Rss

Archives for : Black Authors

#Books+Black Hair: Miss Jessie’s

Hello Meltingpot Readers,

For today’s entry in our list of Black History Month books about Black hair, I present, Miss Jessie’s: Creating a Successful Business from Scratch – Naturally by Miko Branch with Titi Branch.

One of my favorite 2015 #Blackhair stories.

One of my favorite 2015 #Blackhair stories.

Now people, please note, so far I’ve not had to venture any farther than my own private bookshelves to come up with entries for this “books about Black hair” challenge and this book, Miss Jessie’s, is one of my new favorites. The book just came out last summer and I had the chance to read it and meet the lovely Miko Branch. Needless to say, I really loved this book. It was about far more than the Black hair business, it was also about family and following one’s passions. The book is really well written, engaging and an easy read. I learned a lot about the Miss Jessie’s brand but I also picked up some really useful tips about starting a business.

So, for anyone who loves to deep dive on Black hair enterprises or who dreams of turning their passions into profits, I’d pick up a copy of this book. My guess is that since the hardcover came out last summer, the paperback should be coming out sometime later this year.

P.S. Another reason this is a Meltingpot favorite is because Miko and Titi Branch are Mixed – Black and Japanese – and their meltingpot approach to hair and beauty has always made Ms. Meltingpot smile. Sadly, Titi Branch passed away right before the book came out. May her spirit rest in peace.

Peace + Hair Grease.

#Books+Black Hair: Happy to be Nappy

Hello Meltingpot Readers,

#BlackHair stories for the young and young at heart!

#BlackHair stories for the young and young at heart!


Today’s Black History book about Black hair really needs no explanation. The title – Happy to be Nappy by bell hooks – says it all. But remember, this book came out in 1999 before nappy was considered a nice word by some. The whimsical water-color illustrations by Chris Raschka and hooks’ poetic ode to our baby girls’ crowning glory still makes this one of my favorite books celebrating Black hair. And not to brag or anything, but I have a signed copy. You could probably get a signed copy as well if you scrounge around on the internet or you could just buy a new copy at your local indie bookstore or online. If you’re nappy, you’ll be happy you bought this book.

Peace + Hair Grease.

#Books+BlackHair: Americanah

Hello Meltingpot Readers,

Today’s Black History Month book about Black hair isn’t really about Black hair, but Black hair does feature a prominent role in the story, so it counts. The book is Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I read this book when it first came out in 2013 but I’m reading it again because I assigned it for homework for one of the classes I teach at Temple. And I cannot believe how prominently Black hair and Black hair culture are featured in the story and moreover, how perceptive and precise Adichie is at describing not only the specifics of Black hair styles and hair styling, but the culture surrounding Black hair here in the United States and of course, in Nigeria. Yes, the book is really about two Nigerians and their epic love story that spans years and crosses continents, but don’t discount the importance of the hair in all the drama.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie & Ms. Meltingpot in 2013

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie & Ms. Meltingpot in 2013

If you haven’t read this book yet and you want to read a great story set in modern day that features unique characters and lots of hair stories, you should pick it up. And if you already read it, read it again. I am and I still love it. And FYI, you might want to get the book read before the movie, starring the divine Lupita Nyong’o and the delicious David Oyelowo comes out. You’re welcome.

Peace + Hair Grease.

Books + Hair for Black History Month

Hello Meltingpot Readers.

It’s officially the first day of February which means two very important things; 1) My birthday is only days away and 2) It’s the beginning of Black History Month. So much to celebrate in February.

Since it’s my birthday month and this is my blog, I’ve decided to celebrate two of my favorite things in honor of Black history month, books and Black hair. Think of it as a celebration and a challenge. I was partially inspired by that cute little girl, Marley Dias, tired of reading about White boys and dogs who started her own book drive to collect books with Black female protagonists. Here on MyAmericanMeltingpot I’m going to profile a book about Black hair or a book where Black hair plays a prominent role throughout February, which will be Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in February. I did the math and that’s 13 books I’ll be writing about. Sure, Marley Dias collected 1000 books, but this is not a competition people, plus February is a super short month.

