Poet Nikki Giovanni is the editor of this anthology of The 100 Best African American Poems. However, there is an asterisk and small type indicating “b...morePoet Nikki Giovanni is the editor of this anthology of The 100 Best African American Poems. However, there is an asterisk and small type indicating “but I cheated” and that’s because the book actually contains 221 poems. The compilation covers the gamut from classic to contemporary poems and include works by Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, Kevin Young, Mari Evans, Haki R. Madhubuti , Kwame Alexander, Tupac Shakar, among others. Also included with the book, is a companion audio CD that contains 36 of the poems being read by their authors (Giovanni, Gwendolyn Brooks, Elizabeth Alexander, and Sonia Sanchez) and other notables such as actresses Ruby Dee and Novella Nelson. The collection is nominated for a NAACP Image Award.
There are two poems by Tupac Shakur in the book and a couple of interviewers have concentrated on this fact. Last week, I listened to an NPR interview with Giovanni and learned she has a “Thug Life” tattoo on her left arm because she was distressed at the death of Tupac and wanted to find a way to express it. She feels that Tupac is important culturally to black America and she wanted to find some solidarity with his generation. While I don’t disagree that there are rappers/musicians who are poets (Mos Def, Jill Scott, Ursula Rucker, The Last Poets, Saul Williams, etc.) including Tupac, I personally don’t get the celebration of the “Thug Life” with a tattoo. Just saying.
One quarter of the poems are by contemporary poets including the current National Book Award winner Terrance Hayes. While some of my personal favorites are missing (i.e., Gil Scott-Heron, Askia Toure, Ishmael Reed, Sekou Sundiata, Ai, and Melvin Tolson), I have discovered several new poets, including Camille T. Dungy and Major Jackson. The best thing about this collection of poetry is being able to hear several of the poems being read. I’ve always felt poetry was best experienced when read aloud to truly understand the rhythm and cadence inherent in the lines. I particularly enjoyed the majestic reading of James Weldon Johnson’s “The Creation” by Terry L. Papillon, the poignancy in discussing abortion in Ruby Dee’s reading of “The Mother” by Gwendolyn Brooks, the sassiness of “Homage to My Hips” by Lucille Clifton read by Ennis McCrery, and the jazzy delivery of “Nikki, If You Were A Song…” by Kwame Alexander read by Novella Nelson. I think this is an excellent introduction to a wide range of poetry from African Americans.(less)
Last year, I read a great biography about Zora Neale Hurston by Valerie Boyd, so I was looking forward to reading this young adult novel with Zora as...moreLast year, I read a great biography about Zora Neale Hurston by Valerie Boyd, so I was looking forward to reading this young adult novel with Zora as a young child. Fourth graders, Zora and her best friends, Carrie and Teddy, search for the truth when a turpentine worker’s body is found dead and beheaded on the railroad tracks. The book is told from Carrie’s point of view; hence, the “Me” in the title. The action takes place in Zora Neale Hurston’s hometown of Eatonville, Florida.
I can see why this book was endorsed by the Zora Neale Hurston Trust (the only project to be given such an honor, not by Hurston herself). Bond and Simon uncannily capture the spirit of Hurston through the young Zora. Zora displays a knack for tall tales, as she convinces the other schoolchildren there’s a gator-man (half-man, half-gator) in their community. If you have read Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, then you will recognize Joe Clarke’s store with the men whiling away the day on the front porch. I love how the authors pay attention to the smallest details, for example, that there were only 45 states at the time.
The authors brillantly capture Hurston’s traveling spirit and natural curiosity in little Zora. This magical story is a must read for Hurston fans.
Zora and Me has been nominated for the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award and won the 2011 Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award.(less)
One of my favorite books from my childhood, this was a re-read for me. While I have a couple printed versions of the book, I downloaded the version I...moreOne of my favorite books from my childhood, this was a re-read for me. While I have a couple printed versions of the book, I downloaded the version I read from Project Gutenburg onto my Kindle. For some reason, I didn’t remember how a long a read this was, so it took me a few days to finish. While I had read other books in the series (i.e., Little Men and Jo’s Boys), it was only while reading this version that I realized the second part of this book was called Good Wives.
The story opens in the March’s New England home at Christmas and the reader is introduced to the four March sisters: Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. The time period is the Civil War and the sister’s Father is away fighting, so their mother, Marmee is head of the household. Alcott gives the four sisters very distinctive personalities. While the March family experiences poverty and other hardships, we see them grow into sensible, mature women through the firm and practical teachings of their Marmee. That’s one of the things I really love about this book, is that Marmee allows her children to experience failure and defeat as a way to impart principles.
Of course, my favorite sister has always been the tomboyish and bookish Jo. She was my first childhood heroine. I loved how she was unconventional but yet found love on her own terms at the end of the novel. I enjoyed it as much now as I did during my teen years.(less)