The BackList

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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Kingston Comes to Brooklyn: Save the Date and Akashic Books Present…

A Reading with Marlon James and Christopher John Farley
Two of Today's Finest Young Writers of the Jamaican Diaspora

Date/time: Saturday, September 24, 4:00pm to 7:00pm
Location: Danny Simmons Corridor Gallery334 Grand Avenue btw Gates and Greene
Clinton Hill/Brooklyn, NY; 718-638-8416
(C or G train to Clinton-Washington)

Free admission!
Wine and cheese reception to follow readings;
Live DJs spinning dancehall and roots reggae

MARLON JAMES, author of JOHN CROW’S DEVIL"Marlon James spins his magical web in this novel and we willingly suspend disbelief, rewarded by the window he opens to Jamaica (and a world) rarely portrayed in fiction." --Elizabeth Nunez, author of Bruised Hibiscus

Marlon James was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1970. An award-winning artist and writer, this is his first novel. He lives in Kingston. Click here for information about Marlon James.

“Kingston by Starlight is an extraordinary achievement. Filled with heart-racing voyages, exploits, and adventures—not to mention extraordinarily vivid and elegant prose—it surprises and amazes you at every turn. I could not put it down.” —Edwidge Danticat, author of The Dew Breaker

Christopher John Farley was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and now lives in New York. He is a senior editor at Time magazine. Click here for more information about Christopher John Farley.

For more information about this event, email or call Akashic Books at 212.433.1875.

My review of Wounded by Percival Everett

Here is a link to my review of Wounded by Percival Everett in the Baltimore City Paper.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

How I like to spend my Saturdays

On Saturday night, I attended asha bandele’s book release party at Danny Simmons Corridor Gallery for her new poetry collection: The Subtle Art of Breathing. It was a great event, where to begin? I’ll begin where you can usually find me: with the food. They had some finger treats (I was killing the chocolate-filled cookies) and wine which is always a nice touch. The DJ was spinning reggae when I got there which naturally made me happy.

When asha got on stage you could tell she was amongst her peoples. She was comfortable, funny, honest, the sista in her was in full effect. Her five year-old daughter was also there to support Mommy. She was so cute, she even got on stage after asha read one of her poems to tell her that she said a bad word. asha apologized: “I know, I’m sorry I said a bad word.” Our children are too smart and too determined! We have to make a way for them.

I hadn’t read the collection yet and was wondering what the title meant. Well asha read the title poem and man it was heavy. I remember these words: “breathing is a subtle art.” At the center of the poem was suicide, it was a really wonderful, haunting and truthful piece. asha said that the collection is about violence against women, although that isn’t what she necessarily intended to write.

asha had some of her friends get on stage and read poetry or say a few words, as was the case with Kevin Powell who got up and recalled how asha introduced him to Audre Lorde.

The rooftop was just packed with talent. Greg Tate was apparently there (I didn’t see him even with my new glasses). The artist Renaldo was there. He did the cover for Ras Baraka’s new book of poetry also published by Moore Black Press. Renaldo gave me one of his pastel portraits of Beah Richards. It is beautiful and hanging up in my room.

As a surprise treat, jessica Care moore-Poole read from her new collection of poems and essays called God is Not An American. She also read the title poem and WOW. The ish was crazy and deep and energetic in only the way jessica could write and perform it. I can not wait for her book to drop. She looked so cute in her black dress and heels. I can’t say how much she inspires me. I know what she is doing is incredibly challenging. Actually, let me take that back, I can’t even imagine exactly how hard it is. We need more folks like her doing the damn thing. We also need to support her efforts by buying the books, telling the bookstores to stock them, attending events, etc.

This is how I like spending my Saturday nights.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Our August

I am so sorry to hear that August Wilson is battling liver cancer. He is a literary treasure. I remember reading some of his plays in grade school but seeing them and understanding them and feeling them as an adult. This is really upsetting.

“It's not like poker, you can't throw your hand in,'' Wilson, 60 told his hometown newspaper, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which broke the story of his illness. "I've lived a blessed life. I'm ready.''

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

I got a book deal, now what??

Here is an article on mediabistro for those of you who have signed your first book deal. You are miles ahead of me. It answers the question (very broadly), “what’s next?”

My favorite line from the piece: “it's often because the authors have failed to educate themselves about the process and what publishing will or won't do for them.”

I think it is important for authors to empower themselves with information regarding the publishing process. Writing and publishing go hand and hand (that is if you want to be published) and to be clueless about publishing will only hurt you in the end.

A simple focus group?

