Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Bad Day For Sorry

Talk about an effective and eye-catching book cover and title. I saw this book over the weekend at a local bookstore, and I had to pick it up to see what it's all about.

A Bad Day For Sorry is a crime novel by Sophie Littlefield. It features a 50-something main character, Stella, who's a widow and survivor of domestic violence. While maintaining a business on one side of town in central Missouri, on the other side of town she's solving crimes and coming to the aid of domestic violence survivors.

After coming home and doing a little online research, I found that all the reviews of this novel have been positive. There's mad-love for Stella's grit and toughness. And this is the first of an ongoing series featuring Stella -- next book, A Bad Day For Pretty, coming in June 2010.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

In Case You Didn't Know @ These Best Of Books

Was looking at the Guerrilla Girls Best Books of 2009 list this weekend.

They compiled the list in response to many Year End/Best Of book lists by major literary organizations that contain NO women or people of color writers. The Guerrilla Girls list proves that women and people of color are writing great books, worthy of recognition by so-called mainstream literary organizations.

Great list... and definitely goes to show that if you're not deliberately acting to be inclusive, you'll let whole groups of people, experiences, and ideas slip by you.

Also check out the White Readers Meet Black Authors site. Lots of great books and authors you may or may not be aware of.

Other sites you go to that affirm women/people of color writers? Or where you discover books you probably never would have discovered?

Friday, November 27, 2009

How To Be

Looking for a good gift to give to a family, or take to a housewarming, or give to a student? Try How To Be: A Guide To Contemporary Living For African Americans by Harriette Cole.

In the book, the author treats manners and etiquette as a source of empowerment for African Americans, rather than a judgmental view that gives a rigid set of do's and don'ts.

Covering topics such as Workplace Issues, Dating, Entertaining, Rites of Passage, and Money, How To Be is based on part experience and part wisdom of the elders from a black perspective.

Whether you call it manners, etiquette, or just good home training (good home training blog entry), everything has a time, place, and manner, and resource books like How To Be provide good lessons to enforce or reinforce what our parents and grandparents taught us while growing up.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Pack... Light

Busy travel weekend for many folks. And my advice... pack light. Unless you want to be bitter with baggage (book by Sloane Tanen).

I tend to overload my bags with all these grandiose fantasies of why I need "this many" shoes, "this many" pants, etc... By the time I arrive back home, I realize I never touched most of the clothes in my bag. So, I tend to go light on the pants... two casual/jeans, one dress pant (just in case...) for short trips, but I do take multiple shirts/sweaters/tops for visual variety.

Always pack my toiletries/undies first, since those are things you absolutely can't do without... and it's a pain to shop for at the destination. Gym clothes, which I do make a point of visiting while out of town. ID, passport, proof of insurances (health, car, etc...) just in case.

I try to leave enough room for "mama's cooking," since the family sometimes thinks I'm still in college and not eating enough, so I get tons of foil-wrapped frozen food packages to bring back.

But books... that's my weakness. I tend to pack a library, when in reality all I'll ever be able to touch is one... maybe two, while away. And that's mostly on the plane. Probably the best incentive to buy a Kindle or other electronic book reader... can take all your books with you in less than a pound. Please, Santa!

Your packing light tips? Have a safe trip if you're traveling!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Writing YOUR Great Novel or Other Project

About this time of year, when many people start to get into fall/winter vacation/break mode, I hear most writer types say "I wanna start/finish my novel."

"How did you do it?" is the question I hear next, of me. "How should I do it?"

Of course there's no real or good answer. You have to do it in YOUR way and YOUR pace. But somewhere in you, you have to make a commitment and follow through on your writing. It's an individual process for everyone. Only you know what'll work for your commitment and follow through.

But... if still needing some inspiration from outside yourself, check out this cool collection of authors talking about their writing process in the Wall Street Journal article, "How To Write a Great Novel." These published authors, from all walks of life and experience, share what works for them. Great anecdotes they share.

For me... there has been no rhyme or reason.

Book one, Down For Whatever, I wrote in evenings, after work, and as part of a writers' workshop class. I had to produce... we met every Monday.

Book two, Right Side of the Wrong Bed, I wrote starting at 4 am and ended around 7 am so I could get ready for work. This, I might add, was the most productive and quick writing process for me. Something about early hours, no interruptions, no thought baggage of the day yet.

