The BackList

This is a retired blog. For the new and improved BackList blog, please visit!

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Book Readings: Lost Art?

So there is a great essay in the New York Times about the purpose of the book reading. Well first the author starts out by saying that because there are so many book readings in NYC, most New Yorkers begin to take them for granted. She wonders how many folks really even pay attention during readings. And if not, are they there just to see what the writer looks like in person? The idea of a reading, she comments is funny, having an adult read to a group of adults. But of course she does put some of the blame on writers who don't do much to make the reading interesting.

This I can agree with. I have been to a good share of readings and it really does make a difference when the author is charismatic. But should we expect that of writers, who spend the majority of their time, writing alone?

The piece was interesting, check it out, while it is still free on NYT (you have seven days).

My Beef

Can I vent for a moment? So I receive a fair amount of information about new releases for authors. Since I can't read everything, I usually use these press releases, inquiries, book synapses, etc to decide what to publish in BackList.

Since these are "writers", I would expect that these marketing pieces would be written using good grammar, spelling, in complete sentences, etc. No, not at all. I get so many book plots that I can't even understand because they are written so poorly.

Why? I don't understand it. This marketing information is a representation, in my eyes, of the writer, the book, etc. So why not make it correct? Why not have it professionally edited?

I guess that is enough venting for now.

Jill Scott's Poems

So I just watched Jill Scott performing one of her poems "When Women Gather" on Regis and Kelly. I read a somewhat negative review about her poetry book in Black Issues that I didn't really want to believe. Well the question of the weight of reviews in my own book decisions (not much) is an entirely different discussion.

Anyway, I was impressed with her poem. Of course I love her music, her songwriting (which is really poetry anyway) so I need to stop frontin and pick up a copy.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Book Contest

I am not co-signing this contest. The advance sucks, coming from Random House, as does signing up for world rights. But hey, perhaps it is a foot-in-the-door chance?

Delacorte Press Contest for a First Young Adult Novel

The prize of a book contract (on the publisher's standard form)
covering world rights for a hard-cover and a paperback edition,
including an advance and royalties, is awarded annually to encourage
the writing of contemporary young adult fiction. The award consists of
$1,500 in cash and a $7,500 advance against royalties.Eligibility
1. The contest is open to U.S. and Canadian writers who have not
previously published a young adult novel. Employees of Random
House,Inc. and its subsidiaries and affiliates, and members of their
families and households are not eligible. 2. Foreign-language manuscripts
and translations are not eligible. 3. Manuscripts submitted to a
previous Delacorte Press contest are noteligible.

Format for Submissions
1. Submissions should consist of a book-length manuscript
with acontemporary setting that will be suitable for readers
ages 12 to 18.2. Manuscripts should be no shorter than
100 typewritten pages and nolonger than 224 typewritten pages.
Include a brief plot summary withyour covering letter.
3. Each manuscript should have a cover page listing the
title of thenovel; the author's name, address, and telephone
number; and a notestating whether or not the manuscript
need be returned. The titleshould also appear on each manuscript page.
4. Manuscripts should be typed double-spaced on 8-1⁄
2" x 11"good quality white paper, and pages should be numbered
consecutively.The type should be at least 10 point. The author
should retain a copyof any manuscript submitted.
5. Photocopies are acceptable if readily legible and
printed on goodquality white (not gray) paper.6. Do not submit
manuscripts in boxes. A padded envelope will do.Please do not
enclose checks for postage. The publisher cannotguarantee the
return of any manuscript, and is not responsible forlate, lost,
misdelivered, or misplaced submissions.7. If your manuscript
need not be returned, enclose a business-sizestamped, self-addressed
envelope for notification. Manuscripts thatneed not be returned will be
destroyed by Random House. If yourmanuscript is to be returned,
it must be accompanied by a stamped,self-addressed envelope or
book mailer large enough to accommodate themanuscript; otherwise,
the manuscript cannot be returned.Multiple Submissions1.
Manuscripts sent to Delacorte Press may not be submitted to other
publishers while under consideration for the prize.
2. Authors may not submit more than two manuscripts to the
DelacortePress competition; each must meet all eligibility requirements.

