October 27, 2015
In the spirit of Piri Thomas’s Down These Mean Streets and Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, this powerful memoir by writer and activist Kevin Powell vividly recounts the horrific poverty of his youth, his struggles to overcome a legacy of anger, violence, and self-hatred, and his journey to be a man and a voice for others.
Driven by his single mother’s dreams for his survival and success, Kevin Powell became the first in his family to attend a university, where he became a student leader keenly aware of widespread social injustice. But the struggle to define himself and break out of poverty continued into adulthood, with traumatic periods of homelessness and despair. As a young star journalist with Vibe magazine, Powell interviewed luminaries such as Tupac Shakur, writing influential chronicles of the evolution of hip-hop from his eyewitness view. Now, with searing honesty, Powell examines his troubled relationships, his appearance on MTV’s first season of The Real World, his battles with alcohol and depression, his two campaigns for Congress, and the uplifting trip to Africa that renewed his sense of personal mission. Finally, Powell embarks on a search for the father he never really knew in a redemptive passage from abandonment to self-discovery.
A striking memoir by a child of post-Civil Rights America, The Education of Kevin Powell gives eloquent testimony to the power of the soul to heal.
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 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.
Spiegel & Grau
August 20, 2013
A rebellious boy’s journey through the wilds of urban America and the shrapnel of a self-destructing family — this is the riveting story of a generation told through one dazzlingly poetic new voice.
MK Asante was born in Zimbabwe to American parents: a mother who led the new nation’s dance company and a father who would soon become a revered pioneer in black studies. But things fell apart, and a decade later MK was in America, a teenager lost in a fog of drugs, sex, and violence on the streets of North Philadelphia. Now he was alone — his mother in a mental hospital, his father gone, his older brother locked up in a prison on the other side of the country — and forced to find his own way to survive physically, mentally, and spiritually, by any means necessary.
Buck is a powerful memoir of how a precocious kid educated himself through the most unconventional teachers — outlaws and eccentrics, rappers and mystic strangers, ghetto philosophers and strippers, and, eventually, an alternative school that transformed his life with a single blank sheet of paper. It’s a one-of-a-kind story about finding your purpose in life, and an inspiring tribute to the power of education, art, and love to heal and redeem us.
When Meb Keflezighi won the New York City Marathon in 2009 — the first American to do so in 27 years — some critics questioned whether the Eritrean-born runner was “really” an American despite his citizenship status and representing the USA on two Olympic and several World Championship teams. Yet Meb is the living embodiment of the American dream. His family came to the U.S. to escape from a life of poverty and a violent war with Ethiopia; Meb was 12 at the time, spoke no English, and had never raced a mile. Yet he became an A student and a high school state and national champion. And when he stood on the platform as a silver medalist in the 2004 Olympics, Meb knew his hard work and determination had paid off. How could life be any better?
Then it all came crashing down. Meb, a favorite for the Beijing Olympics, fractured his pelvis during the trials and was left literally crawling. His close friend and fellow marathoner suffered a cardiac arrest at the trials and died that same day. Devastated, Meb was about to learn whether his faith in God, the values his parents had taught him, and his belief that he was born to run were enough to see him through.
Run to Overcome tells the inspirational story of a man who discovered the real meaning of victory, and who embodies the American spirit of overcoming the odds.
Run to Overcome: : The Inspiring Story of an American Champion’s Long-Distance Quest to Achieve a Big Dream
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
From one of America’s most influential civil rights attorneys, Power Concedes Nothing is a hard-hitting memoir chronicling a fiercely dedicated woman’s quest to win the first of all human rights: freedom from violence.
CONNIE RICE has taken on school and bus systems, Death Row, the states of Mississippi and California, and the Los Angeles Police Department — and won. Not just in court, where she vindicated major civil rights cases, but also on the streets and in prisons, where she spearheaded campaigns to reduce gang violence. Los Angeles magazine concluded that Connie’s work “has picked up where Clarence Darrow left off.”
