Tag Archives: biographies

Rest in Power: The Enduring Life of Trayvon Martin by Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin

Spiegel & Grau
January 31, 2017
Hardcover

Trayvon Martin’s parents take readers beyond the news cycle with an account only they could give: the intimate story of a tragically foreshortened life and the rise of a movement.

On a February evening in 2012, in a small town in central Florida, seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin was walking home with candy and a can of juice in hand and talking on the phone with a friend when a fatal encounter with a gun-wielding neighborhood watchman ended his young life. The watchman was briefly detained by the police and released. Trayvon’s father—a truck driver named Tracy—tried to get answers from the police but was shut down and ignored. Trayvon’s mother, a civil servant for the city of Miami, was paralyzed by the news of her son’s death and lost in mourning, unable to leave her room for days. But in a matter of weeks, their son’s name would be spoken by President Obama, honored by professional athletes, and passionately discussed all over traditional and social media. And at the head of a growing nationwide campaign for justice were Trayvon’s parents, who—driven by their intense love for their lost son—discovered their voices, gathered allies, and launched a movement that would change the country.

Five years after his tragic death, Travyon Martin’s name is still evoked every day. He has become a symbol of social justice activism, as has his hauntingly familiar image: the photo of a child still in the process of becoming a young man, wearing a hoodie and gazing silently at the camera. But who was Trayvon Martin, before he became, in death, an icon? And how did one black child’s death on a dark, rainy street in a small Florida town become the match that lit a civil rights crusade?

Rest in Power, told through the compelling alternating narratives of Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, answers, for the first time, those questions from the most intimate of sources. It’s the story of the beautiful and complex child they lost, the cruel unresponsiveness of the police and the hostility of the legal system, and the inspiring journey they took from grief and pain to power, and from tragedy and senselessness to meaning.

With Ossie and Ruby: In This Life Together by Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee

William Morrow
October 21, 1998
Hardcover

Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee are legendary stars of the American stage, television, and film, a beloved and revered couple cherished not just for their acting artistry but also for their lifelong commitment to civil rights, family values, and the black community. Now they look back on a half-century of their personal and political struggles to maintain a healthy marriage and to create the record of distinguished accomplishment that earned each a Presidential Medal for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts.

With Ossie and Ruby overflows with consummate storytelling skill developed by decades in the spotlight. From their early years as struggling actors in Harlem’s black theater to Broadway and Hollywood stardom, they regale the reader with colorful, entertaining tales of the places they’ve been and the people they’ve met. But their charming humor is leavened with a more serious side, as they share their experiences of keeping a family together in a world where scandal and divorce is the rule, and of being artists and political activists in an era of intense racial ferment. Born into the struggle, their characters were shaped by the dynamic collisions of life, politics, and art; and from those experiences, they achieved some sense of their worth as married people, friends, and lovers.

Warm, positive, and compelling, this is a book that will surprise and challenge readers everywhere — black and white, male and female, young and old. Lifting the veil of public image, media hype, and mystique, Ossie and Ruby speak of the real-life dilemmas and rewards of their lifelong search for purpose and value.

The Root’s Summer Reading List

The Root’s book selections for the Summer of 2014, featuring “Book of Hours” by Kevin Young, “Eslanda: The Large and Unconventional Life of Mrs. Paul Robeson” by Barbara Ransby, “Harlem Nocturne: Women Artists and Progressive Politics During World War II” by Farah Jasmine Griffin:

Book of Hours: Poems by Kevin Young

A decade after the sudden and tragic loss of his father, we witness the unfolding of grief. “In the night I brush / my teeth with a razor,” he tells us, in one of the collection’s piercing two-line poems. Capturing the strange silence of bereavement (“Not the storm / but the calm / that slays me”), Kevin Young acknowledges, even celebrates, life’s passages, his loss transformed and tempered in a sequence about the birth of his son: in “Crowning,” he delivers what is surely one of the most powerful birth poems written by a man, describing “her face / full of fire, then groaning your face / out like a flower, blood-bloom,/ crocused into air.” Ending this book of both birth and grief, the gorgeous title sequence brings acceptance, asking “What good/are wishes if they aren’t / used up?” while understanding “How to listen / to what’s gone.” Young’s frank music speaks directly to the reader in these elemental poems, reminding us that the right words can both comfort us and enlarge our understanding of life’s mysteries.

