January Come Lately

I try not to think about white rabbits running around with time pieces muttering about being late. Whenever I do I am reminded this is being written three days behind schedule. Nevertheless, here are the books:

Fiction:

  • FoundationĀ by Isaac Asimov – in honor of Asimov’s birth month.
  • Lamb in Love by Carrie Brown – this is a stretch…All Creatures Great and Small first aired as a television show in January and there is a creature in the title.
  • The Good Times are Killing Me by Lynda Barry – in honor of Barry’s birth month.
  • A Cold Blooded Business by Dana Stabenow – in honor of Alaska becoming a state in January.

Nonfiction:

  • Daisy Bates in the Desert by Julia Blackburn – in honor of Australia’s National Day on January 26th.
  • The Turk by Tom Standage in honor of Wolfgang Von Klempelen’s birth month.
  • Freedom in Meditation by Patricia Carrington – in honor of January being National Yoga month.
  • Sibley’s Guide to Bird Life and Behavior by David Allen Sibley – in honor of Adopt a Bird Month. I read that somewhere…

Series continuations:

  • To Lie with Lions by Dorothy Dunnett – to continue the series started in August in honor of Dunnett’s birth month.
  • Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman – to continue the series started in November in honor of National Writing Month (Fantasy).

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • Well-Read Black Girl by Glory Edim – I know what you are thinking. I am neither black nor a girl. I am a middle-aged white woman who barely remembers being a girl. I requested this book because I work in an extremely diverse environment and let’s face it, I want to be known as well-read, regardless of color.

For fun:

  • Sharp by Michelle Dean – my sister gave this to me as a Christmas gift. I wonder if she is trying to tell me something.

Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman

Gaines, Ernest J. The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. Read by Lynn Thigpen. New York: Recorded Books, 1994.

Reason read: February is Black History month

Miss Jane Pittman could be your great-grandmother, she is that real of a character. I’m sure listening to this on audio had something to do with that perception. When 100 year old Miss Pittman tells her life story to an unidentified high school history teacher it’s as if she is sitting in your living room. Beginning when she was ten years old and freed from slavery in the deep south, she recounts her journey to leave the Louisiana plantation she has known all her life. She is looking for the white abolitionist who gave her new “free” name. All she knows is that he is somewhere in Ohio. So, to Ohio she heads. Along the way she befriends an orphan boy and encounters seemingly overwhelming obstacles. But, I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say, overcome these obstacles, she does. She raises the orphan boy as her own and even though she doesn’t make it out of Louisiana, forges a life for herself.
One point of observation is that while Miss Jane Pittman has lived a long life, you don’t hear her talk a lot about her own personal life. She would rather discuss the people around her and how they influenced her.

Quotes to quote, ‘”…America is for all of us.” he said,”and all of America is for all of us”‘ (p 115), “He wasn’t aiming to break the door in, he wanted to chop it down” (p 195), and my favorite, “And I will eat vanilla ice cream which I loves and enjoys” (p 219).

Author fact: I could have read this last month in honor of Gaines’s birth month. He was born in January.

Narrator funny: There were times when I was reminded of the actress Whoopie Goldberg when listening to Ms. Thigpen.

Book trivia: The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman was made into a movie. The release date was January 11th, 2005.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the early chapter called “African American Fiction: He Say” (p 11).


Birthday Books of February

Happy birthday to me & moi. This month we celebrate…everything. Here are the anticipated books:

Fiction:

  • The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman by Ernest J Gaines ~ in honor of February being Black History Month (AB).

Nonfiction:

  • An Island to Oneself by Tom Neale ~ Nancy Pearl said to read this after Puka-Puka. So I am.
  • Travels with Tangerine by Tim Macintosh ~ in honor of Feb being exploration month
  • Song of the Dodo: Island Biography in an Age of Extinction by David Quammen ~ in honor of Quammen’s birth month
  • Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology by Eric Brende ~ in honor of February being national science month.
  • Antarctic Destinies b y Stephanie Barcweski (also in honor of exploration month…it’s a long story).

Series (continuations):

  • Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons ~ in honor of January being Sci-Fi month
  • White Nights by Ann Cleeves ~ in honor of January being the month of Up Helly Aa fest in Shetland

For fun:

  • Wonder by RJ Palacio ~ ever since Natalie explained the premise of this book as being based on her song, “Wonder” I have wanted to read it.

Early Review:

  • Supposedly, the January book is Ma Speaks Up by Marianne Leone (LT spells it ‘Leonne’). Since half a dozen ER books have gone missing orĀ  never mailed I’ll wait until it is in my hands before I announce I’m officially reading it.

 


Bebe’s By Golly Wow

Joe, Yolanda. Bebe’s By Golly Wow. New York: Dell Book, 1998.

Bebe (Beatrice Mae Thomas) is a single woman in her 40s looking for love. Isaac Sizemore is divorced firefighter father also looking for love. Only problem is Dashay Sizemore, Isaac’s thirteen year old sass of a daughter. This teenager has abandonment issues and expresses she not ready for mom to be replaced (despite the fact mom deserted the family) through rap songs. An interesting love triangle is in the works. This could get messy. Only, it doesn’t. Not really. This could be a story you see on the Hallmark Channel; something Lifetime for Women. It’s ending is predictable and sweet and the drama (violence, racism, addiction) along the way is quickly extinguished. Written in short, choppy sentences, this is a quick yet delightful read.

My only criticism? The inclusion of Sandra Mae Atkins, Bebe’s best friend, as a voice. Sandy’s side of the story seemed to pad the book for length. She didn’t have much to do with the relationship between Bebe and Isaac. For balance, Joe could have included L.A.’s gambling addiction from his point out view. That way, both friends of the couple shared their supporting stories.

