Reviewed by Terri S.
“The Color Complex: The Politics of Skin Color in a New Millennium” by Kathy Russell-Cole, Midge Wilson, and Ronald E. Hall
c.1992, 2013, Anchor
$16.00 / $19.00 Canada
This month, you’ve decided you need a whole new look.
Your hair and wardrobe are out of date, so you’re getting a cut-and-style and a fresh wardrobe, shoes and all. You’ve got an appointment for a mani-pedi, a dermatologist, dentist, and – no more glasses! – you’re getting some of those colored contacts.
But there’s one thing you can’t alter. And in the newly updated book “The Color Complex” by Kathy Russel-Cole, Midge Wilson, and Ronald E. Hall, you’ll see how much it still matters.
The more things change, the more they remain the same…
In the last two decades, America has seen a revolution when it comes to issues of race. The generation that was born and has grown up in that time is “much more racially diverse than any other before it…” Economic powerhouses in India , China and Brazil have emerged, mixed-race relationships barely make us blink, even the government has added multiracial categories on census forms.
There’s been a lot of change, but “colorism” – a word referring to prejudices surrounding skin-color differences, particularly within the African American community – remains. What’s worse, it’s infiltrated popular culture with a subtler, seemingly-nastier effect on its victims.
Though “… skin color has maintained an intimate relationship with class” since “the earliest times,” the issue of colorism has its American roots in the early 1500s when “mulatto” offspring of White men and Black women gained power through education and social bridging between Black and White populations. Later, preference was shown for lighter-skinned individuals as “house slaves,” who largely disparaged darker-skinned field workers.
Today, several decades after discrimination based on color was made illegal, colorism still exists. Some blame it on music videos and Black songwriters. Others accuse fashion and movies. The authors also point at politics and world policy, yet they say that there are things you can do to “lessen colorism’s pernicious effects.”
Contact television networks if you notice a lack of Black journalists or actors. Let editors know that you won’t purchase their magazines until they stop Photoshopping pictures of models of color. Use the power of social media to further your cause, state your opinions, and gather support.
These days, it seems that we like to pretend we live in an enlightened world that’s on its way to being “color-blind.” We have a Black president, after all, and today’s youth are more accepting of racial differences. Some think we’ve gotten past skin color, but reading “The Color Complex” shows otherwise.
With great dismay and a surprising amount of quietly cynical humor, authors Kathy Russell-Cole, Midge Wilson, and Ronald E. Hall re-examine the divisiveness of colorism today, in contrast to what it was two decades ago. New, eye-opening research and fresh information show readers that though there are gains in some areas, colorism is far from a dead issue; in fact, with the rise of globalism, it’s actually spread.
This is a fascinating, albeit quite uncomfortable book that I recommend for audiences both Black and White. Newly updated, “The Color Complex” deserves a whole new look.
Reviewed by Terri S.
“Decadence” by Eric Jerome Dickey
$25.95 / $28.50 Canada
You’ll try anything once.
You’re daring when it comes to a new restaurant, new clubs, new fashion, pretty much anything. Something different for your plate? Bring it on. An activity you’ve never done before? You head the line. New technology? They call you First-Adopter.
Being open to new adventures keeps life fresh and exciting. And, as you’ll see in the new novel “Decadence” by Eric Jerome Dickey, embracing new experiences can also fulfill fantasies.
Nia Simone Bijou was feeling restless.
It had been six weeks since she last saw her lover, Prada, and though their weekend together left her sated, it wasn’t for long. She had hoped that her friendship with the soldier, Bret, would turn into a repeat of their one-night stand, but friendship was all he seemed interested in. And so, filled with desire, Nia Simone applied for membership to Decadence, a very exclusive and private swinger’s club four hours away from her Smyrna townhouse.
Decadence fees were astonishing, the medical process was thorough, and the interview was long and deeply personal, but Nia Simone had nothing to hide. She was used to being naked in front of others and she wasn’t afraid to describe her fantasies. She wanted new experiences, club rules were simple, and very little was off-limits.
On her first visit, she turned from Watcher to Doer. Decadence was a lover’s playground and she wished she could bring Prada with her, though she knew he’d never share her. And since monogamy was boring, sharing was what Nia Simone really desired.