Book three, tentatively titled Blame It On My Youth (and publication date still to be announced), I wrote primarily during vacation/break times as I'd taken on more responsibility in my day job at the University. Not so productive or quick a process. Lots of thought baggage of the day. But I finished eventually.

The point is... you gotta do what works for you. No one has the writing process answer but you.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Murder On The Down Low

Went to a great book reading/signing by Pamela Samuels Young this weekend at Esowon Books. Such an engaging author and speaker.

I love it when I find out about an author who has done quite a few books, but I'd never heard of until recently. Means lots of reading material. The Esowon event focused on her new novel Buying Time, but one of her previous novels she mentioned caught my attention.

It's called Murder On The Down Low, and it's a mystery about a series of "DL" guys being found murdered in Los Angeles. Thought the title is provocative, the author has a very progressive and open viewpoint around LGBT issues, which she shared when an audience member asked a question that tried to push an opinion that only college-educated/middle class black men in the black community could be gay. Yes, in 2009.

But again, the author was really calm, cool, and progressive in her response to his question/opinion, and went on to explain why people might remain in the closet, the various blue collar and "gangsta" gay communities, and that all ethnic groups have gay people. Great seeing a straight ally enlighten folks without hesitation.

The store was out of the Murder on the Down Low book, which I quickly ordered online when I got home. Looking forward to reading and feeling excited about discovering an author whose work I think I'm going to enjoy. And based on the 40-50 readers at the reading on Saturday, I'd say I'm right.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Promising Book Weekend... and Next

If you're in L.A., there are a couple of book/reading events coming up that interest me. So they also might interest you! :-)

Friday, November 20. The Promising Series, curated by Noel Alumit, features the best of established and emerging lesbian/gay/bi/trans poets and writers. Takes place this Friday at 7:30 pm at Skylight Books in Los Feliz. Always a great time.

Saturday, November 21. Pamela Samuels Young reads and signs her new novel, Buying Time. I mentioned the novel a few weeks ago on the blog. Event takes place 3 - 4:30 on Saturday afternoon at Esowon Books in Leimert Park.

Monday, November 23. Dr. Richard T. Rodriguez reads and discusses his research that went into writing Next of Kin: The Family in Chicano/a Cultural Politics. Event takes place at 3:30 on Monday afternoon at the Cal State L.A. Student Union, Los Angeles Room.

Something going on in your part of the world? Tell us here...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Y&R's New Malcolm

According to Daytime Confidential, Young & The Restless has just cast the role of Malcolm Winters (made famous by Shemar Moore) with Darius McCrary (Eddie Winslow from Family Matters).

Read DC site for more details.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Cruz-ing This Fall

Penelope Cruz has two great film projects coming out that I am SOOOOOO ready to see.

Nine, a musical from the producers of the film Chicago, comes out late December in the U.S. Seeing the visually and musically appealing trailer sold me. But I love musicals, so I'd have found out about it and seen it without the trailer.

Broken Embraces, releases in a couple weeks in the U.S., and is a film from one of my favorite directors, Pedro Almodovar. If you've never seen an Almodovar film, you're missing some of the best storytelling around. Dramatic storylines that unravel layer by layer, with great dialogue, subtle performances, and strong women characters.

Some of Almodovar's previous films include Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown, Bad Education, All About My Mother, and Volver.

Seems like Penelope Cruz has hit the film jackpot this fall. And I'm sure there will be plenty of awards recognition as we march toward the winter awards season. If you haven't seen her Academy Award winning performance in Vicky Cristina Barcelona, you must take a look this weekend.

Any fall/winter films you're looking forward to?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Nakumbuka Day

There's another memorial/holiday that thousands will recognize today, but millions ought to. Nakumbuka Day.

Nakumbuka Day is a day to acknowledge those lost during the Mafaa, or Middle Passage, which is commonly known as the Global African Holocaust, where at least 100 million lives were lost over a period of 400 years. Nakumbuka is a Swahili word for "I Remember."

It is November 11 every year.

If you're planning a remembrance, you wear all white. There are a number of symbolic rituals done during a remembrance, using materials that reflect different parts of African life. Then people reflect and share on our collective global loss, and give thanks that we are the descendants of survivors of the Global African Holocaust.

