Saturday, January 26, 2013

AAL Summer - Fall List is ready!

Greetings! Here's the schedule for our May - September discussions. NOTE: Starting in June we will switch to the 3rd Tuesday of the month, instead of the 2nd. All titles will be held at the RA desk on the 2nd floor of the library for 6 weeks prior to the discussion.

Some of My Best Friends Are Black
 May 14th  Some of My Best Friends Are Black: The Strange Story of Integration in America by Tanner Colby

In this charming and surprisingly funny book, Colby  takes a fresh, honest look at race relations, showing us both how far we've come in bridging the racial divide and how far we've yet to go.  


June 18th  Small Island by Andrea Levy
Small Island

Told in the alternating voices of its central characters, Levy examines the inner lives and struggles of Jamaican immigrants Hortense and Gilbert, and their English landlady Queenie, both before and after World War II.  

Unafraid of the Dark  

 July 16th  Unafraid of the Dark A Memoir by Rosemary Bray McNatt

Rosemary Bray traces her quest for identity as a writer, a feminist, a wife, a mother and an African American. Along the way, she imparts a visceral sense of what it meant to be poor and black in Chicago's South Side in the 1960s. A quietly affecting memoir, and a call to action.

Sag HarborSeptember 17th   Sag Harbor: A Novel bColson Whitehead

In this deeply affectionate and fiercely funny coming-of-age novel, Colson Whitehead uses the perpetual mortification of teenage existence and the desperate quest for reinvention to describe the summer identity quest of a black prep school student in 1985.

Monday, January 14, 2013

From Slavery to Fiction: Intriguing Looks at The Peculiar Institution

It's time to start picking books for our summer and fall discussions! I am always happy to get suggestions from readers, so please, if you have an idea, post it here, on our Facebook or GoodReads page, or simply email me! The only criteria is that it be related to the African American experience, either fiction or nonfiction; and that it be widely available in standard bookstores and public libraries.

 Our February book, The Known World, deals with slavery from an unusual angle, looking at free blacks who themselves became slave owners. There are of course, hundreds of novels about the African American slave experience, but here are a few that take it in a radically different direction than the norm...

Wench, by Dolen Perkins-Valdez [AAL selection May 2011] - The uneasy friendship between four slave women who meet every year when their owner/lovers take them to a summer resort.

Lion's Blood: A Novel of Slavery and Freedom in an Alternate America, by Steven Barnes - What if the racial dynamics of slavery were reversed; if Blacks were the masters and Whites the slaves? Barnes imagines a world where European Americans are enslaved by African landowners.

Someone Knows My Name, by Lawrence Hill - The saga of Aminata, who comes to South Carolina as a slave during the American Revolution and eventually assists in the founding of the slave colony Sierra Leone.

Soulcatcher, and Other Stories by Charles Johnson - Although Middle Passage is his most famous work related to slavery, this story collection examines the many different ways slavery has corroded American humanity through the centuries.

Kindred, by Octavia Butler - The most terrifying science fiction story I've ever read: what if you were a confident, independent black woman of the 20th century who is abruptly catapulted back to the slave-owning 19th century South?

Aannnddd...this Saturday January 19th, stop by EPL to watch a remarkable film telling a unique tale aout slavery, Prince Among Slaves

African Heritage Film: Prince Among Slaves

Saturday, January 19, 2 pm, Community Meeting Room, Main Library
In 1788, a slave ship sailed from the Gambia River with hundreds of men, women and children bound in chains. Eight months later, a handful of survivors were sold in Natchez, Mississippi. One of them made an astonishing claim: he was a prince of an African kingdom larger and more developed than the newly formed United States. The true story of an African prince who endured the humiliation of slavery without losing his dignity or hope of freedom.  Narrated by Mos Def. Prince Among Slaves won the Best Documentary prize at the 2007 American Black Film Festival.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

"Fierce and Nerdy": Pretty in Pink meets The Color Purple

32 Candles was an absolute treat for me, and I can't wait to read more by Ernessa T. Carter. Founder and editor of the Fierce and Nerdy blog, Ms Carter delivers a much needed kick in the pants to "chick lit" and African American romance, with a central character who is dark skinned, Southern, nerdy and considers herself ugly. Influenced by Celie in the Alice Walker classic The Color Purple, Carter takes the ugly duckling theme of popular movie romances like 16 Candles and reinterprets them for a black audience. Whereas a gorgeous bridesmaid dress and hipster music gets the guy for Molly Ringwald, learning to love her natural hair, dark skin, and superior smarts is what does it for Davie.
In a recent interview, talking about the Molly Ringwald movies that are such a touchstone for her character Davie, Carter says:

"I found that really interesting that people said they were universal after John Hughes died just because it is so outside of so many people’s experience, but at the same time I think what they really mean when they say [those films] are universal is that the fantasy of it is universal. Everybody wants to have the guy fall head-over-heels for them. They want to get the richest guy in school. That fantasy may be universal, but I don’t necessarily think the experience is universal. "

For some discussion ideas, see the Harper-Collins reading group guide to 32 Candles. See you Tuesday at 7, in our usual spot: the Small Meeting room of EPL!