Category Archives: For Lovers, Readers and Me

Reflection on books within the genre that have had a lasting or profound impact on us or on society as a whole. We discuss old favorites and explore talented new comers to the literary scene.

Revisiting Sula

I first read Toni Morrison’s Sula when I was 17.  Although I was old enough to appreciate its symbolism and complexity, I could not identify with the themes of judgement, love, loss and survival.  I was 17.  I had not lived, lost and learned that life could hold the darkest of moments.

FullSizeRender (2)Several quotes from Sula remained with me in the 15 years since I’ve read the novel.  Fifteen years have passed and I, an older and (hopefully) wiser woman, now understand the meaning of these quotes more deeply.  I understand that Sula is inherently about life, love, choice and perspective.  As I approach my 32nd birthday, I realize that this novel deserves revisiting, in order to better appreciate these themes.

Here are a few passages that, for me, have stood the test of time:

 

On a dream deferred
“Had she paints, or clay, or knew the discipline of the dance, or strings, had she anything to engage her tremendous curiosity and her gift for metaphor, she might have exchanged the restlessness and preoccupation with whim for an activity that provided her with all she yearned for. And like an artist with no art form, she became dangerous.”

On letting go:
“It is sheer good fortune to miss somebody long before they leave you.”

On choice:
“When you gone to get married? You need to have some babies. It’ll settle you.’
‘I don’t want to make somebody else. I want to make myself.”

On Sadness:
“the loss pressed down on her chest and came up into her throat. it was a fine cry — loud and long — but it had no bottom and no top, just circles and circles of sorrow.”

On love and sacrifice:
“‘Mamma, did you ever love us?’…’What you talkin’ ’bout did I love you girl I stayed alive for you'”

If you’ve read Sula, I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on the novel.  Are there any novels you read at a young age that now have deeper meaning to you as an adult?

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National Poetry Month featuring Yrsa Daley-Ward

Some of us love badly. Sometimes the love is the type of love that

implodes. Folds in on itself. Eats its insides. Turns wine to poison.

Behaves poorly in restaurants. Drinks. Kisses other people. Comes

back to your bed at 4am smelling like everything outside. Asks about

your ex. Is jealous of your ex. Thinks everyone a rival. Some of us

love others badly, love ourselves worse. Some of us love horrid, love

beastly. Love sick love anti light. Sometimes the love can’t go home

at night, can’t sleep with itself cannot contain itself, catches fire,

destroys the belly, strips buildings, goes missing. Punches. Smashes

heirlooms. Tells lies. The best lies. Fucks around. Writes poems,

impresses people. Chases lovers into corners. Leaves them longing.

Sea sick. Says yes. Means anything but. Tricks the body. Kills the

body. Dances wild and walks away, smiling.

– When it is but It Ain’t

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10 Novels on My ‘Book Bucket List’

WP My TBR (to be read) list is a mile long and filled with books I want to blog about or have simply piqued my interest.  But there are a few novels – 10 to be exact – that I absolutely have to read before I die.  Some of these selections are critically acclaimed and highly recommended by readers.  Others have been recommended by friends/family whose reading taste I highly respect. There are also a few that have simply been on my TBR list for so many years that it will be a huge accomplishment to check them off.

Taking a slight detour from our typical Afro-lit theme (there are not many titles left on my afro-bucket list), here is my latest ‘Book Bucket List’:

A Prayer for Owen Meany (Irving)
This is one of the few classic novels my humanities-focused high school did not require us to read. I will use that as an excuse for how I somehow missed out on reading this gem. I’m intrigued by this novel because of its themes of faith and acceptance of fate.  A Prayer for Owen Meany also makes my list because my baby brother, a fellow avid reader, lists it as his favorite book of all time. This novel has quite a heavy expectation to live up to!