In her extraordinary memoir, Rice chronicles her odyssey, the people who inspired her, and the teams she forged with allies and former foes. She counts among her partners LAPD police chiefs William Bratton and Charlie Beck, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, and gang interventionists such as Darren “Bo” Taylor.
Rice — second cousin of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice — writes of being the great-granddaughter of former slaves and slave owners who prized the aggressive pursuit of knowledge. Even her U.S. Air Force childhood, with seventeen moves across three continents, could not disrupt this family legacy of voracious accomplishment.
After joining the NAACP Legal Defense Fund’s West Coast office in 1990, Rice left the courtroom and took to the streets of the “kill zones” in the wake of the cataclysmic LAPD beating of Rodney King in 1991. What she learned from the invisible poor of underground Los Angeles would change her mission forever.
In her trek through gangland, Rice discovers that if you bury the underclass, you imperil yourself — a warning that her allies from law enforcement and the military strongly endorse.
Provocative and passionate, studded with dramatic episodes from the trenches of impact litigation and America’s most dangerous neighborhoods, Power Concedes Nothing is the story of an indomitable woman who knows that, without a demand, power concedes nothing.
Power Concedes Nothing: One Woman’s Quest for Social Justice in America, from the Courtroom to the Kill Zones by Connie Rice
In this inspirational memoir, Grey’s Anatomy actor Isaiah Washington explains how filling in the gaps of his past led him to discover a new passion: helping those less fortunate. DNA testing revealed that Washington was descended from the Mende people, who today live in Sierra Leone. For many people, the story would end with the results of the search; for Isaiah, it had just begun. Discovering his roots has given him a new purpose, to lead an inspirational life defined by faith and charity.
After visiting Sierra Leone, and researching the country and its needs, Washington forged a strong relationship with the Mende people, and was inducted as Chief Gondobay Manga in May 2006. He established The Gondobay Manga Foundation to institute many improvements suggested by the country’s people, addressing educational concerns, practical issues (road building, water supply, and electricity), and rehabilitative projects.
Dual citizenship has been a dream of African-Americans such as W.E.B. DuBois, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, but Washington became the first to realize that honor in 2008. A twofold milestone, it was also the first time an African president granted citizenship based on DNA.
A Man from Another Land
In January 2007, Deval Patrick became the first black governor of the state of Massachusetts, one of only two black governors elected in American history. But that was just one triumphant step in a long, improbable journey that began in a poor tenement on the South Side of Chicago. From a chaotic childhood to an elite boarding school in New England, from a sojourn doing relief work in Africa to the boardrooms of Fortune 500 companies, and then to a career in politics, Patrick has led an extraordinary life. In this heartfelt and inspirational book, he pays tribute to the family, friends, and strangers who, through words and deeds, have instilled in him transcendent lessons of faith, perseverance, and friendship. In doing so, he reminds us of the power of community and the imperative of idealism. With humility, humor, and grace, he offers a road map for attaining happiness, empowerment, and success while also making an appeal for readers to cultivate those achievements in others, to feel a greater stake in this world, and to shape a life worth living.
Warm, nostalgic, and inspirational, A Reason to Believe is destined to become a timeless tribute to a uniquely American odyssey and a testament to what is possible in our lives and our communities if we are hopeful, generous, and resilient.
GOVERNOR DEVAL PATRICK is donating a portion of the proceeds from A REASON TO BELIEVE to A Better Chance, a national organization dedicated to opening the doors to greater educational opportunities for young people of color. To learn more, visit www.abetterchance.org.
He’s a hip-hop icon credited with single-handedly creating gangsta rap in the 1980s. Television viewers know him as Detective Odafin “Fin” Tutuola on the top-rated TV drama Law & Order: SVU. But where the hype and the headlines end, the real story of Ice-T — the one few of his millions of fans have ever heard — truly begins.
