Sunday, September 22, 2013

Sunday Shorts #7

Sunday Shorts is a new feature that I am adding to The Little Reading Nook.  I have seen on several other blogs where reviewers feature short stories.

Sunday Shorts is my version. Where I review short stories that I have read.

For the next couple of Sunday's I will be featuring shorts from Blackberry: A Magazine (Issue 1: Skin Deep).

Kyle and the Snake by Ekua Adisa:  

Opening Sentence: I met them at the grand opening of a kava bar called Vanuatu, named for a group of islands in the southwest Pacific Ocean

When I started reading Kyle and the Snake I did not realize that it was creative non-fiction.  I have never read creative non-fiction before and probably should have read the table of contents before starting this story to see what genre it was classified under.

I can't say that I enjoyed Kyle and the Snake because not only was I unfamiliar with the genre I was also unfamiliar with the subject matter.  In the simplest terms, Kyle and the Snake is about the authors experience preforming a spiritual healing on Kyle.  The story contain a lot of jargon that people who are experienced with spiritual healing (crystals, chakra, and stuff) might be familiar with, but as a newbie I was confused.  And my confusion affected my enjoyment on the story.  It was all just a little bit strange to me.

I really wished I could have been able to enjoy this author's retelling of her experience a little bit more but it wasn't the story for me.  

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Review: Sister Citizen

Author: Melissa V. Harris-Perry
Pages: 378
Genre: Non-Fiction (Women's Studies)
Series/Standalone: Standalone
Version: Paperback
Publication Date: 2011
Publisher: Yale University Press
Source: Private Purchase

Synopsis (GoodReads):
Jezebel's sexual lasciviousness, Mammy's devotion, and Sapphire's outspoken anger—these are among the most persistent stereotypes that black women encounter in contemporary American life. Hurtful and dishonest, such representations force African American women to navigate a virtual crooked room that shames them and shapes their experiences as citizens. Many respond by assuming a mantle of strength that may convince others, and even themselves, that they do not need help. But as a result, the unique political issues of black women are often ignored and marginalized.

In this groundbreaking book, Melissa V. Harris-Perry uses multiple methods of inquiry, including literary analysis, political theory, focus groups, surveys, and experimental research, to understand more deeply black women's political and emotional responses to pervasive negative race and gender images. Not a traditional political science work concerned with office-seeking, voting, or ideology, Sister Citizen instead explores how African American women understand themselves as citizens and what they expect from political organizing. Harris-Perry shows that the shared struggle to preserve an authentic self and secure recognition as a citizen links together black women in America, from the anonymous survivors of Hurricane Katrina to the current First Lady of the United States


I guest I should start with a little disclaimer.  I am a huge fan of Melissa Harris-Perry (and Rachael Maddow).  I have very few regrets about giving up cable, but two of the biggest regrets that I have are missing out of The Food Network and MSNBC.  So, when I saw that Harris-Perry was coming out with a book, I was excited and I put it up for selection in my book club, hoping that they would pick it. They did and it led to a great group discussion.

On to the review.

 The whole of Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America can be boiled down to one simple yet complex question that Melissa Harris-Perry asked on page 20:
What does it mean to be a black woman and an American citizen?
I knew that Sister Citizen was going to be a winner when Harris-Perry opened the book with  showing how Janie Mae Crawford's (protagonist) experience in Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God directly reflects that of Black women in America today. And then later comparing Hurricane Katrina and it's aftermath to the Hurricane that took place in the book.  While also I have to state that while I did not enjoy Their Eyes Were Watching God, Melissa Harris-Perry analysis of it put the whole book in a new perspective.  I didn't get as much out of Their Eyes Were Watching God as she did and now I am disappointed that I didn't enjoy it more.

Melissa Harris-Perry expertly tackles the stereotypes that black women face (The Mammy, The Jezebel, and The Sapphire) and their struggle to fight them.  Harris-Perry illustrates this struggle with a chapter that she titled "Crooked Room".
When they confront race and gender stereotypes, black women are standing in a crooked room, and they have to figure out which way is up. Bombarded with warped images of their humanity, some black women tilt and bend themselves to fit the distortion. 
It can be hard to stand up straight in a crooked room

I can honestly say that there just wasn't much that I disagreed with.  Most of it made since based on my experience as a black woman and an American.

I will say that my least favorite section was "God" and that is basically because I felt that she could have been slightly more critical.  I think she throw a soft ball (is that the right terminology?) and that it was the least organized of the sections.  I will say that I did agree with what said about the black church, but I am non-religious.  I think she hit the nail on the head when said:
The church, in the broadest and most plural sense, is a site of struggle for sisters.
I also think the the chapter on Michelle Obama was weak.  I did like how she gave examples of the First Lady trying to "stand straight in a crooked room".  But even after six years with Michelle being in the spotlight, it felt like that chapter was lacking in something (what I don't know).

Final Grade: A

Overall Recommendation:

I would highly recommend Sister Citizen: Shame Stereotypes, and Black Women in America.  My review doesn't do it just but I think I will let this one sit for a while and read it again in a couple of years.  To see if it still rings true (which I am sure it will).

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Sunday Shorts #6

Sunday Shorts is a new feature that I am adding to The Little Reading Nook.  I have seen on several other blogs where reviewers feature short stories.

Sunday Shorts is my version. Where I review short stories that I have read.

For the next couple of Sunday's I will be featuring shorts from Blackberry: A Magazine (Issue 1: Skin Deep).

Rebekah is Pregnant by Debra Stone:  

Move baby, move. Move like before like the alien movie
The first two sentences in Rebekah is Pregnant, shows the reader that Rebekah is having a bit of trouble with her pregnancy.  It's hard to review this story without giving too much away, but as the reader waits with Rebekah in the hospital waiting room, they feel her since of urgency.  While the story is very short through out the whole thing, I had a since of dread.  At each new paragraph I wanted to feel Rebekah's to baby kick and show that everything is alright.

For its' short length Rebekah is Pregnant packs a powerful punch.

*I tried to find a like to the authors blog, website, or twitter account and came up empty.  

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Review: 16 Bars: A Short Story Mixtape

Author: Ran Walker
Genre: Contemporary Fiction (Short Story Collection)
Series/Standalone: Standalone
Version: eBook (epub)
Publication Date: July 2011
Publisher: Caps & Sneakers LLC

Synopsis (GoodReads):
Ran Walker's first "short story mixtape" pulls together a varied collection of stories about black men and how they are shaped by the relationships they enter. With topics ranging from break-ups to awkward first dates, 16 Bars is a bold, unflinching, and even humorous take on what goes on in the minds of black men when romance enters the picture.

Explanation of Rating:

It's been so long since I read this short story collection that I can't give it a detailed review.  Other than to say that Ran Walker is an excellent writer and I enjoyed each of the five stories (some more that others).  I would definitely recommend this collection and would read more of his work.

Final Grade: B-

Links to Individual Reviews:

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Teaser Tuesday #7

TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:
  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
Please avoid spoilers!
This weeks teasers is from White Teeth by Zadie Smith

A winter morning was the only time worth spending in that basement flat.  Between 5:00 and
6:00 A.M., when the sun was still low, light shot through the front window, bathed the living room in yellow, dappled the long thin allotment ( 7 ft x 30 ft, and gave a health veneer to the tomatoes.

Paperback pg. 319
Don't forget to post a link to your teaser!

I want to read it.