Dates for Submission1. Manuscripts must be postmarked after
October 1, 2005, but no laterthan December 31, 2005. 2. Send
manuscripts to:Delacorte Press ContestRandom House, Inc.
1745 Broadway, 9th Floor
New York, New York 10019

Friday, April 22, 2005

We need you Oprah

So about 158 authors got together and signed a petition begging Oprah to bring back her book club. Among the authors included are Amy Tan and Jhumpra Lahiri. What Oprah did for books was indeed amazing, but to say that readers and writers need her book club is a bit much in my opinion. What we really need are more ways besides depending on Oprah to promote literacy and literature. What did we do before Oprah? What will we do after her?

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Gates: Get more blacks, Hispanics and women

Henry Louis Gates is now the chair of the Pulitzer Prize board. An article in Editor & Publisher discusses Gates' plans to increase diversity among some of the judging panels--calling for more blacks, Hispanics and women. As for the board here are the statistics:

"Among the 19 members currently on the board, three are black, four are women, and the remaining 12 are white men. Gissler confirmed that no Hispanic had ever served on the board."

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Village Voice article on blogging

So this article in the Village Voice is more about literary blogs. It discusses the rise of the influence of blogs. And with influence comes power and with power, comes ethical dilemmas. I personally don't suffer from these dilemmas (I talk as if I've been blogging for years.) But speaking from my website, I promoted the books, that I wanted to promote. But of course I didn't have any advertising and, um, didn't make any money. But I had complete control, which was a wonderful thing.

The article also mentions Kevin Smokler who started a popular literary promotional site in the 90's while he was in grad school and now does virtual book tours. These tours allow authors to visit a number of blogs, websites, etc in cyberspace. It is a pretty neat idea. He always has a new book coming out in June, called Bookmark Now which looks at the changing world of books and writing.

QBR and MTA team up

According to Publishers Weekly, Quarterly Black Review and the MTA (New York) will be launching Loving Books Forum which will be a literary series with authors held in Grand Central Terminal. What a wonderful idea! The series launched April 13. I'll definitely have to check them out.

Special issue for Latino/Latina writers

Latino & Latina Writers Issue--Indiana Review ~ Summer 2006
The deadline for submissions considered for this special issue of IR
will be Postmark date: December 31, 2005

Submission Guidelines: Indiana Review is proud to announce a call for
work byLatino & Latina writers. We are seeking Poetry, Fiction, and
Non-Fiction byLatino & Latina writers that is well executed, original,
and contains energyand immediacy. Content that addresses political,
social, and cultural aspects ofthe Latino and Latina identity and
community are welcome but not apre-requisite for consideration.
Our intent with this issue is to showcase the vibrantand diverse voices
of new and established Latino and Latina Writers.

Stories: Send only one story per submission, up to 40 double-spaced
pages. Translations are welcome.

Poems: Send up to four poems, no more than ten pages, per submission.
Do not fold poems individually or staple poems together. Translations arewelcome.

Nonfiction: Send only one essay per submission, up to 30double-spaced pages.

Book Reviews: Reviews should be of recent fiction, poetry,nonfiction,
and literary criticism (publication date within two years). Small press
titles are preferred. Reviews must be 1,000 to 1,500 words,
double-spaced, andinclude complete publication information (press, ISBN, price).
Send a maximum oftwo reviews per submission.

Graphic Arts: Paintings, photographs, comics, and drawings arewelcome.
In lieu of originals, please send digital images of work. Slides cannot be
accepted. DO NOT send only copy of work. Indiana artists are preferred.
Send up to five pieces that are up to 6 x 9" in dimensions or may be later
reduced to this size. Visual works must also be publishable in black and white
, but,when funding allows, may be published in full color.How to submit:
There is no need to query editors about submitting work.Submission
status may be queried by mail or email, but please allow 4 months before querying.

All submissions and correspondence MUST include a self-addressed stamped envelope. We cannot respond to submissions otherwise. Include additionalpostage if work
is to be returned.

