Essence Magazine February 2015

Essence Magazine’s Book Features for February 2015

Essence Magazine’s book features for February 2015, selected for Black History Month — featuring Ethel Payne, Rosa Parks, Wes Moore, Sonia Sanchez, Malcolm X:

Eye on the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press
by James McGrath Morris

Amistad
February 17, 2015
Hardcover

Acclaimed biographer James McGrath Morris brings into focus the riveting life of one of the most significant yet least known figures of the civil rights era — pioneering journalist Ethel Payne, the “First Lady of the Black Press” — elevating her to her rightful place in history at last.

For decades, Ethel Lois Payne has been hidden in the shadows of history. Now, James McGrath Morris skillfully illuminates this ambitious, influential, and groundbreaking woman’s life, from her childhood growing up in South Chicago to her career as a journalist and network news commentator, reporting on some of the most crucial events in modern American history.

Morris draws on a rich and untapped collection of Payne’s personal papers documenting her private and professional affairs. He combed through oral histories, FBI documents, and newspapers to fully capture Payne’s life, her achievements, and her legacy. He introduces us to a journalist who covered such events as the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Little Rock school desegregation crisis, the service of black troops in Vietnam, and Henry Kissinger’s 26,000-mile tour of Africa.

A self-proclaimed “instrument of change” for her people, Payne broke new ground as the Washington correspondent for the Chicago Defender. She publicly prodded President Dwight D. Eisenhower to support desegregation, and her reporting on legislative and judicial civil rights battles enlightened and activated black readers across the nation. In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson recognized Payne’s seminal role by presenting her with a pen used in signing the Civil Rights Act. In 1972, she became the first female African American radio and television commentator on a national network, working for CBS. Her story mirrors the evolution of our own modern society.

Inspiring and instructive, moving and comprehensive, Eye on the Struggle illuminates this extraordinary woman and her achievements, and reminds us of the power one person has to transform our lives and our world.

With 16 pages of black-and-white photos.

The Tyranny of the Meritocracy: Democratizing Higher Education in America
by Lani Guinier

Beacon Press, January 13, 2015, Hardcover

Standing on the foundations of America’s promise of equal opportunity, our universities purport to serve as engines of social mobility and practitioners of democracy. But as acclaimed scholar and pioneering civil rights advocate Lani Guinier argues, the merit systems that dictate the admissions practices of these institutions are functioning to select and privilege elite individuals rather than create learning communities geared to advance democratic societies. Having studied and taught at schools such as Harvard University, Yale Law School, and the University of Pennsylvania Law School, Guinier has spent years examining the experiences of ethnic minorities and of women at the nation’s top institutions of higher education, and here she lays bare the practices that impede the stated missions of these schools.

Goaded on by a contemporary culture that establishes value through ranking and sorting, universities assess applicants using the vocabulary of private, highly individualized merit. As a result of private merit standards and ever-increasing tuitions, our colleges and universities increasingly are failing in their mission to provide educational opportunity and to prepare students for productive and engaged citizenship.

To reclaim higher education as a cornerstone of democracy, Guinier argues that institutions of higher learning must focus on admitting and educating a class of students who will be critical thinkers, active citizens, and publicly spirited leaders. Guinier presents a plan for considering “democratic merit,” a system that measures the success of higher education not by the personal qualities of the students who enter but by the work and service performed by the graduates who leave.

Jam on the Vine: A Novel by LaShonda Barnett

Grove Press, February 3, 2015, Hardcover

Ivoe Williams, the precocious daughter of a Muslim cook and a metalsmith from central-east Texas, first ignites her lifelong obsession with journalism when she steals a newspaper from her mother’s white employer. Living in the poor, segregated quarter of Little Tunis, Ivoe immerses herself in printed matter as an escape from her dour surroundings. She earns a scholarship to the prestigious Willetson College in Austin, only to return over-qualified to the menial labor offered by her hometown’s racially-biased employers.

Ivoe eventually flees the Jim Crow South with her family and settles in Kansas City, where she and her former teacher and lover, Ona, found the first female-run African American newspaper, Jam! On the Vine. In the throes of the Red Summer — the 1919 outbreak of lynchings and race riots across the Midwest — Ivoe risks her freedom, and her life, to call attention to the atrocities of segregation in the American prison system.

This House Is Not for Sale: A Novel by E.C. Osondu

Harper, February 3, 2015, Hardcover

A powerful tale of family and community, This House Is Not for Sale brings to life an African neighborhood and one remarkable house, seen through the eyes of a young member of the household. The house lies in a town seemingly lost in time, full of colorful, larger-than-life characters; at the narrative’s heart are Grandpa, the family patriarch whose occasional cruelty is balanced by his willingness to open his doors to those in need, and the house itself, which becomes a character in its own right and takes on the scale of legend.

From the decades-long rivalry between owners of two competing convenience stores to the man who convinces his neighbors to give up their earthly possessions to prepare for the end of the world, Osondu’s story captures a place beyond the reach of the outside world, full of superstitions and myths that sustain its people.

The Work: My Search for a Life That Matters
Wes Moore

Spiegel & Grau, January 13, 2015, Hardcover

The acclaimed author of The Other Wes Moore continues his inspirational quest for a meaningful life and shares the powerful lessons — about self-discovery, service, and risk-taking — that led him to a new definition of success for our times.

The Work is the story of how one young man traced a path through the world to find his life’s purpose. Wes Moore graduated from a difficult childhood in the Bronx and Baltimore to an adult life that would find him at some of the most critical moments in our recent history: as a combat officer in Afghanistan; a White House fellow in a time of wars abroad and disasters at home; and a Wall Street banker during the financial crisis. In this insightful book, Moore shares the lessons he learned from people he met along the way — from the brave Afghan translator who taught him to find his fight, to the resilient young students in Katrina-ravaged Mississippi who showed him the true meaning of grit, to his late grandfather, who taught him to find grace in service.

