

Here's a list of new and upcoming releases WRMBA readers might like (I discovered some titles on the APOOO Book Club website).

*Assumption by Percival Everett (H/T to Doret, the Happy Nappy Bookseller!), a literary mystery partially set in Denver? I'm all over that!

The Book of Ephesus by Tarshia Stanley, a novel about a holy woman and a man with a past, the second title from DownSouth Press.

Boundaries by Elizabeth Nunez, which comes with a blurb from Edward P. Jones: "Ms. Nunez has always had the power to get to the essence of what makes human beings take right and wrong turns. With Boundaries, a reader will find that she, again, does not disappoint."

Children of the Street by Kwei Quartey, the 2nd Inspector Darko Dawson mystery is out now! It comes fueled by a starred review in Publishers Weekly and a blurb from Michael Connelly.

*Creatures Here Below by O.H. Bennett. Out in November. The publisher's press release states: "This book is certain to bring [Bennett] a bigger, more diverse, and more appreciative readership. It is exactly the sort of book I am most proud to publish here at Agate’s Bolden imprint—fiction by remarkable African-American writers that reveals deep truths about life in this country through moving, accessible, and absorbing stories. His is the sort of voice that’s not heard from enough: that of a black male novelist writing from the mainstream of African-American experience. In particular, Mr. Bennett’s work merits comparison to Edward P. Jones’s Lost in the City and All Aunt Hagar’s Children."

The Goat Woman of Largo Bay by Gillian Royes, a new mystery series set in Jamaica.

The Loom by Shella Gillus, historical & Christian fiction.

Pub date: August 30th
My Soul To Take by Tananarive Due, the 4th in the African Immortals series. My one-sentence review: An insightful take on global politics and policies hidden in a fast-paced urban fantasy. Dolen Perkins-Valdez said, “The world of My Soul to Take is so enchantingly drawn I could not help but be caught in its spell. From California to Ethiopia to Mexico, Tananarive Due takes you on a nonstop ride that will leave you breathless.”

My Own Worse Frenemy by Kimberly Reid -- first in a new YA detective series featuring Chanti Evans. Kirkus calls it a "clever mystery" and "breath of fresh air." Looking for a strong young woman protagonist? This is the book for you (or your teen reader). 

Makeda by Randall Robinson, called "part coming of age story, part spiritual journey and part love story."

*Nairobi Heat by Mukoma Wa Ngugi (also thanks to Doret!), an international crime novel, which seems like it was out in the U.K. and other countries since 2009, but is hitting American shores in September.

*Nappily About Us by Trisha R. Thomas. Seventh book in the series is out in October! In this one, Venus & her family star in a reality show. Sounds good!

Night Hawk by Beverly Jenkins, a little cowboy romance from this Romantic Times Award-winning author might be in order come October!

Paris Noire by Francine Thomas Howard, a take on post-war Paris featuring a family of immigrants from Martinique. 

On shelves in September
Passing Love by Jacqueline Luckett, another story partially set in the City of Lights. Paris is hot! This one alternates between modern Paris and 1950s Paris. Hits shelves in January; available for pre-order now!

Remember Me by Cheryl Robinson (I'm reading When I Get Where I'm Going now & really enjoying her writing)

Salvage the Bones by Jesymn Ward, a novel about the days leading up to Hurricane Katrina (star review in Publishers Weekly)

The Taste of Salt by Martha Southgate. I read this one too. It's a haunting story about a family struggling to cope with the father's alcoholism. The father is sober, but the adult son is still drinking and using drugs. Told from the point of view of the daughter, Josie, a marine biologist, her brother Tick (short for his knick name Tick Tock), and her father, Mr. Henderson, the reader gets an insight into how families work and don't work. Set in Cleveland, it's also an elegy for a dying city.

Twelve Gates to the City by Daniel Black, author of the wildly popular Perfect Peace.

