Tag Archives: Black Literature

avery r. young: local wordsmith publishes opus on facebook

Avery R. Young, local Chicago wordsmith, educator, personality, and friend of darkjive, is in the midst of publishing a series of thirty works (some poetry, some script treatments, and some more visual pieces) in the form of facebook notes.  The work plays with notions of language, blackness, and the canon of African-American pop culture as only he can.  Check it out a sample below, and jive on.

3/30

poem fo angela

               or losin man-weight

i been tryin not to drink

cocacolaclassic.  de logo

blood on paper.  bold

in de   land of cullud fountains

(woolworth’s beverage of choice).

i been tryin

to try water.  no bubbles

or lemon.  just one part

air.  ery other part

begins wif hi.

i been tryin not to keep

erything away from yo judgment.

u so big mama

sometimes.  make a big

brother baby.

i been tryin to turn

pride into purple

& wet.  sweet

like grape drink

& cocoa

puff milk after de brown

been crunched away.

u so cod liver oil.

so cocoacolaclassic.

so mo pounds

gainst my bone.

for more, click here


Ronald Fair: Griot of Chicago Tales

BkWorldOfNothingM

Ronald Fair is perhaps best known as a teller of crisp, satirical, and unsentimental Chicago Tales: inner city stories of struggle, morality, and overcoming (not unlike his own Chicago story).  Born in Chicago on October 27, 1932, Fair attended public school. He was inspired as a young man by fellow Chicagoan Richard Wright to begin writing. Wright, as well as a black English teacher encouraged him to keep at his craft despite setbacks. 

Fair ultimately published various short writings in the Chicago Defender, Ebony, Chat Noir, and other publications. His first novel, Many Thousand Gone: An American Fable, was published in 1965.  The book covers the span of time from the Civil War to the 60s, and presents a fictional town called Jacobsville, Mississippi, whose residents were unaware that slavery had been abolished.   The work, through symbolism, called for Blacks to wake up and rise against the systemic oppression they were under.  

His second novel, Hog Butcher (1966), set in the 1960s, told the story of three inner city Chicago boys and one tragedy that changed a community forever. It was adapted into the film Cornbread, Earl, and Me (1975, see the theatrical trailer below).  The film starred a pre-pubescent Laurence Fishburne, and featured a grooving soundtrack composed by Donald Byrd and performed by the Blackbyrds.

Fair’s next work, World of Nothing, was published in 1970.  The work consists of two edgy, perse, short novellas: one of which dealt with sexual abuse in the Catholic church and, like Hog Butcher, featured a young central character.

Soon after the publication of Hog Butcher, Ronald Fair moved to Europe, were he remained, as he was “fed up with American racism”.  While in Europe, he published what he considered his supreme work,”We Can’t Breathe” (1972).  The book covered the lives of five Chicago friends (one of whom becomes an author), and was deeply autobiographical.  The book sold well at first, and then sales inexplicably tapered off.

Ronald Fair still writes today, but has dropped off the national literary radar, unpublished in the U.S. in more than twenty years, yet the messages within his work remain eerily pertinent for folks coming up in our hardscrabble city.

 

 

Read more: http://biography.jrank.org/pages/2345/Fair-Ronald-L.html#ixzz0QiUlGCM4


Another Beautiful Struggle

the-beautiful-struggle-198x300“We took comfort in the rebel music that was pumped into the city from up North. Hip-Hop was the rumble of our generation, unveiling all our wants, fears, and disaffections. But as the fabled year of ’88 came upon us, we saw something more in the music, a deeper thing that interrogated our random lives and made us self-aware. We needed 1988, like the mariners of old needed the North Star. I needed a text for understanding my present crack-addled world; Bill needed some conception of a future.”

— from The Beautiful Stuggle, Ta-Nehisi Coates

Ta-Nehisi Coates’ autobiographical ode to black manhood (and the struggle to reach it and to cultivate it) is the premise for The Beautiful Struggle (Random House, 2008), a title hip-hop heads might recognize from a 2004 Talib Kweli album.  The album popularized a phrase from a Martin Luther King, Jr. speech, in which he stated:

“We must move past indecision to action. Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response.”

