Saturday, March 21, 2009
Years ago I read Tryin' To Sleep in The Bed You Made by Virginia DeBerry and Donna Grant. It was the first time that I read a work of fiction authored by more than one person and I was surprised and impressed with the fluidity of the writing. I'm not sure what I was expecting - maybe I thought that it would be choppy and clear who wrote what. In any case, I was so thrilled that I e-mailed the authors to share my delight and they wrote me back to thank me. That left an impression, so I officially became a fan and now read everything that they write.
Their latest, What Doesn't Kill You is so timely that it is scary. Thomasina "Tee" Hodges is a successful single mother who is having a ball at her daughter's wedding. She drives a nice car, owns a home, and is planning an upcoming cruise vacations with her girls. But no one, including her daughter, knows as they lift their champagne glasses in toasts to the mother of the bride, that she has just lost her job. How does someone who has only worked for one company her entire working career (having helped build that company from the ground up) pick up the pieces and move on?
The situations that Tee finds herself in as her life crumbles around her eerily reflect the news stories that we currently read every day. People in danger of losing their homes, cars, health insurance and the way of life that they enjoy. Going from pumping gas and just shoving the receipts in their purse to having to watch every penny and clip coupons. The endless job hunting, sending out loads of resumes, trying to figure out your old skills fit in to this new work world. It's like DeBerry and Grant had a crystal ball or something.
The story was written so well that I was getting angry with Tee and some of the decisions that she made or put off until later. Decisions that I knew would come back and bite her in the ass. But then I realized that was real. When faced with situations like this some people go into depression and denial and just don't want to face it full speed ahead. A great book takes you through emotions like that and this one is a great book.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
I don't have a fancy job. I am a supervisor at a major bookstore chain. Managers & Supervisors have workspaces, not offices. I am fortunate that a lot of my duties require access to an office and since I spend most of my time there (when I'm not on the sales floor), I have personalized it a little:We had an event a few years ago that was sponsored by O magazine. This was a promotional poster of the issue out at the time. While I am an Oprah fan, the main reason that I have it up is because she has on the funkiest brown suede pants with beige contrast stitching. I love those pants and need to see them daily. Also pasted on the poster are a picture of Prince, Jada Pinkett-Smith along with her band Wicked Wisdom and Roosevelt Franklin, my favorite Sesame Street character.
My mini shrine to my celebrity crush: Jesse L. Martin. I love him because he seems just like a regular dude. And being able to sing doesn't hurt. I keep the shrine at work because keeping it at home and out of public view is a little stalkerish. Also taped up there is a small bio of Malcolm X from an old page-a-day calendar and a list of the top ten HBCU's (Historically Black Colleges & Universities) including my alma mater: Florida A & M University.
Promotional posters of Erykah Badu & Amy Winehouse, because I just couldn't stand to see them thrown out.
Old promo poster of Maxwell (pre-haircut). Attached to the bottom is a While You Were Out Message that a co-worker put up once while I was on vacation. It says that Maxwell came by from the Kingdom of the Attractive and that he was sorry he missed me.
So these are the people that I hang out with every day.
E. Lynn Harris is a frequent customer of the bookstore where I work and I keep telling him to write slower so I can catch up. He says that he can't, so I am making an effort to read faster!
With the exception of his memoir and some anthologies that Harris has edited, I have read every book that he has written since Invisible Life. And I can say with complete honesty that E. Lynn Harris is one of the few writers that I read regularly that get better with time. He has truly evolved technically and the storylines get more interesting and complex.
In Just Too Good To Be True, we meet Brady Bledsoe, a college football star on the verge of making it big in the NFL and his supportive, protective (overly?) single mother, Carmyn. Their story of survival and overcoming odds is almost too good to be true, especially with the secrets that they both struggle to keep. Those secrets threaten to spell out as underhanded sports agents and others seek to bring down the idyllic family.
For those of you book snobs (and I am a card carrying member) who think that this type of popular fiction is not for you, then you are missing out on a well-crafted story and a real page-turner.
by Steve Harvey
I'll admit that when this came out I had no interest in reading it. Since I'm not in one currently, relationship books fall really low on my reading priority list. So many women were running into the store and buying multiple copies all excited like this was the first time a book like this was ever published. A couple asked me if I read it and said that I wasn't really his target market - having common sense and all, which a lot of these books really are.
But damn the power of Oprah! She had Steve Harvey on her show for just a 10 or 15 minute segment and I listened to what he had to say. His take on manhood and men's responsibility to women struck a chord with me and the audience. Harvey was so well received that Oprah asked him on the spot to come back and do a whole show on the subject that will air in the next couple of weeks.
The difference between this book and others on the subject (I've read a few) is that it teaches women how to be proactive rather than reactive. Sometimes by the time you are in the position to react to something, its already too late. Harvey tells us what a real man's priorities are, how his life is set up, and how the people in his life fit into his plan (and all men have a plan, according to him). If you are important to him, a man will place you into his plan for the future and act accordingly. It is up to us to make sure that we become a part of that plan.
More like He's Just Not That Into You, rather than The Rules, Steve Harvey's Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man is a must read for women in the dating scene and beyond. Of course it is as funny as it is informative.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
It's the beginning of March and I have completed only 5 books? I gotta get on my grind!
I don't know if you guys know it but teachers are still assigning Catcher In the Rye for their students to read. Don't get me wrong, I loved the book when I read it 25 years ago, but I also thought that Holden Caulfield was a whiny, spoiled brat. His coming of age story in no way reflected the ones of my peers and I.
That's why books like The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and now Sag Harbor are so awesome. Although both are told from male perspectives, the references are still relevant to those of us who grew up in communities of color in major metropolitan areas (especially the northeast). The music, the food, the movies, & television shows are all ones that I remember and can relate to.
Sag Harbor is Whitehead's fictional account of a summer in 1985 that he spent with his family in the popular summer vacation destination of African-American professionals. Left there by parents who come out only on weekends, the protagonist Benji, his brother Reggie and their friends are on their own. During the year when he lives in anonymous Manhattan he can gleefully take part in his otherness which includes a fondness for Dungeons & Dragons, punk-rock and other things that Black boys aren't supposed to like. His summer friends know all the complex soul handshakes, listen to hip-hop and are already lying about the girls they have conquered. Trying to fit in is a full-time job.
Colson Whitehead is hands down one of my favorite authors. His humor and imagination are incredible. Sag Harbor, with its poignant telling of an awkward, somewhat isolated boy in familiar territory is a wonderful addition to his body of work.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Anyway, occupation-wise, they are an accomplished group holding various impressive sounding titles. Looking at where I was in comparison made me a little depressed.
Then this morning I awoke to this horoscope from DailyOm:
March 4, 2009
The Right Pace
Cancer Daily Horoscope
Your impatience can interfere with your progress today, leaving you feeling blocked and unsure of yourself. You may believe that you should be farther along in your journey of personal or professional achievement, but it is likely that your existence is unfolding at the pace it was meant to. Easing your frustrations will likely be a matter of looking critically at your pace to determine whether it is indeed lagging. Be aware that you may discover today that you precisely where you need to be at this point in your life as there are no doubt many lessons you can learn from your current circumstances.