I wonder if a simple focus group of a few women could have avoided this error by Little, Brown. It is indeed a strange cover for the book concept.

Usually publishing companies run covers by sales force that can represent the interest of booksellers. Perhaps it would have been worthwhile to have run the cover past a few women booksellers, or since the book is targeted towards women, a few women (sit a few avid women readers or maybe even a book club and ask them their opinions).

Perhaps publishers could benefit from the occasional focus group.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Ft. Greene Lit Fest

I went to the literary festival that was held in Ft. Greene Park, Brooklyn on Saturday. The weather was absolutely beautiful, none of that nasty heat we’ve been experiencing. The festival was so delightful. Not only were there six and seven year olds reciting their poetry to a nice size crowd, there was also youth jazz band that played during intermission. It was wonderful to see our children engaging in the arts and presenting their work to the world known as Ft. Greene.

And to wrap-up, there were performances by Marlon James, author of Jim Crow’s Devil, Carl Hancock Rux, Sonia Sanchez and Amiri Baraka. The children were able to see literary icons share the same stage with them.

I have never seen Ms. Sanchez perform live so this was so wonderful to see this little woman with so much power. And I’ve seen Amiri perform on several occasions, but never tire (nor does he) of his performances. His energy is infectious.

I wore the BackList t-shirt (hey have to represent) when I showed it to Amiri (because he’s name is on there) “Show Amini”, he said. So while I blushed, I showed his wife. They were both tickled by it.

Sonia Sanchez gave me a hug (okay I make it sound like I was special, she was giving everyone hugs but nevertheless, it was definitely special). I showed her the t-shirt and she asked me if she could buy some!

It was a great event.

Event: Chicago African Festival of the Arts

Spread the Word!

16th Annual African Festival of the Arts
Labor Day Weekend, September 2-5, 2005
Visit the festival website for full schedule of musical performances

African Festival of the Arts Book Pavilion
Please join the African Festival of the Arts Book Pavilion as we feature some of the country's best authors as well as up and coming writers. There will be networking opportunities with award-winning authors, readings, discussions, exhibits, signings, giveaways and much more. Each day beginnning at noon the writers will hit the stage prepared to share fun and thought-provoking literary works. The book pavilion is facilitated by the Say It Loud! Readers and Writers Series, a community organization dedicated to promoting literacy Spread the Word!

Friday, September 2, 2005 – Meet the Authors
Host: Third World Press Foundation
Activities: Book pavilion authors network with festival goers and media.
5:30 p.m. Refreshments, readings, signings and music. Book release Yellow Black: The First 21 Years of a Poets Life by Haki R. Madhubuti

Saturday, September 3, 2005 – Children’s Day
Host: Open Book Program and Say It Loud! Readers and Writers Series
Activities: Book discussions, readings and signings with local and nationally recognized children’s authors. Open Book Program book bags and Say It Loud! bookmarks with purchases
Noon Lynette Velasco, author of Zinzi
1:00 p.m. Dr. Vincent Johnson, author Of Cornsilk and Black Braids,
2:00 p.m. Natasha Tarpley, author I Love My Hair, Bippity Bop Barbershop, Destiny’s Gift and Joe-Joe First Flight
3:00 p.m. Jan Spivey Gilchrist, award-winning illustrator and author of numerous books
4:00 p.m. Cheryl and Wade Hudson, publisher and authors of numerous children’s books
5:00 p.m. Quincy Troupe, award winning poet, educator and author of Little Stevie Wonder and numerous other books

Sunday, September 4, 2005 – Telling Our Story
Host: Open Book Program
Activities: Book discussions, readings and signings with local and nationally recognized authors.
Noon Book exhibits and author signings
1:00 p.m. Kalisha Buchanon, author Upstate, and Ivory Achebe Toldson, author Black Sheep,
2:00 p.m. Anthony Asadullah Samad, author 50 Years After Brown,
3:00 p.m. Melda Beaty, editor and contributing writers read from My Soul To His Spirit: Soulful Expressions from Black Daughters to Their Fathers
4.00 p.m. Herb Boyd, author We Shall Overcome? A History of the Civil Rights Movement, Sponsored by Open Book Program
5:00 Bob Nash lead book discussion Cotton Field of Dreams: A Memoir by Janis Kearney

Monday, September 5, 2005 – Spoken Word Poetry
Host: Say It Loud! Readers and Writers Series
Activities: Book discussions, readings and signings with local and nationally recognized authors.
Noon Chicago State University MFA Creative Writing students and graduates
1:00 p.m. Open Mic with host MC April Preyar
2:00 p.m. Heathe Renee, author Black Girl: Reflections, Expressions and Confessions, , Shahari Moore, editor Violets,, Stephany Rose, author Stilettod Rose Bleed,
3:00 p.m. Dasha Kelly, Jamila, Triple Blak and Toni Asante Lightfoot
4:00 p.m. Conversation with Abiodun Oyewole of the Last Poets, author and world renown performance poet of several books and CD’s.