Simultaneous submissions are okay, but we must be promptly
notified ofacceptance elsewhere. Clearly mark envelope to the
appropriate genre editor's attention (e.g."Fiction Editor"). Include
cover letter listing work titles, previous publications andawards,
and a brief bio. For receipt confirmation, please include email address.
Explanations of manuscript's meaning, theme, or technique are not necessary.
No handwritten, faxed, emailed, or poorly copied/printed manuscriptswill be
considered. Further, IR cannot consider work (other than book reviews)
from anyone currently or recently affiliated with Indiana University.

Contact Info: Send all correspondence to address below. Again, please note
that we cannot accept email submissions.Send manuscripts to:Latino/Latina
Writers Issue - Indiana Review Ballantine Hall 4651020 E. Kirkwood Ave.
Bloomington, IN 47405-7103

Call for Black Poets


Dear Black Poets, Poetic Black Fusion has just launched its website
Monday, April 11th, for multitalented writer, performer and
sound recording producers. The new site is looking for articles from
Black Poets around the world with highlights on their poets. The site
will feature news, commentary, unpublished & published poets, and
book resources. Poetic Black Fusion 250 members encourage YOU
to stop by and check us out as we continue to build this institution. If you are
interested and would like a charter in your city, please contact us at

Book Deal in my cards?

Is there a book deal in my future? USA Today profiled a blogger that landed a book deal. Granted her blog exposed her Capital Hill sex life and mine talks sporadically about publishing, I wonder if this blogging gig might lead to something. Yeah I don't have a book in mind, but I doubt she did either. She isn't the first to land a book deal, and she won't be the last.

I better get cracking.

Jada Pinkett Smith

Actress Jada Pinkett Smith's first-ever children's book Girls Hold Up This World
hits The New York Times children's best-seller list. Published by Scholastic,
the picture book features empowering poems for girls written by Pinkett Smith
and also includes photographs by Donyell Kennedy- McCullough.

Are we suprised? Especially after her Oprah appearance.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Trudeau Vector

So my former professor, Juri Jurjevics' first book is coming out in August. Juri has been tremendous and extremely supportive of me, always offering insightful career advice. I can't wait to read his book. It is called Trudeau Vector and he'll be signing copies at BEA. Here is the blurb about it:

A cold war secret; a potent microbial killer; an impending environmental calamity—all three link up in the black of the Artic night. In THE TRUDEAU VECTOR, Juris Jurjevics has crafted an ingenious and entirely engrossing Artic thriller that superbly depicts the precarious, volatile area where science and politics clash, with potentially disastrous results. In the tradition of Michael Crichton’s THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN and Robert Wilson’s A SMALL DEATH IN LISBON, THE TRUDEAU VECTOR unsettlingly blurs the line between invention and reality in a novel whose richness in detail will leave readers wondering “Could this actually happen?”

It is funny because one day in class he gives us some sample chapters to read of the book, but it has a pseudonym on it. Luckily the entire class liked what we read, we would trash many of the manuscripts he would engrossing. So then he goes on to tell the story of the auction and who bought what rights, etc. It isn't until the end of class, in his modest way, does he tell us he wrote the book. Ah!

Juri is also co-founder of Soho Press. He tells a nice story of how a 24 year-old Edwidge Danticat walked into their offices with a manuscript for Breathe, Eyes, and Memory in her hand. Soho went on to publish Krik? Krak! and The Farming of the Bones.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Some pub tidbits

A short interview with Asya Muchnick on, editor at Little, Brown that has made a name for herself through acquiring The Lovely Bones. She is pretty young to have had the success she has had. Perhaps some inspiration for aspiring editors. Me, I think I am giving up that dream. Marketing constantly calls me.

Oprah has published a 96-page book that will be shrinked-wrapped in the next issue of her magazine. How brilliant is that? The magazine got Dove to underwrite half the costs, and the book is merely a collection of past wisdom-filled columns written by Oprah. Is she starting a trend? Maybe not, the project costed between 1 million and 2 million bones. So maybe this is just something that only Oprah can do.

