Sunday, November 20, 2005

Quick hits - reviews, etc.

Lots of stuff is happening with my other projects, so this will be quick. Do keep sending me links and notes, though and I'll post.

Nice story on John Hope Franklin in the Raleigh News and Observer.
Janet McDonald has an essay about her perspective on the French riots at Newsday. She's the author of Project Girl.
Nalo Hopkinson relates two pieces of good news on her blog. One - Nnedimma Okorafor-Mbachu won a Magical Realism Short Story Contest. Her novel is Zahrah the Windseeker. And the Dark Matter Series, edited by Sheree R. Thomas, won the World Fantasy Award.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

A few reviews and such

Usually I avoid books written by celebrities. I'm just skeptical that they will be anything more than just a publicity tool. So I was a little wary of Denise Nicholas' Freshwater Road. It sounded like a good idea, but would it be well executed? Well the reviews look good, so I'm going to read it. Plus I was a big fan of In the Heat of the Night, so it's a little fan thing too. Here's what's being written about the book:
Washington Post
A short Q&A in the Detroit Free Press

Apparently I started this and never published it. Aagh.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Call me a slacker - but check these links

Yep. I'm a slacker. But I've been productive on other fronts, so I'm happy about that. Here's some reading about authors, books, other.

Octavia Butler interview in The Minnesota Daily

Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, and a little race talk:
Whitman even once wrote in a magazine article that blacks were no more capable than baboons, though he crossed off that reference before the article was printed, Gewirtz added.

But all that has failed to put a damper on Whitman's growing popularity, and today he is widely accepted even by African American authors.

Hmm. I'd like to hear what African American authors say about Whitman's work and legacy. I'll have to go revisit some of his poetry, which I haven't read since high school, I think. Comments, anyone?

A couple of reviews of Cinnamon Kiss, the new Easy Rawlins novel from Walter Mosley:
Detroit Free Press
Sun Sentinel (Ft. Lauderdale)

And a conversation between Walter Mosley and Ed Gordon on NPR. There's a new movie in the works for Easy!

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Writers Raising Money

Linda Dominique Grosvenor has set up a a donation drive on her site to benefit child victims of Hurricane Katrina. Another way to give during the crisis.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Authors Helping Katrina Victims, Other Notes

Obviously all eyes are turned toward Katrina, the relief efforts and the criticism of said efforts. It's unbelievable that we are watching refugees and this type of rescue effort in the U.S. Usually we're sending help somewhere else. And so many of us needing the help. There are lots of Black folks writing about what's going on and I'll link to some of the commentary here.

Also want to talk about relief efforts by authors. A few weeks ago a bunch of authors set up auctions to benefit one of their own who lost everything in a fire. A similar effort,, has sprung up to benefit Larissa Ione, a romance writer from Mississippi.

So knowing that New Orleans has a high percentage of African Americans and is a place where the African culture has had such a major influence, I'm curious about how Black writers are faring after the disaster and about efforts by other writers to reach out in some way. Send an email about any relief efforts you're involved in or have heard about. Also, who are the novelists who live in New Orleans and other affected areas? Seems like it would be a nice gesture to go out and buy their books right about now, in addition to making donations to help all kinds of people affected by the tragedy.

Tayari Jones has set up a little program of her own. If you donate to the relief fund, she will send you a signed copy of one of her books. Go to her site to get details on how to do this.

Anybody else?

Other notes
Lots of recent author interviews on Ed Gordon's NPR show, including:
Christopher John Farley talking about Kingston by Starlight
John Ridley on Barbershop, the TV show
A wonderful piece by Roy Hurst on Helen Oyeyemi (The Icarus Girl)
Pearl Cleage giving a tour of Spelman College

Check out Poets & Writers' September Issue. There's an amazing photograph of James Baldwin on the cover.

Toni Morrison spoke at the University of Miami (Florida) this week. Read about it here.

