Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Non-Themed Thanksgiving Post--Lori Tharps (Appearing 11/26) Gives Me Book Recommendations

I was poking around the web, looking for more information about Lori Tharps' novel, Substitute Me. Tharps is reading at Boswell tomorrow night, and since this was my suggestion to appear, I better to everything I can to promote the book. Since I don't really have a Thanksgiving post handy (I try not to limit my gratefulness to Thanksgiving Day), I thought I'd offer a few more words.

One website I found amusing was Carleen Brice's
Welcome White Folks. In it, I learned that December is National Buy a Book By a Black Author and Give it To Somebody Not Black. It's interesting that Brice gravitates around the same writers that Tharps does (yes, there are recommendations). And yes, Brice did a very nice interview with Tharps at the time of Substitute Me's publication.

As Tharps and I were discussing the event, I indicated that, to use the framework of Brice, I am one of those white people that likes to read books written by black people. I do find it hard, however, to find good recommendations. The most recent book I've been recommending is Attica Locke's Black Water Rising, and I tend to fall
back on Nathan McCall's Them. Locke's novel was edited by the wonderful Dawn Davis, as was another novel I read several years ago that is worthy of a read, Bridgett Davis's Shifting through Neutral. Davis was recently made an executive editor at Ecco. Here's the press release.

So I mentioned to Tharps that I was looking for recommendations. I had mentioned I had gotten a copy of 32 Candles to read. I asked what she thought, and wondered if she had a few other suggestions. Here's her reply, annotated a bit. I put her comments in burgundy, as it's sometimes a little confusing, as I'm quoting other people.

"32 Candles is a MUST read. It is wonderful, and fresh and quirky. And the author, Ernessa Carter, and I both went to Smith. I graduated before she got there though. "
(Daniel's note: this is the story of Los Angeles lounge singer, whose difficult past growing up in Mississippi follows her west. And yes, the title is a reference to the John Hughes movie.)

"The Girl Who Fell from the Sky is another new book that I think deserves attention. Author Heidi Durrow won the Bellwhether prize for the book."
(Of all the books recommended, this got the most reads and recommendations among indie booksellers, due to the perseverance of Craig Poplears at Algonquin. It is about the daughter of a Danish woman and a black G.I. who wonders about her mother's mysterious suicide.)

"Bernice McFadden's Glorious, another great book by an amazing author. It's a tragic, yet enlightening read about a fictitious writer of the Harlem Renaissance."
It's through the eyes of fictional writer Easter Bartlett, who escapes a tough life in Georgia, only to find solace among the black New York intellectuals of the time...until. Well, it's a novel so you know something has to happen bad. McFadden mixes historical figures such as Langston Hughes, Marcus Garvey, Fast Waller and Nancy Cunard into the story, Ragtime style.

Here's Toni Morrison's take: "Blending the truth of American history with the fruits of Bernice L. McFadden's rich imagination, this is the story of Easter Venetta Bartlett, a fictional Harlem Renaissance writer whose tumultuous path to success, ruin, and revival offers a candid portrait of the American experience in all its beauty and cruelty."

"Martha Southgate's, Third Girl from the Left. Anything Southgate writes is amazing."
Three generations of a family connected by movies--the youngest is a struggling filmmaker, her mom was in blaxploitation movies, and her mother, survivor of the Tulsa race riots, who found escape at the theater. Great reviews and a big
literary push in hardcover by Houghton Mifflin at the time (with extra enthusiasm from Carla Gray), the paperback was given a more genre treatment, similar to what happened with Shifting Through Neutral.

I don't think this jacket thing is limited to African American fiction--books of all kinds get a more erudite treatment in hardcover, and something more mass merchant in paperback. That's why I was so thrilled that Simon and Schuster kept the Little Bee hardcover jacket in paperback, instead of the more schmaltzy boy-on-the-beach scene of the British edition, and the book worked anyway.

Join the conversation. I mean, what author event doesn't have the question, "Who are some of your favorite writers?" Lori Tharps appears at Boswell Friday, November 26th, 7 PM.

1 comment:

Ernessa T. Carter said...

Daniel, Dawn Davis is my editor, too! I keep on asking her if she's acquired any other fiction, b/c I loved WENCH and BLACK WATER RISING so much. THIRD GIRL and GLORIOUS are both in the TBR queue. I can't wait to read them in 2011. I also love Tananarive Due, Carleen Brice, Tiphanie Yanique, and Colson Whitehead.