*When the Only Light Is Fire, the first chapbook by Saeed Jones. His publisher's synopsis: "In his debut chapbook of poetry, Saeed Jones walks on the periphery of the South, those places on the outskirts of town, in bars after midnight, and on dangerous backroads where most people keep their heads down or look the other way. Through Texas and Tennessee, Alabama and the riverbeds of the Mississippi, these poems wrap themselves in cloaks of masks and comfort; garments we learn are flammable if we stand too close to flames." Available for pre-order 10/10.

Zone One by Colson Whitehead, sure to be one of the oddest zombie stories ever (and I mean that in a good way)!
Coming in December
What are you looking forward to reading this fall?

A couple of online events this week

I'm on #blacklitchat, a Twitter book chat, this Sunday 8/21 at 9 pm eastern time. Hope you can join us! We'll be discussing It Might As Well Be Spring the sequel to Orange Mint and Honey I'm releasing a chapter at a time on Why a sequel? Why serialize a novel? How is writing the third book different from the first? I'll also be happy to answer your questions about writing, books, the biz or whatever you like!

Terry McMillan will be interviewing Heidi Durrow about The Girl Who Fell From the Sky in a live webcast tomorrow 8/18 at 7 pm eastern.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Honor the memory of L.A. Banks

Yesterday, L.A. Banks, author of fantasy, romance and YA novels, passed away. Her writer friends and fans on Facebook and Twitter were devastated. Two of them Lutishia Lovely and Victoria Christopher Murray came up with an idea for people to honor her: on Friday, August 5th, buy her latest book Surrender the Dark on Amazon.

Of course, please purchase all her books and please feel free to get them where you like to buy books. The idea with Amazon is that if everybody goes to one place at the same time, it will drive the ratings and put her book on top. As Lutishia said yesterday, she was #1 to us, let's make her #1 one more time.

If you're in Philly, The Liars Club of writers is hosting an event Saturday, August 6th to raise money to help cover her medical costs.

Rest in peace Leslie Esdaile Banks.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Summer books! Suggestions from Ernessa T. Carter

Black is Beautiful -- Especially on Vacation

So before I get into my summer reading list, let's get this out of the way: My own novel, 32 CANDLES, is now out in paperback. If you haven't read it yet, please pick up a copy from Amazon, Target, or your local bookstore. If you've already read it in hardcover, pick up the paperback for a friend. And fellow library lovers, if you checked it out, do consider picking up a copy for your bookshelf. After all, it has a yellow cover and it's a known fact that yellow looks fantastic on any kind of bookshelf. Just click on the book cover to buy the book at Amazon.

And one more plug, I'm running all sorts of neat contests over at, so definitely pay me a visit -- but not until after you read this my list of books I want to read on my summer vacay. Because let's face it, books are best enjoyed on vacation.

IF SONS, THEN HEIRS by Lorene Carey. Maybe I'm in the minority here, but there's just something about reading a really deep book by the pool or ocean. I just adore it. The last time I went to Hawaii, I read FREEDOM by Jonathan Franzen, and for my upcoming Hawaii jaunt, I'm getting a copy of IF SONS, THEN HEIRS. I don't know much about this book, because I'm a terrible avoider of spoilers (read: ridiculous nerd), but a lot of intelligent people whose opinions I respect have recommended it highly, so it's coming along to the beach with me.

2. KINKY GAZPACHO by Lori Tharps. Now being in an IR myself, I'm a big fan of hearing about other people's IR relationships -- especially my fellow black women's. So this memoir of Lori Tharps's travels in Spain, which include falling in love with her Spanish husband and, I'm sure, many lessons learned, is right up my alley. Weirdly enough, GAZPACHO has been on my TBR list for three or four years now. But having read (and loved) SUBSTITUTE ME last year, I'm determined that Tharps's memoir will come off my TBR list this summer.