Many people say that black people in the United States don't have their own rituals, traditions, or ceremonies. We do. I think Nakumbuka Day is a start, so that we remember from which/whom we came. As well, it's important to remember that before slavery, the slaves as we call them were human beings -- Africans -- with daily lives, hopes, lives, dreams, jobs, chores, and fears -- all disrupted by the arrival of kidnappers and free labor talent scouts.

Often, we just look at and call them "slaves" without looking at the humanity and human-ness of our people. As well, we rarely look at the psychological makeup of a people who would perpetuate an institution such as slavery on another group of people.

Dr. Joy DeGruy starts with her Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome work. If you ever get a chance to read her book Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome or to see her speak live, you should do so. So worth it.

Today, if it's your off day, maybe you can start with some reflection too on the Global African Holocaust.

We remember.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Colored Museum

The Colored Museum by George C. Wolfe is a play that I've never seen live on stage, but I'm looking forward to the day I get to see a production of it. It features eleven vignettes that satirize/explore elements of African American culture, and was first produced in 1986. (The Colored Museum study guide, from Ball State University).

Though I've never seen a live production, the play was required reading for an African American lit class I took in undergrad. With vignettes such as "The Hairpiece," "Cookin' With Miss Ethel," "The Gospel According to Miss Roj," and "The Last-Mama-on-the-Couch Play," we studied it for both content and context as is related/related to current black issues at the time the play was written (and the time we were reading the play.) I enjoyed reading the play.

If you get a chance to read and/or see a live production, you should. Many college theatre groups do their own productions of The Colored Museum.

The play, along with the Percival Everett's novel Erasure, came to mind in the past few days, as my friends and I saw what's soon to become The Color Purple of this generation -- Precious. I loved the film, both in terms of production and content, and also feel it did the book Push justice. I was pleased.

Of course, the conversations I've had range from friends who are my go-out-for-drinks friends to the academic types at the university. The conversations vary -- from this is the BEST film ever... to the pathologizing of black people in films. I saw and see merits in all the conversations and all the views of the film. But I loved the film and hope it received many awards in the coming film awards season.

I also hope people will pick up the novel Push and read it. I also hope that people see it as a film based on a novel, that happens to be about one young, black woman's experience. I also hope it raises awareness of the experiences young people face, domestic and sexual violence, and all the other social needs facing all people today. Like any other film featuring black characters, I don't see it as THE black experience in the U.S. It's a film, based on a novel.

But as I hear more of my academic friends and colleagues share their thoughts with me, I'm drawn back to re-thinking about The Colored Museum, Erasure, and if anyone can win when they happen to write a book or produce a film featuring black characters. Or is this what being a critical thinker is all about... the ability to look at the good and the bad in everything?

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Music, Arts, Activism Weekend

Long work week, but it's all worth it because I'll be going to see a couple of greats from my coming-of-age years.

Anita Baker on Saturday. EnVogue on Sunday. Both at the Nokia/L.A. Live area in downtown Los Angeles.

A couple weeks ago I just couldn't decide on which one. So I decided both... and have been bringing my lunch to work daily every since, lol.

If you're in L.A., another venue you should check out is The Luckman, located on the east side of L.A. on the Cal State L.A. campus. Great lineup of performers this season, including Lizz Wright (this weekend), Les Nubian (December), Itzhak Perlman, Kinky, and more. Check out the 2009-10 Luckman lineup.

Before I can get to enjoy all the arts festivities, I will need to get through a long day of work, a weekend Womyn of Color conference, and more.

Been doing a bit of writing, and of course attending arts and activism type events always gives you good writing material. Observing people can give you major insights.

Hope you're enjoying your week and possible weekend plans!

Monday, November 02, 2009

Buying Time

Buying Time is the newest novel by Pamela Samuels Young and it needs to go on your to-be-read list.

It follows a down-on-luck attorney who figures out a new line of work to survive... buying up life insurance policies of terminally ill people. It's part thriller, part crime, part mystery.

I wrote about Pamela Samuels Young about a year ago in a blog on black women who write crime story novels. What's really great about PSY is, like most authors I know of, she works full-time... an attorney in Los Angeles.

Anyway, if interested in learning more about this novel or the author, you can stop by Esowon Books on Saturday, November 21 from 3 - 4:30 pm.

My to-be-read list is getting longer and longer!