Updates from Frederick Smith, former Detroiter living in Los Angeles, and author of Play It Forward (January 2015), Right Side of the Wrong Bed (December 2007), and Down For Whatever (July 2005).
Described as one of the freshest and funniest debut novels, Ernessa T. Carter’s 32 Candles follows Davie Jones, a Strokes t-shirt-wearing, Mississippi-accented, dark-skinned nerd, on her journey of self-discovery, acceptance, self-love, and romance from a childhood in Mississippi to adulthood in Los Angeles.
The CBS daytime drama, The Bold & The Beautiful has been doing a fabulous job lately with a storyline which features L.A. as a central character (where the show is set and filmed) and the homeless issues facing the city. In L.A. County, it's estimated that close to 50,000 people are homeless.
Great, non-preachy episodes from last week's episodes on October 28 and October 29. If you have a chance, watch online.
If you're in the L.A. area on Monday, November 1, bestselling author Noel Alumit will be hosting a free fiction writing workshop. It takes place in the Student Union at Cal State L.A., Monday, November 1 at 3:15 pm in the Alhambra Room, 3rd floor Student Union.
If you're in L.A. this weekend, check out the annual Taste of Soul Festival. It takes place on Saturday, October 16 from 10 am - 6 pm on Crenshaw Blvd., between Martin Luther King Drive and Rodeo Drive.
Lots of great food, music, entertainment, and people.
I'm already tasting the hot catfish straight out of the fryer.
It follows black people who are currently or formerly enrolled in prestigious, private (and mostly all-white) Prep Schools, and the challenges and triumphs they face as they straddle life in two worlds.
Though my high school wasn't private or all-white, it was a public, college prep one. I remember growing up in Detroit and going to Renaissance H.S. branded us as "the smart ones" or "the stuck-up ones" in our own neighborhoods and among other public school students. And that was tough coming from other black people.
I can only imagine what it's like when you move away for high school and face it from the people in your neighborhood as well as the people at your school.
I'm surprised people still celebrate Columbus Day, but they do. Saw this great video clip, Reconsider Columbus Day, which advocates for the development of an Indigenous People's holiday instead. Good points! fs
If you're in the L.A. area, head over to the Cal State L.A. campus for the annual Latino Book and Family Festival. It runs until 6 pm today and features over 100 authors participating in panels and book signings. Lots of fun and a beautiful day! fs
Step Afrika! is the only professional dance company in the world dedicated to the tradition of stepping. The group has performed before tens of thousands of people worldwide. Check out this Step Afrika! promo clip from YouTube.
This should be an evening of dance and performance like no other, as Step Afrika! traces the history of stepping from the gumboot dance tradition in South Africa to its current use by African American fraternities and sororities.
So today is the release date of Terry McMillan's new novel, Getting to Happy. It's the sequel to Waiting to Exhale, and finds us fifteen years later visiting the four characters -- Gloria, Bernardine, Savannah, and Robin.
A little late for me to hit the bookstore. Didn't pre-order online. So I'll be making a special trip to the mall or Esowon tomorrow or late in the week.
But I'm happy the new novel is here. Can't wait to read. I remember reading Waiting to Exhale in the early 90s, barely in college. Laughing out loud at the crack-up funny writing and stories the characters were telling, and my dorm mates asking what was I reading that was so fun(ny).
I attended a preview reading Terry McMillan did at the LA Times Book Festival this year, and based on what I heard we're in for another crack-up funny and dramatic story.
It's the fictional story of a group of black maids who work for white women in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960s. But, of course, this story was true for thousands of black women who had no choice but to work for white women in the U.S. Probably still is true. Sad, but true.
Although skeptical about reading the book, I find myself thinking about my grandmother, who herself worked as help for a white family and raised their kids. Many of the details of the maids' lives (how they had to budget, keeping a garden in order to eat, the internal struggle of raising someone else's kids while feeling like they're neglecting their own kids) seem authentic in the novel so far.
My skepticism, however, came from a white woman author writing a black woman's story. Wondering if any of you have read it or are reading it? Your thoughts? What about looking through a lens of social justice, equality, or being culturally empowered? Would this book be as accepted or "acclaimed" if written by a black woman author? Is this another "let us tell you about your experience" story?
These are the questions I'm wrestling with as I read... and wondering if any of you can help with The Help? fs
Now, she has a new release coming in September. What Love Tastes Like. The novel features a romantic tale between a chef and her boss, the owner of a luxury hotel. Advance reviews concur that this is a tasty and romantic treat for your reading delight.
I have enjoyed Zuri Day's previous novels, so I'm sure I will enjoy What Love Tastes Like just as much.
So you're a middle class and educated black woman. You come from a good background and family.