Ice is Ice-T in his own words — raw, uncensored, and unafraid to speak his mind. About his orphan upbringing on the gang-infested streets of South Central Los Angeles. About his four-year stint in the U.S. Army’s famed “Tropic Lightning” outfit. About his successful career as a hustler and thief, the car crash that nearly killed him, and the fateful decision to turn away from a life of crime and forge his own path to international entertainment stardom.
Ice by Ice-T is both a tell-it-like-it-is tale of redemption and a star-studded tour of the pop culture firmament. The acclaimed rapper and actor shares never-before-told stories about friends like Tupac, Dick Wolf, Chris Rock, and an antler-clad Flavor Flav, among others. Readers will ride along as Ice-T’s incendiary rock band Body Count narrowly escapes from a riotous mob of angry concertgoers in Milan, and listen in as the music legend battles the self-appointed censors over his controversial “Cop Killer” single.
Most of all, Ice is the place where one of the game’s most opinionated players breaks down his own secret plan for living, offering up candid observations on marriage and monogamy, the current state of hip-hop, and his latest passion: doing one-on-one gang interventions and mentoring at-risk youths around the country.
With insights into the cutthroat world of the street — and the cutthroat world of Hollywood — Ice is the inspirational story of a true American original.
Ice: A Memoir of Gangster Life and Redemption-from South Central to Hollywood
Actor, singer, songwriter Tyrese Gibson crafts a memoir filled with every emotion and life experience one could possibly imagine. With personal experiences paired with reflective questions based on his extremely popular blog piece, “The Love Circle”, Tyrese hopes to inspire readers to pursue their dreams and not let life’s obstacles stand in the way.
HOW TO GET OUT OF YOUR OWN WAY is organized into a series of fundamental questions that helped Tyrese redefine who he was as a human being, and evolve into a new man. Tyrese stresses that life becomes infinitely richer when one takes the time to know him or herself and understand the true meaning of peace and fulfillment. This book is a guide to helping yourself, using his experiences as a learning tool. “It’s not about talking down to people, it’s about elevating them,” Tyrese says.
Some of Tyrese’s chapter-based questions include: How much do you love yourself? How much do you want for yourself? Why do men cheat? What is your bottom line? Are you ready for the next level?
Grand Central Publishing
Losing My Cool: How a Father’s Love and 15,000 Books Beat Hip-hop Culture by Thomas Chatterton Williams
Penguin Press HC
A pitch-perfect account of how hip-hop culture drew in the author and how his father drew him out again-with love, perseverance, and fifteen thousand books.
Into Williams’s childhood home-a one-story ranch house-his father crammed more books than the local library could hold. “Pappy” used some of these volumes to run an academic prep service; the rest he used in his unending pursuit of wisdom. His son’s pursuits were quite different-“money, hoes, and clothes.” The teenage Williams wore Medusa- faced Versace sunglasses and a hefty gold medallion, dumbed down and thugged up his speech, and did whatever else he could to fit into the intoxicating hip-hop culture that surrounded him. Like all his friends, he knew exactly where he was the day Biggie Smalls died, he could recite the lyrics to any Nas or Tupac song, and he kept his woman in line, with force if necessary.
But Pappy, who grew up in the segregated South and hid in closets so he could read Aesop and Plato, had a different destiny in mind for his son. For years, Williams managed to juggle two disparate lifestyles- “keeping it real” in his friends’ eyes and studying for the SATs under his father’s strict tutelage. As college approached and the stakes of the thug lifestyle escalated, the revolving door between Williams’s street life and home life threatened to spin out of control. Ultimately, Williams would have to decide between hip-hop and his future. Would he choose “street dreams” or a radically different dream- the one Martin Luther King spoke of or the one Pappy held out to him now?