Eslanda: The Large and Unconventional Life of Mrs. Paul Robeson by Barbara Ransby

Eslanda “Essie” Cardozo Goode Robeson lived a colorful and amazing life. Her career and commitments took her many places: colonial Africa in 1936, the front lines of the Spanish Civil War, the founding meeting of the United Nations, Nazi-occupied Berlin, Stalin’s Russia, and China two months after Mao’s revolution. She was a woman of unusual accomplishment — an anthropologist, a prolific journalist, a tireless advocate of women’s rights, an outspoken anti-colonial and antiracist activist, and an internationally sought-after speaker. Yet historians for the most part have confined Essie to the role of Mrs. Paul Robeson, a wife hidden in the large shadow cast by her famous husband. In this masterful book, biographer Barbara Ransby refocuses attention on Essie, one of the most important and fascinating black women of the twentieth century.

Chronicling Essie’s eventful life, the book explores her influence on her husband’s early career and how she later achieved her own unique political voice. Essie’s friendships with a host of literary icons and world leaders, her renown as a fierce defender of justice, her defiant testimony before Senator Joseph McCarthy’s infamous anti-communist committee, and her unconventional open marriage that endured for over 40 years—all are brought to light in the pages of this inspiring biography. Essie’s indomitable personality shines through, as do her contributions to United States and twentieth-century world history.

Harlem Nocturne: Women Artists and Progressive Politics During World War II
by Farah Jasmine Griffin

As World War II raged overseas, Harlem witnessed a battle of its own. Brimming with creative and political energy, the neighborhood’s diverse array of artists and activists took advantage of a brief period of progressivism during the war years to launch a bold cultural offensive aimed at winning democracy for all Americans, regardless of race or gender. Ardent believers in America’s promise, these men and women helped to lay the groundwork for the Civil Rights Movement before Cold War politics and anti-Communist fervor temporarily froze their dreams at the dawn of the postwar era.

In Harlem Nocturne, esteemed scholar Farah Jasmine Griffin tells the stories of three black female artists whose creative and political efforts fueled this historic movement for change: choreographer and dancer Pearl Primus, composer and pianist Mary Lou Williams, and novelist Ann Petry. Like many African Americans in the city at the time, these women weren’t native New Yorkers, but the metropolis and its vibrant cultural scene gave them the space to flourish and the freedom to express their political concerns. Pearl Primus performed nightly at the legendary Cafe Society, the first racially integrated club in New York, where she debuted dances of social protest that drew on long-buried African traditions and the dances of former slaves in the South. Williams, meanwhile, was a major figure in the emergence of bebop, collaborating with Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, and Bud Powell and premiering her groundbreaking Zodiac Suite at the legendary performance space Town Hall. And Ann Petry conveyed the struggles of working-class black women to a national audience with her acclaimed novel The Street, which sold over a million copies — a first for a female African American author.

A rich biography of three artists and the city that inspired them, Harlem Nocturne captures a period of unprecedented vitality and progress for African Americans and women, revealing a cultural movement and a historical moment whose influence endures today.


The Cutting Season: A Novel by Attica Locke

Attica Locke‘s breathtaking debut novel, Black Water Rising, won resounding acclaim from major publications coast-to-coast and from respected crime fiction masters like James Ellroy and George Pelecanos, earning this exciting new author comparisons to Dennis Lehane, Scott Turow, and Walter Mosley. Locke returns with The Cutting Season, a second novel easily as gripping and powerful as her first — a heart-pounding thriller that interweaves two murder mysteries, one on Belle Vie, a historic landmark in the middle of Lousiana’s Sugar Cane country, and one involving a slave gone missing more than one hundred years earlier. Black Water Rising was nominated for a Los Angeles Times Book Prize, an Edgar Award, and an NAACP Image Award, and was short-listed for the Orange Prize in the U.K. The Cutting Season has been selected by bestselling author Dennis Lehane as the first pick for his new line of books at HarperCollins.

