Category Archives: Feature

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Essence Magazine’s Book Features for April 2015

Essence Magazine’s book features for April 2015, selected to catch some Spring Fever — featuring Attica Locke, Eric Jerome Dickey, Angela Flournoy, Tracey Baptiste, Tracy K. Smith:

Pleasantville (Jay Porter Series) by Attica Locke

Harper, April 21, 2015, Hardcover

In this sophisticated thriller, lawyer Jay Porter, hero of Attica Locke’s bestseller Black Water Rising, returns to fight one last case, only to become embroiled once again in a dangerous game of shadowy politics and a witness to how far those in power are willing to go to win.

Fifteen years after the events of Black Water Rising, Jay Porter is struggling to cope with catastrophic changes in his personal life and the disintegration of his environmental law practice. His victory against Cole Oil is still the crown jewel of his career, even if he hasn’t yet seen a dime thanks to appeals. But time has taken its toll. Tired and restless, hes ready to quit.

When a girl goes missing on Election Night, 1996, in the neighborhood of Pleasantville — a hamlet for upwardly mobile blacks on the north side of Houston — Jay, a single father, is deeply disturbed. He’s been representing Pleasantville in the wake of a chemical fire, and the case is dragging on, raising doubts about his ability.

The missing girl was a volunteer for one of the local mayoral candidates, and her disappearance complicates an already heated campaign. When the nephew of one of the candidates, a Pleasantville local, is arrested, Jay reluctantly finds himself serving as a defense attorney. With a man’s life and his own reputation on the line, Jay is about to try his first murder in a case that will also put an electoral process on trial, exposing the dark side of power and those determined to keep it.

One Night by Eric Jerome Dickey

Dutton, April 21, 2015, Hardcover

For one night, a couple checks in to an upscale hotel. The pair seem unlikely companions, from opposing strata of society, but their attraction is palpable to all who observe them — or overhear their cries of passion. In the course of twelve hours, con games, erotic interludes, jealousy, violence, and murder swirl around them. Will they part ways in bliss, in sorrow, or in death?

Filled with all the hallmarks of an Eric Jerome Dickey bestseller — erotic situations, edge-of-your-seat twists and turns, and fun, believable relationships — One Night will delight Dickey’s existing fans and lure countless new ones.

The Turner House by Angela Flournoy

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 14, 2015, Hardcover

The Turners have lived on Yarrow Street for over fifty years. Their house has seen thirteen children grown and gone — and some returned; it has seen the arrival of grandchildren, the fall of Detroit’s East Side, and the loss of a father. The house still stands despite abandoned lots, an embattled city, and the inevitable shift outward to the suburbs. But now, as ailing matriarch Viola finds herself forced to leave her home and move in with her eldest son, the family discovers that the house is worth just a tenth of its mortgage. The Turner children are called home to decide its fate and to reckon with how each of their pasts haunts — and shapes — their family’s future.

The Turner House brings us a colorful, complicated brood full of love and pride, sacrifice and unlikely inheritances. It’s a striking examination of the price we pay for our dreams and futures, and the ways in which our families bring us home.

The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste

Algonquin Young Readers, April 28, 2015, Hardcover

The jumbies are coming!

Corinne La Mer isn’t afraid of anything. Not scorpions, not the boys who tease her, and certainly not jumbies. She knows that jumbies aren’t real; they’re just creatures parents make up to frighten their children. But on All Hallows’ Eve, Corinne chases an agouti all the way into the forbidden woods. Those shining yellow eyes that follow her to the edge of the trees, they couldn’t belong to a jumbie. Or could they?

Corinne begins to notice odd occurrences after that night. First she spots a beautiful stranger speaking to the town witch at the market. Then this same beauty, called Severine, turns up at Corinne’s house, cooking dinner for her father. Danger is in the air. Sure enough, bewitching Corinne’s father is the first step in Severine’s plan to claim the entire island for the jumbies. Corinne must call on her courage and her friends and ancient magic to stop Severine and to save her island home.

Ordinary Light: A memoir by Tracy K. Smith

Knopf, March 31, 2015, Hardcover

From the dazzlingly original Pulitzer Prize-winning poet: a quietly potent memoir that explores coming-of-age and the meaning of home against a complex backdrop of race, faith, and the unbreakable bond between a mother and daughter.

The youngest of five children, Tracy K. Smith was raised with limitless affection and a firm belief in God by a stay-at-home mother and an engineer father. But just as Tracy is about to leave home for college, her mother is diagnosed with cancer, a condition she accepts as part of God’s plan. Ordinary Light is the story of a young woman struggling to fashion her own understanding of belief, loss, history, and what it means to be black in America.

In lucid, clear prose, Smith interrogates her childhood in suburban California, her first collision with independence at Harvard, and her Alabama-born parents’ recollections of their own youth in the Civil Rights era. These dizzying juxtapositions — of her family’s past, her own comfortable present, and the promise of her future — will in due course compel Tracy to act on her passions for love and “ecstatic possibility,” and her desire to become a writer.

Shot through with exquisite lyricism, wry humor, and an acute awareness of the beauty of everyday life, Ordinary Light is a gorgeous kaleidoscope of self and family, one that skillfully combines a child’s and teenager’s perceptions with adult retrospection. Here is a universal story of being and becoming, a classic portrait of the ways we find and lose ourselves amid the places we call home.

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.

