The BackList

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Sunday, September 25, 2005

Zadie is a star

No really she is. So much so that her appearance at B&N today in Union Square was strictly a signing, no reading. I thought that was pretty whack, but I'm not mad at her. How could I be, she doesn't decide these things (or maybe she does, but I still don't fault her) and she is indeed worth waiting in line for.

So I waited about 30 minutes not so bad, even though the line that bended around aisles looked longer than that, it moved fairly quickly. I would guesstimate about 100 folks waited in line, five of us could be considered black. But who's counting?

Zadie is really tall. And incredibly beautiful. She seems so poised to be only 29. Maybe because at 25 people tell me I look like I'm 19. She seemed very warm when she signed my books. Asked me if I was enjoying Nicole Krauss' The History of Love because I had a copy of it in my hand. I told her I had already read half of it and really liked what I read. She said she thought it was great.

Anywho, I got On Beauty and started reading it on the train. She has an uncanny ability to capture the nuances of personality, dialogue and relationships between her characters. I really admire that about her writing. I read White Teeth, but not Autograph Man. All the reviews are saying how this third book is a return to form, similar style to White Teeth.

Can't wait to continue reading it.

Kingston comes Brooklyn

I could never be a full-time event planner. Geez, talk about stressful. The Kingston Comes to Brooklyn event that I co-hosted with the wonderful folks at Akashic Books went rather well on Saturday. But oh the pre-event anxiety is too much. The million questions: Will anyone show up? What if the authors don't show up? What if people are totall disinterested? How will I feel if no one shows? What if the dj doesn't know anything about reggae?

Luckily we had a nice crowd at Danny Simmons Corridor Gallery. Marlon James and Christopher John Farley were great, and the audience was geninuely interested in them. Books were sold, people drank the wine and liked the cheese. The dj was on point, playing a mix of classic and contemporary reggae. It was a nice scene.

I met some BackList subscribers which is always great. And although I missed many folks (that said they were coming, but didn't come, I'm not bitter), it is always nice to connect with people I communicate with through cyberspace.

Although I can't stand all the anxiety (you would think I was planning the Million Booklover March or something), it is a true joy when it all comes together.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Oprah's Back

Oprah’s back. I am glad about her book club coming back. Although I’ve only read a few of her selections and didn’t like any of them (I don’t know why Anita Shreve is so hyped). I also think it is great that she is expanding into historical fiction and biography.

I had to include this quote about Jonathan Franzen:

"Jonathan Franzen was not even a blip on the radar screen of my life," she said.
"I didn't think one day about it."
I think I am going to use that one day: Fall back, you aren’t even a blip on the radar screen of my life!

Thursday, September 22, 2005


Is this how you write a review, when you don't want to like a book, but end up liking it anyway? I think the review was cool, had a witty tone (Slangin in the rain, that's funny). But my own bias got the best of me when reading it--Gangsta rapper pens lucid autobiography. Give me a break! Just because he floods the radio with his mediocrity (and millions celebrate it) doesn't me he deserves props because his book is "decent."

The LA Times did a profile of Denise Nicholas. As a young woman she toured with the Free Southern Theatre during the civil rights movement. This was one of her experiences:

"One day, she had the barrel of a gun jabbed at her temple by a New Orleans
police officer as she stepped out of her French Quarter apartment. She was
looking for visiting photojournalists who hadn't returned from a trip across the
street to buy cigarettes. The photographers lay prostrate on the ground while
the police ripped out their film documenting the strife they had seen while in
Mississippi. She was 20 years old."

Glad to see her getting some nice exposure. Her novel is very next on my reading list.

Just finished reading John Crow's Devil by Marlon James (I thought I should read it before Saturday's event). One word: FYAH! I'm not kidding. This should be a B&N Discover New Writers (one of the few programs where publishers don't have to pay to be selected). As a first novel, it is incredibly strong and confident, while being unique, a little disturbing at times and surprising. There's a cover quote from Kaylie Jones that compares it to early Marquez. And I could see that, it did make me think of Chronicle of a Death Foretold. But I also thought of Patrick Chamosieau (School Days) and Ama Ata Aidoo because John Crow's Devil has this indigenous, patois narration that is at times a call and response, it varies, but it distinctly mimics oral storytelling, a notable device in some Caribbean and African texts. But then he'll switch to a traditional third-person omniscient. Not easy to do. It's not constructed like your "normal" novel, the characterization can be subtle at times, he tells you things when he's ready, although it does add to its suspense but it works for me.