But while Decadence was everything she needed it to be, it wasn’t as anonymous as she’d hoped.
Years before, when Nia Simone was in college, her heart was broken by her first love, a man who cheated on her with her pupil. It was still a fist to her gut when she thought about him – so seeing him in the club, watching him please that woman, brought white-hot anger to Nia Simone, and a need for sexual revenge.
Looking for a different Shade of Gray? You might find it here, so bring your oven mitts.
Yes, indeed, “Decadence” is hot with a capital “H.” It fairly blisters with explicitness – but it’s also relentless. Author Eric Jerome Dickey starts the action literally on the fourth word of this novel and he barely lets up until the end of the book. Alas, that relentlessness sometimes made me lose interest, which is when I started noticing a handful of words that are overused to the point of silliness, and a main character that speaks in tedious, faux-poetic metaphors.
To the good, though, there’s a thin plot in this book – which is better than some I’ve read in Dickey’s erotica collection. But really, let’s be honest: the plot isn’t why you’d want this book in the first place.
In case you didn’t catch on, this book is for adults only and shouldn’t even be kept in the same room with kids. If you’ve got that covered, then go ahead and give “Decadence” a try.
“Divine Intervention” by Lutishia Lovely
$15.00 / $16.95 Canada
Reviewed by Terri S.
You’re a person who knows what she wants.
You can make up your mind in a snap, decisively sizing up the situation, weighing the options in your head. You rarely regret the solution you choose. You know what you want – and you get it.
That goes for relationships, too, but in the new book “Divine Intervention” by Lutishia Lovely, a whole church full of people can’t seem to settle on love.
Princess Brook was about to take a big step. And it would start down a silk-covered aisle, praise God.
Marrying Rafael Stevens was something she’d planned for so long. They grew up together and Princess knew Rafael loved her. He was a good man with an excellent future. But Princess couldn’t stop thinking that she was making a mistake. She couldn’t stop thinking of her ex, Kelvin.
As pastor of Mount Zion Progressive Baptist Church, King Brook was a beacon of strength, both to his church and to his wife, Tai. Sure, the Brooks had had trouble in their marriage, but they worked their way through that and now had a good, solid relationship.
More or less.
The Reverend Doctor Pastor Bishop Overseer Mister Stanley Obadiah Meshach Brook Jr. spent fifty years with his wife, Mama Max, and forty years with his mistress, Dorothea. Sadly for both women, the years were spent at the same time. So when Obadiah left Kansas City to move in with Dorothea in Dallas, Mama Max figured it was time to move on. She found herself a man-friend and started going out a little – which made Obadiah jealous. His mistress was his mistress but Mama Max was his wife and God willing, she’d stay that way.
Vivian and Derrick Montgomery had been in love their entire adult lives. Their marriage had withstood old flames, new children, and a son Derrick didn’t know he had until the boy was a man. Yes, everyone at Mount Zion Progressive Baptist Church wanted a marriage just like the Montgomery’s.
But could that marriage hold up against the biggest crisis of all?
“Divine Intervention” started out better than I thought it would. I actually liked the characters a lot, and I was glad to be pulled into their world.
But as I kept reading, I started getting tired. Tired of infidelity, tired of bedroom scenes that all felt the same. And while I suppose this is the formula for these kinds of books, I had to wonder, about halfway through, if any of these characters could manage to keep their pants on.
Author Lutishia Lovely creates a wonderful Church community. She made me chuckle at some of the things that happened and things her characters said. For sure, Lovely tells a good story. Too bad it’s mired in too much two-timing.
“Divine Intervention” is by no means a terrible novel. No, it has its moments but just know what you’re getting when you get it. There’s great character development here, so if you don’t mind an unlikely plot, then this might be a book you’ll want.
“A Gangster and A Gentleman” by Kiki Swinson and De’Nesha Diamond
$15.00 / $16.95 Canada
Reviewed by Terri S.
Grandma always said to find yourself a nice man.
When you were growing up, that was the advice Granny had for you. Find a good man, she said. One that would provide, who didn’t lay around, drink up the paycheck, or pick fights. A churchgoing man, she said. That’s what you needed.
And you agree, with one addition: you’d like a streak of wild, too.
