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October, 2016

An ocean of hope in these tumultuous times

Books: You had hope that things might be better. We elected a Black man as president, and there was a minute where you could almost see a bit of racial optimism. Comment

Muse boys captured for the circus

Books: Life these days is a three-ring circus. The clowns at your job dominate Ring Number One. Ring Number Two features The Juggler (you) and your checkbook, schedule, chore list, and family obligations. And in Ring Number Three, there’s a wild combination of the other two. Run away and join the circus? Yeah, that’s already happened but in the new book “Truevine” by Beth Macy, it was far from voluntary. Comment

Clockmaker Banneker — a new hero to emulate

Books: Your favorite toy came apart yesterday. That’s okay, though; it snapped right back together. It’s made to come apart, in fact; it’s one of those things you can build with and you like doing that anyhow, which is why it’s your favorite. Comment

An ordinary day with an extraordinary story

Books: Today was an ordinary day. It had its ups and downs; pleasant surprises came between the mundane and the irritating and you’ll look back at it tomorrow with clarity, perhaps, but its details will be sketchy in a decade. Comment

September, 2016

Souvenir of slavery and its legacy

Books: There’s so much you wish you’d kept. Of course, you never thought of that when things were thrown out: your grandmother’s favorite skirt, a poster your uncle hung on his wall, an autographed picture of a minor star from the 1920s. Comment

Workplace diversity ‘sparks creativity’

Books: Your business is doing well. It could do better. Just like every other business in America, you have good weeks and bad. Sales go up and they flatten. You have financial feast-or-famine and you’d like more of the former than the latter. Author Lauren Leader-Chivée says she knows how you can achieve that and in “Crossing the Thinnest Line,” she explains. Comment

Shedding light on a Darktown murder

Books: Someone always has to be first. That can be a good thing, or a bad one. Good, if it’s a cafeteria, supermarket queue, electronics store, or conga line; better, if free samples are involved. Bad, in experiments, taste-testing, first-on-last-off and, as in the new novel “Darktown” by Thomas Mullen, first in a dangerous new job. Comment

When the lives of two stars intersect

Books: Your closest friend really gets you. You never have to explain yourself when you’re together; everything said (and unsaid) is understood. There may be many years between you, but it doesn’t matter. There may be differences in background, but no worries. Nothing keeps you apart, and in the new book “Elizabeth and Michael” by Donald Bogle, that might be because you have everything in common. Comment

August, 2016

Boost your inner fuel to find your destiny

Books: At the end of the day, you’re out of gas. There’s nothing left in your reserves, not a drop. You’re done, wondering if this is as far as you’ll ever go but somehow open to new suggestions. So read “The Full Tank Life” by Ben Tankard. It might just rev your engine again. Comment

A worthy call to action in ‘Writings on the Wall’

Books: The fix won’t be quick. It never is. There’s no magic wand to change the things that’ve been on your mind lately: social issues, inequality, poverty, politics, apathy, violence. Those ills didn’t arrive quick and they won’t leave quick but, says Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, they can be repaired. In his new book “Writings on the Wall” (with Raymond Obstfeld), he explains… Comment

It’s more than a steamy love triangle

Books: Mine, mine, mine. When you were two years old, that was your favorite word. Everything you saw belonged to you, somehow, one way or another. If you liked it, it was yours. If you didn’t like it, it was yours, too. And as you’ll see in the new novel “You’re the One I Want” by Shane Allison, some people never outgrow that. Comment

Standing up for others in a segregated society

Books: Your parents always taught you to stand up for yourself. Form your own opinions, they say, and don’t follow the crowd. If so-and-so wanted to jump off a cliff, be brave enough to not go, too. Speak up when something’s not right, and hold your head high. Stand up for yourself and, in the new book “She Stood for Freedom” by Loki Mulholland, stand up for others, too. Comment

Debut Caribbean author among noms for lit award

Books: A local Caribbean-American author up for nomination for the Brooklyn Eagle’s Literary Prize, is thrilled about her very first book being up for the prize, and hopes to make a dent in Caribbean literature. Comment

Hill’s real solutions to current problems

Books: Charges dropped. You were surprised, but not surprised. Hopeful that it might be different, but only barely. You know that these days, the idea of justice can be a slippery issue that’s sometimes based on all the wrong things, and in the new book “Nobody” by Marc Lamont Hill, you’ll see how we’ve come to this. Comment

July, 2016

Sharing your courage with your military kids

Books: Never be afraid of…. Your mommy and daddy have taught you that. Never be afraid of spiders, big animals, lightning, or loud noises. Always be brave, they say, and so you are — and in the new book “Brave Like Me” by Barbara Kerley, you’ll see how that courage you’ve got helps them, too. Comment

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The see-saw journey of Kevin Powell