3. SILVER SPARROW by Tayari Jones. This is another deep read, but I do know what it's about -- a man with two families and two daughters, one of which knows about the other, but not vice versa. I've been following this book's progress on Tayari's blog, and I'm seriously foaming at the mouth to read it. I'm pretty shocked that I was able to hold out until my vacation to read it.

4. JUST WANNA TESTIFY by Pearl Cleage. You know what I just really love? When authors continue to step up their game and keep it fresh and creative. From what I can tell, Cleage's latest novel involves our old friend Blue Hamilton from previous novels and .... wait for it ... sexy black female vampires. Yes, vampires! I always enjoy a Pearl Cleage book and I really can't wait to read this one. Way to mix it up!

5. THE BROKEN KINGDOMS by N.K. Jemison. There is so little black sci-fi or fantasy out these days. It seriously makes this sci-fi nerd so sad. Luckily, we have Jemison to keep the fantasy flame alive. THE HUNDRED THOUSAND KINGDOMS, The first installment of this trilogy, was wildly sexy and inventive. I'm looking forward to diving even further into the enthralling world Jemison has set up in the second installment.

So that's what I plan to read on my upcoming summer vacation. How about you? Living in California as I do, I'm always looking for a good beach read, so do sound off in the comments.

Ernessa T. Carter
Author, Blogger, Totally Fierce Nerd


Monday, June 20, 2011

Auction to support L.A. Banks

Share Your Heart. Help LA Banks by Bidding Early and Often in the Auction. Noted author L.A. Banks is in the hospital very sick. Her medical bills are quite high so beginning tomorrow Tuesday, June 21st authors and people in the book biz are auctioning items and services to raise money to help cover her expenses. If you're a writer, this is a great opportunity to have a published author or an industry professional help you with your work! There's also lots of cool stuff for readers--books, books and more books! Banks wrote a variety of genres, so there is quite a diversity of books available.
There is also a fund that you can donate directly to. 
Leslie Esdaile Fund
Account #81538801
Police and Fire Federal Credit Union
Operations Center
901 Arch Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107-2404
(215) 931-0300

If you live in or near Philadelphia, donations may be taken directly to any Police and Fire Federal Credit Union branch. Please be sure to note the account number.
Thanks to Donna Hill for sharing this information in her newsletter. (Donna also donated many items in the auction)
For more on Banks' condition, you can go here.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


If you're a regular visitor to this blog, you know I don't often cover nonfiction. Nothing against nonfiction (I've written some myself). Just trying to maintain some focus. However, occasionally a book grabs my attention. The New Press sent me a copy of The New Jim Crow, which is definitely worthy of any attention I can help bring to it. Before I could read this NAACP image award winner, I noticed novelist Cheri Paris Edwards mention on Facebook that she was planning to read it. Kismet. I offered her the copy the publisher sent me if she'd do a review. She kindly agreed. Below is her review.

Summary /Review of Michelle Alexander’s
The New Jim Crow-Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
by Cheri Paris Edwards

Racial control revisited
In “The New Jim Crow – Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” civil rights attorney and advocate Michelle Alexander presents a well-supported argument that America’s prison system has been used to control brown and black people in this country. She likens this control to the age of Jim Crow where laws enforcing this sort of race-based system of control were legal. Alexander’s argument begins with an absorbing introduction that includes these disturbing facts:

  1. “In less than 30 years the US prison population exploded from around 300,000 to more than 2 million, with drug convictions accounting for the majority of the increase.” 
  2.  “The United States imprisons a larger percentage of its black population than South Africa did at the heart of apartheid.” 
  3.  “In Washington D.C., our nation’s capitol, it is estimated that three out of four young black men (and nearly all from the poorest neighborhoods) can expect to spend time in prison."
Alexander notes that though most arrests are drug-related, the disparity in incarceration can’t be explained by rates of drug use. Studies show all races use drugs and reveal that young white men are most likely to be using and selling drugs though African-American men are locked up in prison systems at a rate 20-50 times greater than that of white men. The result of this mass incarceration is that more than 2/3 of young black men now have a criminal record that legally makes them part of a growing "under caste."

