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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

Literary Non Fiction: The 1619 Project

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 This book struck a nerve. Perhaps that is why there has been this hyper vigilant manufactured hand wringing over CRT. It started when the esteemed Journalist and Professor, Nikole Hannah-Jones used her research and inquisitive skills honed though a stellar career to ask the fundamental questions about 1619. She called it a new origin story and through first and second person research, set out to tell the story of America. The New York Times Magazine feature was well read and well regarded by so many.  I was a newly minted M.Div when the magazine came out in August 2019 and being in the Midwest, was not able to pick up a paper copy.  I read excerpts of it online and followed the Twitter posts.  I was intrigued. Then 2020 happened. First the pandemic. Then the murder(s). Then the protests. Then the panic. Then the backlash. Then the election. Then the big lie. Then, then, then. And in 2021, there became this dog whistling even louder of CRT. Mind you, this is a graduate level, doctoral

The Scholars are Sisters: Black Women Non-Fiction Literary Works

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 I began my literary reviews over a decade ago - Tayé Foster Bradshaw's Bookshelf - to honor those Stories that were singing my soul song.   I concentrated mostly on literary fiction because that is my passion and what drew me into writing about what was missing when I went to the bookstores. I still do not read Urban Fiction and anywhere near water is my favorite place to be. That said, I also read and have been impacted by a lot of literary non-fiction written by Black women.   Some of my reading and deeply annotated reading happened in the last twenty years, in the space between my MBA and my M.Div. The last few have encompassed a lot of theological writing because I'm still a fairly new M.Div (M.Antona Brent Smith, I graduated in 2019) and still new as a Womanist scholar.  Here is the list of the 2022 New Releases that I just purchased and am anxiously waiting to read. 1.  God is a Black Woman  by Christena Cleveland, Ph.D. -  The cover alone is worth the pre-order. I have

Reading Black Women in 2022

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 I have been reading and reviewing Black women's literary works for over a decade. Back when I started doing this, it was hard to find titles.  I scoured libraries, bookstores - anyone remember Walden Books?, used book sales, any where I thought I would find a book. Publishing then, as now, was timid/reluctant/downright hostile to stories by Black women about Black women that was not steeped in oppression, enslavement, or some other tragic trope.  When the urban lit genre came out, supposedly depicting life in "Black America", my stomach turned in knots. My son is a lyricist, hip hop rapper, and he refused to sign with the major record label that was courting him for the very reason I felt such disdain on the cover in these book back in 2008 - it was all hyper masculinity and hyper sexuality without an ounce of authenticity. For him, he wanted to stay true to his art and message and not be marketing a lifestyle that was not was "living in the hood" was about. Ye

I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem

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by Tayé Foster Bradsahw  It seems every time I read a book that sat with me for a long time, I have ponder the longer meaning of the work. That is the case with Maryse Condé's book, I Tituba, Black Witch of Salem . Historical fiction rarely is written from the point-of-view of Black women, especially those enslaved during the formation of this country. This book is situated in Massachusetts and Barbados during those frightening years of uncertainty in this vast dark country when Englishmen and their families invaded Turtle Island to find what was not theirs. By 1642, when this takes place, they were taking human beings to do what they refused to do. If it wasn't such a fight about the truth of American history, this book would be perfect for high school English and History courses. It will not make it past some of those governors banning anything that makes white students (parents)feel bad, but it will give an eye-opening account of a deadly time. The mix is religion, superstit