Essence Magazine’s Book Features for October 2014

Essence Magazine’s book features for October 2014, highlighting “five fierce & fearless new books” — featuring George Clinton, Dr. Cornel West, Bridgett M. Davis, Eartha Kitt, and Rachel Renee Russell:

Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard on You?: A Memoir
by George Clinton and Ben Greenman

Atria Books
October 21, 2014
Hardcover

The long-awaited memoir from one of the greatest bandleaders, hit makers, and most influential pop artists of our time — known for over forty R&B hit singles — George Clinton of Parliament-Funkadelic.

George Clinton began his musical career in New Jersey, where his obsession with doo-wop and R&B led to a barbershop quartet — literally, as Clinton and his friends also styled hair in the local shop — the way kids often got their musical start in the 50s. But how many kids like that ended up playing to tens of thousands of rabid fans alongside a diaper-clad guitarist? How many of them commissioned a spaceship and landed it onstage during concerts? How many put their stamp on four decades of pop music, from the mind-expanding sixties to the hip-hop-dominated nineties and beyond?

One of them. That’s how many.

How George Clinton got from barbershop quartet to funk music megastar is a story for the ages. As a high school student he traveled to New York City, where he absorbed all the trends in pop music, from traditional rhythm and blues to Motown, the Beatles, the Stones, and psychedelic rock, not to mention the formative funk of James Brown and Sly Stone. By the dawn of the seventies, he had emerged as the leader of a wildly creative musical movement composed mainly of two bands — Parliament and Funkadelic. And by the bicentennial, Clinton and his P-Funk empire were dominating the soul charts as well as the pop charts. He was an artistic visionary, visual icon, merry prankster, absurdist philosopher, and savvy businessmen, all rolled into one. He was like no one else in pop music, before or since.

Written with wit, humor, and candor, this memoir provides tremendous insight into America’s music industry as forever changed by Clinton’s massive talent. This is a story of a beloved global icon who dedicated himself to spreading the gospel of funk music.

Black Prophetic Fire by Cornel West and Christa Buschendorf

Beacon Press, October 7, 2014, Hardcover

An unflinching look at nineteenth- and twentieth-century African American leaders and their visionary legacies.

In an accessible, conversational format, Cornel West, with distinguished scholar Christa Buschendorf, provides a fresh perspective on six revolutionary African American leaders: Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. Du Bois, Martin Luther King Jr., Ella Baker, Malcolm X, and Ida B. Wells. In dialogue with Buschendorf, West examines the impact of these men and women on their own eras and across the decades. He not only rediscovers the integrity and commitment within these passionate advocates but also their fault lines.

West, in these illuminating conversations with the German scholar and thinker Christa Buschendorf, describes Douglass as a complex man who is both “the towering Black freedom fighter of the nineteenth century” and a product of his time who lost sight of the fight for civil rights after the emancipation. He calls Du Bois “undeniably the most important Black intellectual of the twentieth century” and explores the more radical aspects of his thinking in order to understand his uncompromising critique of the United States, which has been omitted from the American collective memory. West argues that our selective memory has sanitized and even “Santaclausified” Martin Luther King Jr., rendering him less radical, and has marginalized Ella Baker, who embodies the grassroots organizing of the civil rights movement. The controversial Malcolm X, who is often seen as a proponent of reverse racism, hatred, and violence, has been demonized in a false opposition with King, while the appeal of his rhetoric and sincerity to students has been sidelined. Ida B. Wells, West argues, shares Malcolm X’s radical spirit and fearless speech, but has “often become the victim of public amnesia.”

By providing new insights that humanize all of these well-known figures, in the engrossing dialogue with Buschendorf, and in his insightful introduction and powerful closing essay, Cornel West takes an important step in rekindling the Black prophetic fire so essential in the age of Obama.



Into the Go-Slow by Bridgett M. Davis

The Feminist Press at CUNY, September 9, 2014, Paperback

It’s 1986 and twenty-one-year-old Angie continues to mourn the death of her brilliant and radical sister Ella. On impulse, she travels from Detroit to the place where Ella tragically died four years before — Nigeria. She retraces her sister’s steps, all the while navigating the chaotic landscape of a major African country on the brink of democracy careening toward a coup d’tat.

At the center of this quest is a love affair that upends everything Angie thought she knew about herself. Against a backdrop of Nigeria’s infamous go-slow — traffic as wild and surprising as a Fela lyric — Angie begins to unravel the mysteries of the past, and opens herself up to love and life after Ella.

Bridgett M. Davis’s debut novel Shifting Through Neutral (Amistad, 2004) was a Borders Books “Original Voices” selection and a finalist for the 2005 Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright LEGACY Award. Davis was selected as the New Author of the Year by Go On Girl! Book Club — the largest national reading group for African American women. She currently writes for O, The Oprah Magazine and other publications.

America’s Mistress: The Life and Times of Miss Eartha Kitt
by John L. Williams

Quercus, October 7, 2014, Hardcover

Strait-laced, pre-civil rights America wasn’t ready for Eartha Kitt. Waiting for others to be ready was never her style. in America’s Mistress John L. Williams captures the person behind the myth in this engaging biography but also race relations in Twentieth-century America.

From humble roots on a South Carolina cotton plantation, the multilingual, possibly multi-racial chanteuse emerged seemingly from nowhere to seduce the nation and redefine cosmopolitan glamour. Blending intellect, self-awareness and unprecedented sex appeal, she was a Technicolor presence in a black-and-white world.