"They can’t vote, their employment choices are limited, they can’t live in public housing for a designated period, they can’t get food stamps or other subsidies and in some cases they are unable to vote, serve on a jury or get financial aid for college."
Alexander effectively discusses how caging black and brown folks has become a vital industry in America providing jobs to more than 700,000, a number that doesn’t include the many extraneous industries that are also dependent on the penal system for their livelihood. America’s incarceration rate has outpaced every other Western nation’s though our crime rates remain stable and this is at least partially because most countries choose to deal rehabilitate drug offenders rather than jail them for long period of time. Most heartbreaking are the examples that Alexander includes that demonstrate that the innocent are often jailed too; simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, being poor, or affiliating with someone who is considered guilty. When and if these offenders are released from the penal system, Alexander asserts it is to a caste system that allows them few rights and little chance to succeed. They can’t vote, their employment choices are limited, they can’t live in public housing for a designated period, they can’t get food stamps or other subsidies and in some cases they are unable to vote, serve on a jury or get financial aid for college.

Final Thoughts
In “The New Jim Crow – Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” Michelle Alexander uses carefully researched documentation to effectively prove her argument that the penal system is being used today as a method of racial control. Alexander offers credible reasons why this situation has been overlooked by the civil rights community including that affirmative action’s ability to help some blacks achieve success resulted in a fa├žade of colorblindness that allowed this system to take root and intertwine into America’s economic and social arena. It is important to note that although this mass incarceration was based on exploiting racial stereotypes and fears, Alexander believes any credible solutions lie in the formation of multicultural groups who are united in their focus to dismantle this unfair system. This is an important read for all citizens because what happens to one affects each one of us and a must-read for those committed to or interested in social justice and advocacy.

You can read an excerpt of The New Jim Crow here. You can follow Cheri on Twitter and Facebook.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Please join me in congratulating....

Victor LaValle, author of Big Machine who recently announced the birth of son Geronimo!

Tayari Jones, who's Silver Sparrow, out NOW, is getting great reviews and is a June Indie Next Pick!

Bernice McFadden because Alfre Woodard won an award for Solo Narration-Female at last night's Audies for reading Glorious!

Who else has happy news to share? Let us know in the comments.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Winner, winner chicken dinner!

Congratulations to Beth Anne Mandia and JaPulp! You each won a copy of Snitch by Booker T. Mattison! Email me your snail mail info so Booker's publisher can send you a book.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Happy 20th Anniversary to the Go On Girl Book Club!

This Saturday the Go On Girl Book Club celebrates their 20th anniversary! That's 20 years of supporting black authors. From the bottom of my heart (and my cat's, who meows at the end of the video), I thank you!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Another give-away!

Coming in August. Available now for pre-order.
Kimberly Reid, author of the upcoming "Chanti on the Case" series of YA detective novels, is giving away an iPod Shuffle if you can correctly give the answer to her literary trivia question. Go to her blog The Hot Sheet to enter the contest.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Win Snitch!

What would you do? That's the big question that comes to mind about Booker T. Mattison's Snitch. The synopsis:

Leave a comment to win a copy!
On the streets of Jersey City there is a simple code. You don’t talk to the cops. You don’t snitch. Period. But when young bus driver Andre Bolden witnesses a crime on his route, he is compelled to make a choice. If he keeps silent, he might lose his job and be gnawed by his conscience. If he snitches, he could lose his family—even his life.

This explosive story explores the clash between a working man and the code of the street. Gifted storyteller Booker T. Mattison has crafted a realistic tale full of tension and raw suspense yet infused with spiritual truth. Snitch rewrites the rule to mind your own business, peers into the hearts of those who seek revenge and redemption, and celebrates the ability of a community to triumph over violence and intimidation.

