Tag Archives: books

Nigger is a powerful word …

I’m still working on my blog post about Django Unchained but until then … read this article from Clutch Magazine.

Samuel L. Jackson’s Brilliant Answer To The Question That Never Was

The article focuses on a moment during an interview about Sam’s role in Django Unchained. The interviewer, a white male, could not say the word nigger in front of Samuel L. Jackson, even thought it was part of a question pertaining to a movie that has gratuitous  use of the word.

I will go ahead and say this now … I will use the word Nigger on this blog if the situation calls for it. I will not censor myself. I dare you to say you have never used the word … I don’t believe you.

To be honest I only say “the n-word” when speaking to white people. I’m still trying to figure out why I do that. Maybe because I don’t want them to say it back? Who knows …

Anyway … go read this article and watched the video embedded in it.

If you haven’t seen Django Unchained, go see it.  Once I figure out my angle, I’ll be writing about it and (of course) provided suggested reading materials.

 

Happy Reading!!!

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January Book Picks!

Happy New Year!

Thanks to everyone who voted and left feedback about which books to read this month.

With 86% of the vote, the fiction pick is A Mercy by Toni Morrisson

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With 57% of the vote, the nonfiction pick is Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin.

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We start reading January 15th 🙂

Happy Reading!!!

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9 Days Left – Don’t forget to vote for the January 2013 books!

In case you missed the posts providing descriptions of the books, along with the polls – read about the fiction books here and the nonfiction books here.

So far the results are:

A Mercy by Toni Morrison – 83% or On Beauty by Zadie Smith 17%

Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin 57% or The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot 43%

PS – you can vote multiple times 🙂

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Vote for What to Read in January 2013 – Non Fiction

The time has finally come … time to pick the first two books we (or I) will read exclusively for the blog.

Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin vs The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

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John Howard Griffin’s groundbreaking and controversial novel about his experiences as a white man who transforms himself with the aid of medication and dye in order to experience firsthand the life of a black man living in the Deep South in the late 1950s is a mesmerizing tale of the ultimate sociological experiment. Ray Childs’ narration is both straightforward and deeply satisfying. A skilled reader, he incorporates different dialects to help listeners distinguish among the various characters. His ability to convey a full spectrum of emotions, including exhilaration, bone deep sadness, and gut wrenching fear is riveting. Equally fascinating is Childs’ description of how Griffin’s unheard of approach to studying racial discrimination changed his personal life and ignited a storm of argument and discussion around the nation.
from Amazon

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Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells—taken without her knowledge—became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. If you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they’d weigh more than 50 million metric tons—as much as a hundred Empire State Buildings. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions.

Yet Henrietta Lacks remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave.

Now Rebecca Skloot takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the “colored” ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to stark white laboratories with freezers full of HeLa cells; from Henrietta’s small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia—a land of wooden slave quarters, faith healings, and voodoo—to East Baltimore today, where her children and grandchildren live and struggle with the legacy of her cells.

Henrietta’s family did not learn of her “immortality” until more than twenty years after her death, when scientists investigating HeLa began using her husband and children in research without informed consent. And though the cells had launched a multimillion-dollar industry that sells human biological materials, her family never saw any of the profits. As Rebecca Skloot so brilliantly shows, the story of the Lacks family—past and present—is inextricably connected to the dark history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over whether we control the stuff we are made of.

Over the decade it took to uncover this story, Rebecca became enmeshed in the lives of the Lacks family—especially Henrietta’s daughter Deborah, who was devastated to learn about her mother’s cells. She was consumed with questions: Had scientists cloned her mother? Did it hurt her when researchers infected her cells with viruses and shot them into space? What happened to her sister, Elsie, who died in a mental institution at the age of fifteen? And if her mother was so important to medicine, why couldn’t her children afford health insurance?

Intimate in feeling, astonishing in scope, and impossible to put down, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks captures the beauty and drama of scientific discovery, as well as its human consequences.
from Amazon

PS – I’ve read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks … it is an amazing and informative read. Truth is much more stranger than fiction.

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My Problem With Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter

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I recently got the chance to watch Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter (thanks NetFlix), and even though it was a great piece of fiction, there are some historical things that bothered me.

Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, has become a man of legend. It makes perfect sense that he was a Vampire Hunter on the side. Seth Grahame-Smith did an awesome job of incorporated the tale of the vampire in to the history of the United States and the Civil War.

But that’s not what this post is about … this is about Abe Lincoln’s black friend.

This was the one thing in the movie that I could not suspend belief for, and here’s why…

Abraham Lincoln has gone down in the annals of history as the “freer of slaves” and the saving grace of the modern-day Republican party. PUH-LEEZE … thanks to America’s piss poor education system and the systematic misrepresentation of slavery and all other things considered “black history,” you’ve got the wrong idea about this man.

Lincoln was anti-slavery – not an abolitionist. To clear up any confusion, abolitionist thought that it was immoral for any human to be enslaved; anti-slavery meant that you didn’t want it where you lived but it was okay for it to stay in the South. One thing that both had in common is that they didn’t believe in equal rights for the races.