Marilynn Griffith (whose novel Made of Honor is due first of the year), posted today about a deal for Claudia Burney. Here's the text from Marilynn's blog:

One of my dear friends and favorite bloggers, Claudia Burney, has just signed a three-book contract with the new NavPress fiction line! The series, The Bell Brown Mysteries, is one of the best I've seen in quite some time and I wish you all could read it right now. Unfortunately, you'll have to wait until next summer. The first book is A FLING AND A PRAYER, the second is titled ALL THAT'S JAZZ, after Jazz Brown, the hunky police detective love interest and the third title is BETWEEN ROCKY AND A HARD PLACE, after Bell's cool and cute Emergent pastor who loves Jesus...and Bell.

For any of you who know Claudia as the Ragamuffin Diva, you know how gifted a writer she is. If you don't know, you soon will find out...

Yeah. It's like that. :)

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Catching Up

Okay - I've been missing in action, but with good reason. I was a the National Association of Black Journalists 30th anniversary conference. Sans laptop, so no blogging. But it was a pretty good conference. It seemed a little lighter on sessions than past gatherings, but the sessions that did happen were good. And lots of authors and book talk there. Seems a lot of journalists want to writer in longer form.

And yes, the National Book Club Conference was going on at the same time. No, I didn't go visit over there - though it would seem like the right place for the BBB Editor. Just didn't have the registration cash, or extra time. I hear really good things about the turnout and the vibe. Check out "Tayari Jones' reports from the conference.

Here are a few links worth checking out:
A NYTimes story about Jill Nelson and her new book, Finding Martha's Vineyard: African Americans at Home on an Island,. There's also an audio slideshow.
She's also featured in a story on the Boston Globe web site, which touches on issues of class as well as race and color.

The South Carolina Writers Conference is in October and Kimberla Lawson Roby is the keynote speaker.

Also in the NYTimes - a review of Israel on the Appomattox : A Southern Experiment in Black Freedom From the 1790s Through the Civil War, by Melvin Patrick Ely and The First Emancipator: The Forgotten Story of Robert Carter, the Founding Father Who Freed His Slaves, by Andrew Levy, two biographies of American slaveholders who freed their slaves.

The Berry College Southern Women Writers Conference will be September 22 - 24, 2005. Tina McElroy Ansa and Trudier Harris are among the scheduled speakers.

I know that's been a real mixed up bag of links - but I'm trying to catch up. Thanks for the emails - I'll be updating my links rail soon.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

E-Drummers, Authors Elsewhere, Notes

Welcome to all the visitors who saw the posting on Kalamu's listserv - and a big thank you to Kalamu for that ever bountiful list.

In Authors Elsewhere
Lisa Teasley has an essay in this month's
Real Simple about, as she puts it, "growing up with dark skin in a eurocentric culture that doesn't revere blackness as beautiful." So check it out. Lisa is the author of Dive and Glow in the Dark.

Authors on the Web
I posted earlier about the lack of a site for Terry McMillan. Well the site is up (or back?) and it's good. I particularly like the family photo animation.

I'll be back later this week with more - got to get some rest tonight. Keep sending those links!

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Reviews, Authors Elsewhere, Whatnots

Authors writing elsewhere

Danyel Smith has a nice essay in the current Essence (with Terrance Howard on the cover) about falling for her new husband. That's cool for two reasons - the fact that Essence is devoting some pages to Black marriage and it's an opportunity to congratulate Danyel on finding wedded bliss. Check out her new novel, Bliss, as well. She's doing a few readings these days.

John Fountain had a piece on why he stopped going to church in the Washington Post last week. He raises good questions about the materialism of church leadership and the lack of energy, funds and programs directed toward the very real problems in the community. Thanks to Tayari Jones for the link. John is the author of True Vine: A Young Black Man's Journey of Faith, Hope and Clarity.