But the key to her allure was always her mystery, and her three not-entirely-consistent autobiographies raise more questions than they answer about who she really was–whether singing, dancing, acting or drawing headlines for her romantic dalliances and political activism.

Drawing on extensive original research and interviews with the people who knew her best, Williams–whose previous biographical subjects include Shirley Bassey and English civil rights activist Michael X–delivers a comprehensive, compassionate and thought-provoking record of a life that defied stereotypes, shattered boundaries, yet seemed to fall short of its potential in the end.

Beginning with Eartha’s tumultuous childhood, Williams makes a bold claim about the identity of her true father–a question that has never been answered. From there Williams traces her escape to Harlem, where she came into contact with leading black entertainers and found quick success as a company dancer-which, in turn, enabled her to travel the world and segue into film, television and music stardom.

Williams details her time at the top of the entertainment business–when Orson Welles famously called her “the most exciting woman in the world”–with candor and striking revelations. America’s Mistress focuses on how, as Eartha’s social consciousness developed, she found herself awkwardly torn between the realities of Jim Crow oppression and her lucrative role as white America’s ultimate sex kitten.

Whether or not her decline began with her 1968 infamous public confrontation with Lady Bird Johnson (that left the First Lady in tears), the later decades of Eartha’s life were marked by America’s growing indifference to the woman who once captured its attention like no one before or since.

But America’s Mistress is ultimately a celebration of a remarkable American life that paved the way for black entertainers from Belafonte to Beyonce. With objectivity and thoroughness, John L. Williams provides sought-after answers to tantalizing and elusive questions.



Dork Diaries 7: Tales from a Not-So-Glam TV Star
by Rachel Renee Russell

Aladdin, June 3, 2014, Hardcover

Everyone’s been rooting for Nikki Maxwell and her crush, Brandon and fans will finally learn if they had their first kiss in this seventh book of the New York Times bestselling Dork Diaries series!

Nikki’s juggling a lot this month. A reality TV crew is following Nikki and her friends as they record their hit song together, plus there are voice lessons, dance practice, and little sister Brianna’s latest wacky hijinks. Nikki’s sure she can handle everything, but will all the excitement cause new problems for Nikki and Brandon, now that cameras are everywhere Nikki goes?

The Dork Diaries series has more than 13 million copies in print worldwide!

Child, Please: How I Learned That When It Comes to Raising Kids, My Mother Had It Right All Along
by Ylonda Gault Caviness

Tarcher, April 14, 2015, Hardcover

In this wise and funny memoir, Ylonda Gault Caviness describes her journey to the realization that all the parenting advice she was obsessively devouring as a new parent (and sharing with the world as a parenting expert on NPR, Today, in The Huffington Post, and elsewhere) didn’t mean scratch compared to her mama’s old school wisdom as a strong black woman and mother.

With child number one, Caviness set her course: to give her children everything she had. Child number two came along and she patiently persisted. But when her third kid arrived, she was finally so exhausted that she decided to listen to what her mother had been saying to her for years: Give them everything they want, and there’ll be nothing left of you. In Child, Please, Caviness describes the road back to embracing a more sane — not to mention loving — way of raising children. Her mother had it right all along.

Ebony Magazine’s Book Features for July 2014

Ebony Magazine’s book selections for July 2014, featuring their “Summer Must-Reads” (J.J. Murray’s “Until I Saw Your Smile,” Gillian Royes’ “The Sea Grape Tree,” and Tiphanie Yamique’s “Land of Love and Drowning”), Toni Braxton’s memoir “Unbreak My Heart,” and T.D. Jakes’ “Instinct”:

Michael Jackson, Inc.: The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of a Billion-Dollar Empire

by Zack O’Malley Greenburg

Atria Books, June 3, 2014, Hardcover

The surprising rags-to-riches-to-rags-to-riches story of how Michael Jackson grew a billion-dollar business.

Michael Jackson is known by many as the greatest entertainer of all time, but he was also a revolutionary when it came to business. In addition to famously buying the Beatles’ publishing catalogue, Jackson was one of the first pop stars to launch his own clothing line, record label, sneakers, and video games — creating a fundamental shift in the monetization of fame and paving the way for entertainer-entrepreneurs like Jay Z and Diddy. All told, Jackson earned more than $1.1 billion in his solo career, and the assets he built in life have earned more than $700 million in the five years since his death — more than any other solo music act over that time.

Michael Jackson, Inc. reveals the incredible rise, fall, and rise again of Michael Jackson’s fortune — driven by the unmatched perfectionism of the King of Pop. Forbes senior editor Zack O’Malley Greenburg uncovers never-before-told stories from interviews with more than 100 people, including music industry veterans Berry Gordy, John Branca, and Walter Yetnikoff; artists 50 Cent, Sheryl Crow, and Jon Bon Jovi; and members of the Jackson family. Other insights come from court documents and Jackson’s private notes, some of them previously unpublished. Through Greenburg’s novelistic telling, a clear picture emerges of Jackson’s early years, his rise to international superstardom, his decline — fueled by demons internal and external, as well as the dissolution of the team that helped him execute his best business moves — and, finally, his financial life after death.