Books: You never knew what you didn’t have. There were times in your childhood when cereal was supper because there was nothing else. When birthday toys seemed gently pre-loved, hand-me-downs were new to you, and you were none the wiser. Your family didn’t have much and you never realized it then but in the book “The Education of Kevin Powell” by Kevin Powell, getting schooled later was rough. Comment

Tale of two Charlestons but forgiveness reigns

Books: The Word is what you crave. It’s where you find your comfort, strength, the peace you need to get through the day. Reading it is like hearing God’s voice; studying it is feeling His power, and in the new book “We Are Charleston” by Herb Frazier, Bernard Edward Powers Jr., PhD, and Marjory Wentworth, knowing it could mean offering forgiveness. Comment

June, 2016

Loving tribute to a friendship

Books: Two heads are better than one. Another body can make work lighter, both in mood and in task. A partner can support you, encourage you, inspire you, and sympathize with you. You solve easier with another mind on the problem. Yes, two heads are better than one, and in the new book “Running with the Champ” by Tim Shanahan (with Chuck Crisafulli), so are four feet. Comment

Brooklyn jazz legend honored at book-signing

Music: Legendary jazz musician and composer Randy Weston was honored at his book-signing event where the artist was also praised for his talents and six-decade career, at Medgar Evers College on June 10. Comment

A search for answers from past lovers

Books: In every love life, there’s always The One That Got Away. He got away because you were both too young, too scared, too broke, or too different. Things were said that couldn’t be unsaid, done that shouldn’t have been done. It just didn’t work out then, but now…? In the new novel, “I Almost Forgot about You” by Terry McMillan, he’ll never get away twice. Comment

Revolutionizing the game of basketball

Books: All air. Is there anything better in basketball? It’s sheer poetry, absolute magic, and your team can’t do it enough — especially when it happens from the three-point line. In the new book “Chasing Perfection” by Andy Glockner, you’ll see how science is trying to ensure that it does, as much as possible. Comment

May, 2016

Change is possible in the South Side

Books: Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home. Shut the door, and what’s inside is familiar and comfortable. It’s yours, and it’s where you want to be at the end of the day. Or maybe not: in “The South Side: A Portrait of Chicago and American Segregation” by Natalie Y. Moore, you’ll see how one city’s housing affects black lives. Comment

Power of broke to power of advantage

Books: When you have been selected by President Barack Obama as presidential ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship, you return to your childhood borough library, Queens Library, in this position and as a respected business visionary — encouraging talent beyond the ABC’s Shark Tank show — walking down a path, telling your story is convincing and an opportunity to encourage those willing to take on a similar journey. Comment

Trombone Shorty finds riches in his city’s songs

Books: “Just wait til you’re older!” Oh, how you hate hearing that! Wait til you’re grown. You need to get bigger. You can’t do that now, you’re too little. But why not? Why can’t you start dreaming of someday right now, while you’re still a kid? As you’ll see in the new book “Trombone Shorty” by Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, illustrated by Bryan Collier, dreams can come true at any age. Comment

Don’t let the other guy win: that’s the rule

Books: The rules are very simple: don’t, don’t, and don’t. Don’t swing the bat too late. Don’t hug the ball while running down the court. Don’t get tackled. And whatever you do, don’t let the other guy win. Rules are rules and in sports, you have to follow them. But why are games played like that, with different balls and a field of certain size? “On the Origins of Sports” by Gary Belsky & Neil Fine, explains those head-scratchers. Comment

The ‘browning’ of the US demographics

Books: Your vote matters. At least that’s what they tell you, but you have your doubts. You’re ONE of millions of people who’ll go to the polls in November. You’re a raindrop in the sea, a needle in a voting haystack. But as you’ll see in “Brown is the New White” by Steve Phillips, you are more powerful than you think. Comment

April, 2016

Trying new things can also be fun

Books: “Here, try this.” Ugh. That’s advice you almost never take because you hate new things. You know what you like, you know what you don’t – and there are plenty of things that fall into the last category. But, as in the new book “Little Shaq Takes a Chance” by Shaquille O’Neal, illustrated by Theodore Taylor III, unless you try something, how do you know for sure? Comment

Four loyal ‘birds’ stick together

Books: You and your girls are birds of a feather. You flock together, preen together, share your nest when needed and, while you happily sing one another’s praises, you’d never open your beak to spill their secrets. Then again, as in the new book “The Blackbirds” by Eric Jerome Dickey, you’d never crow about all the details of your own life, either. Comment

Tackling race issues head on

Books: Anything’s worth a try. Never done it before? Then give it a whirl, you have nothing to lose. You might actually like it. You might grow to love it. And then again – as in the new book “We Love You, Charlie Freeman” by Kaitlyn Greenidge, the experiment might go horribly awry. Comment

