Friday, July 17, 2009

Friday Finds: July 17

This Friday Finds is dealing with the theme: books by and/or about African American.

One of the things that I love about book blogs is that I get to read reviews about a wide variety of books. Because of this I have been introduced to books that I would never have heard about, especially those by and/or about African American. This week I have picked out 6 books. Some are fiction, some are non-fiction, one is a graphic novel, and one is a young adult novel.

Mare'sWar by Tanita S. Davis
Meet Mare, a grandmother with flair and a fascinating past.

Octavia and Tali are dreading the road trip their parents are forcing them to take with their grandmother over the summer. After all, Mare isn’t your typical grandmother. She drives a red sports car, wears stiletto shoes, flippy wigs, and push-up bras, and insists that she’s too young to be called Grandma. But somewhere on the road, Octavia and Tali discover there’s more to Mare than what you see. She was once a willful teenager who escaped her less-than-perfect life in the deep South and lied about her age to join the African American battalion of the Women’s Army Corps during World War II.

Told in alternating chapters, half of which follow Mare through her experiences as a WAC member and half of which follow Mare and her granddaughters on the road in the present day, this novel introduces a larger-than-life character who will stay with readers long after they finish reading.

Rather We Got Casinos and Other Black Thoughts by Larry Wilmore
Within these pages are the musings, the revelations, the ruminations, and the reflections of the incomparable Larry Wilmore. Here, collected for the first time, all in one place, are his Black Thoughts. From why black weathermen make him feel happy (or sad) and why brothas don't see UFOs to his search for Black Jesus or his quest to replace "African-American" with "chocolate," Wilmore has finally relented, agreeing to share his unique (black) perspective. Soon, you too will have the ability to find racism in everything. Bring back the Shetland Negro and do away with Black History Month! After all, can twenty-eight days of trivia really make up for centuries of oppression? In Wilmore's own words, "I'd rather we got casinos!

Life is Short but Wide by J. California Cooper
Beloved writer J. California Cooper has won a legion of loyal fans and much critical acclaim for her powerful storytelling gifts. In language both spare and direct yet wondrously lyrical, LIFE IS SHORT BUT WIDE is an irresistible story of family that proves no matter who you are or what you do, you are never too old to chase your dreams.

Like the small towns J. California Cooper has so vividly portrayed in her previous novels and story collections, Wideland, Oklahoma, is home to ordinary Americans struggling to raise families, eke out a living, and fulfill their dreams. In the early twentieth century, Irene and Val fall in love in Wideland. While carving out a home for themselves, they also allow neighbors Bertha and Joseph to build a house and live on their land. The next generation brings two girls for Irene and Val, and a daughter for Bertha and Joseph. As the families cope with the hardships that come with changing times and fortunes, and people are born and pass away, the characters learn the importance of living one’s life boldly and squeezing out every possible moment of joy.
Cooper brilliantly captures the cadences of the South and draws a picture of American life at once down-to-earth and heartwarming in this-as her wise narrator will tell you-“strange, sad, kind’a beautiful, life story.” It is a story about love that leads to the ultimate realization that whoever you are, and whatever you do, life is short, but it is also wide.