So would a lot of women, to a greater or lesser degree. In the new book “A Gangster and A Gentleman” by Kiki Swinson and De’Nesha Diamond, you’ll read two stories about women who want a lot of bad in their boys.
Melody Goldman had it all: a huge mansion, unlimited credit cards, designer clothes, a new Jaguar, a personal shopper, and in “I Need a Gangster,” she also had a lawyer-husband to pay for it all.
But Melody didn’t just love Richard for his money. She loved what he did in the bedroom, too. Richard knew how to work it, that was for sure.
So when Melody came home from shopping, expecting a little Richard in the sack, she got a big surprise: Richard’s bags were packed and he was leaving.
The bigger surprise came when Melody learned that Richard had frozen their bank account, locked her out of the mansion, and taken her car – and there wasn’t a thing she could do about it.
Signing that pre-nup wasn’t the best idea. Buying life insurance for Richard wasn’t good either, because Melody wouldn’t get a thing unless Richard died before the divorce was final.
But with Mad Melody, that could easily be arranged…
Elijah Hardwick was an 8-year-old when his entire family was gunned down in a gang blackout – and he might’ve died, if it wasn’t for Mafia Don. The gangster took the child in and raised Eli as his own so, naturally, Eli felt indebted to his godfather.
So when the Haitian gangster, Midnight, put a blackout on Mafia Don, it was also natural that the Don send his best enforcer to Los Angeles to protect a daughter, Blake, that few knew the Don had.
But the “little girl” was a fine woman, and Blake Scott didn’t take any bull from any man. In “Gentlemen Prefer Bullets,” that could get her killed.
Violent, gritty, filled with four-letter words, but downright fun, “A Gangster and A Gentleman” is definitely not something you’d want to give to Grandma.
Authors Kiki Swinson and De’Nesha Diamond bring their readers right down to street-level with guns blazing and bullets ripping. The women in these novellas are sexy and sassy. The men are hard-bodied and swaggering. The language is harsh and takes no prisoners. Put it all together and you’ve got two steamy stories that will make your heart pound for more reasons than just one.
Bring a fan for yourself because you’re going to need it when you read “A Gangster and A Gentlemen.” If you’re a lover of street lit or you just want a book with fire, this one’s so good, it’s bad.
“The Last Hunger Season” by Roger Thurow
$26.99 / $30.00 Canada
Reviewed by Terri S.
You probably shouldn’t have ordered the super-size fries.
That’s what you were thinking after you finished the last of your double cheeseburger-add-bacon. When you ordered, fries sounded good – although maybe not so many. And your soda, well, the word “small” needs redefining.
Nothing worse than cold fries, so you wadded them up with your sandwich wrapper, slurked the rest of your drink, and threw everything away.
You’ll think twice about that next time, once you’ve read “The Last Hunger Season” by Roger Thurow.
Andrew Youn is a man with seemingly unlimited energy.
Journalist Roger Thurow met the “skinny, bespectacled… geek from Minnesota ” during a snowstorm in Chicago , where Youn told Thurow about the farmers he’d met in Kenya in the early 2000s. Youn explained that Kenya ’s use of ancient farming traditions led to wanjala (hunger time) and starvation because of lack of access to modern methods of planting.
Youn, an MBA student, had been pondering this, and he had an idea. Thus as born One Acre, a non-profit program that helps sub-Saharan farmers reap higher yields from their shambas through education, seeds, and fertilizer.
Thurow, who’d also seen poverty and starvation in Africa , was intrigued. He asked Youn if he might follow four farmers for a year, through wanjala and beyond.
As a village elder, Leonida Wanyama needed to set a good example for others, which is why she joined One Acre. She was amazed the first year at the bounty she reaped, but it wasn’t enough. Her husband, Peter, was ill and their son, Gabriel was away at school. School was very expensive: $255 a year.
Rasoa Wasike was so pleased with One Acre that she inspired several others to join. But that wasn’t Rosoa’s only endeavor; she was lucky to find other employment so her wanjala wasn’t quite so severe.
Zipporah Bikiti had jeered at neighbors who used the One Acre methods, until she saw their lush, bountiful maize fields. She was determined that this wanjala – a particularly long, terrible one – would be her family’s last.