Shelf Segregation
Here's an essay in The Book Standard that is a response to an essay by David Leavitt in the NYTimes about the closing of a gay bookstore in NY and the status of gay fiction. The Book Standard piece, by Johnny Temple, makes the comparison of the marginalization of gay fiction in general stores with similar treatment of titles by Black authors. Most of this will be familiar to lovers of Black books who can't find certain authors in big stores or are frustrated when their own titles are limited to the "race shelf." What I found most interesting is that, except for a mention of James Baldwin, there was no mention in either piece of the recent spate of Black gay literature. Now where are those books placed? On the Black or the gay shelf? I've noticed in several stores that those few shelves tend to be close together, if not adjacent. Another example of double invisibility.

Terry Update
The hits keeping coming. Here are reviews and stories about Terry McMillan and her new novel, The Interruption of Everything.
NY Daily News story
Seattle Times review
USA Today review
Philadelphia Inquirer review
Chicago Sun-Times review

Book Trailers?
What if you could see a trailer for a book? Yes, a visual interpretation of the written word - as a promotion vehicle. That's what the folks behind have come up with. I went there after reading about VidLits on MJRose's Buzz, Balls & Hype site. Watched the vidlit for her novel, The Halo Effect, then watched the Bertice Berry vidlit for When Love Calls You Better Answer. First of all, MJ Rose is not Black - so don't be confused - BBB is aware of that. Her site is great though with loads of insight on book publishing and marketing. Both vidlits were for novels I probably would not have picked up, but the animated promos piqued my interest in both of them. Something to check out.

Proceeds from a new book, titled 100 Words of Wisdom, will go toward fighting domestic violence. According to the book web site, Dr. Julianne Malveaux and are among the contributors. I love the animated woman on the site - though I must admit when I realized she follows your cursor, I did try to make her cross her eyes!

R. Spot Barber and Books in San Diego has closed due to a rent increase.

The African American Odyssey, a college text, has been revised for high school students. Here's a story in the Philadelphia Inquirer about the text, the differences between the two versions and the content.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Readings, Poetry, and Reading Lists

Christopher John Farley has two upcoming readings for Kingston by Starlight - check him out if you can.

July 19, 7 p.m.
McNally Robinson
52 Prince Street
New York, NY 10012

July 25, 7 p.m.
Pirate Soul Museum
524 Front Street
Key West, FL 33040

Sapphire was a master artist in residence at the Atlantic Center for the Arts (New Smyrna Beach, FL) this summer and there was a good article about her and the associate artists in the Orlando Sentinel last week. One of the associate artists is Glenis Redmond from N.C. The closing event for the residency - open to the public, is Inside/Out at the ACA tonight. Begins at 7:30 p.m.

Beware the Reading List
The president at Prairie View A&M is handing out a list of 19 must-read works by Black authors so that students, regardless of race, know the Black experience. That is the lead-in in a Houston Chronicle story about concerns that the Black university is losing it's historic and Black identity. That caught my eye because I also read this story in the St. Pete Times earlier this month about a teacher who is accused of forcing students to read Black authors.

I remember other stories about non-Black teachers doing things that might be read as culturally sensitive and progressive or racially inappropriate, depending on your viewpoint. And a story about African American parents who had a problem with their child having to read a novel about a lynching in class. They didn't want him to be embarrassed in his predominantly white classroom. This kind of attitude makes my head spin - and not in a good way. I can't believe that parents are worried their child will be embarrassed by his history and would actually ask to have a book pulled. Or that they would accuse a teacher of bias for introducing titles by Black authors. But of course, I don't know the whole story in either instance.


Professor and poet Lorenzo Thomas of Texas has passed away. Here's the Houston Chronicle obit. Here's a graph from the obit that gives some idea of his influence:

During his years at Queens College, Thomas joined the Umbra Workshop, a collective that met on the Lower East Side and served as a crucible for emerging black poets, among them Ishmael Reed, David Henderson and Calvin Hernton. The workshop was one of the currents that fed the Black Arts Movement of the '60s and '70s, the first major African-American artistic movement after the Harlem Renaissance.

Black Author Summer
The LA Times did a nice piece on Black women authors and the six who have new titles out now (Terry McMillan, Pearl Cleage, Valerie Wilson Wesley, Benild Little, Connie Briscoe and Bebe Moore Campbell). I glad to see they way they give one another props.