Now The Hell Will Start by Brendan I. Koerner
A true story of murder, love, and headhunters, Now the Hell Will Start tells the remarkable tale of Herman Perry, a budding Romeo from the streets of Washington, D.C., who wound up going native in the Indo-Burmese jungle-not because he yearned for adventure, but rather to escape the greatest manhunt conducted by the United States Army during World War II. An African American G.I. assigned to a segregated labor battalion, Perry was shipped to South Asia in 1943, enduring unspeakable hardships while sailing around the globe. He was one of thousands of black soldiers dispatched to build the Ledo Road, a highway meant to appease China's conniving dictator, Chiang Kai-shek. Stretching from the thickly forested mountains of northeast India across the tiger-infested vales of Burma, the road was a lethal nightmare, beset by monsoons, malaria, and insects that chewed men's flesh to pulp. Perry could not endure the jungle's brutality, nor the racist treatment meted out by his white officers. He found solace in opium and marijuana, which further warped his fraying psyche. Finally, on March 5, 1944, he broke down-an emotional collapse that ended with him shooting an unarmed white lieutenant. So began Perry's flight through the Indo-Burmese wilderness, one of the planet's most hostile realms. While the military police combed the brothels of Calcutta, Perry trekked through the jungle, eventually stumbling upon a village festooned with polished human skulls. It was here, amid a tribe of elaborately tattooed headhunters, that Herman Perry would find bliss-and would marry the chief 's fourteen-year-old daughter. Starting off with nothing more than a ten-word snippet culled from an obscure bibliography, Brendan I. Koerner spent nearly five years chasing Perry's ghost-a pursuit that eventually led him to the remotest corners of India and Burma, where drug runners and ethnic militias now hold sway. Along the way, Koerner uncovered the forgotten story of the Ledo Road's black G.I.s, for whom Jim Crow was as virulent an enemy as the Japanese. Many of these troops revered the elusive Perry as a folk hero-whom they named the Jungle King. Sweeping from North Carolina's Depression-era cotton fields all the way to the Himalayas, Now the Hell Will Start is an epic saga of hubris, cruelty, and redemption. Yet it is also an exhilarating thriller, a cat-and-mouse yarn that dazzles and haunts.

Do I Distrub The Universe?: From The Projects To Prep School by Charlise Lyles
Charlise Lyles was born in 1959, on the cusp of a new era for African-Americans. She came of age as the words of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy stirred blacks and whites to right the racial wrongs of the past, although their individual voices had been silenced. In this vivid memoir, Lyles describes how the programs and policies that emerged from the civil rights movement affected her and her family. Lyles watched as race riots and a river burned in Cleveland. When the ashes cooled, her family was one of the first to move into Cleveland's King-Kennedy Homes public housing project in 1969. Through the eyes of childhood and adolescence, Lyles portrays their years there against a backdrop of weekly black militant demonstrations, the rise and fall of Cleveland's first black mayor, and mounting violence and despair. At the same time, she traces her ascent from "the slow class" to an elite suburban prep school, showing how programs from Head Start to A Better Chance could open doors for those with the good fortune to find them and the courage to go through. Finally, Do I Dare Disturb the Universe? shares Lyles's search for her long absent father, a quest that culminates in confusion and enlightenment, anger and love. Do I Dare Disturb the Universe? shows how the triumphs and failures of the civil rights era converged in Lyles's life while drawing a compelling portrait of the girl she was and the woman she became.

Incognergo by Mat Johnson
Writer Mat Johnson (HELLBLAZER: PAPA MIDNITE), winner of the prestigious Hurston-Wright Legacy Award for fiction, constructs a fearless graphic novel that is both a page-turning mystery and a disturbing exploration of race and self-image in America, masterfully illustrated with rich period detail by Warren Pleece (THE INVISIBLES, HELLBLAZER). In the early 20th Century, when lynchings were commonplace throughout the American South, a few courageous reporters from the North risked their lives to expose these atrocities. They were African-American men who, due to their light skin color, could pass among the white folks. They called this dangerous assignment going incognegro. Zane Pinchback, a reporter for the New York-based New Holland Herald, barely escapes with his life after his latest incognegro story goes bad. But when he returns to the sanctuary of Harlem, hes sent to investigate the arrest of his own brother, charged with the brutal murder of a white woman in Mississippi. With a lynch mob already swarming, Zane must stay incognegro long enough to uncover the truth behind the murder in order to save his brotherand himself. He finds that the answers are buried beneath layers of shifting identities, forbidden passions and secrets that run far deeper than skin color.


  1. Mare's War sounds really interesting!

  2. I haven't heard of Herman Perry before, but his story sounds sad and fascinating.

  3. Kelly @The Novel BookwormJuly 19, 2009 at 2:49 PM

    Every one of those sounds interesting, I'm going to add them to my list and keep an eye out for them at the bookstore!

  4. I hope you do read Incognegro, it's fabulous. Be forewarned though--while it's a graphic novel and therefore quick, it's definitely not a light read, emotionally.