Category Archives: Book Review

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I’ve been meaning to write a blog about this book for awhile.  I read Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones several months ago and loved it! I joined several ladies I worked with for a book club and this was the first book that we discussed.  I think for the most part we all enjoyed the book.

 

Silver Sparrow is basically about several imperfect people.  You have James, who fathered two girls with two different women both of whom he has married.  His daughter Dana and her mother consider themselves the lucky ones in this situation since they know about the other family.  Their knowledge is powerful in some ways but they are still a secret to the rest of the world.

 

For me from the first line I was hooked.  I loved the story and how it develops through flashbacks and the current day.  The writing was just enough descriptive writing with great story telling.  I’ll try not to give up the storyline but believe me it’s hard!  In part one the author starts with Dana’s story and you cannot help to empathize with her.  Essentially every aspect of Dana’s life is defined by the fact that she is a secret.  From school choices to summer jobs and even simple moments with her father that she longs for. How can you feel for as the victim of circumstances that were not up to her? I know I did!

 

Half way through I was very into Dana’s story, then the author begins part two focusing on Chaurisse the OTHER daughter. Despite hearing her story from her point of view I did not feel for Chaurisse the way I felt for Dana and I think it was because I was so won over by Dana in the first half.  From part two you will also see that Chaurisse and her mother are also the victims of circumstances out of their control too but I just did not feel as sorry for them!  Each character has a past event or a tragedy that seems to weigh on them in some way and likely impacts their actions throughout the book. All imperfect in some way.

 

One of the best parts of this book is that you get to see both perspectives and how they deal with it.  Dana’s story is of course marked by being a secret while Chaurisse is living in oblivion.  That’s all I will say :).  The potential for readers to differ makes it a great read for a book club.  My version even had book club discussion questions in the back which my group and I used.  I highly recommend this book! 

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The Twelve Tribes of Hattie- A Review

12 Tribes

I first heard of The Twelve Tribes of Hattie when Oprah raved about the book after announcing it as the new book for her book club.  This book is the author, Ayana Mathis’ first published novel and it was picked by Oprah before even hitting the shelves. In fact her publisher pushed up the release date because of it’s selection for the book club.  All of this background intrigued me enough to pre-order the book on Amazon. Oh the power of Oprah!

The book is unique in that each chapter focuses on a different child of Hattie’s hence the title Twelve Tribes of Hattie.  Through the stories of her children we weave together a story of Hattie.  From the beginning I felt as though the overall story was disjointed and at some point would come tie together beautifully.  Unfortunately for me that point never came.  This book was several short stories with the common thread of Hattie thinly woven throughout.

The problem with the different stories is that each story is so different and each could easily be expanded into their own book and own independent story.  A few of those stories did not appeal to me! I struggled through some chapters where I found the story boring or not relatable.  While other chapters were more intriguing and I quickly read through them.  In fact there was one chapter that I just could not fight through so I skipped the chapter entirely.  Moving on, I did not feel as though I was missing anything and that highlights how the stories failed to connect.  I’ve never been able to skip that much of a book and have no problem with the storyline after.

I apologize if this is a considered a spoiler, but the problems these characters face are somewhat depressing.  I would move on to the next chapter and think ok hopefully this child of Hattie will have made it out better.  Nope.  Yes everyone has problems in life but I think for the most part we tend to find the happy middle ground.  Not here, in my view no one wins! It seems we meet each “tribe” when they are at one of their low points in life.  I realize not every book has to end all happy and beautiful but I just wanted a little more positivity.

Another aspect of the book that initially appealed to me is the time period it focuses on. The story of Hattie begins in the 1920s and moves to the 80s. I love history but I liked that there was not an overwhelming amount of the “we were oppressed by the white man during this civil rights era” .  Mathis does not completely ignore that aspect of African American life though.  It would be irresponsible to do so but I think she goes beyond that by discussing problems this family faced that generally had little to do with their race in 1950s and 1960s America.  In my opinion this book found a great balance considering all to often racism is the focus of books set during this time.