In the Beautiful Struggle, Coates’ father is larger than life, both Black Panther & Vietnam vet, publisher and cultural historian, trying to raise up seven children in an era when crack created a desert tooled for the destuction of a whole generation.  A book that is both a love note to hip hop, a battle cry, and a tale of rising up, A Beautiful Struggle is beautiful to be sure.


Into Africa: 50 must reads for “Every African”…

…courtesy of afripopmag.com… lots of good stuff for a book nut like me.

Anthem of the Decades, by Mazisi Kunene.
Biko, by Donald Woods
Roots, by Alex Haley
Number 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, by Alexander McCall Smith
Long Walk to Freedom, by Nelson Mandela
Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe
Woman at Point Zero, by Nawal el Sadaawi
Purple Hibiscus + Half of a Yellow Sun, by Chimimanda Adichi Ngozi
Our Sister Killjoy, by Ama Ata Aidoo
Head Above Water, by Buchi Emecheta
The Heart of Redness, by Zakes Mda
You Can’t Get Lost in Cape Town/David’s Story/Playing in the Light, by Zoe Wicomb
Mother to Mother, by Sindiwe Magona
Unbowed, by Wangari Maathai
Decolonising the Mind, by Ngugi wa Thiong’o
Anthills of the Savannah, by Chinua Achebe
Hero of the Nation, by Henry Masauko Chipembere
Kaffir Boy, by Mark Mathabane
Distant View of a Minaret, by Alifa Rifaat
So Long a Letter, by Mariama Ba
A long way gone, by Ishmael Beah
Song for Night/Becoming Abigail, by Chris Abani
Infidel, by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Desert Flower/Desert Dawn, by Waris Dirie
Born Under the Big Rain, by Fadumo Korn
When Rain Clouds Gather/Maru/A Question of Power, by Bessie Head
Women are Different, by Flora Nwapa
The Stone Virgins, by Yvonne Vera
Call me Woman, by Ellen Kuzwayo
And they didn’t Die, by Lauretta Ngcobo
Maru, b y   B e s s i e   H e a d
Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature, by Ngugi wa Thiong’o
Petals of blood, Weep not child, Ngungi wa Thiongo
Black Sunlight, by Dambudzo Merachera
My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, by Amos Tutola
Question of Power, by Bessie Head
Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neal Hurston
Ready For Revolution, by Kwame Ture
Autobiography of Malcolm X, by Malcolm X and Alex Haley
The Making of Black Revolutionaries, by James Forman
Destruction of Black Civilization, by Chancellor Williams
The African Origin of Civilization, by Cheikh Anta Diop
The Isis Papers, by Francess Cress Welsing
The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho
Dreams From My Father, by Barack Obama
The Audacity of Hope, by Barack Obama
Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream, by Barack Obama
The Souls of Black Folk, by W.E.B. Du Bois simply bcoz this century is about identity
O’ Mandingo!: The Only Black at a Dinner Party, by Eric Miyeni
Gerard Sekoto: I Am An African, by Chabani Manganyi
The Good Women of China, by Xinran just coz Africa and Asia share so much in common
Capitalist Nigger, by Chika Onyeani
African love stories, (edited) by Ama Ata Aido
Black skin, White masks, by Franz Fanon
Scatter the Ashes and Go, Hyenas, by Mongane Wally Serote
Black God of the Sun, by Ekow Eshun
Mavericks, (edited) by Lauren Beukes
Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad
Indaba, My Children, by Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa
Development as freedom, by Amartya Sen
The Spirit of Intimacy, by Sobonfu E. Some
God’s Bit of Wood, The Money Order with White Genesis, by Ousmane Sembene
Zenzele: A letter for my Daughter, by J. Nozipho Maraire
The Bible
The Land Is Ours: The Political Legacy of Mangaliso Sobukwe, by S.E.M. Pheko
Subukwe and Apartheid, by Benjamin Pogrund
I Write what I like, Steve Biko
Blues People, by Amiri Baraka
Stolen Legacy, by George G. M. James
Democracy Matters, by Cornel West
Encyclopedia Africana, probably the greatest manuscript about the entire African Diaspora
Speak so You Can Speak Again: The life of Zora Neale Hurston, by Lucy Hurston


The Other Side of Paradise, in plain view

2009-05-16-OtherSideof-Paradise-author

2009-05-16-OtherSideofParadisePoet Stacyann Chin’s memoir, “The Other Side of Paradise” (Scribner, 2009), is a coming-of-age story.  It’s a tale of growing up never fitting in, not with family, not with social structure.  It’s also about living in Paradise (both literally and figuratively), but never feeling as though Paradise’s bounty is available for you.  Ultimately, however, the book is about discovering that no man (or woman) is an island in regards to pain and loss…and joy.