When I posted the trailer, so many of you watched it, it caught Booker's attention. To say thank you to my blog readers, he's offering 2 free copies of Snitch!

If you want one, leave a comment below by Monday, May 23rd at 5 pm MST. I'll use the randomizer to select our 2 winners. Good luck!

Go to his site to read an excerpt or see the trailer if you missed it last time.  Go here to read the Starred Review in Publisher's Weekly!

Follow Booker on Twitter.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

White audiences meet black movie actors

AlterNet has a story up today about a study suggesting that the more black people there are in a movie, the less white people think the movie is for them.

Sound familiar?

The good news is the researcher says, "The perception that 'this movie is not for me' could be changed 'if more mainstream movies cast minorities,' he writes. If multiracial casts became the norm and movies were marketed to all demographics, the stigma could fade away."

Again, sound familiar? The issue has a chicken-egg feel. Did audiences start feeling this way because that's how Hollywood marketed to them? Or does Hollywood market that way because that's how audiences feel?

I'd like to state that, as with books, there are stories that are definitely intended more for one audience over another. But it feels like there's a huge lack of empathetic imagination on the part of some white people who don't seem to see that stories that feature nonwhite characters are still about humans, and are, therefore, still relevant to them.

Read the whole article here.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Guest blog post by Lorene Cary

“Time to Write: The making of If Sons, Then Heirs”

At the end of my first book, Black Ice, a memoir, I wrote that I’d “been given my stories…” Since then, I’ve felt as if I were driven internally to grow into them, from the Underground Railroad stories that I understood better once I myself had children, and now the lynching stories that sound rumbling depth charges underneath the present action of my new novel, If Sons, Then Heirs. Understand, actually, is the wrong word. Rather, it feels as if the stories force their way into books. They wait, like tiny shelled creatures, until marriage and children, business, grief, failure, and love soften me into a suitable environment for their expression. Then it’s time to write.

I remember hearing about lynching first when I was a very little girl. It had no name, and no certainty, so that for years, I doubted that I’d heard it at all, or that I’d heard correctly, or that what I’d heard was true. My grandmother and mother and aunts were talking about my great-grandmother’s first husband. His family lived near Chadds Ford, PA; Grandmom, who was from Buffalo, married him at 16. Three years later he went to a state or county fair, ran into “some trouble” with young white men, and never came home. Grandmom was left a 19-year-old pregnant widow.

In high school and again in college I read Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases, and A Red Record. I was conscious of using the anti-lynching activist, journalist, and newspaper owner Ida B. Wells-Barnett as a model and adopted ancestor. I thought it brilliant of her to use only those cases that were already documented in the mainstream press, so that no one in power could deny or refute the God-awful facts and narratives she presented.

Would make a great Mother's Day gift!
But the story that stayed in me, as if it had been given to me to grow into, was of a young man lynched—and another young man who came up before the lynch mob to try to stop it. This was a story, to paraphrase historian Vincent Harding, to use as a text to teach and learn activism.

I saw it in a terrible loop video that demanded expression. Finally, now that my stepson’s children are their own wonderful young characters, our older daughter has grown up and moved out, now that I’ve run a business for twelve years, cared for elderly relatives, watched dear young men go to jail and die, inherited property, as well as emotional debt, and written my own will, I can finally write a fictional version of this story that wouldn’t leave me. My characters hear it, tell it, and argue about telling it to their grandchildren:

Over the years the story had cooked inside Rayne’s head, helped by the comments of the few people he’d ever told. You don’t bring it out too often.
But, wait. Here come the miracle. My Lord!

Jones held in his voice the exact hopeful reverence of sharecroppers who’d shared the news with him. They’d get to this part of the story and shake their heads—and this is what I want you to know, too, Jones says, referring to Selma’s silence, because if Rayne didn’t know the first part, then he couldn’t know the miracle: that when the mob had done as much as you can do to a human being and him still be alive, a man pushed his way through the crowd, crazy as they were by now, crazy-mad with liquor and the terrible intoxication of blood—a colored man elbowed his way to the front and begged for the boy’s life.

