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Literary Non Fiction: Black Women Will Save The World: An Anthem by April Ryan

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 I was drawn by the cover art and picked up this book from one of my favorite booksellers. Being an avid bibliophile and one whose literary and scholarly work has centered Black women's voices, I was drawn by the hope and resilience of the cover and of course, April Ryan. This book was written for Black women, yes, but it seemed that it was written to the rest of America to get them to realize a four hundred year old truth. April Ryan is a noted journalist, an African American woman who endured the most vile comments from the orange menace when she was the only Black person in the White House Press Corp during that tumultuous time from 2016-2020.  To say that she went through it was an understatement.  In some ways, this work, much like a few others, was autobiographical and a quest to heal oneself of the trauma of being Black+woman+professional in a world that still refuses to hear our voices. In nine short digestible chapters with many quote-worthy lines, April Ryan invites us to

The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray

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When was the last time you read a love letter to the library? When was the last time you stood in awe of the majesty of a curated space dedicated to the art of literature? When was the last time you engaged in this space that is free and accessible to everyone with a card? In the middle of the pandemic, when browsing through the aisles of the library was just beginning to be possible again, this beautiful offering came forth in June 2021 and invited us to remember what we love about this people's space.  If it has been a while, I invite you to go back and consider the gift of the public library and then I invite you to learn about the quest of one woman to preserve, protect, and promote the space of public knowledge. The Personal Librarian is an historical fiction account of Belle deCosta Greene , the woman who nearly singlehandedly negotiated the collection that eventually became what is now the New York Public Library. J.P. Morgan was a force to be reckoned with, that comes acro

Moth (Me) by Amber McBride

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 If there is a place of existence beyond the reach of words etched on parchment or songs whispered in the wind - Moth (Me) is the in-between of that space of inhaling, closing one's eyes to sit in a moment, and exhaling while opening eyes to the possibilities that invite us in to life. Amber McBride in her novel-in-verse has truly gifted us with glimpses into and beyond the right now, to other realms of the past, present, and future. In this work, this tender poet, parts the curtains, just a bit, between here and there, allowing the readers to feel the presence of those deeply loved, of hearing the melodies of the ancestors, of sitting in the cadence of the trees, of being loved and wanted - deeply, of wanting and hoping - totally, of guiding and shifting - eternally. Moth (Me) is the alternating voice we encounter in this work, met then by her co-sojourner - Sani. In unexpected twists and turns, in dealing with life and loss, with the volcano of emotions of coming-of-age, and of u

Caucasia by Danny Senna

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 I went through a range of emotions as I read this book, so much so that at times I put it down and picked up a couple non-fiction books to peruse when the summersaults in my stomach became a bit too much. First, let me say that this is a work of creative craftsmanship, so beautifully written. Danzy Senna is a writer's writer. This was her debut that for years, sat on my bookshelf. The cover is what stood out to me. It was on a table at the Saint Louis County Bookfair, an annual gathering of bibliophiles from all over who eagerly filled carts and suitcases with tomes ranging from $1-5, all of them brand new. For years, I've read and reviewed works by Black/African American women.  That is why I picked up the book, placing it on my growing TBR pile, waiting for it to fit into the queue between seminary and teen literary works. This summer, in that steaming space between July and August, waiting on my daughters to figure out how they wanted to get all their stuff over a thousand

Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

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 It is both an invitation and a request. A plea - even. Dolen Perkins-Valdez compels us to feel. To do so deeply and to not rush past the uncomfortable, the egregious, the injustice. Take My Hand is a story for right now.  It is part mother-to-daughter letter, a reckoning with the past we sometimes do when something captures us at a moment in time and we spend decades grappling with the aftereffects.  It is part a glimpse into the post Civil Rights era between Selma and Montgomery, that after the time and becoming time of what we are now dealing with in the simple right to autonomy. This story hurt me, disturbed me, angered me, and invited me. I read it in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court's leaked writings about abortion and in the horrific days after innocents were slaughtered because of this country's unending, insatiable appetite for violence. One can not turn away from what this book lays bare. We are compelled to face it, full on, the effects of decisions, even if o

What is Toni Reading?

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 My friends know that I am always reading a book, actually, more than one at one time. Often, it is a fiction and a non-fiction book that I'm alternating between, kind of like my breakfast read versus my lunchtime read. I decided to stop for a minute and take a look at titles I picked up at the library and what intrigued me about them. As summer is approaching and as you may (or should!) be considering what to read while you go to the beach or honestly, have another summer in your back yard wondering when Covid will release us to the world.  Well, literature and literary non-fiction can give us some thought provoking nuggets. Literary non-fiction I already reviewed and talked about The 1619 Project. It absorbed a lot of angst from people who did not want to look America in the mirror. It is still an important read and one I would recommend for those about to go to college or already there. It contains a lot of history not taught in the schools. It is in 18 sections that are meaty a

Literary Non-Fiction: God is a Black Woman by Christena Cleveland, PhD

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 I have been mesmerized by the beautiful Black woman on this cover.  To me, literary work of late has been as much about the cover art as it has been about the telling inside. So for all of 2022, so far, I was following the IG promotion of Christena Cleveland, PhD, hyping us up to get this book when it drops. Now, all authors do that, as they should. If they don't believe in their work enough to post or Tweet about it, why should I want to plop down $26.99+tax+shipping for the imaginations of their day? Her posting hit my Bookgram feed around the same time as I was engaging with The 1619 Project, another aesthetically pleasing offering, and Shouting' in the Fire, a cover on this slim book that draws ones eye in. So, of course I wondered what this was about.  Until encountering her on IG, I did not know about this sociologist and former professor at Duke Divinity School down in North Carolina. I went to seminary in boring old Missouri and while a budding womanist, certainly did