According to Publisher's Weekly (i can't link to them), is in talks to start a new type of publishing program. They will publish, on the Amazon website, new short works (essays, short stories, etc) by famous writers and will charge for an electronic download. Now that is smart. These will be original works so they won't compete with anything currently on the marketplace. I was wondering how publishers felt about it, but apparently some publishers see it as a way to market their authors without having to do much. So I guess Amazon is really competing with literary journals?

Monday, April 11, 2005

Kwame Alexander

From Kwame Alexander, former publisher of Blackwords Press. Reinvention. Shoot, life is change.

BlackWords and Kwame Alexander thank you for the
kind words, sharp opinions and probing email comments
we received regarding the end of our publishing era.
Stay in tune to the TV and book projects Kwame Alexander
is involved in by visiting his website.

Also, check out his new book of poems and biting essays and upcoming events.

And next Saturday, April 16, Kwame will be at CityLit Festival
in Baltimore, MD at 10 am, and KARIBU BOOKS-BOWIE at 2 pm.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

The Power Journal

I received this book and had to write about it. The Power Journal by Waset is a funny, honest and creative amalgamation. Waset has a keen perspective that definitely had me nodding in agreement.

I just received this from a listserve, funny, the book was on my mind to mention and I get this press release/wonderful rant:


What began as one woman's weekly e-mail rants to friends
and notorious e-mail forwarders has swiftly become the hot
literary breakout book of the season. The POWER journal -
Chronicles of a Revolutionary Black Woman in White America
offers a cross between a hip-hop album and a fiery political
commentary. The book delves into controversial topics
such as the sagas of R. Kelly and Michael Jackson,
the "War on Terror", the dilapidation of blackmusic,
brothas on the "down low" and more. Initially released
in mid-2004, the first version of The POWER journal was
so successful that The Golden Collector's Edition of the book
was released in December 2004. As remarkable as that may
appear, what's even morenoteworthy is the fact that the book
has sold well without the benefit of a national distributor.

"Although I contacted every African American bookstore
I couldfind, only a handful of proprietors such as Afrikan Sistahs and African American Images in Chicago
were interested in this type of book. I was told that The
POWER journal wasn't `urban' enough to entice readers
away from the ghetto fiction that bombards the marketplace.
Luckily, I had enough courage to follow my first mind and
ignore the people who said there wasn't an audience for a
`blackfrocentric' book thatisn't ghetto,yet contains much flava."
WASET faced with the seemingly insurmountable task of selling
sizable volumes of books without a major distributor, Team POWER
journal sought out to locate and seduce a target market of individuals
who are often ignored by mainstream "urban" advertising tactics.
Armed with a bevy of stellar reviews, the team advertised and sent
complimentary copies of the book to sororities, teachers, churchgoers,
students, fashionistas, revolutionaries, social outcasts, politicians, and
even some famous people. In essence, the team built their own
distribution network that has paid off significantly through
word of mouth and repeat buyers."When I sat down with my
marketing team to identify the target audience for The POWER
journal, I realized that my core audience consisted of people like
me who think BET is a disgrace, think 50 Cent is a `sucka,' and
think that Condoleezza Rice is TheManchurian Candidate." WASET
known by friends and acquaintances as the "anti-celebrity,"Waset
admits that book sales substantially increased once those in the
"celebrity in-crowd" got wind of the journal.Nevertheless,
both Waset and her publisher, Golden Ankh Publishing, insist
that The POWER journal was created for regular folks who know
that there is a difference between can't and "cain't," and for those
who know that just because you sell a lot of records certainly does
not mean you can sing. Frequently one to rebuke the glitterati of
Hollywood even though she calls Los Angeles home, Waset has
several music, film and television writing deals under consideration.
In addition, she has a new book scheduled for release in late 2005 e
ntitled, FAT, Black and maybe even Ugly...Now What?"It's funny
when Producers call me and ask me about writing`urban' products.
Normally what they mean by `urban' is ignorant,slapstick and/or ridiculous.
What's sad is the fact that many of my black peers suggest that
I should go ahead and write some derogatory and stereotypical
entertainment for the sake of a good payday. Sorry, I write
message driven material. It can be fiction, but there has got
to be some positivism in the story or I won't partake. For me,
it has never been about achieving great fame; it is about achieving
the POWER required to help build a successful future for black people.
I don't push a Maybach or rock a Rolex watch, and for some reason
Boyz II Men has not granted me that interview I requested.
All the same, as long as I'm happy and true to myself, I'm cool
without theRolex and the Maybach - but I still want that Boyz
II Men interview."