Underlying Jackson’s unique history is the complex but universal tale of the effects of wealth and fame on the human psyche. A valuable case study for generations of entertainers to come and for anyone interested in show business, Michael Jackson, Inc. tells the story of a man whose financial feats, once obscured by his late-life travails, have become an enduring legacy.

Listen Out Loud: A Life in Music–Managing McCartney, Madonna, and Michael Jackson

Ron Weisner

Lyons Press, June 3, 2014, Hardcover

Even hardcore music fans don’t know the name Ron Weisner . . . but they should. A high-powered manager for over four decades, Ron worked alongside Madonna, Paul McCartney, Steve Winwood, Gladys Knight, Curtis Mayfield, Bill Withers, and, most notably, Michael Jackson. He saw the King of Pop through his game-changing multi-platinum albums Thriller and Off the Wall. He watched M.J.’s prickly father Joe run roughshod over both his son and industry execs. He fought back as the industry tried to steer Jackson in a musical direction that would have derailed his career. And he saw Michael suffer through devastating press coverage that turned the troubled singer’s world upside down.

Featuring an introduction from Quincy Jones and commentary from Winwood, Knight, and some behind-the-scenes record label power brokers, Weisner’s illuminating memoir Listen Out Loud underscores the destructive changes to the industry during his forty-year career, including the shift in focus from artistic integrity to the pursuit of cold hard numbers. It’s an intimate glimpse into the music world from a man with a keen eye, sharp ears, and a big heart.

Until I Saw Your Smile by J.J. Murray

Kensington, May 27, 2014, Paperback

At Smith’s Sweet Treats and Coffee, you’ll find Brooklyn’s best house blend and the freshest homemade pastries. It’s more than a business to owner Angela Smith. It’s her home and her refuge–one she stands to lose thanks to her gouging landlord. Then a new regular offers to cover her rent increase if Angela lets him meet his clients there. If Matthew McConnell weren’t such a persuasive lawyer–and so sweet, funny, and sexy–she wouldn’t dream of letting him in.

Since he left a high-paying, soul-sucking legal firm to go solo, Matthew has been striking out, professionally and personally. The best part of his love life is regaling Angela with date-from-hell stories over steaming, fragrant coffee. Behind her captivating smile is a smart, sensual woman he’d love to get close to. And when a secret from her past is suddenly exposed, he gets a chance to prove he’s the man she needs, in every way that matters. . .

The Sea Grape Tree: A Novel (Shad Myers)
Gillian Royes

Atria Books, July 1, 2014, Paperback

Set in a sun-kissed Caribbean paradise, this third book in the Shad detective series explores a love triangle gone wrong — and how class divisions create a perfect storm of trouble.

Sarah, a talented but shy artist from England, arrives at the perfect getaway — a small fishing village in Largo Bay, Jamaica. There she falls in love with Danny, a wealthy investor with a hotel in Largo Bay. Soon Sarah runs afoul of her host as well as Danny’s local lover, and her fate, as well as that of Danny’s hotel, become endangered.

Meanwhile, Shad Myers — bartender by trade, investigator by vocation, and unofficial sheriff of Largo Bay — has another set of problems to solve, alongside his friend Eric, an American who owns the bar. The two friends entertain a new potential investor in their quest to rebuild their hotel left in ruins by a hurricane. Eric wants to make Shad a partner in the business, not just a worker. But first the two must overcome the class divisions that make it difficult for local partners in the business to accept Shad’s new, more important role.

With a delicious blend of suspense and soul, The Sea Grape Tree explores the class divisions in Jamaica — and what happens when a love triangle becomes life threatening. Gillian Royes once again delivers a vivid, thought-provoking novel with passion and punch that is sure to leave her fans wanting more.

Land of Love and Drowning: A Novel by Tiphanie Yanique

Riverhead Hardcover, July 10, 2014, Hardcover

A major debut from an award-winning writer—an epic family saga set against the magic and the rhythms of the Virgin Islands.

In the early 1900s, the Virgin Islands are transferred from Danish to American rule, and an important ship sinks into the Caribbean Sea. Orphaned by the shipwreck are two sisters and their half brother, now faced with an uncertain identity and future. Each of them is unusually beautiful, and each is in possession of a particular magic that will either sink or save them.

Chronicling three generations of an island family from 1916 to the 1970s, Land of Love and Drowning is a novel of love and magic, set against the emergence of Saint Thomas into the modern world. Uniquely imagined, with echoes of Toni Morrison, Gabriel Garci­a Marquez, and the author’s own Caribbean family history, the story is told in a language and rhythm that evoke an entire world and way of life and love. Following the Bradshaw family through sixty years of fathers and daughters, mothers and sons, love affairs, curses, magical gifts, loyalties, births, deaths, and triumphs, Land of Love and Drowning is a gorgeous, vibrant debut by an exciting, prizewinning young writer.

The African-American Guide to Divorce & Drama: Breaking Up Without Breaking Down
by Lester L. Barclay

Khari Publishing Ltd, June 27, 2013, Hardcover

The first-ever comprehensive book on divorce tailored specifically for the black community, The African-American Guide to Divorce & Drama is a 277-page guide that skillfully shepherds readers through the often painful process of separation and divorce, while seeking to minimize the “drama” and trauma for them and their children. Its message focuses primarily on divorce and non-marital separation, alongside custody, visitation, child support, financial disputes, and related issues in the context of African-American cultural and social realities.

