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 32CANDLES.com, 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.