Asha bandele release party this Saturday


August 27th
The Subtle Art of Breathing
asha bandeleBook Launch Party!!
Suprise Guests!
334 Grand St.
Corridor Art Gallery DJ Lumumba Spins 7-11pm FREE! (Refresments)
Special Thanks to Danny Simmons

Danyel Smith on Media Bistro

The article is a little buried on the site, but here's a short Q&A with Danyel Smith, author of Bliss.

The Children of Africa

Here is a Wash Post review of three books about The Lost Boys of Sudan. What I like about this one is the article notes the perseverance of African children:

“I am particularly amazed by Africa's children -- by their ability to survive, to raise themselves, to fight when they have to, to endure horrors like rape or famine. There is nothing noble about it, nothing to glorify; children trapped in adult wars have no other choice.”

The Elusive College Freshman

Thanks for Publishers Lunch for this link:

A professor went undercover, and enrolled in college as a freshman and wrote a book called, My Freshman Year: What a Professor Learned by Becoming a Student. Her reasons were interesting, most notably, that the more she taught the less she understood her students.

There seems to be such a tremendous disconnect between students and professors, students and learning. How do we recover this gap?

I definitely want to read this one.

True On Demand

What book would you want to be able to dispense from a vending machine? In France, vending machines are on hand to dispense classics, practical and fun books, just in case you get a lit fix in the middle of the night.

What a cool idea. I wonder how well they would go over here in the U.S.? I could see people buying books (they are about $2.50) before getting on the subway. I’d probably be able to catch up on my classics if I could buy them from a machine while waiting for the A train.

Friday, August 19, 2005

More on

From today’s PW Daily:
The program, called Amazon shorts and first revealed by PW Daily in early April, allows customers to buy the new work for 49 cents in digital form from a store at and elsewhere on the site, and then get the work in a number of digital forms (as well as print it out).

Amazon has been working on the program for more than a year, and its representatives were making the rounds to agents over the winter to sign up authors. Judging by who they've landed, there is quite a bit of interest. The alphabetic listing starts with Kevin Anderson and ends with Stuart Woods. In between? Ann Beattie, Terry Brooks, Audrey Niffenegger, Richard Rhodes, Danielle Steel and Gloria Vanderbilt. The house was said to aim for 250 authors when it approached agents; it's not known if it will add more.

I am trying to figure out the point of this program. Perhaps to push demand for books? It doesn’t seem like it will be a huge revenue booster at 49 cents. I wonder the payment deal with the authors. Did they get a flat fee? Were they paid?

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Amazon: Help or Hinder?

Alternet published an anti-Amazon analysis that does raise some questions. I remember in undergrad studying Amazon for business case studies and it is remarkable how popular they are (they are the benchmark for branding), yet financially it is a completely different story. When you look at most book sales, places like Barnes and Noble sell much more books than Amazon but our perception of the online book giant is way different from what the numbers say. Although I think there is a slight disconnect in the author’s argument, I do wonder how much Amazon has helped books and how much it has hurt them?

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

2 NYC Events

--Brooklyn's First Annual Fort Greene Park Summer Literary Festival: Saturday, August 20, 4:30-7 p.m. in Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn. Free, rain orshine. Featuring: SONIA SANCHEZ, AMIRI BARAKA, Carl Hancock Rux, Marlon James, plus young writers from Brooklyn summer writing workshops and music by the childrens' Brooklyn Summer Jazz Workshop. Master of Ceremonies: DANNY SIMMONS. For more information contact NY Writers Coalition at 718-398-2883 or visit

--Double book launch party for MARLON JAMES ("John Crow's Devil") and JOE MENO (author of "How the Hula Girl Sings" and "Hairstyles of the Damned"). Live& direct from Chicago, IL (Joe) and Kingston, Jamaica (Marlon). Short readings by the authors, followed by live DJs & festivities. Special guest host: DAVID REES, author of "Get Your War On." Live DJs: COLIN CHANNER & ELI JANNEY.TUESDAY, AUGUST 30, 7 p.m., at McNally Robinson Bookstore (52 Prince St., SoHo)

Sunday, August 14, 2005

BIBR Best Books of 2005

Best of 2005 From Our Readers

The Editors of BIBR would like to give our readers an opportunity to weigh in with their choices for “their” best reads, thus far, for 2005. (Okay, we’ve offered you more than 1,000 titles to get started.) Please list your favorite book in any of the following categories—choose more than one if you’re a voracious reader—and in 200 words or less describe what you enjoyed most about the book. The results will appear in our “year end” wrap up of best books. Please e-mail your submission with the title “BEST OF 2005” to We appreciate your suggestions and above all, thanks for your support.

