This will be my first time participating in #ReadSoulLit hosted by Didi over at Brown Girl Reading. If you aren't familiar with Didi's blog and YouTube channel I highly recommend stopping over there and checking her out. She is an awesome blogger/vlogger and always has something interesting on her reading lists. Not only am I going to join in on the group read, Bedrock Faith, but I am also going to attempt to participate in the daily Instagram challenges. I do not normally post to Instagram every day, but I am going to try hard to meet each daily challenge! You can connect with me on Instagram at @readermonica. If you are interested in participating it isn't too late! There are no real hard and fast rules as to how to participate, which is what makes this challenge one that I am comfortable participating in. Just click on the link above to Didi's blog and hop on board! The challenge goes from February 1st to the 28th. If you are participating let me know below so that I can check out your TBR and posts if you are participating in the Instagram challenges.
In addition to the group read, participants are encouraged to also read other books by African American authors. I have pulled two books from my bookshelves that have been languishing for a little while and added Difficult Women to the stack. I am so excited to get to these reads.
Grace by Natashia Deon I have had this one on my shelf since at least June of last year and now is the perfect time to stop passing over it and get it read.
For a runaway slave in the 1840s south, life on the run can be just as dangerous as life under a sadistic Massa. That’s what fifteen-year-old Naomi learns after she escapes the brutal confines of life on an Alabama plantation. Striking out on her own, she must leave behind her beloved Momma and sister Hazel and takes refuge in a Georgia brothel run by a freewheeling, gun-toting Jewish madam named Cynthia. There, amidst a revolving door of gamblers, prostitutes, and drunks, Naomi falls into a star-crossed love affair with a smooth-talking white man named Jeremy who frequents the brothel’s dice tables all too often.
The product of Naomi and Jeremy’s union is Josey, whose white skin and blonde hair mark her as different from the other slave children on the plantation. Having been taken in as an infant by a free slave named Charles, Josey has never known her mother, who was murdered at her birth. Josey soon becomes caught in the tide of history when news of the Emancipation Proclamation reaches the declining estate and a day of supposed freedom quickly turns into a day of unfathomable violence that will define Josey—and her lost mother—for years to come.
Deftly weaving together the stories of Josey and Naomi—who narrates the entire novel unable to leave her daughter alone in the land of the living—Grace is a sweeping, intergenerational saga featuring a group of outcast women during one of the most compelling eras in American history. It is a universal story of freedom, love, and motherhood, told in a dazzling and original voice set against a rich and transporting historical backdrop.
Bedrock Faith by Eric Charles May This is the group read for #ReadSoulLit. I had never heard of this author and it sounds like an entertaining and hopefully multilayered story. And that cover takes me right back to the 1990's!
After fourteen years in prison, Gerald “Stew Pot” Reeves, age thirty-one, returns home to live with his mom in Parkland, a black middle-class neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. A frightening delinquent before being sent away (his infamies included butchering a neighbor’s cat, torching another neighbor’s garage, and terrorizing the locals with a scary pit bull named Hitler), his return sends Parkland residents into a religiously infused tailspin, which only increases when Stew Pot announces that he experienced a religious awakening in prison. Most neighbors are skeptical of this claim, with one notable exception: Mrs. Motley, a widowed retiree and the Reeves’s next-door neighbor who loans Stew Pot a Bible, which is seen by Stew Pot and many in the community as a friendly gesture.
With uncompromising fervor (and with a new pit bull named John the Baptist), Stew Pot appoints himself the moral judge of Parkland. He discovers that a woman on his block is a lesbian and outs her to the neighborhood, the first battle in an escalating war of wills with immediate neighbors: after a mild threat from the block club president, Stew Pot reveals a secret that leaves the president’s marriage in ruin; after catching a woman from across the street snooping around his backyard, Stew Pot commits an act of intimidation that leads directly to her death.
Stew Pot’s prison mentor, an African American albino named Brother Crown, is released from prison not long after and moves in with Stew Pot and his mom. His plan is to go on a revival tour, with Stew Pot as his assistant. One night, as Stew Pot, Mrs. Reeves, and Brother Crown are witnessing around the neighborhood, a teenager from the block attempts to burn down the Reeves home. He botches the job and instead sets fire to Mrs. Motley’s house. She is just barely rescued, but her house is a total loss and she moves in with a nearby family. Neighbors are sure Stew Pot is behind the fire. The retaliations against Stew Pot continue, sending him over an emotional ledge as his life spirals out of control with grave consequences. Through the unforgettable characters of Stew Pot and Mrs. Motley, the novel provides a reflection on God, the living and the dead, and the possibilities of finding love without reservation.
Difficult Women by Roxane Gay It's no secret that I think that Roxane Gay is 'it on a stick' and I am looking forward to diving into this collection of short stories by her.
Award-winning author and powerhouse talent Roxane Gay burst onto the scene with An Untamed State—which earned rave reviews and was selected as one of the best books of the year by the Washington Post, NPR, the Boston Globe, and Kirkus—and her New York Times bestselling essay collection Bad Feminist (Harper Perennial). Gay returns with Difficult Women, a collection of stories of rare force and beauty, of hardscrabble lives, passionate loves, and quirky and vexed human connection.
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 marriage of one of them. 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.
Killing Johnny Fry by Walter Mosley Okay, this one is a little cheeky (pun intended) addition to my TBR list! Although I love to read fiction with deep meaning that spurs thought and debate, ya'll know that I still love me some sexy time reading too! I am not at all read up on Walter Mosley and I plan on fixing that over time, but I figured it would be interesting to read a story that has sexiness written by a man. It's an older title and I bought if from Goodwill at some point so if I don't enjoy it, there's no harm no foul!
This bold new novel from Walter Mosley startles in both its rawness and its honest portrayal of a man on a quest for sexual redemption in midlife. When Cordell Carmel catches his longtime girlfriend with another man, the act that he witnesses seems to dissolve all the boundaries he knows. In that instant, the calm existence of this middle-aged New York City man becomes something unrecognizable: he wants revenge, but also something more. Killing Johnny Fry is the story of Cordell's dark, funny, soulful, and outrageously explicit sexual odyssey in search of a new way of life. His guide is a mysterious woman named Sisypha, who leads him deep into the erotic heart of the city.
Killing Johnny Fry marks new territory for Walter Mosley, bestselling author of Devil in a Blue Dress and many other books in different genres: sci-fi, politics, literary fiction. It will surprise, provoke, inspire, and make you blush. Above all, it is about a man questioning the rules we take for granted—and the powerful and sometimes disturbing connections that occur between people when these rules are removed.