Review for “Another Brooklyn” by Jacqueline Woodson (2016)
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
This is not just a novel. It’s poetry, it’s memory. It’s a testament to Black girlhood.
With events written in non-linear, prose style, Another Brooklyn is the story of August, a young academic who travels to her Brooklyn home to attend her father’s funeral. She runs into an old friend on a train and from there, you are transported back to specific memories of August’s childhood in the 1970’s. Brooklyn, we learn, was a place where she found the friendship of three other Black girls, each from a different home situation. There are memories of growing up without a mother, of DJ parties, of first love, and so many other things that to describe them all is to give this book away and not let you experience this great novel for yourself. My only complaint was that this book was not long enough. It’s a short (less than 200 pages), but I could have read Woodson’s gorgeous prose for another 200 pages, that’s how great this book is.
Another Brooklyn deserves all of the Top Ten lists and press it’s getting. A must read!
Review for “Loving Donovan” by Bernice McFadden (2015)
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
This is a male-female love story with a unique structure–a section for “Her” that follows the female character, Campbell, from childhood to young adulthood; another for “Him” that follows the male character, Donovan, for roughly the same period in his life, and finally a section for “Them,” that documents Campbell and Donovan’s romance.
First off, there are no secrets in this book. We know from the first page that this is a couple that’s doomed and ultimately not going to work out. This is not the story of what happens in the end, but how and why each character gets there. Each in their 30’s, both characters are wounded, hurt, and just plain wrong for one another. Both have had lives full of disappointment–abuse, adultery, divorce–and each character’s family and friends’ lives don’t fare much better. It’s a uniquely African American story about a circle of dysfunction; a generational curse. It’s a reminder that each of us carries around a personal history,’ghosts’ from the past, that ultimately influences the success or failure of future romantic relationships.
It’s an engrossing story, but I wish it had gone a little more in-depth. The ending felt kinda rushed and another 30 pages of detail would not have spoiled this book in the least. It’s a decent book, which never stopped moving from start to finish. As I’ve said in some other reviews I’ll be publishing here soon, Bernice McFadden is quickly becoming one of my favorite writers. This book doesn’t disappoint.
Review for “Delicious Foods” by James Hannaham (2015)
Rating: 5 of 5 stars
After I finished this book I lay awake staring at the ceiling for 30 minutes, thinking: if this book doesn’t win an award this year I don’t know what the hell people think good literature is.
I wasn’t sure what to expect with this book. I knew its main theme was the devastating effects of crack cocaine, but had no idea of what kind of ride this book would take me on. The first chapter completely jars you out of any sense of comfort with its brutality; the rest is deep, slow burn of emotion. This was not a quick read for me. It took a while to get used to the narration of “Scotty,” (a.k.a crack cocaine) but once I did I found myself reading and re-reading those chapters, just to experience the rhythm and hip-ness of the language once more, and to laugh (inappropriately, of course) at its narrative inclusion in this book. I kept waiting for Scotty’s narration to wane or sound ridiculous, but it never did. At times I had to pause and ask myself if it was really crack “talking” and not just another person in the book. Yes, it was THAT good.
I have to admit that the emotion of this book was, at times, too much for me to handle. Young Eddie is eleven years old when he discovers his mother is missing and begins to search, quite literally, through the depths of Hell to find her. My son is also eleven years old, and so many times in the book I found myself so overwhelmed with the image of my own child roaming the streets at night in my absence that I had to metaphorically take a deep breath and gather my bearings before I could continue. My feelings for Darlene and the choices she made throughout the novel alternated between full on rage and absolute pity, I was brought to tears too many times to count here.
This book will break your heart. Very few books have the power to do this to me, I pride myself on having a heart and a stomach for just about anything. There wasn’t a single character that wasn’t real or a single word that’s wasted here. So well written, emotionally gripping. I loved every minute of this book. Highly recommended.