I tend to like books that other folks think are "strange."

Monday, September 19, 2005

Book-related salaries

Maybe I'm not in the wrong business after all. Just at the wrong level!

This comes straight from Publishers Lunch. Sign up for their free newletter at:

In a different compilation of numbers, NY Magazine publishes their annual salary guide, though many entries "inevitably, are guesses." Here are their publishing numbers:

Judith Regan
$1 million President and publisher, Regan Books

Sonny Mehta
$750,000 Chairman and editor-in-chief, Alfred A. Knopf Publishing Group

Ann Godoff
$400,000 President and publisher, the Penguin Press

Sam Tanenhaus
$180,000 Editor, The New York Times Book Review

Stephen Riggio
$4,813,567 CEO and vice-chairman, Barnes & Noble

Lisa Jong
$12,896 Clerk, Barnes & Noble(32 hours a week at $7.75 per hour)

Rest of article.

Good food goes a long way

I forgot how funny and crazy Angry Black White Boy is until hearing the author Adam Mansbach read from it yesterday at KGB. Maybe it was Adam’s skill as reader, he was really into which helped the crowd get into it. This is indeed a skill that should be promoted and cultivated in workshops, for some authors, they just aren’t good at it. He even memorized his prologue, which flows like a long hip hop verse. He definitely has that I-have-performed-before-can't-you-tell sort of confidence going on when reading.

Last Thursday, went to a launch party of the paperback edition of Norman Kelley’s R&B (Rhythm & Business): The Political Economy of Black Music. This was a laid-back get together at a small bar in Brooklyn. But let me tell you, the food was off the hook. There was fried chicken, rice and beans, some sort of marinated bake chicken and other delectables that I didn’t get a chance to try. Had I known it was going to be food-food (the invite said appetizers) I would came to eat dinner. Trifling, I know. But the food was that good. Want to have a launch that folks will talk about (or folks like myself that like to eat)? Get some banging food!

Sunday, September 18, 2005


A friend and I were talking about people we would want to have dinner with, both the living and the deceased. I said, James Baldwin. My friend looked at me and said who's that?


This is a brother. A college-educated brother. A down for the cause brother (I think?).

I didn't show my dismay/disbelief. Nor did I give him the "are you serious" look. I mean I said James Baldwin. I thought everyone knew (well not everyone, but a large majority of the population) who Jimmy was/is. What he meant/did. How intelligent/ground-breaking he was.

Sometimes I am accused of being "literary." Which really translates into a chick that knows a little about books. And to be quite honest, I don't feel like I know ENOUGH. There is so much that I still need to read, so many authors that I still need to explore. But one thing is for sure:

I know James.

So I explained to my friend who James Baldwin was, but feeling at the same time that my explanation wasn't enough. I suggested that he check out some of his books (knowing that he probably wouldn't).

His response: I guess I'll be learning more about authors from you.

My response: A smile. All the while thinking, there's work to be done.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Shelter from the Storm Benefit

Shelter from the Storm:Benefit Readings for Victims of Hurricane Katrina

Performances by Toni Morrison, Amiri and Amina Baraka, Cecil Taylor, Eric Bogosian, Yusef Komunyakaa, Anne Waldman, Marc Ribot, Suheir Hammad, Beau Sia, Eddie Bobé, Denizé Lature, Willie Perdomo, Dael Orlandersmith, Edwin Torres and New Orleans' "People's Poet" Kalamu ya Salaam, many more.

On Saturday, October 1st, from 1pm - 7pm, the Poetry Project at St. Mark's Church will be featuring performances by Toni Morrison, Cecil Taylor, Yusef Komunyakaa, Dael Orlandersmith, Anne Waldman, Denize Lauture, Suheir Hammad, Roger Kamenetz, Steve Cannon, Bill Martin, Eddie Bobé, Moira Crone, Hal Sirowitz, Patricia Spears Jones, and others, Books and New Orleans-themed food, including pralines, gumbo, red beans and rice, and chicory coffee will be for sale, with proceeds going to the 21CF Hurricane Katrina Recovery Fund. The Poetry Project is also asking for donations of books, journals, artworks, and clean clothing in good condition to go to Hurricane Katrina survivors. The evening is co-sponsored with A Gathering of the Tribes and The Federation of East Village Artists.

