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#5 On My TBR – Recced by Friends

Hello All and welcome to my blog! This week our theme for #5 On My TBR is books recommended by our friends. As I have a whopping TBR – 1861 books! – with over 400 on my shelves I chose my selection from the last 5 books that were gifted to me. I have arranged them in alphabetical order by title.

So what is #5 on My TBR you ask?

5 On My TBR is a weekly meme that gets you digging into your massive TBRs to find five special books. Created by E@LocalBeeHuntersNook this meme centers on a new prompt each Monday. For those of you interested in participating in #5 On My TBR you can find additional info and future prompts here.

So let’s get to it!

#1: A Fall off Marigolds

A beautiful scarf, passed down through the generations, connects two women who learn that the weight of the world is made bearable by the love we give away….

September 1911. On Ellis Island in New York Harbor, nurse Clara Wood cannot face returning to Manhattan, where the man she loved fell to his death in the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. Then, while caring for a fevered immigrant whose own loss mirrors hers, she becomes intrigued by a name embroidered onto the scarf he carries…and finds herself caught in a dilemma that compels her to confront the truth about the assumptions she’s made. Will what she learns devastate her or free her? 

September 2011. On Manhattan’s Upper West Side, widow Taryn Michaels has convinced herself that she is living fully, working in a charming specialty fabric store and raising her daughter alone. Then a long-lost photograph appears in a national magazine, and she is forced to relive the terrible day her husband died in the collapse of the World Trade Towers…the same day a stranger reached out and saved her. Will a chance reconnection and a century-old scarf open Taryn’s eyes to the larger forces at work in her life?


#2: Fledgling

Fledgling, Octavia Butler’s new novel after a seven year break, is the story of an apparently young, amnesiac girl whose alarmingly inhuman needs and abilities lead her to a startling conclusion: She is in fact a genetically modified, 53-year-old vampire. Forced to discover what she can about her stolen former life, she must at the same time learn who wanted – and still wants – to destroy her and those she cares for and how she can save herself. Fledgling is a captivating novel that tests the limits of “otherness” and questions what it means to be truly human. 


#3: The Kindest Lie

A promise could betray you.

It’s 2008, and the inauguration of President Barack Obama ushers in a new kind of hope. In Chicago, Ruth Tuttle, an Ivy-League educated Black engineer, is married to a kind and successful man. He’s eager to start a family, but Ruth is uncertain. She has never gotten over the baby she gave birth to—and was forced to leave behind—when she was a teenager. She had promised her family she’d never look back, but Ruth knows that to move forward, she must make peace with the past.

Returning home, Ruth discovers the Indiana factory town of her youth is plagued by unemployment, racism, and despair. As she begins digging into the past, she unexpectedly befriends Midnight, a young white boy who is also adrift and looking for connection. Just as Ruth is about to uncover a burning secret her family desperately wants to keep hidden, a traumatic incident strains the town’s already searing racial tensions, sending Ruth and Midnight on a collision course that could upend both their lives.

Powerful and revealing, The Kindest Lie captures the heartbreaking divide between Black and white communities and offers both an unflinching view of motherhood in contemporary America and the never-ending quest to achieve the American Dream.


#4: Song of the Crimson Flower

From the acclaimed author of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns comes a fantastical new tale of darkness and love, in which magical bonds are stronger than blood.

Will love break the spell? After cruelly rejecting Bao, the poor physician’s apprentice who loves her, Lan, a wealthy nobleman’s daughter, regrets her actions. So when she finds Bao’s prized flute floating in his boat near her house, she takes it into her care, not knowing that his soul has been trapped inside it by an evil witch, who cursed Bao, telling him that only love will set him free. Though Bao now despises her, Lan vows to make amends and help break the spell.

Together, the two travel across the continent, finding themselves in the presence of greatness in the forms of the Great Forest’s Empress Jade and Commander Wei. They journey with Wei, getting tangled in the webs of war, blood magic, and romance along the way. Will Lan and Bao begin to break the spell that’s been placed upon them? Or will they be doomed to live out their lives with black magic running through their veins?

In this fantastical tale of darkness and love, some magical bonds are stronger than blood.


#5: The Sum of Us

One of today’s most insightful and influential thinkers offers a powerful exploration of inequality and the lesson that generations of Americans have failed to learn: Racism has a cost for everyone–not just for people of color.

