January has been a good month for finding interesting books. I didn't go overboard and I am pretty proud of myself! I picked up some good deals when there was a sale at Book Outlet and I found a few bargains at the local thrift stores. (Confession: these aren't ALL of the books I picked up, but some of the others were just books that I grabbed because I had read them before and wanted a physical copy.) Watching book reviews on YouTube is firmly responsible for quite a few of my purchased this month. I am sure that I should say that I regret it, but the truth is that I don't! There are a few of these that are going to help me meet my reading goals for the year as well. See? I can always justify book purchases! If you have read any of these, let me know what you thought.
Racehoss by Albert Race Sample I heard a rebroadcast of Albert Sample being interviewed by Diane Rehm on NPR and was blown away. The interview was so interesting and emotional that I had to find this autobiography so that I could read it for myself. I highly recommend going and listening to the interview! You can find the interview here.
“My mama was a whore, and a damn good one. Tricking and gambling put food on the table for the two of us. She was married to a black man. The day I was born he walked out on her ... and I got the blame.”
Born in Longview, Texas in 1930, Albert Sample was the mixed-race product of Emma (a hard-drinking black prostitute and gambler) and Mr. Albert (a white cotton broker and one of her tricks). It is the classic story of the son of a troubled mother, of a young man gone bad, and of his tentative then tremendous steps toward reclaiming his own destiny. Sample emerged from an abusive childhood an angry young outcast, so it was no surprise when he became an alien of the free world.
This book is the violent and triumphant story his journey to hell and back. Hell for Albert Sample was Retrieve, a unit of the Texas Prison System reserved for its worst black prisoners. A plantation prison where men slaved from dawn to dusk, it cracked the spirits of the weak and hardened the souls of the strong. For “Racehoss,” as Sample was called, it was a place to witness unbearable brutality, which he describes in awesome detail in the pages of this stunning book. His shattering and unforgettable story is told in all its stark reality, but without rancor or bitterness. Racehoss simply tells it “like it was.” A profound spiritual awakening in a solitary confinement cell changed his future dramatically — “My life was spent in darkness. And then there was Light.”
Sample’s ability to understand the forces that drove him to prison and his devotion to helping others also see the light of change earned him a full pardon and restoration of all civil rights in 1976. He became a prominent voice in the field of corrections and rehabilitation of ex-offenders, receiving numerous high-profile humanitarian awards.
A natural born storyteller, he recounted his deeply moving journey of resiliency, revelation, and redemption in the award-winning documentary film RACEHOSS. Produced and directed by Sean Hepburn Ferrer, this gripping one-man performance of Sample standing on a stage before an audience telling his remarkable life story is a powerful reminder that the human spirit can triumph against all odds.
Difficult Women by Roxane Gay. I had to get myself a copy of this one and it was on My Most Anticipated Releases of 2017 list. It will also go towards my goal of reading more short stories this year.
The women in these stories live lives of privilege and of poverty, are in marriages both loving and haunted by past crimes or emotional blackmail. A pair of sisters, grown now, have been inseparable ever since they were abducted together as children, and must negotiate the elder sister's marriage. A woman married to a twin pretends not to realize when her husband and his brother impersonate each other. A stripper putting herself through college fends off the advances of an overzealous customer. A black engineer moves to Upper Michigan for a job and faces the malign curiosity of her colleagues and the difficulty of leaving her past behind. From a girls’ fight club to a wealthy subdivision in Florida where neighbors conform, compete, and spy on each other, Gay delivers a wry, beautiful, haunting vision of modern America reminiscent of Merritt Tierce, Jamie Quatro, and Miranda July.
Precious by Precious Williams will go towards my goal of reading more memoirs/autobiographies this year.
'Where are you from?' is a question I always find hard to answer. 1971: an ad in Nursery World. 'Private foster parents required for a three-month-old baby' - me. The lucky applicants are a 57-year-old white woman and her daughter, who love babies, especially black babies. My mother arrives, a haughty Nigerian woman in a convertible with a moses basket on the seat beside her, setting the net curtains in this all-white council estate twitching. And though the whole place makes my privileged mother's skin crawl, she returns to London with an empty basket beside her, choosing this home for me because, unusually for the estate, my foster mother talks proper, and I'll need a posh white accent for the bright future I have ahead of me. I'll cling on to that idea - that I've a bright future ahead of me - even though there's nothing in my upbringing to warrant it. Even though my mother's love consists of long absences, confusing behaviour and dauntingly high expectations. Even though my foster mother's love is overwhelming and suffocating. Even though I seem to be a magnet for abusive sexual attention from men I barely know. Even though the authorities have no idea where to put me or where I belong, and nor, really, do I. And even when I fall pregnant at eighteen and find myself back in the rural town I'd tried to escape from, with a tiny baby dependent on me, I still think the future's out there. I'll find it, whatever it takes. "Precious" is the story of growing up black in a white community, of struggling to find an identity that fits amid conflicting messages, of deciphering a childhood full of secrets and dysfunction. Painfully honest, swerving from farce to tragedy, "Precious" has a spirit that refuses to be crushed.