100% of the proceeds will be donated to 21CF Hurricane Katrina Recovery, ACORN, the New Orleans Musicians' Clinic, and Kalamu ya Salaam's Neo-Griot project.

Free Poetry Podcasts

RATTAPALLAX PODCAST Rattapallax has started a new free podcast featuring some of the best poets, writers, translators, and performers in international literature. Every week, new updates will be available from the magazine's vast catalogue of recordings in English, Spanish, and Portuguese. We have over 600 audio tracks which will be given away for free!!!
To connect your iTunes to Rattapallax's podcast, copy the RSS feed:
To download MP3 files directly:

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Kingston Comes to Brooklyn

Will you be there? Should be nice, chill, cool, literary, entertaining, enlightening and free!

And do say hello. I'm the sista with the boy's haircut. 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.

“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.


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

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


Last night I attended the pre-launch party for Hung: A Meditation on the Measure of Black Men in America by Scott Poulson-Bryant. This was some swanky ish. It was definitely an industry event that was not your ordinary book party (at least the ones I go to). It was at the House of Courvoisier which was this dope, dope loft equipped with rooftop pool and view of Manhattan. Courvoisier provided all the liquid libations (I had a Courvoisier Sangria for the first time and all though I am not usual fan of Courvoisier, I was last night), there was traveling appetizers, and we all left with goodie bags.

What was also great about last night besides all the beautiful, male waiters and bartenders was the fact that the event was like a black folks in publishing reunion. It was great to see my publishing colleagues of color.

Poulson-Bryant was a founding editor at Vibe and his writing has appeared in the usual places that young, hip urban journalists want their writing to appear. I started reading the book on the train and he is definitely putting it out there. Thus far, it’s honest (which is very refreshing, when do you ever hear a man honestly talk about their body and sexuality and the psychology behind it all?), insightful (you are literally given a peak inside a man’s psyche), and engaging. Review TK.

I have to say thank you to the wonderfully nice Clarence Haynes for inviting me. He is an editor (and a brother) at Harlem Moon/Doubleday/Random House and the editor that worked on Hung. Thanks for letting me indulge in the swanky face of books. Very well done.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

E-drum and New Orleans

I am amazed that kalamu has been keeping e-drum going even in his displacement. If you aren't subsribed to it, you definitely should. It has been really helpful in connecting folks after the Hurricane and from hearing first-hand accounts of what people have and are going through.

Calvin Reid

So my profile of Calvin Reid has finally published in the Sept/Oct issue of Black Issues Book Review. The piece looks different from what I submitted, but that happens.

Calvin Reid is a great and important guy in my eyes. He is a senior news editor at Publishers Weekly, one of the only editors there of color. And even more importantly he is so personably and pleasant, which is always refreshing! It was really a joy to interview him. The publishing nerd in me really came out.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Is it me?

Is it me or do things (from little to "big") not seem as important now? as I try to blog and buy groceries, and clean my apartment, it is hard for me to continue "living normally" when we have a national tragedy on our hands. Talk about a renewed perspective. Talk about an in-your-face way to learn how much of a bad shape America is in.

I feel like i walked away from a fatal car accident, without a scratch while a close friend or family member was killed instead. I've been spared and I thank God for that but there is this feeling of sadness and guilt. even as i give, donate, and volunteer, pieces of me have died in New Orleans, are dying, are suffering, are displaced. It is hard to reconcile.

things are falling apart.

Book Drive

LITERARY ARTISTS UNITED IN SUPPORT OF HURRICANE KATRINA DISASTER RELIEF & BOOK FUND DRIVE."- A massive radio campaign launch resumes September 3, 2005, and spearheaded by Mr. Tony Rose, (CEO/FOUNDER) of Amber Books Communications, Inc. (

The publisher is calling on the Black Community to donate 30,000 books. Amber Books will release a national press release mentioning all participants of the project and urging all black publishers, book clubs, literary services and authors to join the donation drive to submit books to the victims who will be stationed at the Astrodome for over 1- 2 months. Tony Rose states, "We can collectively comfort their stay, promote love of Black literature, foster literacy among youth and let our people know the Black literary community at large supports the Hurricane victims."Heather Covington will serve as a spokesperson on behalf of all participants via a radio and print media launch. A national press release is scheduled immediately to feature all supporters of the Relief & Book Fund Drive.