Of course the first book I’m profiling is my own, Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America, not because I think it’s the best or the most important, but because I’m in the middle of making dinner right now and my chili is about to boil over, so I have to be quick. (Ms. Meltingpot has to multitask, you know.)

So, without further ado, I present Hair Story, still the only book on the market that tells the complete history of Black hair in American popular culture from 15th century Africa to 2014. We cover the politics, economics and culture of Black hair, from the Civil Rights movement to the Natural Hair movement. It’s a great read for ages 13 – 103.

The Updated & Revised Hair Story

The Updated & Revised Hair Story

Keep in mind that the books I will be profiling won’t all be nonfiction tomes, nor will they only be for adults. In true Meltingpot fashion, I’ll be bringing you an eclectic mix of tonsorial tomes that celebrate, titillate and /or investigate the beauty of Black hair.

Peace + Hair Grease!

Me and Toni Morrison: On the Same Page About Skin Color Politics

Hello Meltingpot Readers,

Toni Morrison in Philly, signing my book. #Authorswoon

Toni Morrison in Philly, signing my book. #Authorswoon

Have any of you read Toni Morrison’s new novel, God Help the Child? Not only have I read it, I had the chance to see Ms. Toni give a reading from the book here in Philadelphia and of course got her to sign my book. It was magical getting to meet her in person and to hear about her inspiration and ideas for writing this particular story.
My copy of Toni Morrison's latest, God Help the Child.

My copy of Toni Morrison’s latest, God Help the Child.

Dear readers, I don’t know if you know this, but God Help the Child is all about a dark-skinned Black woman, Bride, who was rejected by her light-skinned mother and how that rejection informed the painful trajectory of her entire life. The book begins:

It’s not my fault. So you can’t blame me. I didn’t do it and have no idea how it happened. It didn’t take more than an hour after they pulled her out from between my legs to realize something was wrong. Really wrong. She was so black she scared me.”

That could be the opening to my new book too, Same Family, Different Colors, only it wouldn’t be from the mouth of a fictional character, but rather a confessional from a real woman. Bride’s story may be a creation of Toni Morrison’s imagination, but sadly, mothers reject their children every day, even in the year 2015, because they’re too dark or too light. Depends on the circumstances. And, it’s not just Black people who exhibit these skin color prejudices. The stories I’m collecting from Latino and Asian-American subjects include the same experiences, with the same language of rejection and despair.

What gives me hope however, is that for every story of parental neglect or sibling jealousies that I am recording, I have another one where shades of skin color difference in the family made no difference. Without giving anything away, God Help the Child ends with hope as well. Toni Morrison isn’t the happily ever after type and neither am I, but I think we both see potential for something different from the tragedies of our collective past when it comes to skin color breaking up a family. Maybe our books and the countless other new media projects on this topic will prove to be a catalyst for that change.

What about you, dear readers? Do you come from a family of different colors? Did it make a difference in your upbringing? How? I’m totally listening and taking notes.

Peace!

Weekend Reads: What’s New and Next for 2015

Two thumbs up for Half-Blood Blues!

Two thumbs up for Half-Blood Blues!

Hi Meltingpot Readers,

Last night around midnight I finished Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan. As an indication to show just how much I was drawn into this amazing story, I will admit that I almost missed my stop on the train yesterday because I was reading. Suffice it to say, I really enjoyed this book.

This morning I found myself replaying the characters’ final dialogue in my mind, as if I’d been there watching it actually unfold. Later today, I have plans to investigate a few things the book exposed me to for the first time regarding Black people and World War II, both Black Americans and Afro-Europeans. I love it when fiction is the vehicle for historical learning and this book clearly falls into that category. And I’m sure I’m not the only one who is ignorant about the experiences of Black people in Germany during the war years.

But the book isn’t just about war. It’s not really about war at all, the war is just the backdrop. I’d say this is really a book about music and its powers of redemption. The fact that the characters are Black, Mixed Race, Jewish, foreign and familiar just makes it all the more delicious. I am now officially an Esi Edugyan fan.