Francis Mamati and his wife had a vision. They had three acres and their son, who owned a nearby café, had a small plot, too. A shamba like that, properly farmed, could create dreams.
So why, you’re asking, should you read a book about a bunch of miniature farms half a world away? Maybe you won’t want to… but I was blown away by it.
“The Last Hunger Season” is, indeed, about four Kenyan farmers and the last time each had little more than tea to feed their families from January through June. But in telling their stories, the politics behind fixing what’s wrong, and the triumph of success, author Roger Thurow also gives his readers a huge lesson in gratitude: chances are you have food, and this book never lets you forget that.
I think you’re going to like “The Last Hunger Season,” just don’t be surprised if it makes you a little uncomfortable. Still, if you want something that’s sobering, glorious, and thought-provoking, this book is super-sized.
“Devil’s Wake” by Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due
$15.00 / $17.00 Canada
How – and when – will the world end?
Depending on what (or who) you believe, it’s coming sooner, later, or not at all. We’ll go in glory or a fiery ball of war; Armageddon, Rapture, or a lights-out fizzle. Depending on who (or what) you listen to, it’s going to happen in five minutes, five hundred years, sometime around Christmas, or ten days after never.
But can you outrace the end of the world? Is it possible? In the new book “Devil’s Wake” by Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due, a small band of survivors will surely try.
Kendra Brookings hated doctor visits.
That was doubly so when the visit in question was occurring on her sixteenth birthday. Yes, she knew her parents had her best interests in mind, just like they did when they moved to Portland for a better life. Yes, the antiviral shot might keep her from getting sick, but on her birthday? Really?
Still, she didn’t want that virus. She’d seen the news on TV, and what was going on in L.A. was horrifying. Authorities were warning people not to let anybody bite them – as if Kendra was actually going to let someone bite her.
And then a wild-eyed, grey-haired lady rushed into the hospital, gnashing her teeth…
For Terry Whittaker, dealing with brats at Camp Round Meadows was better than being in juvie for the summer.
He’d been given the choice and his sister begged him to take three months in the woods near Seattle . So he did and, when all was said and done, Terry supposed the camp was okay. The owner, Vern, was decent. Vern’s wife, Molly, baked great cookies, and Terry had become tight with the other camp leaders, Piranha, Sonia, Dean, and Darius.
It might’ve been a great summer, actually, if Vern hadn’t been bitten by the red-eyed cop in the tattered uniform.
Nobody was safe from the hungry, infected creatures, even in the middle of nowhere, and Terry knew it. Taking charge, he also knew he had to gather resources and get his friends out of Seattle , maybe to Portland or somewhere. But everything seemed like a trap and nobody could be trusted.
Except, maybe, a cocoa-skinned girl standing alone near a bashed-in car…
There is nothing earth-shattering in “Devil’s Wake.” Nothing here is going to change your life, make you energized, or fill your wallet.
But wow, is this a fun book!
Authors Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due take a classic zombie story and give it a fresh look with plenty of gore and a band of smart young survivors to get through it all. That made me like this book a whole lot more than I thought I would; in fact, I was expecting to roll my eyes a lot while reading it, but I didn’t. I was too busy turning pages.
While it might seem more like a young-adult novel, I think this book will appeal to anyone who craves a little Undead. For you, “Devil’s Wake” is something you’ll never want to end.
“Our Black Year” by Maggie Anderson with Ted Gregory
$25.99 / $29.00 Canada
299 pages, includes notes
Reviewed by Terri S.
The bag might as well be made of gold.
That’s because what’s inside cost you dearly: groceries mostly, a little milk, pasta, spinach, those chocolate bars you like, and two apples. That’ll last you today.
Tomorrow, you’ll have to go get another golden bag and buy some more.
And if you’re author Maggie Anderson, you’ll drive 20 miles to shop even though there’s a grocery store around the corner. For Anderson, it’s not what she bought but where she bought it, and in her new book “Our Black Year,” you’ll see how careful purchasing might change a community.
It started with a five-star restaurant.
As Maggie Anderson and her husband were celebrating their anniversary, they started talking about how blessed they were. The Andersons were both educated, had great jobs, and lived in a better Chicago suburb. On that night, they were the only Black people at the restaurant, which spurred them to talk about “the discouraging status of Blacks in America.”