That was the part everyone repeated: And then, do Jesus, a black man come up in front of them.

And it didn’t matter whether the listeners had heard the story before. They told it again, just as Jones told Rayne, and Rayne told his construction partner and later Lillie, because it remained a mystery. And because everyone wanted to know this and to learn, as Jones learned, what was possible.
Jones’s words, present tense, because heroism exists outside of time: “He stands beside the boy’s body, tied by now so that it won’t fall flat. This black man says—listen what he say standing in front of all these crazy, drunk-up white people—he says: ‘For God’s sake, don’t finish this, please. Whatever you meant to teach him this boy has surely learnt. And he’ll never be good for nothin now anyway. Please, for pity’s sake, just lemme take’im down. Lemme take’im home.’”

Where had he come from, this man who appeared like the black face of God speaking mercy?

The outrageousness of it would not be suppressed. It leached from between the rocks, seeped into the streams, soaked into the swamps. Finally, it ran in the papers, so they couldn’t say it didn’t happen. Jones was sure that Rayne could find it in the records, and one day, sure enough, he looked it up on the Internet.

From Ida B. Wells’s turn-of-the last century writings to the mind of a 21st century fictional character: these stories are as tough as those fairy shrimp whose eggs wait until heavy rains flood their pond. Then they come out, reproduce—and lay new eggs for the next generation.

Learn more on Lorene Cary's website. Follow her on Twitter.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Merry Month of May Round Up

I've been busy writing up a storm, so I haven't had a chance to really put a blog post together. Plus, I'm waiting to hear back from an author for an upcoming Q&A. In the meantime, here is a round up of some bookish stuff going on.

Children's Book Week
My handy dandy calendar tells me this is Children's Book Week. If you're looking for children's books with black characters, check out The Brown Bookshelf and The Happy Nappy Bookseller.

More new and upcoming releases
Since I posted a list of books I was looking forward to this spring, I've heard of more! Including Danzy Senna's new one You Are Free.

And somehow I left Hurricane, Jewell Parker Rhodes' latest off my original list, when I knew about it because I read an advance copy, which she autographed for me! It's about Dr. Marie Lavant descendant of the great Voodoo priestess Marie Laveau and, as the title suggests, is set in Louisiana immediately before and during Katrina.

Bernice McFadden is releasing a new edition of her novel The Warmest December. The new version has a forward written by James Frey. You can pre-order it now! Bernice is also raising money to attend a once-in-a-lifetime writing residency in Egypt. If you'd like to donate, go here.

Connie Briscoe's Money Can't Buy Love is one I can't wait to read. Most of us have fantasized about what we'd do if we won the lottery. Sounds like this story will make readers think again.

Booker T. Mattison's newest (out May 3) is called Snitch. Read it now before it's a movie!

"Snitch" Book Trailer from Booker T Mattison on Vimeo.

Terra Little's Jump is about a young woman from what you could call a really dysfunctional family (she shoots her grandmother!). You can read an excerpt here.

Kwei Quartey, author of Wife of the Gods, has a new thriller coming this summer called Children of the Street. This one sounds worth pre-ordering too. Michael Connelly says, "Kwei Quartey does what all the best storytellers do. He takes you to a world you have never seen and makes it as real to you as your own backyard. In Children of the Street he brings a story that is searing and original and done just right. Inspector Darko Dawson is relentless and I look forward to riding with him again."

Clarence Young sent me a funny email. I haven't read his book Neon Lights (a satire of urban lit), but if it's as funny as his email, then it's worth way more than the $2.99 download price.

Debut authors

Toni Meyer has a new novel called One Thing She Knew, which I've heard good things about.