WASET For inquiries contact: Sakkara Regir, Managing Director, Publicity, CollectiveWorks, an entertainment firm
P.O. Box 641626 ~ Los Angeles, CA 90064 ~ (888) 729-1609 ~
Available now at and

Located at Ludlow and Houston in NYC Posted by Hello. This is a mural for Angry Black White Boy by Adam Mansbach.

More info on the career panel

Here is more information on the Career Panel I will be participating in:

Panel 1: Thursday, May 5th, from 6:00PM to 8:00PM
Location: TBD
Getting Started: An Introduction to Starting and Continuing
a Career in the Publishing Industry

A panel of experts -- editors, marketing managers,
human resource specialists, etc – will talk to attendees
about how they got started in publishing, how they
worked their way up to their current level, and what
it will take for those are interested in entering the field
to not only land a job, but succeed at that job. Those
already in publishing but still new to the field will learn
how to advance their careers to the next level.

Attendees will get interviewing tips, learn what employers
are looking for in future employees, and receive expert
advice on how to make their resumes more appealing to
employers. Attendees will also have a chance to have
their resumes reviewed by the HR manager of a major
publishing house.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Career Panel--Black Americans In Publishing

So I will be on a career panel at the annual Black Americans in Publishing Career Fair. What info do I have to offer you ask? I think I have a good amount of info to offer minorities beginning the job search.

Cause let me tell you, it wasn't as easy as I thought it would be. Or maybe it was, I just expected too much, not sure. But I started looking for a job in January and landed one at the end of March, I guess that wasn't so bad. But I had the fact that I was still in Boston working against me. Folks was like "yeah, contact us when you get to NY."

Plus I had high standards. Call me cocky, but I didn't want to use my master's degree to land a position photocopying as a an editorial assistant. Yeah people were really trying to push entry-level positions on me despite the fact that I had worked before grad school, despite the fact that in grad school I did the whole internship thing, despite the fact that I studied publishing for two years, despite the fact that I did extensive freelance work for publishing companies, despite the fact that I ran a website dedicated to publishing.

But Momma raised me never to settle. So I made a list of all the things I wanted in my position post-grad school. And I used that list when I was applying for jobs (although I did apply to jobs I had no business applying to, but you know how it is, you get a little desperate.)

I was lucky to find a position that fit all my requirements and then some. But it was kind of by chance.

So back to my original point I have a lot of imformation to impart.

I think I know almost every publisher website in New York. I know the names of the eight black editors that work at the major houses. I probably reached out to all of them, whether I knew them or not. I don't necessarily suggest that, but you got to be aggressive.

Can't Stop Won't Stop

For those hip-hop fans out there, check out Jeff Chang’s (a co-founder of ColorLines Magazine) Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation. The book has been making some serious waves as a must-have text about the life of an art form, movement, and community. Just an added tidbit: Monique Patterson at St. Martins Press served as the editor of Can’t Stop Won’t Stop. Read an excerpt.

Event: Small Press Center Writer's Conference

The Small Press Center’s
1st Annual New York Round Table Writer’s Conference
The Small Press Center is pleased to sponsor the
1st Annual New York Round Table Writers' Conference
on Friday and Saturday, April 29 - 30, 2005.

An alternative to the traditional writers' conference, the
Round Table offers the unique opportunity for writers
to meet the movers and shakers at the heart of the publishing
industry: A-List editors, agents, publicists, authors, and publishers.
The literary luminaries taking part include bestselling
authors Mary Higgins Clark, Meg Wolitzer, Michael Connelly,
Jonathan Ames and Rona Jaffe. The conference boasts a
diverse lineup of panelists from all corners of the industry:
Representatives from publishing houses of all types and
sizes, including Random House, Crown, W.W. Norton,
John Wiley & Sons, Simon & Schuster, Seven Stories Press,
Soft Skull Press, Warner Books; Literary agents from
James Fitzgerald Agency, The Jeff Herman Agency,
Susan Golomb Literary Agency, Marcy Posner Literary
Agency, and more; Representatives from top writers'
organizations, including PEN, Authors Guild, Poets & Writers;
And the media, including New York Times Book Review,
CBS Early Show, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, and