“This is the book I’ve been waiting for.”–Ibram X. Kendi, #1 New York Times bestselling author of How to Be an Antiracist

Heather McGhee’s specialty is the American economy–and the mystery of why it so often fails the American public. From the financial crisis to rising student debt to collapsing public infrastructure, she found a common root problem: racism. But not just in the most obvious indignities for people of color. Racism has costs for white people, too. It is the common denominator of our most vexing public problems, the core dysfunction of our democracy and constitutive of the spiritual and moral crises that grip us all. But how did this happen? And is there a way out?

McGhee embarks on a deeply personal journey across the country from Mississippi to California to Maine, tallying what we lose when we buy into the zero-sum paradigm–the idea that progress for some of us must come at the expense of others. Along the way, she meets white people who confide in her about losing their homes, their dreams, and their shot at better jobs to the toxic mix of American racism and greed. This is the story of how public goods in this country–from parks and pools to functioning schools–have become private luxuries; of how unions collapsed, wages stagnated, and inequality increased; and of how this country, unique among the world’s advanced economies, has thwarted universal healthcare.

But in unlikely places of worship and work, McGhee finds proof of what she calls the Solidarity Dividend: gains that come when people come together across race, to accomplish what we simply can’t do on our own.

The Sum of Us is a brilliant analysis of how we arrived here: divided and self-destructing, materially rich but spiritually starved and vastly unequal. McGhee marshals economic and sociological research to paint an irrefutable story of racism’s costs, but at the heart of the book are the humble stories of people yearning to be part of a better America, including white supremacy’s collateral victims: white people themselves. With startling empathy, this heartfelt message from a Black woman to a multiracial America leaves us with a new vision for a future in which we finally realize that life can be more than zero-sum.

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Teaser Tuesdays – 1/5

Welcome to Teaser Tuesday, the weekly Meme hosted by The Purple Booker. It’s super easy and anyone can join in the fun!

1: Grab your current read
2: Open to a random page
3: Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page

One of the Good Ones

You’re the kind of girl you fight wars for. You’re the kind of girl you fight wars with.

Rating: 4 out of 5.
  • Young Adult/ Realistic Fiction/ Mystery
  • Own Voices
  • Hardcover, 384 pages
  • Release Date: January 5th 2021 by Inkyard Press

The premise behind the book is about how we judge people and their worth. Are they good students? Star athletes? Involved in community service? Are they beautiful? Talented? Are they considered “special” enough for their lives to matter and for us to fight for them when they encounter injustice? In their sophomore novel, the Moulite sisters show how dangerous the well intentioned term “one of the good ones” can be.

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#5 On My TBR – 2021 Releases

Happy Happy New Year! How many of you are as excited to greet this new year as I am?

With a new year comes new resolutions, new plans and this week’s focus — new releases!

5 On My TBR is a weekly meme that gets you digging into your massive TBRs to find five special books. Created by E@LocalBeeHuntersNook this meme centers on a new prompt each Monday. For those of you interested in participating in #5 On My TBR you can find additional info and future prompts here.

So here are 5 of my most anticipated releases of 2021.

#1 – Chlorine Sky

I have read Mahogany’s Browne’s Black Girl Magic and the anthology The BreakBeat Poets and was moved. So when I saw that she had a novel-in-verse coming out this year I got goosebumps.

She looks me hard in my eyes
& my knees lock into tree trunks
My eyes don’t dance like my heartbeat racing
They stare straight back hot daggers.
I remember things will never be the same.
I remember things.

With gritty and heartbreaking honesty, Mahogany L. Browne delivers a novel-in-verse about broken promises, fast rumors, and when growing up means growing apart from your best friend.


#2 – Concrete Rose

International phenomenon Angie Thomas revisits Garden Heights seventeen years before the events of The Hate U Give in this searing and poignant exploration of Black boyhood and manhood.


#3 – Blood Grove

Walter Mosley is my favorite author and this is his 15th installment in the Easy Rawlins series.


#4 – 400 Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019

An epoch-defining history of African America, the first to appear in a generation, Four Hundred Souls is a chronological account of four hundred years of Black America as told by ninety of America’s leading Black writers.


#5 – Harlem Shuffle

From two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author Colson Whitehead, a gloriously entertaining novel of heists, shakedowns, and rip-offs set in Harlem in the 1960s.