Darlyne Baugh has one of the best titles I've heard recently: Black Girl @ the Gay Channel. Yep, she used to work for Logo. This one sounds fun!

Mother's Day
If you're on Twitter, use the #books4mothersday hash tag to Tweet your suggestions for Mother's Day presents. A few past suggestions from this blog are here.

If you're on Facebook, I'm holding a contest. You could win a $50 gift card for books!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Want to win a copy of Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention?

Win this by....
CONTEST IS CLOSED. @chaitea won the free copy

Open to U.S. Twitter users only. Here are the easy-peasy rules:

1. Leave me a comment that you want to win with your Twitter name @luckyreader.
2. Participate in Sunday evening's 4/17 7 pm EST #Blacklitchat with Victor LaValle, author of Big Machine.

I'll go through the archive of Tweets and see if your name is there, and enter you in the drawing. Odds are really good for this one folks, so please participate! Big Machine is an EXCELLENT read, and I bet you'll be intrigued by what LaValle has to say during the chat!

What do Big Machine, a novel, and Malcolm X, a biography, have in common? Both are about men who started out on the wrong road and then took a turn.

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. LaValle has garnered critical acclaim for his previous works (a collection, Slapboxing with Jesus, and novel, The Ecstatic), and his second novel is sure to up his critical standing while furthering comparisons to Haruki Murakami, John Kennedy Toole and Edgar Allan Poe. Gritty, mostly honest-hearted ex-heroin addict protagonist Ricky Rice takes a chance on an anonymous note delivered to him at the cruddy upstate New York bus depot where he works as a porter. Quickly, Ricky finds himself among the Unlikely Scholars, a secret society of ex-addicts and petty criminals, all black like him, living in remote Vermont and sifting through stacks of articles in a library devoted to investigating the supernatural; the existence of a god; and the legacy of Judah Washburn, an escaped slave who claimed to have had contact with a higher being that the Unlikely Scholars now call the Voice. Ricky's intoxicating voice—robust, organic, wily—is perfect for narrating LaValle's high-stakes mashup of thrilling paranormal and Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, as the fateful porter—something of a modern Odysseus rallied by a team of spiritual X-men—wanders through America's messianic hoo-hah.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

National Library Week

I was about to head over to my local library to pick up a book on hold and to get my backpack of books I read to Head Start kids as part of the Denver Public Library's Read Aloud Program. When I went online to check my account to see what I had on hold, I discovered it's National Library Week. And today is National Book Mobile Day. OMG, book mobiles! I loved the book mobile when I was a kid! And I still love libraries and believe they are vital to a healthy community.

I also discovered this contest, which runs through Monday, for teens to make videos about why they need libraries to try to win money for their local library.

As you probably know, with budget cuts, libraries are hurting, but in a depression recession, library use soars. If you can help your library out, now is a good time.

I posted the following before, but it's so good, it's worth posting again.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Diverse Book Events

Now this is what I'm talking about! Here's another example of authors taking matters into their own hands. Diversity in YA has brought together a variety of authors to read and sign together. Upcoming tour stops include San Francisco, Austin, Chicago, Cambridge, Mass., New York and San Diego.

Go here for dates and locations and go here for bios of the participants (which includes Varian Johnson, Dia Reeves, Nnedi Okorafor, Jacqueline Woodson, Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich and Rita Williams-Garcia). And if the Diversity in YA Tour comes to your city, please go out and support!

Kudos Cindy Pon and Malinda Lo for putting this together!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Monday, April 4, 2011

A Chapter a Month

Note: The site goes live at 12 Noon EDT.