Williams is the first of his generation to measure the seductive power of hip-hop against its restrictive worldview, which ultimately leaves those who live it powerless. Losing My Cool portrays the allure and the danger of hip-hop culture like no book has before. Even more remarkably, Williams evokes the subtle salvation that literature offers and recounts with breathtaking clarity a burgeoning bond between father and son.
Killing Willis: From Diff’rent Strokes to the Mean Streets to the Life I Always Wanted
by Todd Bridges, , Sarah Tomlinson (Contributor)
Available 03/16/10 in Hardcover
The former child star—best known as Willis Jackson on Diff’rent Strokes—shares the shocking but inspirational details of his struggles with addiction, brushes with the law, and fierce fight to carve a path through the darkness and find his true identity.
For Todd Bridges, early stardom was no protection from painful childhood events that paved the road to his own personal hell. One of the first African-American child actors on shows like Little House on the Prairie, The Waltons, and Roots, Bridges burst to the national forefront on the hit sitcom Diff’rent Strokes as the subject of the popular catchphrase, “What’chu Talkin About Willis?” When the show ended, Bridges was overwhelmed by the off-camera traumas he had faced. Turning to drugs as an escape, he soon lost control.
Now, for the first time, Bridges opens up about his life before and after Diff’rent Strokes: the incredible reversals of fortune brought on by fame and the precipitous—and very public—descent that followed; the persecution from police; the drug addiction that nearly consumed him; the criminal charges that almost earned him a life sentence; and his successful legal defense led by Johnnie Cochran. Through it all, Bridges never relented in his quest to fight his way back from the abyss, establish his own identity—separate from Willis Jackson—and offer his ordeal as a positive example for those struggling to overcome similar challenges. His triumphant story of recovery and redemption is recounted here as well.
Todd Bridges has lived a life of remarkable twists and turns—from the greatest heights to the lowest lows imaginable. In this shocking but ultimately hopeful memoir, he proves that what he was really talking about was survival.
So many have been asking: What caused you to write 8 books within the last year? Additionally, writing the screenplay for and producing a docu-drama based on my second book “Spread Some Love (Relationships 101)” – all within the same time frame? Basically, I fell in love with writing. I’ve studied many successful people and realized that they have one thing in common and that is – THEY LOVE WHAT THEY DO. Therefore they are good at it. Love is one of the most powerful forces given to man, though it is often overlooked. “For love we will climb mountains, cross seas, traverse desert sands, endure hardships. Without love mountains become unclimbable, seas uncrossable, and hardships our plight in life,” writes Gary Chapman in “The Five Love Languages.”
I never envisioned myself being a writer. I moved to Hollywood in 1996 and just wanted to act. As I stated in my book “When The Dust Settles” I was forced into writing or putting it more subtly it became as a blessing in disguise. While almost going bankrupt in 2004 I stumbled into a 1970s classic film which I so badly wanted to remake. At the time I had no prior experience in film making, except that which I had picked up previously on movie sets. Nonetheless, I was determined to succeed.
For the next three weeks, I made phone calls to find out who held the rights to my intended pet project. When I finally made contact with the studio, a woman answered the phone and told me they were not interested in selling the rights to a third party.
That statement didn’t sit well with me. You see, my plane had already taken off, the fasten-your-seat-belt signs were already extinguished, and the hostess was serving the beverage of the day.
I composed myself, contacted a writer friend whose script was recently optioned by a major studio, and asked him to assist me in writing my script. He did one of the best things a person can do for another: instead of giving me a fish, he showed me how to fish by sending me guidelines for writing a screenplay. I got busy. My mantra echoed for several months, “I’ll write my own. I’ll show them. They’ll be begging for my work someday.” My imaginary airplane was swiftly gaining altitude.
I knew if it was going to be – it was up to me! So I committed my time skill and resources to writing consistently. Each book I wrote, in that process I acquired a subsequent title and embarked upon the task of writing it.