Birdie by Tracey Lindberg will go towards my goal of expanding my experience of diversity in my reading.
Birdie is a darkly comic and moving first novel about the universal experience of recovering from wounds of the past, informed by the lore and knowledge of Cree traditions. Bernice Meetoos, a Cree woman, leaves her home in Northern Alberta following tragedy and travels to Gibsons, BC. She is on something of a vision quest, seeking to understand the messages from The Frugal Gourmet (one of the only television shows available on CBC North) that come to her in her dreams. She is also driven by the leftover teenaged desire to meet Pat Johns, who played Jesse on The Beachcombers, because he is, as she says, a working, healthy Indian man. Bernice heads for Molly’s Reach to find answers but they are not the ones she expected.
With the arrival in Gibsons of her Auntie Val and her cousin Skinny Freda, Bernice finds the strength to face the past and draw the lessons from her dreams that she was never fully taught in life. Part road trip, dream quest and travelogue, the novel touches on the universality of women's experience, regardless of culture or race.
The Three-Body Problem (Remembrance of Earth's Past #1) by Liu Cixin will go towards my goal of expanding my experience of diversity and is a translated work. BOOM! :)
The Three-Body Problem is the first chance for English-speaking readers to experience this multiple award winning phenomenon from China's most beloved science fiction author, Liu Cixin.
Set against the backdrop of China's Cultural Revolution, a secret military project sends signals into space to establish contact with aliens. An alien civilization on the brink of destruction captures the signal and plans to invade Earth. Meanwhile, on Earth, different camps start forming, planning to either welcome the superior beings and help them take over a world seen as corrupt, or to fight against the invasion. The result is a science fiction masterpiece of enormous scope and vision.
An ambitious warlord leaves his nephew for dead and seizes his lands.
A stubborn father forces his younger son to surrender his wife to his older brother.
A mysterious woman seeks five fathers for her children.
A powerful priest meddles in the succession to the Lotus Throne.
These are the threads of an intricate tapestry in which the laws of destiny play out against a backdrop of wild forest, elegant court, and savage battlefield. Set in a mythical medieval Japan inhabited by warriors and assassins, ghosts and guardian spirits, Emperor of the Eight Islands by Lian Hearn is a brilliantly imagined novel, full of drama and intrigue - and it is just the beginning of an enthralling, epic adventure: The Tale of Shikanoko.
The first installment of the trilogy, Ninefox Gambit, centers on disgraced captain Kel Cheris, who must recapture the formidable Fortress of Scattered Needles in order to redeem herself in front of the Hexarchate.
To win an impossible war Captain Kel Cheris must awaken an ancient weapon and a despised traitor general.
Captain Kel Cheris of the hexarchate is disgraced for using unconventional methods in a battle against heretics. Kel Command gives her the opportunity to redeem herself by retaking the Fortress of Scattered Needles, a star fortress that has recently been captured by heretics. Cheris’s career isn’t the only thing at stake. If the fortress falls, the hexarchate itself might be next.
Cheris’s best hope is to ally with the undead tactician Shuos Jedao. The good news is that Jedao has never lost a battle, and he may be the only one who can figure out how to successfully besiege the fortress.
The bad news is that Jedao went mad in his first life and massacred two armies, one of them his own. As the siege wears on, Cheris must decide how far she can trust Jedao–because she might be his next victim.
The white tiger of this novel is Balram Halwai, a poor Indian villager whose great ambition leads him to the zenith of Indian business culture, the world of the Bangalore entrepreneur. On the occasion of the president of China’s impending trip to Bangalore, Balram writes a letter to him describing his transformation and his experience as driver and servant to a wealthy Indian family, which he thinks exemplifies the contradictions and complications of Indian society.
The White Tiger recalls The Death of Vishnu and Bangkok 8 in ambition, scope, and narrative genius, with a mischief and personality all its own. Amoral, irreverent, deeply endearing, and utterly contemporary, this novel is an international publishing sensation—and a startling, provocative debut.
Owner of a small African-American bookshop, Miss Cozy has an unique gift: Customers who walk through her door rarely leave without a book that speaks directly to their life. But when Josephine--"Fina"--and Ross arrive in search of an obscure, unpublished manuscript written by a slave woman, Miss Cozy knows that all her visions have been leading her to this magical day.