You're trained as a chef, but in this economy, you can't find a job in your field. But someone does want to hire you... a white couple, about your age, as their maid/cook/housekeeper. And you take the job... and keep it a secret from the people in your life.
If you're a writer who is part of a community that has lacked access to the writing/publication field (i.e. women, people of color, lgbt, poor/working class, street educated vs institutionally educated), then the PEN Emerging Voices Fellowship could be for you.
Applications are due in late August for the 2011 cycle. It's an 8-month intensive writing program/mentorship, where emerging voices can get the attention and nurturing they need to break into writing and possibly publishing. See the PEN EV website for more details.
It helps if you're SoCali based, since each of the eight monthly workshops takes place in L.A. area. So... if you or someone you know is interested, please apply. fs
It's a practical book on helping college students and career counselors navigate the line between a "practical/doing" major (i.e. Business, Education, etc...) and an "esoteric/thinking" major (i.e. English Lit, History, etc...)
In times of economic challenge, like we're currently experiencing, students are often scared/swayed to major in something that builds skills directly applicable to a job. These scared/swayed tactics often come from parents, who worry about their kids' job prospects in light of student loans. These scared/swayed tactics also can come from red-state conservatives, who worry about people learning to be critical thinkers and questioners.
These conversations are also shaping the dialogue on campuses, as college presidents and deans make decisions on what departments/majors are important to keep, and which ones they want to cut or make smaller.
All majors are important and add to students' growth and development.
Regardless of what students choose, I think taking ethnic studies (i.e. Pan African Studies, Chicana/o Studies, Asian American Studies, etc...) and gender studies (i.e. Women's Studies) is very important -- both in terms of learning/appreciating history and becoming culturally-empowered and confident about who they are.
Just my opinion.
What about you? What did you major in? Or want to major in? Or... have you found that your major had absolutely nothing to do with your eventual career/job choice?
The series features tough-talking Stella Hardesty, who "rights wrongs" done to women by abusive husbands, partners, and other men in their lives. The novels are engaging and address a number of social issues.
And I think the titles are quite catchy. Check them out. fs
Cydney Rax is an author to admire. With a full-time job, she's consistently written and published five novels within the past five years.
Her latest, Brothers and Wives, just debuted this week. It's a continuation of one of her earlier novels, My Husband's Girlfriend, and features another juicy love triangle among characters who are really entangled in each others' lives.
Another summer read to keep your hot summer even hotter. fs
Save The L.A. Library. You may or may not know, but the City of L.A. has ordered its libraries closed on Sundays and now Mondays, due to budget cuts. Monday, July 19, in the morning, many will be gathering at the Central Library in downtown L.A. to protest the cuts. For many folks, libraries are the only place they can access internet, get refuge from the heat, and find books they can't afford to buy.
Would you take a job that compromises your beliefs and values, especially if you needed the job and the money?
Sherri Lewis's latest novel, Selling My Soul, follows the character Trina Michaels who faces that dilemma upon returning from a spiritual journey to Africa.
After the journey, and needing a job to help with two family dramas, she accepts an assignment from her PR firm to do a clean-up job on a leader of an urban mega-church accused of sexual relationships with young men in his church.
The novel follows a group of random strangers trapped in the basement of the Indian Consulate building in California following a major earthquake.
With little or no hope of being found in the earthquake rubble, the diverse group of people begin telling their personal stories of "One Amazing Thing" that shaped or made their lives. All this in an effort of keeping their spirits up in the midst of the question "Will we get out of here?"
If you're in the L.A. area over 4th of July weekend, you've gotta check out Los Angeles Black Pride, aka, At The Beach L.A. Always something to do and someone to meet. Lots of events from July 1 - 5.
Related links. The new, and last, novel by E. Lynn Harris comes out this week. In My Father's House. Definitely worth checking out.
If you haven't picked up the Visible Lives tribute to E. Lynn Harris, you should. Great stories by James Earl Hardy, Stanley Bennett Clay, and Terrance Dean.
The other day, fellow author Rashid Darden and I were reminiscing on how busy our summer was five years ago, when in 2005, both our first novels were published and we were promoting our work on the Black Pride circuit. His, Lazarus. Mine, Down For Whatever. I love Rashid's writing a lot. Check out Rashid Darden on Facebook. Wow, time flies.
That's the latest and greatest here. What's up with you? fs
I've been hearing so much about this novel, that I just had to tell you. But I'm sure you know about it already...
32 Candles is the debut novel by author Ernessa T. Carter. How can I best summarize the novel??? Besides imaginative and fun and full of what if's... And maybe I'm excited because I was (and still can be) a Nerd of Color in high school and life, lol...