Campbell's book, 72 Hold, deals with mental illness and family issues. I thought is was interesting to see on Kyra Davis' (Sex, Murder and a Double Latte) blog, that she is "coming out" about her experience with a family member with bipolar disorder. It's wonderful that they're talking about mental health issues - and hopefully helpful to someone out there.

Friday, July 15, 2005

A Few Quick Things

Much like Tayari Jones, I don't mean to be obsessed with Terry McMillan, but the current back and forth between her and her soon-to-be ex-husband is interesting to watch. And listening to her finally talk about this on the Tavis Smiley show this week was interesting as well. So here are a few more links:

Audio from the Tavis show (also a transcript)
Column by John McCann in Durham (mentions a local book club, too)
Keith Boykin's column in the Southern Voice mentions Plummer (and Luther Vandross and J.L. King) as he writes about images of black gay men

Christopher John Farley's Kingston by Starlight is mentioned in the August issue of Vanity Fair (with Martha on the cover). The mention isn't online, so you'll have to get your hands on a hard copy to read the Hot Type column.

Festival Alert
The National Black Arts Festival in Atlanta begins this weekend. This is one of my favorite festivals - and I'm sad I won't be there this year. If you can get there, check it out. Among the authors who will be there: Maya Angelou, Guy Johnson, Tony Medina, Nikki Giovanni, jessica care moore-Poole, Valerie Boyd, Malaika Adero and more.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Terry, Bebe and Real Life

First of all, we'll probably make a Monday (or Tuesday for the three day weekends) regular feature out of the Sunday reviews of any authors we're watching. Here's what ran this past weekend in a few papers:

Lots of coverage for Bebe Moore Campbell's 72 Hour Hold(Knopf, June 28, 2005)
Reviews in: Orlando Sentinel | LA Times + related essay, both by Paula L. Woods | Interview with Ed Gordon on NPR

The Icarus Girl, by Helen Oyeyemi
Washington Post BookWorld

Lots of talk about how real life affects fiction in the reviews and interviews around Campbell's new book. There's also a lot of talk about reality and fiction and where they meet as people dissect the Terry McMillan divorce saga. Jimi Izrael has a commentary on Ed Gordon about the "down low" component in her personal drama and Tayari Jones blogs about the dangers of pressuring authors to use their personal lives to promote their fiction.

Seems like there's a line that McMillan crossed that Campbell hasn't. And understandably so. McMillan was telling just her story when she talked about her Jamaican honey. Campbell has been circumspect about naming the loved one who has mental illness, obviously to protect him or her and the rest of their family. And there's a public education aspect to her conversations about the mentally ill - the family connection makes her a credible spokesperson. Still, I don't fault McMillan for being upfront about her relationship and how her groove was the foundation for the novel and movie. She was happy and that's what happy people do - shout about it. It might be painful and embarrassing now, but it was glorious then. I wonder if this would merit as much attention if her soon-to-be ex was simply a player, a hetero player or just triflin or boring or whatever? Would we even care? I don't think so.

Still, it's mighty handy for her to get this much attention right before her next book appears.


If you've been here before, you know this blog has seen many a template. Just trying to find something we like and make a committment. So bear with us on the look and feel, please.

Also realized that in the last incarnation the email address was missing - so give us a shout now that it's conveniently in the corner.

Monday, June 27, 2005

McMillan's Down Low Experience

Down Low Kills Stella's Groove
Terry McMillan's bestselling book and the movie based on it, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, were based on her own experiences with a much younger lover. The movie was a big hit and I'm sure sparked many a fantasy about island rendez-vous. Well, in real life it seems McMillan's lover was on the down low. He has admitted he's gay and is seeking support from her. It's all coming out in the divorce proceedings and the news media. Stories appeared today in the SFChronicle and Chicago Tribune.