Get Married This Year: 365 Days to “I Do” by Dr. Janet Blair Page

Adams Media, December 18, 2011, Hardcover

Forget waiting for Mr. Right! You can go out and find “The One” yourself when you follow this plan. Celebrated relationship expert Dr. Janet Blair Page has distilled the very best of her acclaimed dating class at Emory University — the one covered by CNN, FOX, Good Morning America, and The Early Show — into this one-of-a-kind book. She’s helped bring thousands of singles true love — and now it’s your turn!

Burning Down the House: The End of Juvenile Prison
Nell Bernstein

New Press, The June 3, 2014, Hardcover

When teenagers scuffle during a basketball game, they are typically benched. But when Will got into it on the court, he and his rival were sprayed in the face at close range by a chemical similar to Mace, denied a shower for twenty-four hours, and then locked in solitary confinement for a month.

One in three American children will be arrested by the time they are twenty-three, and many will spend time locked inside horrific detention centers that defy everything we know about how to rehabilitate young offenders. In a clear-eyed indictment of the juvenile justice system run amok, award-winning journalist Nell Bernstein shows that there is no right way to lock up a child. The very act of isolation denies delinquent children the thing that is most essential to their growth and rehabilitation: positive relationships with caring adults.

Bernstein introduces us to youth across the nation who have suffered violence and psychological torture at the hands of the state. She presents these youths all as fully realized people, not victims. As they describe in their own voices their fight to maintain their humanity and protect their individuality in environments that would deny both, these young people offer a hopeful alternative to the doomed effort to reform a system that should only be dismantled.

Burning Down the House is a clarion call to shut down our nation’s brutal and counterproductive juvenile prisons and bring our children home.

Interview with Earl Middleton

Author Earl Middleton

Earl Middleton earned a BBA in accounting from Adelphi University and an M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary, then went on to preach more than 2,000 sermons, create over 400 YouTube teaching videos, and write 10 books under the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

A former pastor of congregations in NY, NJ, CT, and CA, he loves preaching and teaching the Word of God across multiple platforms despite his retirement from the pastorate after 22 years of service. He is a past member of the Professional Comedians’ Association, and the creator of the Internet’s first Christian dramedic series, Fine Church Girls.

Author Earl MiddletonA longtime member of Mensa, Earl lives in Los Angeles with his family and throws up a whole buncha shots a day at his local YMCA. He’s currently at work navigating new, hilarious plot twists with Pastor Tony Hook and the rest of the zany characters of the First Baptist Church of Belton, NJ. He is available for revivals, preaching engagements, family healing seminars, writing workshops, and basketball jumpshot coaching.

(1) “Christian and Urban Fiction are bestsellers in African American literature. It appears that you have combined elements of both in your character Pastor Tony Hooks in My Pastor Didn’t Do It. What makes him stand out?”
Tony Hook is a unique character in African American literature primarily because he’s both an urbane and urban black Christian who happens to be the pastor of a traditional black church. His anointing definitely doesn’t match his ministry, and the many molehills that surround his life keep erupting into mountains too difficult for him to scale by himself. He’s the rare example in African American literature of a pastor who is lovable, believes that a merry heart does good like a medicine, and yet lives the kind of clean life that necessarily draws trouble like a magnet. As Paul said, “I find then a law that when I would do good evil is present with me.” With the plethora of shady, hypocritical, and acutely flawed pastoral characters currently flooding the urban Christian fiction landscape, Tony Hook is my response from the other side of the altar. I’ve pastored churches like First Baptist and lived in communities like Belton, so I bring a layer of realism to the character while having a ball inventing new ways for him to get stuck at Baal-Zephon, between a rock and a hard place…or the Red Sea. I believe there’s both room and need in African American literature for a fictional pastor cast as an edgy good guy to restore the audience’s faith in the black pulpit.

(2)What elements, such as setting, character, and plot, drive your story? Are there any personal inspirations in your story?
There’s a strong sense of place in my fiction writing, and I’ve been told that my stories are very descriptive and many of the characters are memorable. But because I’m writing a classic whodunit mystery to introduce Tony Hook and the My Pastor series, I’ve leaned heavily on plot to drive the story. I want readers to wonder what’s going to happen next, and have a difficult time figuring out who did it (obviously, from the title, it wasn’t the pastor…or was it? LOL). The central idea for this story actually comes from a real life cold case murder that took place at one the congregations I pastored…after I left, of course! I wondered what it would have been like if the murder happened while I was still the pastor of that congregation, and before I knew it I had a full length novel on my hands.

(3) There are so many characters in your story. What’s next for them? Do you have any favorites that are going to have their own stories?
Although I write fiction (and non-fiction) I’m really a prophet at heart, and believe that every person’s story is the most important event in their world. As a result I really think there are no minor characters in life, and I bring that conviction to my fiction writing. I wish I had the time to tell all of my characters’ stories in full, and perhaps one day I’ll have enough time to do that. Until then I’ll have to settle on my plans to spin off both Mother Freddy, the gun-toting, sombrero wearing matron of First Baptist Belton, and Cornel Brown, the white pastor with the sweetest whoop in Newark who claims to be a descendent of John Brown, the Harper’s Ferry dude.