As usual, they discussed some kind of action. They knew that Black Americans have nearly $1 trillion of buying power, but that each dollar spent in an African American business circulates for only 20 minutes before it ends up outside the community. They knew that just two percent of every dollar spent by Black Americans goes to a Black-owned business.
They were always going to do something, but life got in the way. Then, five years and two daughters later, the time was right: throughout 2009, the Andersons decided they would only buy Black.
It would end up being a long year.
The name they chose for their endeavor conflicted with that of a major magazine which threatened to sue. Publicity and financial support were initially shaky. Black-owned grocery stores were scarce and black-owned clothing stores were few. Finding what the Andersons needed for their growing family often meant long drives or visits to iffy stores in bad neighborhoods. Businesses seemed to close before their eyes.
Then, a surprising thing happened: Anderson began to change some minds. Meanwhile, her experiment changed her.
Gotta be shoppin’ til you’re droppin’? Then you might want to drop a few dollars on “Our Black Year,” but there are some things you should know first…
Author Maggie Anderson is incredibly detailed in her story, so much so that she includes over 80 pages of notes at the end of this book. That’s good, but what’s not-so-good are incessant street-by-street, corner-by-corner descriptions of her search for Black-owned businesses. To know that she’s looking is important. To know exact streets, for most readers, is not.
I also wondered why Anderson felt the need to re-hash the ugliness of critics. I think most readers would easily believe there were haters; to add their comments, verbatim, detracted from the well-meaning goodness of her experiment.
And that goodness is why I ultimately recommend this book: in the end, “Our Black Year” is a (mostly) do-able, interesting challenge for African Americans everywhere. Yes, this book has its bumpiness, but I’d say bag it up soon.
“The Man Who Quit Money” by Mark Sundeen
c.2012, Riverhead Books
$15.00 / $17.50 Canada
Just about fifteen cents.
That’s all you ever find between the sofa cushions. It’s never a huge amount of money
but for some silly reason, it makes you inordinately happy.
Same thing when you find a fiver stashed in last winter’s jacket, or a couple Washingtons in an old forgotten purse or wallet. It’s as if you just won the micro-lottery. You feel strangely rich.
Now imagine never finding money. Imagine never wanting it at all. In the new book “The Man Who Quit Money” by Mark Sundeen, you’ll read about the author’s friend, who’s penniless on purpose.
Back in the days before Mark Sundeen had a mortgage and a successful writing career, back when most of his possessions fit in the bed of a pickup, Sundeen lived a carefree life as an itinerant river guide, sleeping in his truck and eking out a living in Moab, Utah.
He wasn’t alone in that unbothered existence. Many people, discouraged by government actions or corporate greed, left the grid to live in Moab.
One of them was Sundeen’s friend, Daniel Suelo.
Born into an ultra-conservative fundamentalist family, Daniel Suelo was a sensitive child who took his faith extremely seriously. Still, during college, he re-examined his beliefs and began to hypothesize about certain aspects of God. After a stint with the Peace Corps, he started questioning the validity of organized religion. He’d noticed the wide chasm between The Haves and The Have-Nots and how money seemed to change everything, which seemed unchristian-like and wrong. Further muddling his deeply introspective thoughts on religion, Suelo realized he was gay. Finding a community where eccentricity was barely noticed and tolerance is expected was, therefore, a godsend for Suelo. In 2000, after a stay in the Canada wilderness, he left his last $30 in a phone booth and moved to Moab.
There, Sundeen says, Suelo lives with few possessions in whatever shelter he can find. He dines from a Dumpster, volunteers, and enjoys an active social life.
There, he lives “abundantly” with zero money.
Could I do it?
That’s the question you’ll ask yourself over and over as you’re reading “The Man Who Quit Money.” It’s a tantalizing thought, this chuck-it-all life, and author Mark Sundeen lets his readers ponder it as he tells the life story of his friend, Daniel Suelo.
But this isn’t just your run-of-the-mill biography. Sundeen lends his readers a good sense of who Suelo really is, while still preserving the enigmatic aspects. He lets us scoff a little, then he pulls us back into wholeheartedly agreeing with Suelo, almost to the point of wanting to live in a cave, too.