Men We Reaped: A Memoir by Jesmyn Ward

“We saw the lightning and that was the guns; and then we heard the thunder and that was the big guns; and then we heard the rain falling and that was the blood falling; and when we came to get in the crops, it was dead men that we reaped.” — Harriet Tubman

In five years, Jesmyn Ward lost five young men in her life — to drugs, accidents, suicide, and the bad luck that can follow people who live in poverty, particularly black men. Dealing with these losses, one after another, made Jesmyn ask the question: Why? And as she began to write about the experience of living through all the dying, she realized the truth — and it took her breath away. Her brother and her friends all died because of who they were and where they were from, because they lived with a history of racism and economic struggle that fostered drug addiction and the dissolution of family and relationships. Jesmyn says the answer was so obvious she felt stupid for not seeing it. But it nagged at her until she knew she had to write about her community, to write their stories and her own.

Jesmyn grew up in poverty in rural Mississippi. She writes powerfully about the pressures this brings, on the men who can do no right and the women who stand in for family in a society where the men are often absent. She bravely tells her story, revisiting the agonizing losses of her only brother and her friends. As the sole member of her family to leave home and pursue higher education, she writes about this parallel American universe with the objectivity distance provides and the intimacy of utter familiarity. A brutal world rendered beautifully, Jesmyn Ward’s memoir will sit comfortably alongside Edwidge Danticat’s Brother, I’m Dying, Tobias Wolff’s This Boy’s Life, and Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

Interview with Angela Ardis

Angela ArdisAngela Ardis is an exceptional writer of animation, live production, television, film and ghostwriting. She’s also written children’s books, poetry books, erotica, fiction and memoirs. Angela reached international acclaim with her memoir entitled, “Inside A Thug’s Heart,” which was compiled of an exchange of letters, poetry and conversations with the late rapper Tupac Shakur which was published in hard cover in 2004, re-released in paperback in 2009 and an e-book released 2013. This award-nominated book was also translated into Polish.

After a year of co-hosting the internet radio show “Talk with Angela and Hank,” Angela joined as co-host of the popular internet radio show “Lipstick, High Heels and B.S.,” a no-nonsense internet platform that allows her and several co-hosts to express their views on sex, relationships, love, current events and life. Here she was given an opportunity to head two segments, “Shoe Lover Tuesday,” where she expresses details, information and tips for everything shoes and “Lipstick Letters” where she gives advice, help and opinions on questions asked by the public.

Angela Ardis has experienced some success in films (“Black and Blue” and “All I Want“) as well as television shows like (“The Wayan’s Brothers,” “In The House,” “Michael Hayes“). Modeling lent its hand to several projects (fashion shows: Reggio, Banu Paris, Farinae, Bonnie Strauss, and Don Sayres; print: regional and national magazines such as Today’s Black Woman, Today’s Black Man, Jet, Aloette, Profiles Magazine, Black Market, Silk2, Mallory Furs, Playboy).

She released several new projects in 2013: a poetry book “My Mind’s Poetry: Relationships,” a petite help book series for beginning writers “I Have a Story: Getting Started,” and her sophomore novel, the first of a trilogy, entitled “The Block.” In addition, production has begun on a series geared for Showtime television and preparations are being made for a South African book tour in the fall of 2014.

(1) “The Block” is such an intense read. What was your inspiration in writing in it? What has been the reader and critic response to it?
The Block” was inspired by a particular neighborhood in Detroit – not knocking Detroit, but this particular neighborhood was one where sheets adorned the windows, the roofs were caved in, porches broken, stripped paint, fire damage, dirt lawns and trash everywhere. However, the poetry in the view was the music playing loudly, people hanging out on the porches of these, supposed, uninhabitable homes. The children playing looked happy. The people looked content and settled.

It was clear the occupants had ‘leaned into’ their circumstances, environment and their lives. But what were their lives? My brain immediately came up with a synopsis of what I was seeing, put it on steroids and then the voices began telling me their story… Hence, the conception of “The Block.”

Readers and critics have been moved by the story. The rollercoaster ride, the book sends the reader on, exercises every emotion available. Some feel extremely sad by some areas because “The Block” is seen through the eyes of the children and not flashbacks from adults. It’s funny, dramatic, harsh, but most of all it’s real, truthful and unfortunately happens in almost every neighborhood, town, city, state and country. Readers enjoyed and cringe from the rawness. However, overall, most had a hard time getting through the first 3 chapters but couldn’t put the book down after that and are eagerly awaiting the sequel. That excites me.