A one-time performer on Def Poetry jam, Stacyann Chin’s upbringing was enough to seal in insecurities, and yet, she kept trying to break out beyond her circumstances.   She was born on Christmas Day in Lottery, Jamaica, and systematically denied by both her mother and father, something she  struggled with throughout her childhood.   Stacyann grew up in the slums of Jamaica that tourists never visit, and she suffered abuse that no girl should ever have to suffer at the hands of family… always dreaming of the life of the fortunate ones, always dreaming of being safe and happy.

“The Other Side of Paradise” is a fresh, poetic read that balances images of hope in trying times and the darker side of Paradise.   

Below, Stacyann Chin performing “Untitled” on Def Poetry Jam.


Sweet Flypaper of Life: 1950s Harlem in Black & White

De_carava_the_sweet_6

Picture it.  I’m in high school, late for the morning bus, desperate for something to read during my lengthy commute.  On my Grandmother’s disheveled porch, I find a slightly sunfaded paperback.  The book is Sweet Flypaper of Life, with text by Langston Hughes and photography by Roy DeCarava (1955).  I toss it in my backpack, completely unaware that:

1. My life would never be the same… I would see the world differently from that day on.

2. That paperback was (at the time) thirty years old and worth nearly 100 bucks.  I would only discover its value when I attempted in college to upgrade for a hardcover.  Apparently, it’s an exceptionally rare book.  And I threw it in my backpack.  Did I mention it rained that day?

About the book:

Essentially, the Sweet Flypaper is written from the point of view of an older woman in Harlem who is a fixture in her community.  She introduces us to each person in her world.  We’re let in on their struggles as well as the hard-fought victories in their lives.  The Langston Hughes’ text is accompanied by a memorable photo essay by Roy DeCarava.

DE_Carava_the_sweet_1How I love this book.  It captures a time on the cusp of the Civil Rights Era: a time steeped in the Electrified Delta Blues, in Joe Louis Fights, in Dinah Washington and Sarah Vaughn, in Miller High Life, in Dixie Peach pomade.  It captures something so timeless that it stays with you…. always.  I recommend you discover a copy of your own, but until you do, enjoy the pages I reproduced here for you. Jive on!

De_carava_the_sweet_2


I am Not Sidney Poitier

not-sidney-poitier(Graywolf Press, 2009)

I was, in life, to be a gambler, a risk-taker, a swashbuckler, a knight. I accepted, then and there, my place in the world. I was a fighter of windmills. I was a chaser of whales. I was Not Sidney Poitier.

–from I Am Not Sidney Poitier

This is not a full review… that, my pretties, is still to come.  This is just a heads up on “I Am Not Sidney Poitier”, a forthcoming (May ’09) novel by Percival Everett.  According to the publisher, Graywolf Press:

“Not Sidney Poitier is an amiable young man in an absurd country. The sudden death of his mother orphans him at age eleven, leaving him with an unfortunate name, an uncanny resemblance to the famous actor, and, perhaps more fortunate, a staggering number of shares in the Turner Broadcasting Corporation.

Percival Everett’s hilarious new novel follows Not Sidney’s tumultuous life, as the social hierarchy scrambles to balance his skin color with his fabulous wealth. Maturing under the less-than watchful eye of his adopted foster father, Ted Turner, Not gets arrested in rural Georgia for driving while black, sparks a dinnertable explosion at the home of his manipulative girlfriend, and sleuths a murder case in Smut Eye, Alabama, all while navigating the recurrent communication problem:

“What’s your name?” a kid would ask.

“Not Sidney,” I would say.

“Okay, then what is it?”

Sounds like summer reading to me…..