(4)What is on your bookshelf or nightstand? Do you have any favorite authors?
Right now on my nightstand there’s an iPad with the Kindle app. I’m totally hooked on digital media. I’ve gotten over paper a long time ago. When it comes to fiction I like a hip, urgent, urbane voice, so I’m drawn to people like John Ridley, Paul Beatty, and Adam Mansbach. I love mysteries and still enjoy rereading Walter Mosley, Janet Evanovich (she’s hilarious), and even Valerie Wilson Wesley. I don’t read a lot of Christian fiction, urban nor prairie, but I respect what Brenda Barrett is doing. That woman’s a machine! When it comes to non-fiction I’m drawn to anything that looks at left brain stuff from a right brain perspective. I’ve been reading a lot of Daniel Pink lately, and of course Seth Godin is required reading for anyone who wants to build or create something salient. And, believe it or not, I do read the Bible. A lot. Still. 😉

My Pastor Didn’t Do It by Earl Middleton
Food for Faith Publications, September 22, 2013, Paperback

Pastor Tony Hook is everybody’s favorite preacher in the quiet Newark suburb of Belton, NJ. Well, almost everybody’s. Conflicts, tensions, and resolutions grace every turn of this clean and humorous black church caper. And it’s all from the witty mind and converted heart of a real seminary trained preacher with 22 years of pastoral experience.

When the sexy Anemone Allon’s body turns up in her basement naked, sporting a hole through the head, the only evidence recovered from the scene is Hook’s DNA, and all he can offer for an alibi is that he was alone in his study, praying for Anemone’s soul. And his own. Of course, golden-eyed detective Sgt. Chris Sears sets her sights on him as her prime suspect, jeopardizing his future at any church, and Pastor Hook launches his own investigation into the murder. With an anonymous rival who will stop at nothing to get him out of the way, and a crusty trustee who will try almost anything to get rid of him also breathing down his neck, only heaven can help Hook out of this mess, but God has chosen this time to go silent on him. Pursued by good and hounded by evil, poisoned by deadly wildlife and stricken with writer’s block, Pastor Hook must overcome Jobian loss and ugly suits, resist witchcraft, brave fire, dodge bullets, survive explosions, and tame ravenous beasts to track down the killer.

As the body count rises, and in spite of “help” from his iconoclastic best buddy, Rev. Cornel Brown, and his nutty adopted mother, Freddie Pearl, Hook unravels the mystery, exposing the killer in a final confrontation before the entire Belton community. In the end almost no one is who they appeared to be in this clerical romp, and Hook realizes that even for pastors some cliches are built on truth: home is where the heart is, and the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

Essence Magazine’s Book Features for June 2014

Essence Magazine’s book selections for June 2014, featuring their “Summer Reading Challenge” (Wendy Williams’ “Hold Me in Contempt,” Walter Mosley’s “Debbie Doesn’t Do It Anymore,” Morowa Yejide’s “Time of the Locust,” Cynthia Bond’s “Ruby,” Lauren Francis-Sharma’s’s “‘Til the Well Runs Dry,” and Elizabeth Nunez’ “Not for Everyday Use”), Toni Braxton’s memoir “Unbreak My Heart,” and T.D. Jakes’ “Instinct”:

Hold Me in Contempt: A Romance by Wendy Williams

Move over 50 Shades, there’s a new romance in town. Superstar Wendy Williams brings on the heat in her first ever, no-holds-barred, down and dirty, romance novel.

Kimberly Kind is trying to get beyond her roots. A successful, beautiful, smart lawyer, she’s finally finding direction in her life and getting out of the streets. But a terrible accident threatens to throw her carefully laid plans off course. Now Kim’s hiding a huge secret — one that could threaten everything.

Enter King. A perfect mix of Justin Timberlake and David Beckham, the man oozes sex and has more swagger than anyone Kim’s ever met. Their chemistry is off the charts. But after passion-filled nights, the intensity of their emotions takes both of them by surprise.

Love was not supposed to be an option. Now it’s the only thing holding them together. When their pasts come back with a vengeance, can love possibly be enough?

Debbie Doesn’t Do It Anymore: A Novel by Walter Mosley

In this scorching, mournful, often explicit, and never less than moving literary novel by the famed creator of the Easy Rawlins series, Debbie Dare, a black porn queen, has to come to terms with her sordid life in the adult entertainment industry after her tomcatting husband dies in a hot tub. Electrocuted. With another woman in there with him. Debbie decides she just isn’t going to “do it anymore.” But executing her exit strategy from the porn world is a wrenching and far from simple process.

Millions of men (and no doubt many women) have watched famed black porn queen Debbie Dare — she of the blond wig and blue contacts — “do it” on television and computer screens every which way with every combination of partners the mind of man can imagine. But one day an unexpected and thunderous on-set orgasm catches Debbie unawares, and when she returns to the mansion she shares with her husband, insatiable former porn star and “film producer” Theon Pinkney, she discovers that he’s died in a case of hot tub electrocution, “auditioning” an aspiring “starlet.” Burdened with massive debts that her husband incurred, and which various L.A. heavies want to collect on, Debbie must reckon with a life spent in the peculiar subculture of the pornography industry and her estrangement from her family and the child she had to give up. She’s done with porn, but her options for what might come next include the possibility of suicide. Debbie . . . is a portrait of a ransacked but resilient soul in search of salvation and a cure for grief.

Time of the Locust: A Novel by Morowa Yejide

Travel into the heart and mind of an extraordinary autistic boy in this deeply imaginative debut novel of a mother’s devotion, a father’s punishment, and the power of love.