Victoria Christopher Murray is a bestselling author, but that may not be the achievement she goes down in history for. After today she may become best known as the creator of one of the most innovative potentially game-changing ideas I've ever heard of:

A Chapter a The site goes live today with new works from over a dozen authors. You can buy their work via download for .99 a chapter at a time. From the site:

As a reader, you will enjoy fresh, exciting chapters every month as we reveal our stories to you one chapter at a time. You will travel with us on our writing journeys and watch our novels come to life on paper...and beyond. Each month the authors will offer you something behind the pages - whether it's a live interview with your favorite character or an ask-the-author-anything session, on this website it's more than just the story. And there's even more if you're a preferred reader. Imagine having access to the author - through live streams - while their novels are unfolding. You will be able to let the author know what you're enjoying about the story, what you'd like to see happen...and who knows...your suggestion just may appear in the next chapter the next month. Whether it's live videos, a scene that appears as a short movie, or just the old-fashion written word, you'll relish your favorite authors and try a few new ones as well. So welcome to our world - where readers and writers are joined together in A Chapter a Month!

It's easy to try a new author. Spend .99 and if you don't like it, move on. Keep checking the site too. New authors are joining. Including me! I'll be selling a novel on the site starting this summer. Stay tuned for news and details about that here and on

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

From Self-Published to Traditionally Published

Amanda Hocking isn't the first or only self-publishing success story out there.

Trice Hickman may not have a seven-figure book deal (YET), but she self-published the right way, with great writing and professional editing and book design. Then she promoted her behind off. Eventually, a publisher was smart enough to snap her up and is rereleasing Unexpected Interruptions today. Romance and women's fiction readers, check it out. Congrats Trice!!!  Another important thing to know about Trice: she's a sweetheart!

J.D. Mason's recent Somebody Pick Up My Pieces is the final story in a series that began with the originally self-published One Day I Saw a Black King, and it's getting rave reviews. My wonderful friend J.D. also lives in Denver. Go Denver writers!!! (Learn more about J.D. in my interview with her.)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A few new books I'm excited about

Pym by Mat Johnson. It's out now and getting loads of great reviews. For example, Salon called "a blisteringly funny satire of contemporary American racial attitudes," which I believe because I follow Johnson on Twitter and his tweets crack me up.

If Sons, Then Heirs by Lorene Cary. I was lucky enough to read an advance copy of this. I wanted to send a blurb that said "Love, love, love, love, love, it. You should totally, totally, totally buy it." Yeah, not really articulate. What I ended up sending in was:

"Every single character pops off the page in this amazing story. This masterwork of a novel made me laugh and cry out loud. Important, enjoyable, and wonderfully moving. An absolute delight." It's out in April, and you should totally pre-order it.

Coming in May is Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones, and it's already generating great buzz.

I'm really interested More Than Words because it brings writers of different races together. What a novel concept! It sounds really good too: "Each and every one of us has the ability to effect change—to make our world a better place. The dedicated women selected as this year's recipients of Harlequin's More Than Words award have changed lives, one good deed at a time. To celebrate their accomplishments, some of our bestselling authors have honored the winners by writing stories inspired by these real-life heroines."

More Than Words is on sale today!  

Adding Open City by Teju Cole, which came out last month and skipped my radar screen, because Martha Southgate just told me via Twitter that "it rocks!" A quick Google search shows rave reviews, but Martha's endorsement is all I need.

Not to beat a dead horse or anything, but y'all know how important pre-orders and first months' sales are. So if you can, go ahead and place an order or pre-order at IndieBound or Amazon or pick up one of these at your local bookstore.

In other news: Zetta Elliott posts an important essay on Women Doing Literary Things. An excerpt:
When I learned that the goal of this blog was to “celebrate and reaffirm the depth and breadth of women’s involvement in literature,” I knew I wanted to participate. Yet when I reflect upon my involvement in the literary world, I find that little of my time and energy has gone toward addressing “the fundamental wrongness of gender disparities.” When everyone in your world is female, gender tends not to be the focus. For me, the main problem isn’t that men are impeding my progress as a writer. The truth is, behind every door that has been closed in my face…there’s another woman.
Sometimes that woman looks like me, but more often than not, she doesn’t. She belongs to a different race, a different class, and a different culture.