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.