Go ahead and re-read that last sentence …

You probably also think that the Civil War was a war to end the institution of slavery. Nah, not at all. The Civil War was began because the Lincoln administration was pissed that the Southern states had went through with secession and were hell-bent on teaching them a lesson and getting them back. Yes, slavery was the hot button issue of the day. But the discussion was about stopping the spread of it, not stopping it completely.

But what about the Emancipation Proclamation?!?!

Truth is, it did not free the slaves. I’ll spare you all the details and focus on the important part. The document ordered that slaves in the 10 states in rebellion be treated as free men by the Union army. This was Lincoln’s command as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces – not a law passed by Congress. As a result, millions of slaves were freed by Union troops or freed themselves. Some owners freed their slaves because they simply couldn’t afford them anymore.

So how did slavery get abolished, Mimie???

Glad you asked, dear readers. Slaver was abolished on a Federal level by the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865. Two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was decreed in 1863.

All that being said, I find it hard to believe that Abraham Lincoln had a black friend. I doubt he felt Blacks should be treated as equals. He only wanted slavery to not exist – in Illinois. 

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Vote for What to Read in January 2013 – Fiction

The time has finally come … time to pick the first two books we (or I) will read exclusively for the blog.

A Mercy by Toni Morrison vs On Beauty by Zadie Smith

a mercy

In the 1680s the slave trade in the Americas is still in its infancy. Jacob Vaark is an Anglo-Dutch trader and adventurer, with a small holding in the harsh North. Despite his distaste for dealing in “flesh,” he owns a small girl in part payment for a bed debt from a plantation owner in Catholic Maryland. This is Florens, who can read and write and might be useful on his farm. Rejected by her mother, Florens looks for love, first from Lina, an older servant woman at her new master’s house, and later from the handsome Blacksmith, an African, never enslaved, who comes riding into their lives. A Mercy reveals what lies beneath the surface of slavery. But at its heart, like Beloved, it is the ambivalent, disturbing story of a mother and daughter – a mother who casts off her daughter in order to save her, and a daughter who may never exorcise the abandonment.
from Amazon

on beauty

Howard Belsey is a middle-class white liberal Englishman teaching abroad at Wellington, a thinly disguised version of one of the Ivies. He is a Rembrandt scholar who can’t finish his book and a recent adulterer whose marriage is now on the slippery slope to disaster. His wife, Kiki, a black Floridian, is a warm, generous, competent wife, mother, and medical worker. Their children are Jerome, disgusted by his father’s behavior, Zora, Wellington sophomore firebrand feminist and Levi, eager to be taken for a “homey,” complete with baggy pants, hoodies and the ever-present iPod. This family has no secrets–at least not for long. They talk about everything, appropriate to the occasion or not. And, there is plenty to talk about.

The other half of the story is that of the Kipps family: Monty, stiff, wealthy ultra-conservative vocal Christian and Rembrandt scholar, whose book has been published. His wife Carlene is always slightly out of focus, and that’s the way she wants it. She wafts over all proceedings, never really connecting with anyone. That seems to be endemic in the Kipps household. Son Michael is a bit of a Monty clone and daughter Victoria is not at all what Daddy thinks she is. Indeed, Forster’s advice, “Only connect,” is lost on this group.

The two academics have long been rivals, detesting each other’s politics and disagreeing about Rembrandt. They are thrown into further conflict when Jerome leaves Wellington to get away from the discovery of his father’s affair, lands on the Kipps’ doorstep, falls for Victoria and mistakes what he has going with her for love. Howard makes it worse by trying to fix it. Then, Kipps is granted a visiting professorship at Wellington and the whole family arrives in Massachusetts.
from Amazon

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Author Spotlight: Octavia E. Butler

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“Most of us don’t have to worry about being shot if we poke our noses outside. So we are comfortable, but the people I’m writing about are definitely not comfortable, and being shot while they’re still inside is a good possibility.”

For Reading is the New Black’s first author spotlight, I’ve decided to introduce to my readers my favorite unsung author – Octavia E. Butler.

Octavia E. Butler was born on June 22, 1947 in Pasadena, California. As a child she was drawn to science fiction magazine and soon branched out to reading the science fiction classics. At the age of 12, Octavia was inspired to begin writing science fiction after watching a bad science fiction movie. She thought that she could write better stories than the movie – the rest is history.

This MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant recipient penned five science fiction series and a number of short stories before her death on February 24, 2006.

Why you should know who she is and read her works –

The genre of science fiction is a predominately white, male field so to be a successful Black, gay, female writer in this genre is something to make a big deal about. Her protagonists tend to be Black women set in dystopian futures or in parallel realities. Her writing isn’t always viewed as your typical science fiction read, you won’t find futuristic weapons and interplanetary travel. For those who like to nit pick, work falls in to the speculative fiction realm of science fiction.

Her books are rich with social criticism, off the top of my head I can talk about the themes of class, race, and gender that I picked up on while reading The Patternist and Parable Series. Altogether, I’ve read 6 of her novels and have made it a personal goal of mine to read all of her published works.

Her novel, Kindred is on the 2013 reading list. I chose this novel because it one of her two stand alone novels, and I also have never read it. I hope you all vote for it.

If you would like to know more about Octavia E. Butler (other than Wikipedia), click on the links below.

The official Octavia E. Butler website

NPR Essay – UN Racism Conference

 

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