Quotes I liked, “I’d rather put money between my knees and pee on it than give it away to a man I aint married to” (p 32), “It was stone-to-the-bone ugly time” (p 154), and “He left carrying a big sack of mad on his back” (p 233).

Okay. I’ll admit it. I didn’t understand the title until the very end.

Confessional – I did it again. I went and read reviews before even cracking open a page. Shame on me. In my own defense I did it to make sure I wasn’t reading a series out of order (that’s been happening to me a lot). As it turns out, Bebe is a repeat character, first introduced in He Said, She Said. Here’s the ironic thing. I thought I had already read He Said, She Said so I went ahead and ordered Bebe’s. Turns out, I haven’t read He Said but I’ve decided to read them out of order anyway. But, back to my mistake. Too many people said Bebe’s character was shallow and childish and unrealistic. And there was a problem with overuse of slang. Duly noted, but I tried not to let it influence me.

Reason read: Yolanda Joe was born in the month of March.

Author fact: Yolanda Joe also wrote He Said, She Said which is also on my list.

Book trivia: The Chicago Tribune called Bebe’s By Golly Wow “sassy.”

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “African American Fiction: She Say” (p 12).


Billy

French, Albert. Billy. New York: Penguin Books, 1993.

This is in every way the wrong kind of book to be reading at Christmas time. It’s full of racism, prejudice, violence and hate. Ten year old Billy makes a huge mistake. With twelve year old friend, Gumpy, Billy explores a local pond only to be confronted by the owner of the pond’s daughter, an older girl named Lori and her cousin. Lori is a mean white girl who doesn’t take too kindly to black boys splashing in “her” pond. The situation gets out of control and the entire novel spirals into death and disaster. It’s tragic for both families involved; for the entire community for that matter. Sadly, it’s also typical of Mississippi in 1937.

Sorry this review is so short. I really couldn’t wait to finish this book. It was so sad I didn’t pay attention to thought provoking lines. Mea culpa.

Reason read: Mississippi became a state in December and Billy takes place in Mississippi…

Author fact: Billy was Albert French’s first book.

Book trivia: This book will tear your heart out.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “Southern-Fried Fiction” (p).


Corregidora

Jones, Gayl. Corregidora. Boston: Beacon Press, 1975.

The story of Ursa Corregidora is kick-you-in-the-teeth powerful. When we first meet Ursa Corregidora she is a 25 year old blues singer with a jealous husband. When Ursa disregards Mutt’s jealousy and continues performing in the bars he throws her down a flight of stairs causing her to lose her month-old pregnancy. After a hysterectomy Ursa repeatedly revisits her past, reliving generations and generations of slavery and rape. She has been brought up to believe that a woman’s worth lies in her ability to reproduce. Without a womb she is haunted by her ancestors. Physically, she is nursed back to health by her boss and soon his caring takes on a sexual element, one that Ursa has a hard time understanding or enjoying. And speaking of sex, there is a lot of it in Corregidora. Be forewarned, the language is necessarily harsh. This is a short but very powerful book.

Lines that made me catch my breath: “And what if I’d thrown Mutt Thomas down those stairs instead, and done away with the source of his sex, or inspiration, or whatever the hell it is for a man, what would he feel now?” (p 41), “You don’t treat love that way” (p 46),

Reason read: Gayl Jones was born in the month of November.

Author fact: Corregidora is Gayl Jones’s first book.

Book trivia: There is little information about Jones anywhere on Corregidora. There isn’t a photograph or “about the author” statement. It’s as if she wanted the work to stand for itself.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “African American Fiction: She Say” (p 13).


Go Tell It On the Mountain

Baldwin, James. Go Tell It On the Mountain. New York: Library of America, 1998.

What a simple concept. The beginning of the story takes place in a church. Fourteen year old John Grimes is praying beside his family – his Aunt Florence and parents, Gabriel and Elizabeth Grimes. It is in these prayers that an epic story emerges. Go Tell It On the Mountain is a tale told in three parts: The Seventh Day (a day in the life of the Grimes family on a Sunday), The Prayers of the Saints (starting with John’s Aunt Florence), and The Threshing-Floor (John’s “salvation”). The thread between all these parts is John Grimes in theory but the ending is all about his coming full circle. He is at a crossroads in his young life. He knows he is destined to be like the father he can barely stand, but the questions remains, how much like him? Will he become a preacher man, a servant of god? Will he carry anger and violence like his father?

Of note: in this good vs evil tale it is interesting to note the juxtaposition of good vs evil in the father, both in his actions and even his name. Gabriel Grimes is a a man of god who started his early adult years having sex with married women and drinking until he was blurry-eyed and as a married man comes home at night full of rage beat his family. Gabriel is the name of a well-known angel and yet the name Grimes suggests something dirty, something sinful.

Quotables: “And he knew again that she was not saying everything she meant; in a kind of secret language she was telling him today something that he must remember and understand tomorrow” (p 30).
“He would enter on another day, when he had read all the books uptown, an achievement that would, he felt, lend him the poise to enter any building of the world” (p 35). Yeah, books have that power, don’t they?
“The question always filled her with an ecstasy of hatred” (p 81). Pretty powerful stuff. To be sure, there are others.

Reason read: James Arthur Baldwin was born on August 2, 1924.

Author Fact: Go Tell It On the Mountain was Baldwin’s first book and is considered semi-autobiographical.

Book Trivia: Inspired by “Roots” Go Tell It On the Mountain was portrayed as a made-for-television movie in 1984.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “African American Fiction: He Say” (p 10).