Nonfiction November #3

The Purpose of Power: How We Come Together When We Fall Apart by Alicia Garza

The Purpose of Power is not your typical memoir.  Yes, Alicia Garza pours her personal experience into these pages but her focus is on building community.

  • She talks about the definition of empowerment and explains how it is different from power
  • She walks us through the historical aspects of movements including the civil rights movement
  • We learn the difference between having a following and a having a base and what it takes to mobilize that base during a movement.

While Garza dispels the idea that black lives matter is a hashtag, she also criticizes those who have co-opted the movement for their own personal and political gain.  These individuals were never part of BLM nor were involved in its founding.  One case in point is the lawsuit brought about by a Baton Rouge police officer.  During the 2016 protest against police brutality the officer was struck upon the head and suffered brain injuries.  He sued the three founders of Black Lives Matter. The judge ruled against him citing that you cannot sue a social movement.  Furthermore, the protest was not organized or promoted BLM. DeRay McKesson was the organizer of that event. He is a community activist but is not, nor has he ever been, a member of Black Lives Matter.

There have been several instances where the media has credited him and other men as having leading roles in the organization. Oftentimes, these men fail to correct them. In McKesson’s case he has met with politicians and dignitaries on behalf of Black Lives Matter.  Hillary Clinton even sat down to meet with him during her presidential bid after Garza, Cullors and Tometi declined to align themselves with either campaign.

Garza stresses that the vision for the Black Lives Matter movement came to fruition through the hard work and dedication of three black and queer women.  So why don’t we hear more of them? Simple, she says women are invisible in this society especially those that are marginalized.

Despite recognizing the importance of this intersectionality, she stresses that we must find common ground.  What is the one purpose that you all have?  Work towards that aim.  Garza admits that there will always be things that people disagree about and that not everyone is going to value the same things. But if you stay focused on that one thing that ties you all together you can see measured success.

On a personal note, she called me out and I’m sure she called out a bunch of you guys too, when she was going over empathy.  If someone is telling you that they are suffering from something, they are not expecting you to tell them of your experience with the same thing.  They just want you to listen and to be heard.  You may tell them you feel for their pain.  It was funny because there was a guy who posted something about being distracted with reading and I went on to respond that I too had been distracted during the Covid pandemic instead of just saying that I understood. I could have just shared my support.  Perhaps give suggestions.  It may seem like a minor issue, but I think we are more aware of our reactions to big issues.  These small moments occur every day and we often don’t realize what we are doing.  If we are going to come together as a nation we need to start learning how to put ourselves in each other’s shoes and try to see things from other people’s perspectives.  We also have to be able to find that common ground so we can heal as a nation.

Blog Tour: Punching the Air

Synopsis

From award-winning, bestselling author Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam of the Exonerated Five comes a powerful YA novel in verse about a boy who is wrongfully incarcerated. Perfect for fans of Jason Reynolds, Walter Dean Myers, and Elizabeth Acevedo.

The story that I thought

was my life

didn’t start on the day

I was born

Amal Shahid has always been an artist and a poet. But even in a diverse art school, he’s seen as disruptive and unmotivated by a biased system. Then one fateful night, an altercation in a gentrifying neighborhood escalates into tragedy. “Boys just being boys” turns out to be true only when those boys are white.

The story that I think

will be my life

starts today

Suddenly, at just sixteen years old, Amal’s bright future is upended: he is convicted of a crime he didn’t commit and sent to prison. Despair and rage almost sink him until he turns to the refuge of his words, his art. This never should have been his story. But can he change it?

With spellbinding lyricism, award-winning author Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam tell a moving and deeply profound story about how one boy is able to maintain his humanity and fight for the truth, in a system designed to strip him of both.


Review

I can remember vividly the days surrounding the Central Park jogger case. I remember the collective fear that held New York City in a vice. The way the press preyed on our emotions with descriptions of roving gangs of teens “wilding out”. Five teens — black and brown — were accused of this depraved act. They were villainized. Trump took out a full page ad in the New York Times demanding the death penalty in their case. In the days the followed one person stood out for me. Yusef Salaam’s mother. Because of her stoicism. She never faltered. In the heat of the frenzy she boldly proclaimed her son’s innocence across her chest.

In the end the five would spend 6-13 years behind bars for a crime they did not commit.

Punching the Air is a collaboration between award winning author Ibi Zoboi and Exonerated Five member Yusef Salaam. It tells the story of a teenage boy Amal who has been wrongfully convicted of a crime. The book is a beautifully rendered piece that delves into the disenfranchisement of young black men.