Of course, now I have to find the next book. I need a moment to finish digesting Half-Blood Blues, but I honestly am already feeling antsy thinking I don’t have another world to escape to tonight. If you have any suggestions for what I should read next, please leave your suggestions in a comment. I love this list of upcoming books by Black authors in 2015 that appeared on For Harriet. Maybe I’ll start there.

Happy weekend reading! But before you go, enjoy the book trailer for Half-Blood Blues.

Peace!

Weekend Reads: “Half-Blood Blues” by Esi Edugyan

What I'm Reading Now.

What I’m Reading Now.

Hi Meltingpot Readers,

So, one of my 2015 resolutions is to read more for pleasure. That sounds crazy coming from someone who loves books like a fat boy loves cake, but as I reviewed 2014, I realized that the majority of what I read was for work. And I do have to read a lot for “work” – books, articles, magazines, student work – to stay on top of things. So, yes, most nights I fall into bed and am asleep in two minutes and I barely have enough time to breathe, but still I promised myself that I would read at least one book a month for pleasure.

I’ve chosen a great book for starters. It’s called Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan. I admit, I first noticed this book because the author’s name is very similar to my son’s and I wondered if Esi was a man or a woman. Turns out Esi is a beautiful, Black Canadian writer with one other novel and several short stories to her credit. The other reason the book caught my attention was the title, of course. As I’d hoped, the book partially centers on a Mixed Afro-German jazz musician who lived through World War II. Half Blood-Blues alternates between past and present telling the musician’s story. I’ve only just started it but I love it already. I don’t want to read too many reviews because I don’t want to read with preconceived notions. But I do know the book won and/or was short-listed for many literary prizes.

I totally feel like I hit the jackpot with this one, considering I picked it up because the author’s name sounded familiar. The story has everything I love, multicultural characters, history, a European setting and Black Americans heavily represented. Score!

What are you reading this weekend, dear readers? I’m totally listening and taking notes.

Peace!

At Least We Talk About Race in the USA: Zadie Smith on Writing, Race and Color

Hello Meltingpot Readers,

Last week Wednesday I skipped out of work as early as possible so I could get a front row seat at the University of Pennsylvania’s Speaker’s Series on Color featuring one of my all-time favorite authors, Zadie Smith. I’ve read (and own) almost all of Smith’s fiction, but I am also a big fan of her critical essays, especially those dealing with race and culture. I like her writing and I love her mind.

Zadie Smith and Jed Esty "in conversation" at the University of Pennsylvania.

Zadie Smith and Jed Esty “in conversation” at the University of Pennsylvania.

So, my biggest takeaway from the almost sold-out event, is that not only is Zadie Smith absolutely brilliant (and gorgeous, and taller than I expected), she’s also got a terrific sense of humor. Rather than present a formal reading of her work, Smith sat “in conversation,” (which is clearly a thing now.) with Penn English professor, Jed Esty who peppered her with questions about her books, her upbringing as a Mixed child in London and her process as a writer. She answered every query with honesty and held none of her opinions back, even when they may have insulted the vast majority of the mostly White audience.

I found myself nodding in agreement with so much of what Smith said regarding the difference between being Black in the USA vs, the UK. Having spent the summer in London, I felt like she nailed it, but of course my opinions were based on a six-week stay as opposed to a lifetime. Still, Smith perfectly articulated what I sensed; that being Black in London isn’t something actually worthy of discussion, since everyone is supposedly “British.” That may feel like progress, but the reality is that it feels more like one is being silenced. “In America, at least the conversation is out loud,” Smith said. “In London you aren’t meant to discuss [race].”

So, while America seems overwhelmed with “race talk” these days, fresh from my experience in London, I’m at least thankful that our voices aren’t being silenced.

For those of you who have traveled to the UK, what are your impressions of their comfort level with racial differences? London is an extremely diverse city, but all that glitters isn’t a rainbow coalition. Am I Right? I’m so listening.

Peace!