Imagine you were all the awkward things that the most awkward high schooler could be, but you had a crush on the most un-awkward and popular athlete boy in high school.
Then imagine going away, re-inventing yourself and your look, and your whole way of being, and at age 32, that popular boy, now a 32-year-old man, falls for you... but he hasn't a clue who you are/were in his high school life. No. Clue.
Takes place in the West Hollywood Church, 916 N. Formosa Avenue, from 8 - 9:30 pm. $10 donation with resesrvation, $15 without a reservation, and it benefits the Lambda Literary Foundation. For information, email firstname.lastname@example.org. fs
If you're in L.A., it's West Hollywood LGBT Pride Weekend. All the boys, girls, and fans will be in West Hollywood watching EnVogue, Kelis, and Kelly Rowland perform.
Kicking off Pride, in a literary way, is the Promising Series on Friday, June 11 at 7:30 pm at Skylight Books in the Los Feliz neighborhood. Noel Alumit puts together a great series, and the reading tonight is sure to please... featuring writers/performers Alex Davis, Larry Duplechan, Alison de la Cruz, D’Lo, David Francis, Jacky Guerrero, Hank Henderson, Imani Tolliver, and Ric Montejano.
All three are great events and great pieces of work to check out! fs
When you get some time, you've gotta watch In The Moment. It's a new soap-style web series that follows the trials and tribulations of a group of gay guys living in the same apartment complex in West Hollywood, CA.
It's very well-acted, entertaining, hip, and thought-provoking (and not in that after-school-special kinda way). I thought I was gonna watch one 5-minute episode yesterday evening, and ended up spending an hour watching all ten episodes currently available online.
In The Moment is produced by the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, and is part of the center's efforts to educate young LGBT and straight folks about a number of issues. Quite effective.
It captures the diversity of the neighborhoods, towns, businesses and homes that happen to sit on MLK streets. It also discusses the politics behind naming MLK streets, as well as the socioeconomic challenges facing many of the neighborhoods in which MLK streets are placed.
I'd never considered or thought about MLK Street being Black America's Main Street, but now that I think of it... most every city I've travelled to has one, and most define the heart or center of black life in those cities.
For Memorial Day weekend, what better way to get in the spirit than with barbeque... and a blog entry I wrote in August 2009 about The Neely's. I'm craving bbq this weekend in L.A., since I'm not heading to midwest, so I gotta figure something out :-) And if you join the Neely's on Facebook, you'll get weekly recipes... some bbq-related, some not. But all delicious! fs
August 2009 Back in the Midwest for a few days with the family. I realize how much life here revolves around food (and bulging bellies, lol). I've managed a couple gym trips while here, but all those family (i.e. food) gatherings are close to negating the benefits of exercise.
Anyway, why am I now super fascinated with the Pat and Gina Neely (and the rest of the Neely family) of Memphis story? I caught their show recently on Food Network, Down Home With The Neelys, where they showcase their family recipes, heritage, and marriage. Loved it.
Came home to my mom's house and found their new cookbook, Down Home With The Neelys, on the kitchen table. Read it cover to cover and now have to get a copy for myself.
What I love most (beyond the barbeque, soul food, and sweets they make) is their love story. It's a story that began back in high school, and with a couple relationships, cross-country moves, and children in their paths, they found themselves reunited at their 10-year high school reunion.
Now gotta try their restaurant, Neelys BBQ, in Memphis and Nashville.
Good love. Good food. What more could someone ask for? fs
17-year-old Efrain is growing up on the tough streets of the Bronx. He's entering senior year. He has earned perfect SAT scores. And he dreams of escaping his environment to attend college at Yale, Harvard, or another Ivy League School. He knows neither he nor his parents can afford the $30+k tuition, so he turns to his boys in the neighborhood pharmaceutical business for a sales job. He desperately wants to pay for college.
Sofia Quintero has penned several novels focusing on young people growing up in NYC. This is another winner from her collection, and it's for young adults... or young adults at heart.
Visible Lives will be available May 25 in bookstores everywhere.
The authors will kick off the book with several appearances in Los Angeles next week, including readings at Cal State L.A. and Esowon Bookstore, and at In The Meantime Men's Group. Later next week and through the summer, the authors will appear jointly and separately at additional bookstores, book clubs, pride events, and libraries across the U.S.
For many people, including myself, their writing careers or life identity were influenced or validated by E. Lynn Harris' novels. His groundbreaking early novels, Invisible Live and Just As I Am are must-reads, and were in a sense a rite of passage for many in the black LGBT community.