“Locking you up isn’t enough
for them They will try to crush your spirit until
you’re nothing but —

Dust
we both say
together”

Written in verse, Punching the Air shows Amal whose name means hope draw strength through creativity. His poems and art are glimpses of freedom that give him hope to carry on.

” And what does dust do, Amal?
What did Maya Angelou say about dust?
Umi asks
It rises, I whisper”


“It was this one dude
who said that’s why we’re always
fucking up, we’re always making
mistakes
because ain’t no butterflies in the hood

See, if there were butterflies
we would have what’s called
the butterfly effect

A butterfly’s wings can
change the path of a storm

Something so small
can change
one big thing in the world
one big thing in the universe

If there are no butterflies here
no pretty little wings flapping in the
hood
then we can’t change a thing, he said

We’re the butterflies, I said
and the things we do are like wings”


Meet the Authors

Ibi Zoboi

Ibi Zoboi was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and holds an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her novel American Street was a National Book Award finalist and a New York Times Notable Book. She is also the author of Pride and My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich, a New York Times bestseller. She is the editor of the anthology Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America. Raised in New York City, she now lives in New Jersey with her husband and their three children.


Dr. Yusef Salaam

Dr. Yusef Salaam was just fifteen years old when his life was upended after being wrongly convicted in the “Central Park Jogger” case, along with four other boys who are now known as the Exonerated Five. Their story has been documented in the award winning film The Central Park Five by documentarians Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, and David McMahon and in Ava DuVernay’s highly acclaimed series When They See Us, one of Netflix’s most-watched original series of all time. Yusef is now a poet, activist, and inspirational speaker who lives in Atlanta, Georgia. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from President Barack Obama.

Mermaid-A-Thon TBR

I am late to the game with this Readathon. I first saw it on Twitter on Deja (I hope I spelled her name right.) Diary of a Reader‘s page. This is the third round of Mermaid-A-Thon. It is hosted by Fernando of Fernando’s Mermaid Books.

Dark World Challenges


Read a Book That Features War

Read a Book with a Badass Female Main Character

A Thousand Ships is a retelling of the Trojan War from a female perspective. Short listed for the 2020 Women’s Prize for Fiction, “A Thousand Ships gives voices to the women, girls and goddesses who, for so long, have been silent.”


Read a Book By a Black Author

Read a Predicted 5 star Read

In Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, “the Pulitzer Prize–winning, bestselling author of The Warmth of Other Suns examines the unspoken caste system that has shaped America and shows how our lives today are still defined by a hierarchy of human divisions.”


Read a Horror Middle Grade Book

Dead Voices is the spine tingling sequel to Katherine Arden’s Small Spaces. When I read this book a few years ago I got so swept up in the story that I forgot it was supposed to be a family read. LOL Looking forward to see where Arden takes Ollie and friends in this next chapter.


Read a Book with Revenge

In this first installment of Robert Pobi’s Lucas Page series, former FBI agent Lucas Page must find a sniper bent on revenge before his family find themselves in the sniper’s lens.

Book Review: Underground, Monroe and The Mamalogues

In Underground, Thompson examines masculinity, power, protest and privilege. Kyle surprises “Dix” (Mason) when he shows up uninvited to his hideaway home in upstate New York. From the outset, I was skeptical about the purpose of his visit as Kyle went about furtively going through Mason’s things and taking pictures. He came off as a hustler and I was trying to figure out what game he was running. Slowly their past is revealed, as are Kyle’s motives, and Mason becomes more assertive. Having risen above poverty, he no longer feels that the Black male struggle is his fight. He fought. He won. He’s done.

Monroe is based in part on a real lynching that took place just outside the city of Monroe, Louisiana in 1919. George Bolden*, an illiterate man, was lynched after being accused of writing a letter to a white woman. The play opens up with a community viewing strange fruit hanging from a tree. We get to see the impact on the young man’s loved ones as they cope with the brutality of his death and the terror it instills. His sister Cherry cleaves to her religion while his best friend Clyde makes plans to escape the violence and Monroe.

Of the three plays The Mamalogues was the most humorous and lively. Here Thompson turns her lens onto Black single mothers with the aim of dispelling stereotypes and shedding light on issues of inter-sectionality. To this end, Thompson’s group of mature successful women hold conversations with the audience about traditional views on marriage, ageism, homosexuality, the school-to-prison pipeline, how to train your child to survive being called the N-word and other basics of “parenting while black and living in the age of anxiety”.