Place: Small Press Center ( 20 West 44th Street / NYC)
Date: Friday April 29 and Saturday, April 30, 2005
Time: All dayPrice: 2-days: $295.00, one-day: $195.00

Up to date SPC members get an additional 10% discount
MFA students with a valid student ID are eligible for a special rate
contact the Small Press Center for detailsPhone:
212-764-7021 for more details Email:

Friday, April 08, 2005

Call for Entries for Moore Black Press

Check out the interview I conducted with ms. jessica Care moore-Poole.

Moore Black Press and jessica Care moore-Poole Host
Opening Night of the 1st Annual Atlanta Hip Hop Film Festival
Call for Entries for "Why I Love Hip Hop"

Poetry Jam Contest: Winners perform during Festival
and get published in Moore Black Press Anthology
The Poetry of Emcees

April 15, 2005 Atlanta, ”Celebrated poet and activist
jessica Care moore-Poole and her company, Moore Black Press,
will host the Opening Reception of the 1st Annual Atlanta
Hip Hop Film Festival (, on the
25th floor of the Renaissance Hotel (590 West Peachtree
Street, 7:00 p.m.-12:00 a.m.). The event will kick
off the Creative Circle Entertainment produced
three-day festival (April 15-17) celebrating
the collaboration of hip hop and film, which will showcase
artists from around the globe, as well as many out of Atlanta
and the Southeast.

moore-Poole will also be promoting the "Why I Love Hip Hop" Poetry Jam
Contest where the top three winners will get the opportunity to perform
their works during the April 15th Opening Reception. The winning
contestants works will also be published in The Poetry of Emcees to be
released by Moore Black Press ( later this year.
To enter, poets and emcees must send their poems or rhymes here .
Winners will be notified by email. The deadline for entries is April 13th.

moore-Poole is also featured this month on
The BackList, a publishing and literary website
and newsletter (
(that's me!)

For more information on the Atlanta Hip Hop
Film Festival please check out
April 15th-17th Register Now!! For more information
about Moore Black Press, call 404-752-0450 or
visit us at

Event: Pearl Cleage Reading

New York City

WWRL 1600 AM UrbanTalk Radio

WHAT: Invites guests to participate in The ChocolatLiterary Month
Series where we honor writers for themonth of April.
Renowned Authors/Writers (Fiction &Non-Fiction)
participate with reading excerpts oftheir work, Q& A and
book signing is held.

WHERE: CHOCOLAT Restaurant Lounge, 1325 Fifth Avenue
(Corner of 111th & 5th Avenue), New York, NY212-996-1212

WHEN: Saturday, April 9th, 2005 Time 11- 1pm.
Kicking off this series will be NewYork Times best-selling
author of What Crazy Looks Like on an Ordinary day
and Some Things I NeverThought I'd Do, Pearl Cleage
reading from her new novel, Babylon Sisters.

Event: My Jim reading

When: Monday, April 11 at 7pm
New York

Please join us for a staged reading from the critically acclaimed novel “My Jim” featuring performances from actors AUNJANUE ELLIS (Ray) and FREEDOME BAILEY (Creative Stages Theatre) .
Where: McNally Robinson Booksellers 50 Prince Street (b/t Mulberry & LaFayette) New York NY 10012
When: Monday, April 11 at 7pm
"In a spare naturalistic style that's reminiscent of oral history, Rawles covers territory Twain did not…As heart-wrenching a personal history as any recorded in American literature." -- NY Times Book Review

"A compelling, eloquently written novel that can stand on its own merits beside the great works that inspired it." -- San Francisco Chronicle
"A harsh, powerful, personal portrait…there's much about Mark Twain's young companion that you may remember but haven't really felt until now." -- People
"A testament to the ability of those who experience horrifying events to maintain their love for others" -- Chicago Tribune
"A gritty, imaginative companion piece to Huckleberry Finn." -- Entertainment Weekly

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Maryse Conde

I was a Maryse Conde fan (forgive me for not putting the accent over the "e") after I read Desirada. I think it was the globalness of the book. Conde can take you from Guadeloupe to Piscataway, New Jersey in one story. And her language is so bittersweet...