(2) You mentioned that “The Block” is the first of a trilogy. While you may not want to divulge any secrets, what should we expect?
Jaw dropping revelations! Getting a sense of who these characters are and what you “believe” their circumstances were, was what book one was geared to do. However, “The Block: Truth Revealed,” the sequel, will give you the real truths behind everyone and introduce the parents in a tangible way. However, the danger that lurks throughout book 2 will be felt until the end.

The final installment “The Block: The Labyrinth,” will be the ultimate revelation of what the block really is and how the lives of so many have truly never been their own. Everyone won’t make it to book 3 and some may not make it out of book 2. You’ll have to read to find out!

(3) With this era of books being turned into movies, especially trilogies and other series, are you planning anything beyond the printed word for “The Block“?
Yes. My intention is to mold it into a TV series, then movie and possibly a stage play. It has layers and legs that could and would inspire, move and engage society as a whole.

(4) You have so many interests – acting, modeling, ghost-writing, internet radio host, shoes (!) – how do you find the time to write for yourself? What is your writing process like?
I write on my phone a lot! Between my notepad and voice recordings, there are tons of notes. However, they’re not all geared towards one project. Oftentimes, I find myself awakened in the middle of the night by a voice…loud thought and I begin to night write in the dark. I never turn on the lights. In the morning I’ll read what I wrote and place it in my project folder, for whichever project it’s for. I write while I’m shopping, watching TV, in the movies, at dinner, out with friends, it doesn’t really turn off. Everything I see is inspiring.

The more I tap into that side of myself, the better my writing will become.

My writing process isn’t complicated. I write when my characters speak. If they have something to say, I write it. My job is to tell their story not my version of their story.

Patience is essential. However, I’m creating scenarios all the time for the story but the characters determine where the story is going and when.

(5) What is the process like for promoting your books? As a self-published author, what did you do to get the word out?
Arduous — I definitely prefer going the publishing house route. The work is on them and I show up. However, social media plays an enormous part of promoting. I made a valiant effort to stay connected to the fans who reached out and who continue to reach out from my first release “Inside A Thug’s Heart.” Those loyal fans where some of the first to purchase “The Block,” my poetry book “My Mind’s Poetry: Relationships,” and “I have a Story” which helps anyone trying to get started writing. I’ve also been interviewed by several internet blogs and magazines. Word of mouth has been amazing too!

(6) What is on your bookshelf (or your e-reader)? What are you reading and enjoying? Any favorite authors?
I’m a bookie! LOL! I love the physical copy. I love Eckhart Tolle, Danièle Bott, Terry
McMillan, Sister Souljah (Coldest Winter Ever), Russell Simmons, Dr. Seuss, Gary Zuvak, Rick Johnson, and many more. My book collection is as eclectic as everything else in my world. I’m currently rereading Eckhart Tolle’s “A New Earth” because I got so much from it the first time. I highly recommend it to everyone!

The Block by Angela Ardis
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, April 3, 2013, Paperback

Five children, Robert, Troy, Reigna, Tina and Kora are trapped inside a labyrinth known as “The Block.” The inner workings of these children’s minds are released as we follow them from age ten to eighteen. Experiencing their journey through their struggle to cope, comprehend, and develop while dealing with extreme neglect, physical, mental, verbal, emotional, and sexual abuse. They’re looking for love, all wanting something more, and all trying to figure a way out of their unfortunate circumstances. Born into a “no chance of a childhood” reality, they find each other, forming an alliance against the ills that plague them all. The Block will awaken the very core of the reader. It’s true to life scenarios and graphic dialog will send waves of discomfort, lending extreme compassion to the plights of the children.

Inside A Thug’s Heart by Angela Ardis
Dafina, August 1, 2009, Paperback

Rikers Island is the centerpiece of the New York City Department of Corrections, a sprawling prison city of concrete and steel with housing for more than 16,000 inmates. Early in 1995, it was also the temporary home of legendary rapper and actor Tupac Shakur, incarcerated for a crime he swore he did not commit. And it was there that Angela Ardis, acting on a late-night wager among her friends and coworkers, sent a letter, along with a photo and her phone number. To her utter delight and amazement, Angela’s phone rang a short while later. Tupac Shakur was on the line.