The Sound and the Fury (Faulkner)
I actually was required to read this one in high school but after suffering through reading As I Lay Dying, I was NOT interested in hearing another word from Faulkner.  I used Cliffnotes and Sparknotes to fudge my way through class discussions on The Sound and the Fury so I owe it to myself (and my humanities teachers) to finish this behemoth as an adult.

The Grapes of Wrath (Steinbeck)
I’ve read snippets of John Steinbeck’s novels and have to say that I am in love with his writing style. The Grapes of Wrath is another one of those critically acclaimed novels that no one wants to admit (publicly) they haven’t read. But the Afro-library is a safe space so…”Hi, my name is ____and I have never read Steinbeck”.

Jane Erye (Bronte)
Speaking of books that are near and dear to the hearts of many readers, I have never read Jane Erye. There, I said it.  I have to admit, this novel has never intrigued me. But countless friends, readers and fellow bloggers tell me that I MUST read this book and so it makes the list. Lit lovers, I hear you! It’s on my list…

The Spyglass Tree (Murray)
Albert Murray is one of the most underrated African American authors of the 20th Century in spite of the fact that he writes beautifully and brilliantly. He is the favorite author of one of our Afro-Librarians.  Also, The Spyglass Tree happens to be my husband’s favorite novel. This one had to make the list.

Dandelion Wine (Bradbury)
Speaking of men in my life whom I love and respect, I consider my dad to be a pretty cool dude as well . . . just don’t tell him I said that. He has often said that as a teenager, Dandelion Wine, a coming of age tale loosely mirroring Ray Bradbury’s life, was his favorite book. For that reason alone, it’s on my must-read list.

11/22/63 (King)
Growing up, I was a HUGE fan of Stephen King.  I had a mild obsession with his writing until I read one of his earlier works — It. After reading It, King’s most famous horror novel, I was left disturbed, rocking in fetal position and unable to read anything scarier than R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps. I’ve had several years to get over this trauma and am now ready to rekindle my love affair with King. The first novel of my choosing will be his epic politico-thriller titled 11/22/63.

Infinite Jest (Wallace)
I get it, he’s some sort of genius. David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest is one of the most acclaimed (and lengthiest) American novels of the 21st Century and I have yet to read a word of it. I plan to correct this problem (and find out what all the fuss is about) before the end of this year. Stay tuned for my reactions of either high praise or bitter disappointment…

The Lord of the Rings (Tolkien)
Any book snob worth a grain of salt would never admit to seeing the movie version before reading the novel. But I admit that I overlooked the magic and beauty of Tolkien’s ‘Middle Earth’ until the films were released in the early 2000’s. I now own the films, prequels, and over 16 hours of extended footage. Suffice it to say, I am somewhat of a fan. But, I’ll never reach true LOTR fandom until I read this novel in its entirety. This sounds like a summer project….

The Handmaiden’s Tale (Atwood)
I saved this entry for last because I could not think of an interesting reason as to why this novel has been on my ‘Book Bucket List’ for so many years. The primary reason is simply that the plot sounds really cool: “a ‘dystopian’ novel . . .  set in the near future, in a totalitarian Christian theocracy which has overthrown the United States government . . . explores themes of women in subjugation and the various means by which they gain agency.” I’ve been drawn to this book for years so it’s time to verify whether my instincts about it are correct.

Tell us which books are at the top of your reading ‘bucket list’…

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World Poetry Day: You Are Oceanic

 

You Are Oceanic

By Tapiwa Mugabe

All she wanted

Was find a place to

Stretch her bones

A place to lengthen

Her smiles

And spread her hair

A place where her

Legs could walk

Without cutting and

Bruising

A place unchained

She was born out of

Ocean breath.