Sephiri is an autistic boy who lives in a world of his own making, where he dwells among imagined sea creatures that help him process information in the “real world” in which he is forced to live. But lately he has been having dreams of a mysterious place, and he starts creating fantastical sketches of this strange, inner world.

Brenda, Sephiri’s mother, struggles with raising her challenged child alone. Her only wish is to connect with him — a smile on his face would be a triumph. Meanwhile, Sephiri’s father, Horus, is sentenced to life in prison, making life even lonelier for Brenda and Sephiri. Yet prison is still not enough to separate father and son. In the seventh year of his imprisonment and the height of his isolation, Horus develops supernatural mental abilities that allow him to reach his son. Memory and yearning carry him outside his body, and through the realities of their ordeals and dreamscape, Horus and Sephiri find each other — and find hope in ways never imagined.

Deftly portrayed by the remarkable and talented up-and-comer Morowa Yejide, Time of the Locust is a brilliant narrative about the psychological realms of solitude, youth, and wonder. At its heart, this is a harrowing, surreal, and redemptive journey to the union of a family.

Ruby: A Novel by Cynthia Bond

The epic, unforgettable story of a man determined to protect the woman he loves from the town desperate to destroy her — this beautiful and devastating debut heralds the arrival of a major new voice in fiction.

Ephram Jennings has never forgotten the beautiful girl with the long braids running through the piney woods of Liberty, their small East Texas town. Young Ruby, “the kind of pretty it hurt to look at,” has suffered beyond imagining, so as soon as she can, she flees suffocating Liberty for the bright pull of 1950s New York. Ruby quickly winds her way into the ripe center of the city–the darkened piano bars and hidden alleyways of the Village–all the while hoping for a glimpse of the red hair and green eyes of her mother. When a telegram from her cousin forces her to return home, thirty-year-old Ruby Bell finds herself reliving the devastating violence of her girlhood. With the terrifying realization that she might not be strong enough to fight her way back out again, Ruby struggles to survive her memories of the town’s dark past. Meanwhile, Ephram must choose between loyalty to the sister who raised him and the chance for a life with the woman he has loved since he was a boy.

Full of life, exquisitely written, and suffused with the pastoral beauty of the rural South, Ruby is a transcendent novel of passion and courage. This wondrous page-turner rushes through the red dust and gossip of Main Street, to the pit fire where men swill bootleg outside Bloom’s Juke, to Celia Jennings’s kitchen where a cake is being made, yolk by yolk, that Ephram will use to try to begin again with Ruby. Utterly transfixing, with unforgettable characters, riveting suspense, and breathtaking, luminous prose, Ruby offers an unflinching portrait of man’s dark acts and the promise of the redemptive power of love.

‘Til the Well Runs Dry: A Novel by Lauren Francis-Sharma

A glorious and moving multi-generational, multicultural saga that begins in the 1940s and sweeps through the 1960’s in Trinidad and the United States.

Lauren Francis-Sharma‘s ‘Til the Well Runs Dry opens in a seaside village in the north of Trinidad where young Marcia Garcia, a gifted and smart-mouthed 16-year-old seamstress, lives alone, raising two small boys and guarding a family secret. When she meets Farouk Karam, an ambitious young policeman (so taken with Marcia that he elicits the help of a tea-brewing obeah woman to guarantee her ardor), the risks and rewards in Marcia’s life amplify forever.

On an island rich with laughter, Calypso, Carnival, cricket, beaches and salty air, sweet fruits and spicy stews, the novel follows Marcia and Farouk from their amusing and passionate courtship through personal and historical events that threaten Marcia’s secret, entangle the couple and their children in a scandal, and endanger the future for all of them.

‘Til the Well Runs Dry tells the twinned stories of a spirited woman’s love for one man and her bottomless devotion to her children. For readers who cherish the previously untold stories of women’s lives, here is a story of grit and imperfection and love that has not been told before.

Not for Everyday Use: A Memoir by Elizabeth Nunez

Tracing the four days from the moment she gets the call that every immigrant fears to the burial of her mother, Elizabeth Nunez tells the haunting story of her lifelong struggle to cope with the consequences of the “sterner stuff” of her parents’ ambitions for their children and her mother’s seemingly unbreakable conviction that displays of affection are not for everyday use.

But Nunez sympathizes with her parents, whose happiness is constrained by the oppressive strictures of colonialism, by the Catholic Church’s prohibition of artificial birth control which her mother obeys, terrified by the threat of eternal damnation (her mother gets pregnant fourteen times: nine live births and five miscarriages which almost kill her), and by what Malcolm Gladwell refers to as the “privilege of skin color” in his mother’s Caribbean island homeland where “the brown-skinned classes…came to fetishize their lightness.” Still, a fierce love holds this family together, and the passionate, though complex, love Nunez’s parents have for each other will remind readers of the passion between the aging lovers in Gabriel Garcia Marquez‘s Love in the Time of Cholera. Written in exquisite prose by a writer the New York Times Book Review calls “a master at pacing and plotting,” Not for Everyday Use is a page-turner that readers will find impossible to put down.

Unbreak My Heart: A Memoir by Toni Braxton

In this heartfelt memoir, six-time Grammy Award-winning artist and star of WE TV’s reality hit, Braxton Family Values, Toni Braxton writes about her personal life decisions and their impact on her health, family and career.