Over the next several months, Angela and Tupac shared a near-daily exchange of letters, poems and phone calls, and their the relationship quickly grew into something neither of them could quite define, a kinship of souls that touched each in unexpected ways. Those original poems and letters, many of them written after Tupac’s transfer from Rikers to Dannemora State Prison, are presented here, along with the increasingly passionate and personal phone calls that touched on every subject imaginable. Far from the media spotlight, Tupac was by turns playful, sensual and serious, offering sharp observations on prison, music and the uncertainties of life. His letters to Angela reflect how he felt about being shot five times and left for dead one terrible night in New York in 1994, and his heartfelt verse encapsulates his dreams for the future–a future that would be so tragically cut short just over eighteen months after their correspondence began.

Tupac Shakur was shot on September 7th, 1996 and died a week later from his injuries. His murder remains unsolved, an ending as enigmatic as his life. But while Tupac may be gone, his words live on here, giving every fan a rare glimpse inside the mind and unbroken spirit of a passionate and unpredictable musical icon.

My Mind’s Poetry: Relationships (Volume 1) by Angela Ardis
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, March 8, 2013, Paperback

A lifetime of experiences, trials and tribulations, heartaches and joy, drama and pain mixed with lessons learned. A real perspective to life through analogies and poetic expression. Nothing like you’ve ever read before. No mixed words or sugar coated verbiage. Lightly illustrated. Contains some adult language.

I Have A Story: Getting Started (Volume 1) by Angela Ardis
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, June 14, 2013, Paperback

After receiving hundreds of emails and letters from people asking me how to get started writing their books, I decided to put together a “petite” book series that will do just that. I Have A Story book series gives potential authors a P.S. version to writing without getting stuck with a barrage of verbiage. As they complete each volume, they will begin to see their ideas come to life on the pages of their soon-to-be publications. Volume One will help you formulate the idea then break it down in an effort to rebuild it as the story you envision.

March: Book One by John Lewis

Georgia Congressman John Lewis is an American icon, one of the key figures of the civil rights movement. His commitment to justice and nonviolence has taken him from an Alabama sharecropper’s farm to the halls of Congress, from a segregated schoolroom to the 1963 March on Washington, and from receiving beatings from state troopers to receiving the Medal of Freedom from the first African-American president.

Now, to share his remarkable story with new generations, Lewis presents March, a graphic novel trilogy, in collaboration with co-writer Andrew Aydin and New York Times best-selling artist Nate Powell (winner of the Eisner Award and LA Times Book Prize finalist for Swallow Me Whole).

March is a vivid first-hand account of John Lewis‘ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Rooted in Lewis’ personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement.

Book One spans John Lewis‘ youth in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., the birth of the Nashville Student Movement, and their battle to tear down segregation through nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins, building to a stunning climax on the steps of City Hall.

Many years ago, John Lewis and other student activists drew inspiration from the 1958 comic book “Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story.” Now, his own comics bring those days to life for a new audience, testifying to a movement whose echoes will be heard for generations.

The Longest Fight: In the Ring with Joe Gans, Boxing’s First African American Champion by William Gildea

Many people came to Goldfield, Nevada, America’s last gold-rush town, to seek their fortune. However, on a searing summer day in September 1906, they came not to strike it rich but to watch what would become the longest boxing match of the twentieth century — between Joe Gans, the first African American boxing champion, and “Battling” Nelson, a vicious and dirty brawler. It was a match billed as the battle of the races.

In The Longest Fight, the longtime Washington Post sports correspondent William Gildea tells the story of this epic match, which would stretch to forty-two rounds and last two hours and forty-eight minutes. A new rail line brought spectators from around the country, dozens of reporters came to file blow-by-blow accounts, and an entrepreneurial crew’s film of the fight, shown in theaters shortly afterward, endures to this day.

The Longest Fight also recounts something much greater — the longer battle that Gans fought against prejudice as the premier black athlete of his time. It is a portrait of life in black America at the turn of the twentieth century, of what it was like to be the first black athlete to successfully cross the nation’s gaping racial divide. Gans was smart, witty, trim, and handsome — with one-punch knockout power and groundbreaking defensive skills — and his courage despite discrimination prefigured the strife faced by many of America’s finest athletes, including Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson, and Muhammad Ali.

Inside the ring and out, Gans took the first steps for the African American athletes who would follow, and yet his role in history was largely forgotten until now. The Longest Fight is a reminder of the damage caused by the bigotry that long outlived Gans, and the strength, courage, and will of those who fought to rise above.

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
June 19, 2012
Hardcover