Visible Lives seems a fitting tribute to the groundbreaking author. Definitely a good book to pick up for your summer reading. fs
The Carrie Diaries, a novel by Candace Bushnell, which follows the character Carrie Bradshaw in high school, just as she is developing her knack for fashion, cocktails, and cool/trendy friends (another foursome she hangs with in h.s., not the women she goes on to meet as she starts her writing career in NYC.)
Summer's here... or at least, that's what many of us say when it's Long Beach Pride weekend.
Only ocean-front pride festival in the country, and the 3rd largest -- San Francisco and New York City rank higher in terms of attendance and size.
If you or someone you know is part of the LGBT community, and in L.A. area, LBP is a must-attend event. And it's this weekend, May 15 and 16.
On that note, for those of you who have attended LGBT Pride Festivals before... do you remember your first pride? the anticipation? the friendships, rivalries, or relationships that started? I love hearing "my first Pride" stories... and feel free to share a memory here.
What's so eery... the weekly events email sent Saturday from L.A.'s premiere black bookstore, Esowon Books. The email features an event this Wednesday, May 12 with author James Gavin discussing his biography of Lena Horne, Stormy Weather.
The email reads, "James Gavin will sign and discuss Stormy Weather with special guests. Lena Horne will be with us in spirit." That was sent Saturday. Eery coincidence.
If you're in the L.A. area this Wednesday, May 12 at 7 pm, stop by Esowon Bookstore for what I'm sure will be both a reading and a remembrance of a special, classy woman.
I'm sure many of us, myself included, have stood by quietly while people are discussing a book or another topic that everyone is assumed to have knowledge of. Of course, assuming is not a good thing, because everyone comes from different levels of knowledge, education, and cultural capital.
But I'm sure a book like this one will help in some of those socially awkward moments. fs
Ths other day in the office, we had a random thought/conversation. "Where's Willona from Good Times these days?"
It only took a minute for someone to remember the actress' name who portrayed Willona, Ja'Net Dubois, and then about 30 seconds to find Ja'Net Dubois website and see what's going on in her world. Lots of work, charity functions, and painting great works of art... art we're all thinking we'd like to own.
The novel follows soap actress, Calysta Jeffries, the hottest (and one of a few) black actresses in daytime, who after fifteen years in the role of Ruby, still hasn't won a Sudsy Award. She desperately want to win the top award in daytime drama.
I was totally mesmerized with his story, a true one, as an Asian American immigrant struggling to find himself, win his father's love, and transcend the dangers of life in urban L.A.
The title, by the way, comes from an interaction between Lac and his father, when upon telling his father (as a kid) that he loves him, his dad replies along the line of "Stop being soft. I love yous are for white people."
If you're into memoirs, you will definitely enjoy this one. fs
Culture Clash, by L Divine, is the latest installment in the Drama High series, featuring main character Jayd, a strong young African American woman living her life in South L.A./Compton.
This novel focuses on Jayd's frustration with the way her school is handling Cultural Awareness Day. So, in response, she helps form the first African Student Union organization, much to the dismay of school administrators. Add to the mix Jayd's new favorite hobby -- drag racing -- and a crush on Emilio, a new Latino student at her school, and you've got some big time drama at Drama High.
Faithful readers of the Drama High series recommend starting with the first of the series, The Fight.
Lots of good speakers, writers, book sellers, and more. I usually decide last minute which sessions I want to attend.
But I'm most definitely excited about seeing/hearing Terry McMillan speak on Sunday at 2:30 pm. Her work is a fave of mine, and I'm looking foward to the new novel, Getting to Happy, coming in September (video clip here of her discussing novel).
What/who are you looking forward to seeing or buying at the festival? fs
Talk about word-of-mouth being the ultimate publicity, I never would have known about this novel if one of the readers of this blog hadn't alerted me to it. Thanks Anthony. This one sounds like a winner for sure.
Set in the rural U.S. south, the novel follows Emma Jean Peace's decision to raise her seventh son, Perfect, as the daughter she always wanted, but never gave birth to. When Perfect is eight, someone discovers the gender secret, and it sets off a series of events that leads to multiple questions of identity, gender, biology, and religion. Imagine all that, again, in the South, perceived not to be as open as other areas of the U.S.
I'm always excited to learn about authors deep into their literary careers. It means I get to read their previous books before getting to their current release. In the case of Daniel Black, he's had two other novels published -- They Tell Me of a Home and The Sacred Place -- and both sound like great reads.
Author of 3 QPOC/LGBT novels: Down For Whatever (05); Right Side of the Wrong Bed (08); Play It Forward (January 2015). www.FrederickLSmith.com @fsmith827
Student Affairs/Higher Education Professional. Cultural Centers. Cal State LA. ACPA. CaCCCHE. ACUI.
Detroit. Chicago. L.A. The World.