While Braxton appears to be living a gilded life — selling 60 million records, appearing in sold-out Las Vegas performances and hit shows like “Dancing with the Stars,” and starring in her own reality series — hers is in fact a tumultuous story, a tale of triumph over a life filled with obstacles, including two bankruptcy filings. The mother of an autistic child, Braxton long feared that her son’s condition might be karmic retribution for earlier life choices, some of which will shock fans. But when heart ailments began plaguing her at the age of 41 and she was diagnosed with Lupus, Braxton knew she had to move beyond the self-recrimination and take charge of her own healing.

Intensely honest and deeply inspirational, Unbreak My Heart is the never-before-told story of the measures Braxton took to make herself and her family whole again.

Instinct: The Power to Unleash Your Inborn Drive by T. D. Jakes

Modern life can seem like being lost in a jungle. With distractions and dangers emerging from every direction, it’s easy to lose focus. Over time, we lose touch with one of our most powerful, purposeful, God-given attributes–the desire to be fruitful and multiply, what Bishop T. D. Jakes calls our “instinct for increase.”

Combining historical, cultural, and personal examples with biblical insights, in INSTINCT, Bishop Jakes outlines how to re-discover your natural aptitudes and re-claim the wisdom of your past experiences. When attuned to divinely inspired instincts, you will become in sync with the opportunities life presents and discover a fresh abundance of resources. Knowing when to close a deal, when to take a risk, and when to listen to your heart will become possible when you’re in touch with the instincts that God gave you.

Bishop T.D. Jakes — iconic preacher, bestselling author, and entrepreneur–has inspired millions of people around the world. Here he writes from the peak of his personal power about how to experience the satisfaction of a life well lived. If you long to conquer the jungles of life, INSTINCT offers the personal and professional tools needed to navigate your course successfully and according to God’s design.

Essence Magazine’s Book Features for February 2014

Essence Magazine’s book selections for February 2014, featuring Southern novels “Queen Sugar” (Louisiana), “The Secret of Magic” (Mississippi), and “The Invention of Wings” (South Carolina):


Pamela Dorman Books, February 6, 2014, Hardcover

Viking Adult, 2/6/2014, Kindle Edition

Queen Sugar: A Novel by Natalie Baszile

A mother-daughter story of reinvention—about an African American woman who unexpectedly inherits a sugarcane farm in Louisiana

Why exactly Charley Bordelon’s late father left her eight hundred sprawling acres of sugarcane land in rural Louisiana is as mysterious as it was generous. Recognizing this as a chance to start over, Charley and her eleven-year-old daughter, Micah, say good-bye to Los Angeles.

They arrive just in time for growing season but no amount of planning can prepare Charley for a Louisiana that’s mired in the past: as her judgmental but big-hearted grandmother tells her, cane farming is always going to be a white man’s business. As the sweltering summer unfolds, Charley must balance the overwhelming challenges of her farm with the demands of a homesick daughter, a bitter and troubled brother, and the startling desires of her own heart.

Penguin has a rich tradition of publishing strong Southern debut fiction—from Sue Monk Kidd to Kathryn Stockett to Beth Hoffman. In Queen Sugar, we now have a debut from the African American point of view. Stirring in its storytelling of one woman against the odds and initimate in its exploration of the complexities of contemporary southern life, Queen Sugar is an unforgettable tale of endurance and hope.


Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam, January 21, 2014, Hardcover

Putnam Adult, 1/21/2014, Kindle Edition

The Secret of Magic by Deborah Johnson

In 1946, a young female attorney from New York City attempts the impossible: attaining justice for a black man in the Deep South.

Regina Robichard works for Thurgood Marshall, who receives an unusual letter asking the NAACP to investigate the murder of a returning black war hero. It is signed by M. P. Calhoun, the most reclusive author in the country. As a child, Regina was captivated by Calhoun’s The Secret of Magic, a novel in which white and black children played together in a magical forest.

Once down in Mississippi, Regina finds that nothing in the South is as it seems. She must navigate the muddy waters of racism, relationships, and her own tragic past. The Secret of Magic brilliantly explores the power of stories and those who tell them.


Viking Adult, January 7, 2014, Hardcover

Viking Adult, 1/7/2014, Kindle Edition

The Secret Life of Bees
The Tenth-Anniversary Edition
Penguin Books, November 23, 2011, Paperback

The Invention of Wings: With Notes by Sue Monk Kidd

From the celebrated author of “The Secret Life of Bees,” a magnificent novel about two unforgettable American women

Writing at the height of her narrative and imaginative gifts, Sue Monk Kidd presents a masterpiece of hope, daring, the quest for freedom, and the desire to have a voice in the world — and it is now the newest Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 selection.

Hetty “Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women.

Kidd’s sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid. We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love.

As the stories build to a riveting climax, Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. Sarah will experience crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, and ostracism before leaving Charleston to find her place alongside her fearless younger sister, Angelina, as one of the early pioneers in the abolition and women’s rights movements.

Inspired by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke, Kidd goes beyond the record to flesh out the rich interior lives of all of her characters, both real and invented, including Handful’s cunning mother, Charlotte, who courts danger in her search for something better.

This exquisitely written novel is a triumph of storytelling that looks with unswerving eyes at a devastating wound in American history, through women whose struggles for liberation, empowerment, and expression will leave no reader unmoved.