Prior to 2007 I had written two screenplays and in spring of that same year my first book “The 5 Steps to Changing Your Life” was etched. In the summer of 2008 I wrote published and released “Spread Some Love (Relationships 101).” This book has become my bestseller and as a spin off “Spread Some Love (Relationships 101) Workbook” and “Spread Some Love (Relationships 101)” Journal were etched in early 2009. “When the Dust Settles (A True Hollywood Story)” based on my ten year quest in Hollywood followed in tow. This summer saw the release of “Dare to Make A Difference (Success 101),” “Dare to Make A Difference (Success 101) For Teens,” “The 52 Weeks Goal Setting Quest” and “The SUCCESS Triangle.” The latter is a volume of three eclectic books from my inspirational series relating to my climbing up from the bottom.
Back in 2007 after the release of my first book, I had a heart to heart talk with myself and decided that I wasn’t using much of my potential. I decided that no one was going outwork me. Still not adept at using the computer’s keyboard; I had never taken a typing class. My word per minute ratio no doubt was about a few words a minute – I’ve never checked. Someone once said: When the dream is big enough the facts don’t count. It’s my belief that if my thoughts can produce it – I can write it. This fall I’ll be releasing my tenth book “Total Commitment (The Mindset of Champions).”
If writing be the air that I breathe “write on.” When God brings it he doesn’t mess around.
A 2009 Books That Will Enhance Your Life – Release. All Rights Reserved.
Porch Stories: A Grandmother’s Guide to Happiness
by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Award-winning author of fiction and nonfiction Jewell Parker Rhodes is a master of her craft, understanding how both real and imagined stories can serve as a pathway to enlightenment. Porch Stories is Rhodes’s tribute to her beloved grandmother, a real account of the love she received and the lessons she learned.
Jewell Parker Rhodes was left in the care of her father and his mother when her own mother abandoned the family. Grandmother Ernestine’s house in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was home to four other grandchildren as well. And while its crumbling bricks, lack of air-conditioning, and neighborhood rodents meant that life was anything but easy, the family house was filled with love. Everyone on their street knew and loved Grandmother Ernestine; men would tip their hats and children would rush up for a hug any time she was outside.
No one loved Grandmother Ernestine more than Jewell, who would pass up a movie with her cousins to sit outside on Ernestine’s front stoop and listen to her stories and her words of comfort. Jewell would later move out West to live with her mother and father as they reattempted marriage. But that was a short-lived experience. Before long, she was back in the loving arms of her grandmother, whose wisdom and warmth gave all of her children the tools to overcome the ordinary and extraordinary challenges life brings. Porch Stories, described by Rhodes as “an intergenerational love song,” is a loving tribute that is at once candid, courageous, and reverent — a literary portrait of family love that readers from all walks of life can see in themselves.
Triangular Road: A Memoir
Basic Civitas Books
In Triangular Road, famed novelist Paule Marshall tells the story of her years as a fledgling young writer in the 1960s. A memoir of self-discovery, it also offers an affectionate tribute to the inimitable Langston Hughes, who entered Marshall’s life during a crucial phase and introduced her to the world of European letters during a whirlwind tour of the continent funded by the State Department. In the course of her journeys to Europe, Barbados, and eventually Africa, Marshall comes to comprehend the historical enormity of the African diaspora, an understanding that fortifies her sense of purpose as a writer.
In this unflinchingly honest memoir, Paule Marshall offers an indelible portrait of a young black woman coming of age as a novelist in a literary world dominated by white men.
Something Like Beautiful: One Single Mother’s Story
by Asha Bandele
From the author of The Prisoner’s Wife, a poetic, passionate, and powerful memoir about the hard realities of single motherhood
When Asha Bandele, a young poet, fell in love with a prisoner serving a twenty-to-life sentence and became pregnant with his daughter, she had reason to hope they would live together as a family. Rashid was a model prisoner, and expected to be paroled soon. But soon after Nisa was born, Asha’s dreams were shattered. Rashid was denied parole, and told he’d be deported to his native Guyana once released. Asha became a statistic: a single, black mother in New York City.