A granddaughter’s tale of a notorious Nazis

Books: You’ve heard the stories. Great-Grandpa made hooch in the basement during Prohibition. Grandma was arrested for protesting back in the ‘60s. Your great-grandma once chased a man off with a gun. Comment

March, 2016

Making prisons more productive

Books: You do the crime, you do the time. If you’re willing, in other words, to misbehave or break the law, you need to be willing to face consequences. But what if the crime doesn’t match the punishment? What if your sentence doesn’t have a period at the end? Or what if, as you’ll see in “Incarceration Nations” by Baz Dreisinger, you didn’t commit a crime at all? Comment

Times when losing isn’t a bad thing

Books: You are the best kid… at something. You can run the fastest. You can jump the highest. You’re the best skipper, the best hopper, or the best dancer. But what if there was somebody better than you? See what might happen in “The Quickest Kid in Clarksville” by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Frank Morrison. Comment

‘Soul Serenade’ takes a spin on vinyl

Books: Vinyl is making a comeback. Those are five words that put a smile on a music aficionado’s face. A CD isn’t the same, they say. An MP3 is nowhere near as good. You don’t get the right sound unless you’re spinning a record, so vinyl is coming back – but, for people like Rashod Ollison in “Soul Serenade,” it never really left. Comment

The firebrand’s fight for social justice

Books: You know your own mind. After thinking things through, you have your opinions and while you’re willing to listen to what others say, you’re also willing to defend what you believe in. And, as in the new book “The Firebrand and the First Lady” by Patricia Bell-Scott, your friends don’t necessarily have to agree with you. Comment

February, 2016


Books: Poetry lovers filled to standing room BRIC House’s performance space last week for the Stoop Series event “We Be Darker Than Blue.” Performance poet Mahogany L. Browne guided a full program of word-art which culminating with featured guest Sonia Sanchez. Comment

Challenges of an Alzheimer’s caretaker

Books: You can’t remember what you came into the room for. That happens with disturbing frequency. Forgetting your glasses, losing your keys, it really bothers you because you’re not sure if it’s a normal part of aging or something else. And in the new book “Before I Forget” by B. Smith & Dan Gasby with Michael Shnayerson, the worry isn’t yours alone. Comment

Untold story of slaves in The White House

Books: If the walls could talk, imagine what they’d say. They’d reminisce about family meals, holidays, celebrations and romance, take sides in arguments, and watch children grow. If those walls could talk, they’d tell of triumph, disappointment, beginnings, and endings. And, as in the new book, “The Invisibles” by Jesse J. Holland, they’d talk of freedom and history. Comment

Tale of the Parker Sisters

Books: Your neighbors said they’d keep an eye on your house for you this summer. They’d get the mail in, and grab the newspaper while you were on vacation. They’d do everything for you — and, as in the new book “The Parker Sisters” by Lucy Maddox, you should be glad if they watch your children, too Comment

Young activist collects #1000BlackGirlBooks

Books: At 11-years-old, what was your biggest concern in school? Figuring out what was for lunch or perhaps counting the hours of the day until recess and then dismissal? Comment

‘The Family Tree’ exposes dark secrets

Books: The skeletons in your closet don’t rattle around much anymore. Most of your family has long forgotten the secrets those skeletons represented, while the ones who haven’t forgotten have made sure they’re not discussed. Comment

January, 2016

How to get out from your rut

Books: For far too long, you’ve been holding back. Opportunities have presented themselves, and you’ve passed on them. Chances have leaped in front of you and you skipped them, but you’re not sure why. Some days, you feel like you’re in a ten-foot-deep rut; in the book “Year of Yes” by Shonda Rhimes, you’ll see how to get out. Comment

Friendship with strings attached

Books: You’d do almost anything for your best friend. You’d take a bullet, take her in, or take her anywhere she needed to go. You keep her kids and her confidences. And, as in the new novel, “Best Friends Forever” by Kimberla Lawson Roby, she’d do the same for you. Probably. Comment

Queen Hadassah writes ‘I Want To Live Again’

Books: Six-time author Cheryl Ainsworth-Martin (Queen Hadassah) writes about her life escaping depression, sadness and anger, and overcoming adversity to make it in America. Comments (1)

The real deal about author Alex Haley

Books: The gardening catalogs started arriving this week – right on time. In the gray of winter, they represent so much promise, whether you have six acres or six inches of dirt. This time of year, it’s fun to imagine what will come from the soil months from now – but in the meantime, read “Alex Haley and the Books That Changed a Nation” by Robert J. Norrell, and see how a career can grow. Comment

A vision of audacious political transition, by a future president

Books: I bemoaned the effect of Reagan’s policies toward the Third World: his Comment

Misty Copeland making history for the little brown girls

Books: “This is for the little brown girls,” says Misty Copeland. On the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House, she became the first black woman to perform “in Igor Stravinsky’s iconic role for the American Ballet Theatre,” a renowned dance company. Comment