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May, 2016

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

EVENING OF POETRY

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

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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