With all the recent attention to the "down low," a novel by McMillan on the trials of a woman caught up in the lies would be a big seller. And not a bad way to get even.

Is Waiting to Exhale Chick Lit?
Well, the NYTimes seems to think it is, or at least a precursor to chick lit. Felicia R. Lee's story in the NYT looks at how pioneering authors Terry McMillan, Connie Briscoe and Benilde Little are writing stories about more mature women these days. Interesting to see the three of them put together in this story. Other authors, like Pearl Cleage, are named as well.
Here are their upcoming or recent titles:
Connie Briscoe, Can't Get Enough
Terry McMillan, The Interruption of Everything
Benilde Little, Who Does She Think She Is?

Mississippi Freedom Fiction
Denise Nicholas, the actress from In The Heat of the Night (the TV series, not the movie), has a novel due out in August. The book, Freshwater Road, is mentioned in DeWayne Wickham's column in USA Today and recounts the tale of a young woman working in Mississippi during the 1960s civil rights movement. Interesting timing for her, considering the developments in the murder cases in Mississippi this summer.

80 Year Old Book Club
The Des Moines Register has a feature on an 80-year-old women's book club that started as an all black YWCA group and is now integrated. I've been a participant in only one regular book club, all African American, and have always wondered what it would be like to read with an integrated group - outside of academic settings, that is. It was nice to see that this group has been going strong for so long.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Penguin flap

Stumbled on an old, in web terms at least, story in the Guardian about Penguin's 70th anniversary list of titles. There's a little controversy because the publisher had very few authors of color on the list celebrating the company's history. In particular, James Baldwin and Chinua Achebe are not included.

Part of the Penguin executive's explanation is that because those authors haven't sold very well, they weren't included, or even considered.

Is this corporate snub even worth acknowledging? How much does it matter if Baldwin or Achebe are on this list? In one sense it is probably more true to the impact their writing had for them to be excluded from the list - who wants to be on the man's list, anyway?. And their kind of outsider status helps explain why the sales aren't in the same league as a contemporary, less political novelist. And were authors like Baldwin and Achebe on the list, would their titles get the kind of boost as the other books?

It would have been nice to see if they garnered more sales. I'd love to hear thoughts on this - post away.

Karibu in B'more
Karibu Books is opening a store in Baltimore - and the Sun has a feature on the store and new location.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Snubbing the Queen and other notes

Winning a prize is one thing, but for Caryl Phillips and Mark Haddon, bowing to a queen is quite another and they want no parts of it. Both authors won the Commonwealth Prize and neither accepted the invitation, which comes with the prize, to an audience with the queen. It wasn't just scheduling conflicts, either. Both authors say they don't believe in the monarchy and the problems with the idea of monarchy are similar to those they explore in their work. Thanks to places for writers for the link to the Guardian article about their refusal to meet with the queen. Here's a quote from the article from Phillips:

I'm trying to interrogate British history and mythologies and duplicities, and one of the enduring myths is the royal family, which is white and Christian and 'pure-blooded', and on which the sun never sets.
Phillips won the 2004 Commonwealth prize for his novel, A Distant Shore. Haddon won for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

Authors Elsewhere

Bebe Moore Campbell (72 Hour Hold) and Terry McMillan (The Interruption of Everything) are both featured in the July issue of Essence with excerpts from their new novels. Also in the books section of the July issue: former Vibe editor-in-chief Danyel Smith talking about her new novel, Bliss and the following beach read recommendations: Kingston By Starlight by Christopher John Farley, The Icarus Girl, by Helen Oyeyemi and Tropical Fish, by Doreen Baingana.

BBB loves seeing the diaspora represented so well in corporate publication. Perhaps all is not lost with Essence.

By the way, the link above for Danyel Smith actually leads to her blog. We'll be bookmarking that one. Incredibly, BBB couldn't find an official site for Terry McMillan. You'd think she'd have a very good site - or at least something. The url of her name leads to a site that's supposedly a coming attraction. Very odd - I would think she and her publisher would be all over that marketing opportunity.