Notable black publishers and businesses called upon so far are Genesis Press, Black Issues Book Review, Third World Press, QBR, Ebony Magazine, Essence Magazine, Third World Press, Moore Black Press, Black Classic Press, Booking Matters, JMRC Book Club, RAWSISTAZ Bookclub, AMAG, Inc., Mosaic Books, African American Literature Book Club, C& B Book Distribution, Literary World, The Black Library, Black Men In America, Black Refer and more.

Why is it important for all current book drives to collaborate forces with Amber? Amber is sponsoring media coverage of participants to help spearhead more participation and a growing number of victims will be in need of books and relief aid.If you would like to participate by mailing a book to designated stations to be listed at within the upcoming week at, and be noted in the upcoming national radio and print media campaign launch made possible by Mr. Tony Rose, please copy and paste entire press release, add your name and contact information to be kept for office use only and email to Also, list the titles of books you'd like to donate. Magazines, guides, workbooks, books, children's books and reference texts are acceptable along with greetings and bookmarks with warm wishes provided in each book through book marks and postcards. (optional).

If you are a person who lives in Houston who would like to volunteer to receive designated books and transport to the Astrodome, please include your address as a destination resource for the www. site. Your volunteer work will be doubly noted via Disilgold syndicated columns. Thank you for your support of the victims of Hurricane Katrina and taking a stand at large with the literary community. Volunteers will need to submit a copy of receipt for submission of books to destination sites for media representation. We appreciate your cooperation. The program may also be used to service current book drives which deserve national coverage. Please join us.

New issues of Mosaic and Lorraine and James

New issues of Mosaic Literary Magazine and Lorraine and James have published. Not only to both issues look good, they are filled with literary substance.

I have to congratulate Jasai Madden, editor of Lorraine and James on the first issue. It is absolutely wonderful.

Also note that both magazines are looking for contributions. Visit their websites for more info.

Support the independent arts!

Harlem Arts Salon Writers Workshop in Guadeloupe

Harlem Arts Salon Writers Workshop in Guadeloupe
Writers Workshop in Guadeloupe. Harlem Arts Salon offers a 2-week summer fiction and poetry workshop from June 4-10, 2006 (fiction) and from June 11-17, 2006 (poetry). Faculty includes acclaimed-novelist Maryse Conde and Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott. Program includes workshops, lectures, one-on-one critiques, public readings by faculty, continental breakfast, seaside lodgings. 15 participants per session. Submit 8 poems or 15 pages of prose with a $35 application fee by October 30, 2005. Harlem Arts Salon, Margaret Porter Troupe, Director, 1925 7th Ave., Ste.7L, New York, NY 10026. Phone: (212) 749-7771. Fax: (212) 749-7772. Email: or visit:

Maryse Conde is one of my favorite writers.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

From New Orleans...

Prayers go out to all those affected by Katrina. We seem to be in the midst of global, mounting tragedies…

From a Reuters article:
"We are dealing with one of the worst natural disasters in our nation's history," Bush said after returning early to the White House from his Texas vacation to oversee recovery efforts.
"This recovery will take a long time. This recovery will take years," he said. More than 78,000 people were in emergency shelters, and tens of thousands of homes and businesses were beyond repair, the president said.

Below is a note from kalamu ya salaam, the founder/producer of the e-drum listserv which is an amazing resource. He is one of our artists, let’s reach out for him.
folks, excuse the brevity and directness, but the situation is this: like literally at least a million other folk from new orleans, we are now refugees. we left new orleans early sunday morning under mandatory evacuation. my wife, nia, is an x-ray technician who was on call at the veteran's hospital. we had planned to be at the hospital, however, other arrangements were made early, early sunday morning because the full emergency plan had not been implemented at the hospital and for some reason her name was not on the list for emergency personnel even though she was on call. so at the last minute rather than staying at the veterans hospital we elected to drive to houston to nia's brother's home. with us were nia's daughter and her two small daughters. arrived in houston 2:30am the next morning. it was a long, slow trip. it's wednesday morning. it is clear to me that we won't be back in new orleans anytime soon, and new orleans won't be new orleans anytime the remainder of this year. i have ten dollars in my pocket. a $500 check i can't cash because it's drawn on a new orleans bank and which i did not receive until after the banks were closed on saturday. maybe $50 in the bank. if you are in a position to help, i have one request: i need work: speaking engagements, lectures, readings, short term residencies, writing assignments. please contact me via email: thank you for your consideration. a luta continue (the struggle continues), kalamu