Black Chic Lit
Children’s Picture Book
Literary Fiction
Christian Fiction
Historic Fiction
Historic Nonfiction
FictionYoung Adult
Fine Art
Urban Fiction

Thursday, August 11, 2005

They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky

The LA Times published an article about the reunion of two lost boys from Sudan with their mother. Benson and Alephonsion Deng fled Sudan as children, eventually ending up in San Diego. Meanwhile, their mother believed her sons to be dead until reuniting with them recently. Benson and Alephonsion along with their cousin Benjamin wrote about their flight from Sudan in They Poured Fire On Us From The Sky.

The article describes just one of the many horrors these young men had to endure.

For more information on the book and Benson, Alephonsion and Benjamin, visit,

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Fabulous Books Pt. 2

More on the fabulous books that have arrived:

Freshwater Road (Agate, August 2005) by Denise Nicholas. This is the debut novel of Denise Nicholas, an actress that starred in In The Heat of the Night. It received a starred PW review. It tells the story of one young woman's coming of age via the political and social upheavals of the civil rights movement.

Next up: John Crow's Devil (Akashic, September 2005) by award-winning artist and writer, Marlon James. James lives in Kingston, Jamaica and the book is about a bibilical struggle in a remote Jamaican village in 1957. It sounds so intriguing.

I just can't believe people when they say there aren't many good books being published. I think they just don't look hard enough.

Soul Train, KFC and Percival

I am sitting here eating some fattening KFC chicken, watching Soul Train and trying to write. Obviously I am already proscratinating because I am actually paying attention to Soul Train. Yes it still comes on, it was news to me as well. They have three groups that I have never heard of. Right now there are five young kids from Harlem singing: "The girl is amazing, her body is blazing, you know what I'm saying." Wow. And who is this host? He asked the kids how has Harlem influenced them and one kids says "Ya 'mean, we, ya' mean, we lived the life, ya' mean". No what does that mean? I feel like Bill Cosby now.

The no name host asked them about their musical influences and they ranged from Lenny Williams, Stevie Wonder, and The Tempatations to Boyz to Men and Dru Hill. A little redemption for them. But why must they try to be so cool? Trying to have this player posture, ughh.

Enough about that.

Some fabulous books have come in that I am sooo excited about:

A new book from Percival Everett. Isn't he so prolific that you can't keep up with him? He is constantly coming out with books that I don't even know about. So I have to do better looking out for his books. His imagination and literary range is incredible. One minute it is the story of a decapitated man and the next moment it is a satirical look at the world of publishing.

The new book is called Wounded (September 2005) and is described as a politically charged murder leaves no easy answers. I'm starting this one tonight (yes I said tonight as in Saturday night).

From the publisher: Training horses is dangerous--a head-to-head confrontation with a 1,000 pounds of muscle and little sense takes courage, but more importantly patience and smarts. It is these same qualities that allow John and his uncle Gus to live in the beautiful high desert of Wyoming. A black horse trainer is a curiosity, at the very least, but a familiar curiosity in these parts. It is the brutal murder of a young gay man, however, that pushes this small community to the teetering edge of fear and tolerance. As the first blizzard of the season gains momentum, John is forced to reckon not only with the daily burden of unruly horses, a three-legged coyote pup, an escape-artist mule, and too many people, but also a father-son war over homosexuality, random hate-crimes, and—perhaps most frightening of all--a chance for love.Highly praised for his storytelling and ability to address the toughest issues of our time with humor, grace, and originality, Everett offers yet another brilliant novel.

I just have to comment on the book design. Graywolf has published a beautiful book. Bravo!

MAN knows clothes

Mark Anthony Neal knows clothes! He shows us the backside of the BackList t-shirt. Thanks, Mark!

Have you checked out his blog,

Mosaic and BackList

Ron Kavanaugh of shows off his BackList t-shirt. Head over to and pick up your Read More t-shirt, also displayed above.

The BackList Model

Shout out to Charles Ellison, author of Tantrum who modeled the BackList t-shirt very well. He wore the shirt while working his booth and I think I got 4 or 5 sales from him.