The common thread in all of these plays is the Black middle class. Thompson is particularly interested in the costs, as well as the benefits, of class ascension.

*If you would like to read more of George Bolden’s story, it is featured in the book Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror.

Blog Tour Spotlight: In the Neighborhood of True

Synopsis

A powerful story of love, identity, and the price of fitting in or speaking out.

After her father’s death, Ruth Robb and her family transplant themselves in the summer of 1958 from New York City to Atlanta—the land of debutantes, sweet tea, and the Ku Klux Klan. In her new hometown, Ruth quickly figures out she can be Jewish or she can be popular, but she can’t be both. Eager to fit in with the blond girls in the “pastel posse,” Ruth decides to hide her religion. Before she knows it, she is falling for the handsome and charming Davis and sipping Cokes with him and his friends at the all-white, all-Christian Club.

Does it matter that Ruth’s mother makes her attend services at the local synagogue every week? Not as long as nobody outside her family knows the truth. At temple Ruth meets Max, who is serious and intense about the fight for social justice, and now she is caught between two worlds, two religions, and two boys. But when a violent hate crime brings the different parts of Ruth’s life into sharp conflict, she will have to choose between all she’s come to love about her new life and standing up for what she believes.


Thoughts on the Book

“The story may be set in the past, but it couldn’t be a more timely reminder that true courage comes not from fitting in, but from purposefully standing out . . . and that to find out who you really are, you have to first figure out what you’re not.” —Jodi Picoult, New York Times bestselling author of A Spark of Light and Small Great Things


“gorgeous story about a teenage girl finding her voice in the face of hate, heartbreak, and injustice” —Nova Ren Suma, #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Room Away from the Wolves


“Carlton captures the racism, anti-Semitism, and social interactions of the time and place with admirable nuance. The dialogue and setting are meticulously constructed, and readers will feel the humidity and tension rising with each chapter.” — Publisher’s Weekly; starred review

My Thoughts

In the Neighborhood of True is a captivating novel based on the 1958 bombing of Hebrew Benevolent Congregation Temple. As Atlanta’s first official Jewish institution The Temple not only served as a beacon within the Jewish community, but under the leadership of Rabbi Jacob Rothschild it also was a center for social justice and the burgeoning civil rights movement.

Carlton manages to capture this fraughtful time through the eyes of a Jewish girl coming of age in the wake of her father’s death. Ruth is smitten with the debutante scene and the handsome young Davis Jefferson. She is warned by her grandmother that her Jewishness might set her apart from the in-crowd and so at first she “passes” for Christian. But as time goes by she realizes that her lies of omission are a wedge between her and true acceptance by her new friends. Ultimately, she must decide which side she wants to be on — somewhere “in the neighborhood of true” where no one knows who she really is — or on the side of truth and justice and doing what’s right.


Meet the Author

From the author’s website:

“I grew up in San Francisco and its suburbs, went to college in Portland, Oregon and interned in the White House. From there, I got a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University and worked in magazines—Self, Elle, Mademoiselle, and others. That may explain my perennial crush on polka dots, poodles, and vintage stores.

A while ago, my family moved to Atlanta where we became members of a temple not so very different from the one in In the Neighborhood of True. We were welcomed with a hearty “Shabbat shalom, y’all,” but the memories of what happened there still reverberated. Our younger daughter attended Sunday school in one of the classrooms that had been bombed decades before. And the hate has continued to echo. In 2017, in Charlottesville, Virginia, where our older daughter is in school, white nationalists brandished torches in front of Thomas Jefferson’s rotunda, yelling, “Jews will not replace us.” And then the next year in Pittsburgh, eleven congregants were shot during Saturday morning services. I watched the unfolding horror on TV news with my eighty-eight-year-old father, remembering the bat mitzvah the whole family had attended at a different synagogue nearby. As the names of the dead were read, I kept thinking that my dad could have been one of them. And then I thought, it could have been any of us—over and over, across decades and state lines.

These days, I teach writing at Boston University and write young adult novels about complicated girls in complicated times. My husband and I have moved our two amusing and good-natured daughters up and down the East Coast. We now live in Hanover, New Hampshire, where we think we’ll stay.”

Where you can find Susan K. Carlton