I reminded her;

‘Stop pouring so

Much of yourself

Into hearts that have

No room for

Themselves

Do not thin yourself

Be vast

You do not bring the

Ocean to a river’

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A Poem by Warsan Shire

1. I’m lonely so I do lonely things
2. Loving you was like going to war; I never came back the same.
3. You hate women, just like your father and his father, so it runs in your blood.
4. I was wandering the derelict car park of your heart looking for a ride home.
5. You’re a ghost town I’m too patriotic to leave.
6. I stay because you’re the beginning of the dream I want to remember.
7. I didn’t call him back because he likes his girls voiceless.
8. It’s not that he wants to be a liar; it’s just that he doesn’t know the truth.
9. I couldn’t love you, you were a small war.
10. We covered the smell of loss with jokes.
11. I didn’t want to fail at love like our parents.
12. You made the nomad in me build a house and stay.
13. I’m not a dog.
14. We were trying to prove our blood wrong.
15. I was still lonely so I did even lonelier things.
16. Yes, I’m insecure, but so was my mother and her mother.
17. No, he loves me he just makes me cry a lot.
18. He knows all of my secrets and still wants to kiss me.
19. You were too cruel to love for a long time.
20. It just didn’t work out.
21. My dad walked out one afternoon and never came back.
22. I can’t sleep because I can still taste him in my mouth.
23. I cut him out at the root, he was my favorite tree, rotting, threatening the foundations of my home.
24. The women in my family die waiting.
25. Because I didn’t want to die waiting for you.
26. I had to leave, I felt lonely when he held me.
27. You’re the song I rewind until I know all the words and I feel sick.
28. He sent me a text that said “I love you so bad.”
29. His heart wasn’t as beautiful as his smile
30. We emotionally manipulated one another until we thought it was love.
31. Forgive me, I was lonely so I chose you.
32. I’m a lover without a lover.
33. I’m lovely and lonely.
34. I belong deeply to myself .

― Warsan Shire from Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth

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Saying Adieu: “Mandela Dead and Alive”

“. . . And Africa you go on palavering

first hands offered then clenched fists

you the eternal survivor

speaking of onyx not of glass

for man must fathom all

plunge deep and rise along

his secret blood

row row relentlessly

row towards the sun . . . ”

(Edouard J. Maunick – translation)

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The 2013 Golden Baobab Prizes Longlist Announced

Shoutout to KinnaReads for posting great content. Check out this year’s best in African Children’s literature:

Kinna Reads

Golden Baobab Longlist

The longlist for the 5th Golden Baobab Prizes were announced on August 30th, 2013.

Nanama B. Acheampong, coordinator of the Golden Baobab Prizes says,

“Golden Baobab is really excited about this year’s stories and we are looking forward to growing further by publishing a collection of these amazing stories we have received. We are currently looking to partner with corporations that share in our vision to bring these stories to the doorsteps of African children everywhere.”

So, if you know of companies that are interested in stories for African children, please do pass along the name of Golden Baobab.

The shortlist and the winners will be announced on October 30th and November 13th respectively.

Now to the longlist.  (Summaries of longlisted stories and biographies of writers are available on the Golden Baobab Website):

—————–

Longlist for the Picture Book Prize

Carol Gachiengo – Grandma Mimo’s Breakfast (Kenya)

Mandy Collins…

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Poem of the Month: “An African Elegy”

“We are the miracles that God made
To taste the bitter fruit of Time.
We are precious.
And one day our suffering
Will turn into the wonders of the earth.

There are things that burn me now
Which turn golden when I am happy.
Do you see the mystery of our pain?
That we bear poverty
And are able to sing and dream sweet things

And that we never curse the air when it is warm
Or the fruit when it tastes so good
Or the lights that bounce gently on the waters?
We bless things even in our pain.
We bless them in silence.

That is why our music is so sweet.
It makes the air remember.
There are secret miracles at work
That only Time will bring forth.
I too have heard the dead singing.

And they tell me that
This life is good
They tell me to live it gently
With fire, and always with hope.
There is wonder here

And there is surprise
In everything the unseen moves.
The ocean is full of songs.
The sky is not an enemy.
Destiny is our friend.”

— Ben Okri

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