Now I know you can't see the shirt all that clear, but on the front are the first names of some of my favorite black writers.

Shout-out to Jose Benitez, designer extraordinaire who hooked me up with the dope arrangement. Must mention that we used high-quality American Apparel shirts, we didn't half-step.

Want a t-shirt? They are COMING SOON. Holla at me and I'll make sure to hold one for you!

HBF Pictures

Here is a picture of me (right) and Black Artemis. I am holding her new book, Picture Me Rollin and rocking the official BackList t-shirt. I look like I am 18 in this picture, which means in person I look like I am 19. That's okay, I guess. But it is hard when I try to get my grown and sexy on.

Check out my man in the back, cooooordinating with the hat and scarf, he is too cool!

Friday, August 05, 2005

Slate on Terry

Interesting (okay I really need to find a new word). How about critical. There is a critical review of Terry McMillan as a writer in Slate. Even though I didn’t agree with everything in the piece, (like the comparison of Terry to Tom Wolfe), Curtis raised some interesting observations like: as Terry grows (in financial wealth/status) so do her heroines.

But the question that made me go hmmmmm, was: Is Terry McMillan "the most novelistic talent of any chick-lit writer, or the most chick-lit talent of any literary novelist"?

Is Terry McMillan a literary writer? Does it matter considering all that she has accomplished? My guess would be that she doesn’t give a hot damn if folks consider her “literary” or not. I don’t blame her.

Monday, August 01, 2005

50 in the house

Hmm. 75,000 seems like a modest first printing in the realm of blockbuster publishing. Why not 250,000, 500,000 or a cool 1,000,000? (I’m joking, first printings are getting out of control)

From PW Daily:
From Pieces to Weight: Once Upon a Time in Southside Queens by 50 Cent with Kris Ex (MTV Books, $23) features unpublished poetry and lyrics taken directly from the hip-hop star's journals and scrapbooks. 75,000 copy first printing.

PW posed the question will 50’s book push out Confessions of a Video Vixen. I can feel the pins and needles, can’t you?

HBF: just a blog entry, nothing more, nothing less

This is really a sub-par report. I should write more about the Harlem Book Fair. But since I probably won’t, let’s just call it what it is: a blog entry (and a shout-out list).

This year’s HBF was…interesting. It was the first year that I exhibited and I have to say I felt a little restricted. I usually walk around, attend panels, talk to folks, etc. but not so much this year.

On the flip side, people came to me and I could talk more freely with people I may not have gotten to meet otherwise. So that I can say was a plus.

It was great teaming up with Okaybooks. We are basically two websites trying to do the same thing: promote good books. Brian Peterson, the editor of Okaybooks is also a published author and he pretty much sold out of his books and didn’t come to sell books. I guess that is how you have to do it?

But the vibe this year seemed different. I can’t exactly pinpoint why although I am sure I can put you in the correct neighborhood. The shift towards street books was obvious because many of these authors of hardcore marketers and you can’t be mad at them for it (except when a little girl with a flyer for Drugs & Sex comes up to you while you are talking and pushes a flyer in your face)

Bottom line we all know too much of anything (fats, sweets, alcohol, street books, wack hip-hop, scholarly books folks can’t understand, those beaded slippers they sell on the street, I could go on) ain’t never good. I personally thrive off of BALANCE.

For me, meeting people face-to-face was the best part. There were some great highlights (pictures coming soon) I caught up with some great folks:

Black Artemis, who was so incredibly warm and gracious! Can’t wait to read Picture Me Rollin’.

I picked up a “Read More” t-shirt from Ron Kavanaugh. What an appropriate slogan. I really admire all his work with Mosaic. He is one of the reasons why I felt I could start BackList.

I met Emily Raboteau, author of The Professor’s Daughter accidentally. I’ve been wanting to read that book and of course even more so now.

OJ Lima, author of No More Squares also stopped by the booth for a signing. His deal: Anyone that could be him in backgammon would win a copy of his book. Folks were shook.

Robert Fleming was strolling around and had some kind words to say about BackList. If you haven’t read Havoc After Dark, I recommend it.

My wonderful contributing writer, stacia brown was in the house, haven’t seen her since high school, which is a shame, but it does prove why the internet is so wonderful.

Yvonne Bynoe was at my booth for a little while for a signing. If only more people would have stopped by to meet her. She is so on point.
Mark Anthony Neal was up from his post at Duke University and posed for a photo with the BackList t-shirt he bought (these like photos are coming soon!). It was great to see him.

I know I am missing folks including all those that stopped by the booth to chat. It was so wonderful to connect with people on that hot, hot day in Harlem.