Notice I said “almost.” Sundeen is stingy with romanticism and freely relates hardships while he also examines the morals behind money and why most of us chase it.
I think that if you’ve ever seriously considered your cash and wondered if you could really live without it, here’s your chance to reflect. For you, “The Man Who Quit Money” is a book to take to the sofa.
King by Treymane “GS” Johnson
Reviewed by Pathfinder
If you’re a lover of stories about the gritty streets of the inner city, then “King”, a fast paced action filled novel by Tremayne ‘GS’ Johnson might be to your likening. It tells the story of a young immigrant Deon “King” Toure, who arrives from the South American country of Guyana, with his mother after his father, a corrupt general, drug trafficker, and murderer goes on the run.
Upon his arrival to his new country, Deon is quickly greeted and looked upon by his peers as an outsider in his Brooklyn neighborhood. It wasn’t long before he’s befriended by an elementary schoolmate, Jayson aka Jay-Roc. Taking him under his tutelage, Jay-Roc introduces his young prodigy to the hard knock reality of the gritty underworld of their Bed-Stuy neighborhood, where drugs, guns, fast money, sex, death, loyalty, betrayal and respect ruled. Deon now acclimated to the ins and outs of the drug game, along with his mentor Jay-Roc, set up a crew that would wreak havoc on their rivals and anyone who gets in their way as they seek their fame and fortune.
I lived for some time in the same Brooklyn neighborhood where the story takes place; and I must say, the author did a wonderful job of taking me back to my Halsey Street, Ralph Avenue, Broadway and Putnam Avenue neighborhood. If you’re from Bed-Stuy, you will certainly love the trip down memory lane. The believability of some of the events that took place while Deon and Jay-Roc were in elementary school was difficult for me to digest. Perhaps if the events and lifestyle they had led up to that point had taken place in high school, it would have been more believable. But I just couldn’t relate to it, nonetheless, there were moments when I was totally engrossed in the book.
Posturing, pretense and self-importance comes into play as Deon, Jay-Roc and their associate’s end up becoming victims in the gritty concrete jungle called Bed Stuy. A plethora of issues derails and grips their lives, as friends become rivals, and the women in their lives are no different; as distrust, loyalty, forgiveness, cheating, love, money, and respect couldn’t prevent the inevitable.
In spite of the fast paced action, which I liked, “King” was a quick read. Yet there were moments where certain events and situations would appear without a clear indication of why it occurred. A good editor would have made a huge difference. The narrative could have been much clearer. At times the sentences needed continuity, but instead are cut short in order to begin a new one, thus disrupting the story’s flow. Also, the narrative at times clearly should have been a part of the dialogue, but that wasn’t the case. Nevertheless, it was an exciting read and I enjoyed it. If Mr. Johnson can find himself an editor, it would be a great asset.
Reviewed by Denise Gillete
Therone Shellman bares his life story in his autobiography Survivor I Changed the Rules. As a youth he and his siblings were taken from their mother, placed into foster care, and shuffled around. They end up being adopted by a family whose interests in adopting were at the very least questionable.
At age 15 he turns to selling drugs to earn money to move him and his younger sister out of the home of their adoptive parents. As time goes on, he spends more time in illicit activities and less time in school until one day his adoptive parents find out about his truancy from school and he’s kicked out the home. After this he stops going to school completely. Soon enough he finds himself in jail for 6 counts of armed robbery and 1 attempted murder. Most of the charges are dismissed and he takes a plea deal.
While in prison he reflects on his life and vows to make better choices for himself when released on parole. After release, months of being unable to find work and the lure of fast money has him back in the streets hustling. He ends up getting locked up on a parole violation, and after being locked up several times for more parole violations over the next few years he realizes something has to change. He serves a year on his last violation and makes plans for things to be different when he gains his freedom. Upon release from prison, he finds employment and moves up the ladder of corporate America, but still has dreams to form his own company. He eventually resigns from his position in the corporate world and does just that.
Each chapter of the book is introduced with a brief that will stir you to reflect and relate. Survivor I Changed the Rules is motivating, uplifting, and thought-provoking. A foray into a world that so many venture into but never make it back out. A highly recommended read, especially for young black men who aspire to travel a path that for most ends up with them being dead or in jail.