Overall the book was not horrible. I liked the creativity in her story telling even though it did not quite connect in the end and I one day I hope to rise to Mathis’ level of descriptive writing. I think this is one of those books where opinions will differ greatly so it is probably worth picking up and reading for yourself.

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Sellout by Randall Kennedy

I’m on a mission.  I want to create a library in my house, reminiscent of the Beast’s library in the Disney movie Beauty and the Beast. I want the ladders and everything. I figure to complete this mission I should start early so whenever I am on a break from law school I pick up a few books from Barnes and Noble hoping to finish them before school starts again.  A few months ago I picked up a book entitled Sellout by Randall Kennedy.  I was not familiar with the author but I figured this was a Michael Eric Dyson esque book which would solidify my belief that sellouts in the African American community are horrible and we should HATE them with a passion, a strong passion.  Yeah that didn’t happen.

The author combines strong historical background with legal analysis.  It’s like this book was written just for me!  Then he opens up by mentioning the BIGGEST sellout of them all. Clarence Thomas.  My disdain for him is strong.  I have wholeheartedly argued that he is a sellout to the black community with my conservative colleagues.  I even assisted one of my law school classmates in removing Clarence Thomas’ picture from a Black History Month display in the law school library.   Although I do have a newfound understanding of Clarence Thomas, I must say including him in that display was offensive and I do not regret it!

Kennedy argues that we cannot slap the “sellout” label on just anyone. We should have strong evidentiary support for our arguments.  Evidence that shows that their actions are knowingly and intentionally.  My initial response to that was yeah so???  Kennedy then provides Cory Booker as an example.  Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark was quickly labeled an Ivy League educated sellout after he received praise from white politicians. Mayor Booker recently spent his time shoveling people out of the recent snowstorm. He even answered calls for help on twitter!  That does not fit my definition of a sellout.   It’s also troubling that his education made him an easy target. The quick labeling of Booker opened my eyes to the flaws of this “sellout” label.

I began to question how this term was being used in African American society today.  Then I had to ask what exactly are we selling out from?  Who decided that African Americans are supposed to believe this or that? I have a strong feeling that somewhere Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are making decisions on what we should and should not believe in as African Americans and that just disturbs me!  For one I never voted for them to be the leaders of the black community, and their intellect is suspect.  I am also really suspicious of any “professional” in a church suit.  Furthermore the African American community is not a political party that takes a stance on an issue.  Although we share the same color and history we are not all the same.  From social economic background, religion, and education the differences among African American people are worth noting. Even more importantly, these differences illustrate that we as a people cannot possibly all share the same views and opinions on hot button topics such as welfare or even abortion.  So why are we expected to?

In the past we were fighting for one goal, equality.  That one goal united us.   I always think back to Jackie Robinson who realized that in everything he represented African American people.  He could not fight any and everyone who called him a “nigger” when he took the field because this opportunity was not just about him.  Then I fast forward to Michael Jordan, and realize that things have changed, dramatically.  I am not saying that Jackie Robinson broke the baseball color barrier so that Michael Jordan could become a mega star and sell $150 sneakers to kids in the hood.  The distinction between Robinson and Jordan shows that we are now at the table and free to be who we are and not carry the burden that every action must be for the benefit of our race.   I cannot say that I will take this “freedom” as far as Michael Jordan because I do have a passion for the plight of African Americans in America today.   I feel as though so many people fought and died for us to be able to fulfill and live our dreams just as other Americans have always done.  If my dream is to become a partner in a huge firm rather than public interest work in inner city communities I should be able to do this without being called a sellout.

If we are free to be the people that God created then we should not attack people like Clarence Thomas for their views simply because they do not fall inline with what we believe the majority of African American’s think.   Lets raise real questions about his stances from a legal standpoint not from a racial standpoint.  So now I will just say that Clarence Thomas is an idiot whose arguments against affirmative action are weak and ridiculous.  I will not attack him for not following the “party line” i.e. African American community.   I will not attack him for using the great Thurgood Marshall’s seat on the Supreme Court to attack policies that Marshall worked so hard to establish. I will not even hit below the belt and discuss his choice in mates.  This may be difficult.

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