On the outside, Asha kept it together. She had a great job at a high-profile magazine and a beautiful daughter whom she adored. But inside, she was falling apart. She began drinking and smoking and eventually stumbled into another relationship, one that opened new wounds. This lyrical, astonishingly honest memoir tells of her descent into depression when her life should have been filled with love and joy. Something Like Beautiful is not only Asha’s story, but the story of thousands of women who struggle daily with little help and much against them, and who believe they have no right to acknowledge their pain. Ultimately, drawing inspiration from her daughter, Asha takes account of her life and envisions for herself what she believes is possible for all mothers who thought there was no way out–and then discovered there was.
Life Against All Odds
by Alfred Cave
Before he was in his teens, Alfred Cave was already an orphan, a runaway, and a homeless person on the mean streets of New York. Five decades later, he would retire after heading the nation’s largest supported work program, as well as his own successful federal contracting company. This amazing story is recounted in Against All Odds, a stirring account of Cave’s surviving and thriving despite all life could throw at him.
A wide-ranging yet intimate memoir, Against All Odds follows Cave beginning with his earliest recollections in a violently racist South. But the deep-seated attitudes there don’t disappear when he escapes to the North and, later, the U.S. Army. Cave brings readers along for the ride as he rises to a Major, commanding two battalions and receiving a Bronze Star. It’s a revealing glimpse into an ambitious African American soldier’s unique experiences navigating the military’s hesitantly integrated ranks, and the challenges of raising a family along the way. As he returns to the private sector, Cave continues to document an engrossing cast of characters – some endearing, others maddening – that readers won’t soon forget.
The Black Girl Next Door: A Memoir
by Jennifer Baszile
A powerful, beautifully written memoir about coming of age as a black girl in an exclusive white suburb in “integrated,” post-Civil Rights California in the 1970s and 1980s.
At six years of age, after winning a foot race against a white classmate, Jennifer Baszile was humiliated to hear her classmate explain that black people “have something in their feet to make them run faster than white people.” When she asked her teacher about it, it was confirmed as true. The next morning, Jennifer’s father accompanied her to school, careful to “assert himself as an informed and concerned parent and not simply a big, black, dangerous man in a first-grade classroom.”
This was the first of many skirmishes in Jennifer’s childhood-long struggle to define herself as “the black girl next door” while living out her parents’ dreams. Success for her was being the smartest and achieving the most, with the consequence that much of her girlhood did not seem like her own but more like the “family project.” But integration took a toll on everyone in the family when strain in her parents’ marriage emerged in her teenage years, and the struggle to be the perfect black family became an unbearable burden.
A deeply personal view of a significant period of American social history, The Black Girl Next Door deftly balances childhood experiences with adult observations, creating an illuminating and poignant look at a unique time in our country’s history.
This is a 4CD, 3hrs 20min unabridged audio book (memoir) by Rosemary Kariuki Machua. It is a very captivating story of a daughters quest for justice after three decades of her father’s brutal political assassination. Rosemary Kariuki Machua tells of her memories of the father a Kenyan Independence political heavy weight.
At the time of his death, J.M Kariuki was a millionaire. It is not clear how he amassed his fortune so quickly without somehow engaging on the same vice he was very critical of. His family did not benefit from his wealth, as Kenyatta’s government conspired against them. J.M Kariuki is remembered by Kenyans as a hero as he came to represent the force against the evils that have hemmed the country to this day.
In this powerful audio book, Rosemary clearly points out the sprouting of a culture of political imperialism, impunity and abuse of fundamental human rights among others, that many African governments are grappling with today.
Most interesting, is how emotions (love, anger, jealousy, resentment, and forgiveness) play out against backdrop of social, religious and political realms.
This truly is a must listen to.