But, have I found even a deeper appreciation for her after studying her in my Caribbean fiction class. I wrote a paper about her book, The Last of the African Kings called "The Disorder of Marsye Conde". The paper was also based on an essay she wrote about disorder and the West Indian writer. In her eyes, disorder is the gateway to creativity. By disrupting the order of things, one can be free to create.

The Last of the African Kings is about a couple, a black American woman and a Guadeloupean (sp?) man who struggle with identity in their own ways. Debbie, the wife, revels in the past, Conde refers to her as the Black Americana queen who lives so much in the past that she can't enjoy the present. It is only when she is in Guadoloupe and meets Spero, that she is able to let go..because she is not constantly reminded about Jim Crow. Conde's creation of Debbie takes shots at the how Conde viewed the Negritude movement (glorifying an African past without really understanding or appreciating Africa). Spero on the other hand suffers from Caribbean rootlessness. He is the descendant of the "last African king" but doesn't want to spend his life idolizing an ancestor, he rather live in the day.

Okay that is enough plot, you have to read the book for yourself. But in studying Conde, she has some really liberating ideas about the Black American writer, the West Indian writer, the Black American person, the West Indian person, etc. Granted, I may not agree with all of them, but the fact that she is so brazen with her ideas and uses her fiction as a political voice, makes me admire her greatly.

In an interview I read she said that she wrote The Last of the African Kings when she was depressed and that it was a bitter novel. I would agree with that. It was a dose of tough love, some of the ideas she tackled (cultural baggage, black love, hypocrisies in the African diaspora, etc) made me be like, whoa "she went there" (especially since this book was read in a class where I was the only black student), but these are issues that need to be discussed so that they can be resolved.

I already have Who Slashed Celanire's Throat, so that is next (or rather, high on the "to read" list).

Superhead and Amistad

How do I really feel that Amistad (home of The Known World) is going to publish the memoir of Superhead? You know her, the hip-hop groupie who has been connected by who's who of the entertainment world including Chris Rock (no, Chris, not when you were married, I hope). I mean publishing is a business and I am sure the higher-ups at Amistad figure they can make some money off of her. But does she really deserve a signficant book deal? I would venture to say no, but who am I, right? I just know from their vision, Amistad wants to publish important, timely works from the African diaspora (or something like that) and Superhead, just doesn't seem to align with that. Hyperion? yes. Miramax? yes. I would even say Atria.

But don't worry, Superhead isn't just dishing her dirt, her book is also going to be a cautionery tale to young girls that being a groupie won't get you far (but it sure will get you a nice book deal).

Isn't that a straightforward title for a new websited dedicated to publishing and literary news of AA interest? So far they still seemed to be revving up since most of the content is from Black Issues Book Review and other news sources, but in theory, it sounds like a site that we need. Granted, it is somewhat similar to BackList, but it has some (I emphasis, some) money behind it since it is a project coming out of Target Market News. I'll definitely be keepimg my eye on it. They may do great things.

Junot Diaz's Drown

So I just finished Junot Diaz's Drown. I enjoyed it for many reasons--the down-to-earth language, yet the subtlety of his narrative. I spent some time in Northern, New Jersey so all the Route 9, New Brunswick, etc references brought me back. Because all 10 stories are told in a first person narrative (all as a young, Dominican male) the collection read like a disjointed novel (a good thing). It was published in 97' and it said he was working on a novel, I wonder how that is going? He visited Emerson college and was received by a pack audience. That was pretty unprecedented as most readings at the school can be poorly attended.

I am going to recommend the book to a few guy friends that don't read fiction cause "they like to keep it real". Diaz definitely paints a real coming-of-age image that I'm sure many young men of color can relate to.

Definitely was struck by his "How to Date a Browngirl, Blackgirl, Whitegirl or Halfie."