Tayari Jones has a very good essay up at her site about marketing. She talks about her experiences being promoted as a Southern writer and then, with the current book, The Untelling, as a Black writer.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Merged Publication, An Award, and Whatnots

Lit Pubs Merge
Black Issues Book Review and QBR, the two publications that focus exclusively on the work of Black authors, announced that they will merge. It'll be interesting to see what changes or additions to coverage show up in BIBR, which will be the editorial arm of the company.

A Prize
British writer Diana Evans was named winner of the inaugural Orange Prize for New Writers with her debut novel 26a. See the write up in the Scotsman. The Orange Prize is given by a British group to women fiction writers annually. Read an interview with Evans here.

Literary Ball
Check out the details for the Rawsistaz Affair, an event celebrating the reading group and authors, this fall in Atlanta.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Quick Hits

Well somebody else is thinking about the publishing industry and black folks. Black Issues Book Review and Target Market News have teamed up to produce this site. Doesn't seem like it's being updated very regularly.
Then again, even the BBB has off days.

Speaking of BIBR, the web content from the current issue is now online, including reviews of news novels by Tayari Jones, Pearl Cleage (though her site isn't really updated - odd, that) and Valerie Wilson Wesley.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Butler's Back

On a quick search I found this university newspaper story about an appearance by Octavia Butler and was happy to see that she has a new novel due out this year, Fledgling is the title. But I have yet to find a link to a synopsis on the book - oh well, we'll just have to wait and see.

And here's a Z.Z. Packer review in the NYTimes of Charles Johnson's new collection, Dr. King's Refrigerator and Other Bedtime Stories.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Marriage, publicity and a novel

Maryann Reid, author of Use Me or Lose Me, wants more Black couples with children to get married. So she's holding a contest to give a free wedding and is screening contestants for the September ceremony. Perhaps it's her publisher's contest - that isn't clear from the story (you may have to watch an ad). Reid does have a book coming out at the same time and it's titled - Marry Your Baby Mama, just like her contest. Innovative book marketing or just a sad stunt?

Literary R&R

Here's a nice short piece on Monique Greenwood's Akwaaba D.C., a literary themed bed and breakfast inn in the Baltimore Sun. Much as I love mysteries, I think I'll skip the Mosley room. The idea of murder mysteries might keep me up at night - unless Easy is going to pay a visit.

Let's try this again

Okay - so the BBB didn't quite make it past conception back in 2004. Luckily, the good folks at Blogger will let your blog sit for a really long time with no updates. I'm willing to try again - so let's get to it.

Donald Bogle's history of Black Hollywood is getting a lot of press right now - especially with a record number of Black folk nominated for Academy Awards (3 days left!). There's an interview with him on and he talked about Bright Boulevards, Bold Dreams with Ed Gordon at NPR. His commentary about the struggles of contemporary African American women in Hollywood is interesting. He's right about Angela Bassett - why isn't she a bigger star?

The Seattle Times ran an article on urban lit (aka ghetto lit, hip hop lit) and links the genre to the Harlem Renaissance and the Black Arts Movement. Donnell Alexander makes some pointed comments about the cultural and financial ups and downs of the publishing industry from his perspective as an author with a book (Ghetto Celebrity) that will find a home on library shelves. Read his San Francisco Chronicle essay. Both links came from the fabulous Negrophile.

Speaking of urban and celebrity, I got the new Savoy this week. I subscribed to the old version and I suppose the list was sold with the mag. Anyway, I've read a couple of short features and flipped through the book. Unfortunately, it seems to have lost some luster. And they need to get serious about editing the copy - if they're trying to reach bourgeouis educated Negroes, it doesn't help to see Zore Neal Hurston [sic] and Santa Clause [sic] plus an almost unreadable tribute to Adam Clayton Powell. Then again the site's web site is still just an "under construction" page, so they've got bigger issues. There's a book review of Brown Sugar 4: Secret Desires. Novelist RM Johnson is on the masthead, so at least there's hope of some review coverage.