Yet Miss Cozy has no intention of selling the manuscript--no matter the price. So she offers Fina and Ross an alternative. They can read it together at the store. It was not what they hoped for, but their interest in the extraordinary love story is about as strong as their uncanny attraction for one another . . . one they both sense runs much deeper than a kiss. In the course of a few days, Fina and Ross realize that this powerful book has special meaning for the two of them--and that the path to their shared future may be linked to something that happened more than a century ago. . . .
What would happen to the race problem in America if black people turned white? Would everybody be happy? These questions and more are answered hilariously in Black No More, George S. Schuyler's satiric romp. Black No More is the story of Max Disher, a dapper black rogue of an insurance man who, through a scientific transformation process, becomes Matthew Fisher, a white man. Matt dreams up a scam that allows him to become the leader of the Knights of Nordica, a white supremacist group, as well as to marry the white woman who rejected him when he was black. Black No More is a hysterical exploration of race and all its self-serving definitions. If you can't beat them, turn into them.
Ishmael Reed, one of today's top black satirists and the author of Mumbo Jumbo and Japanese by Spring, provides a spirited Introduction.
Like the city of New Orleans itself, Claire Laurent is a vibrant beauty laced with a mysterious elusiveness. The founder of French Silk, a fabulous lingerie company, she has fought hard to make it a worldwide success. Then a TV evangelist attacks French Silk's erotic sleepwear as sinful. And when he is killed, Claire becomes the prime suspect.
District Attorney Robert Cassidy knows Claire is damning herself with lie after lie about the murder, even as he feels her drawing him into her world and her very soul. But neither Cassidy nor her protests of innocence can save Claire unless she reveals a shocking truth—one she has sworn to take to the grave...
From the drug gangs of downtown Indianapolis, the one true king will arise. The King Arthur myth gets dramatically retold through the eyes of street hustler King, as he tries to unite the crack dealers, gangbangers and the monsters lurking within them to do the right thing. Broaddus' debut is a stunning, edgy work, genuinely unlike anything you've ever read.
“Because I’m an inbetweener—and the only one anyone knows of at that—the dead turn to me when something is askew between them and the living. Usually, it’s something mundane like a suicide gone wrong or someone revived that shouldn’ta been.”
Carlos Delacruz is one of the New York Council of the Dead’s most unusual agents—an inbetweener, partially resurrected from a death he barely recalls suffering, after a life that’s missing from his memory. He thinks he is one of a kind—until he encounters other entities walking the fine line between life and death.
One inbetweener is a sorcerer. He’s summoned a horde of implike ngks capable of eliminating spirits, and they’re spreading through the city like a plague. They’ve already taken out some of NYCOD’s finest, leaving Carlos desperate to stop their master before he opens up the entrada to the Underworld—which would destroy the balance between the living and the dead.
But in uncovering this man’s identity, Carlos confronts the truth of his own life—and death…
Binocular Vision: New and Selected Stories by Edith Pearlman fits in with my read more short stories resolution.
In this sumptuous offering, one of our premier storytellers provides a feast for fiction aficionados. Spanning four decades and three prize-winning collections, these 21 vintage selected stories and 13 scintillating new ones take us around the world, from Jerusalem to Central America, from tsarist Russia to London during the Blitz, from central Europe to Manhattan, and from the Maine coast to Godolphin, Massachusetts, a fictional suburb of Boston. These charged locales, and the lives of the endlessly varied characters within them, are evoked with a tenderness and incisiveness found in only our most observant seers.
Germany, 1660: When a dying boy is pulled from the river with a mark crudely tattooed on his shoulder, hangman Jakob Kuisl is called upon to investigate whether witchcraft is at play. So begins The Hangman's Daughter--the chillingly detailed, fast-paced historical thriller from German television screenwriter, Oliver Pötzsch--a descendent of the Kuisls, a famous Bavarian executioner clan.
The Ship of Brides by Jojo Moyes. I'll fess up and admit that I bought this one solely because it was only fifty cents and looks as though it was never read. This may be a bad sign, but for fifty cents I'll take the risk!
The year is 1946, and all over the world, young women are crossing the seas in the thousands en route to the men they married in wartime - and an unknown future. In Sydney, Australia, four women join 650 other brides on an extraordinary voyage to England, aboard the HMS Victoria, which also carries not just arms and aircraft but 1,000 naval officers and men. Rules of honour, duty, and separation are strictly enforced, from the aircraft carrier's captain down to the lowliest young stoker. But the men and the brides will find their lives intertwined in ways the Navy could never have imagined.