Moore also tells the stories of other twenty-first-century change-makers who’ve inspired him in his search, from Daniel Lubetzky, the founder of KIND, to Esther Benjamin, a Sri Lankan immigrant who rose to help lead the Peace Corps. What their lives — and his own misadventures and moments of illumination — reveal is that our truest work happens when we serve others, at the intersection between our gifts and our broken world. That’s where we find the work that lasts.

Our Auntie Rosa: The Family of Rosa Parks Remembers Her Life and Lessons
by Sheila McCauley Keys

Tarcher, January 22, 2015, Hardcover

A warrior in the fight for freedom, justice, and equality, Rosa Parks had the vision for a better world. She demonstrated that one person’s actions can indeed make a difference. What many don’t know is the person behind the persona. “Auntie Rosa,” as she was called by the many nieces and nephews she helped raise, extended her love and encouragement to her closest kin. She was a guiding force and inspiration in their lives, and in this remarkable book they share with readers the great wisdom Auntie Rosa imparted to them.

In Our Auntie Rosa the family of Rosa Parks presents a collection of personal remembrances, reflections, and never-before-seen photos and letters that pay tribute to Rosa Parks’s incredible strength and determination. Parks’s brave act on a bus in Alabama on December 1, 1955, was just one moment in a life lived with great humility and decency. Our Auntie Rosa is a life’s instruction manual from one of the most famous figures in American history that will inspire generations to come.

SOS – Calling All Black People: A Black Arts Movement Reader
edited by by John H. Bracey Jr., Sonia Sanchez, James Smethurst

Univ. of Massachusetts Press, February 28, 2014, Paperback

This volume brings together a broad range of key writings from the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s, among the most significant cultural movements in American history. The aesthetic counterpart of the Black Power movement, it burst onto the scene in the form of artists circles, writers workshops, drama groups, dance troupes, new publishing ventures, bookstores, and cultural centers and had a presence in practically every community and college campus with an appreciable African American population. Black Arts activists extended its reach even further through magazines such as Ebony and Jet, on television shows such as Soul! and Like It Is, and on radio programs.

Many of the movement s leading artists, including Amiri Baraka, Ed Bullins, Nikki Giovanni, Woodie King, Haki Madhubuti, Sonia Sanchez, Askia Tour, and Val Gray Ward remain artistically productive today. Its influence can also be seen in the work of later artists, from the writers Toni Morrison, John Edgar Wideman, and August Wilson to actors Avery Brooks, Danny Glover, and Samuel L. Jackson, to hip hop artists Mos Def, Talib Kweli, and Chuck D.

S.O.S Calling All Black People includes works of fiction, poetry, and drama in addition to critical writings on issues of politics, aesthetics, and gender. It covers topics ranging from the legacy of Malcolm X and the impact of John Coltrane s jazz to the tenets of the Black Panther Party and the music of Motown. The editors have provided a substantial introduction outlining the nature, history, and legacy of the Black Arts Movement as well as the principles by which the anthology was assembled.

Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the Selma Voting Rights March
by Lynda Blackmon Lowery

Dial, January 8, 2015, Hardcover

A memoir of the Civil Rights Movement from one of its youngest heroes

As the youngest marcher in the 1965 voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Albama, Lynda Blackmon Lowery proved that young adults can be heroes. Jailed eleven times before her fifteenth birthday, Lowery fought alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. for the rights of African-Americans. In this memoir, she shows today’s young readers what it means to fight nonviolently (even when the police are using violence, as in the Bloody Sunday protest) and how it felt to be part of changing American history.

Straightforward and inspiring, this beautifully illustrated memoir brings readers into the middle of the Civil Rights Movement, complementing Common Core classroom learning and bringing history alive for young readers.

Dark Girls

Amistad, November 11, 2014, Hardcover

From the director of the NAACP Award–nominated documentary comes this gorgeous companion book to celebrate dark-skinned women.

Black has never been more beautiful. Dark Girls is a testament to the strength and grace of women everywhere, no matter their skin tone, upbringing, or education. Featuring such celebrities as Lupita Nyong’o, Vanessa Williams, Sheryl Underwood, Judge Mablean, and Loretta Devine, Dark Girls presents outstanding women from all walks of life, sharing intimate insights into what their dark skin means to them.

Combining Barron Claiborne’s brilliant photography, Shelia Moses’s touching narrative, and Bill Duke’s extraordinary vision, Dark Girls is a beautiful and empowering work to be treasured by women of all ages. This thoughtful, sophisticated, and uplifting collection captures the elegance of dark skin—joyfully showcasing that we truly are beautiful for who we are.

X: A Novel
by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon

Candlewick, January 6, 2015, Hardcover

Co-written by Malcolm X’s daughter, this riveting and revealing novel follows the formative years of the man whose words and actions shook the world.

Malcolm Little’s parents have always told him that he can achieve anything, but from what he can tell, that’s a pack of lies—after all, his father’s been murdered, his mother’s been taken away, and his dreams of becoming a lawyer have gotten him laughed out of school. There’s no point in trying, he figures, and lured by the nightlife of Boston and New York, he escapes into a world of fancy suits, jazz, girls, and reefer. But Malcolm’s efforts to leave the past behind lead him into increasingly dangerous territory. Deep down, he knows that the freedom he’s found is only an illusion—and that he can’t run forever.

X follows Malcolm from his childhood to his imprisonment for theft at age twenty, when he found the faith that would lead him to forge a new path and command a voice that still resonates today.

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