NEW REVIEW: The World Doesn’t Require You by Rion Amilcar Scott

The World Doesn't Require YouThe World Doesn’t Require You by Rion Amilcar Scott

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I opted to sit with this book awhile before deciding to write a review.

Prior to reading this work, I had never heard of Rion Amilcar Scott, nor had I any knowledge of his debut Insurrections. The book was chosen for its cover–which is absolutely captivating–and its blurb: I was intrigued by the concept of a generation of people with an enduring connection to a place like Cross River; a place that is, of course, fictional, but one that also inspires a curious sort of mindset.

Let me tell you, this is not the sort of book you pick up on a whim and read. You need to be in the mood for it; a fact I discovered very shortly into the first story: the one about God’s last son.

After reading it, I walked away for a day, before reading the next story, because I felt overwhelmed by the messages. I needed someone to talk to about what I’d read and see if they understood it the same or, perhaps, interpreted it altogether differently.

This is a work that offers an experience and so much of that experience is subjective. It would be an injustice to interpret the stories because you truly need to read them for yourself.

What I can say is there will be people who rate it low for its abstraction and others who’ll opt out because it’s such a dense read. I admittedly thought of doing the latter because of how overwhelmed I felt; like I needed a guide to walk me through each story and point out what may have been lost in my own translation.

I suggest reading this with a friend. There’s so much discussion worthy material within this collection.

This is particularly true where the last story is concerned–it takes up over half the book–as I found it had a lot to say about the academic world, and how it treats its professors and students, at the collegiate level.

If you like a challenge, and can appreciate receiving it in a manner that may cause some mild discomfort, then this book is for you.

Just be sure you’re ready to give it the proper amount of your attention and don’t jump ship before you’ve given it time to truly set its course.

Pub Date: August 20, 2019

Thank you to Edelweiss+ and Liveright Books for the opportunity to read and review this Advanced eGalley. Opinion is my own and was not influenced.

 

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REVIEW: Troublemaker for Justice: The Story of Bayard Rustin

Troublemaker for Justice: The Story of Bayard Rustin, the Man Behind the March on WashingtonTroublemaker for Justice: The Story of Bayard Rustin, the Man Behind the March on Washington by Jacqueline Houtman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had a passing knowledge of Bayard Rustin–having read John Lewis’s March: Book One at some point–but reading this story offered a great deal of insight into how important he was to the Civil Rights Movement.

It’s important to note that much of the philosophy Martin Luther King Jr. came to embody–as far as using non-violence as an act of protest–was due in large part to the direction of Rustin. Not only that, the ability of Rustin to organize and communicate at a grassroots level paved the way for what became known as the March on Washington.

Without Rustin’s work, in the years leading up to the historic “I Have a Dream” speech by King, said march may not have registered as anything more than a blip on the Civil Rights radar.

That said, it’s a shame that the intolerant era in which Rustin lived–one where his sexual preference was considered at worst a crime and at best a mental illness–was how many chose to define him.

It didn’t matter how competent he was behind the scenes–a place he chose to stand because he understood it as a necessity due to said intolerance–people always returned to his homosexuality: it was used to discount him on multiple occasions and was a constant albatross for him–even when it should not have been.

I cringe at the ignorance of so many–particularly those working alongside Rustin–especially given the indiscretions of the “religious men” he worked alongside. As if they were somehow better because, at the very least, their adultery wasn’t “an abomination”.

But I won’t digress… any further.

The book itself speaks to Rustin’s early beginnings: his upbringing in Pennsylvania, the early acceptance of his sexuality, by his grandmother–which gave him the confidence to always live his truth, regardless of others opinions–and how his personal knowledge of the world’s intolerance of men with his leanings only strengthened his resolve to fight for the equal rights for all.

So much of Rustin’s quiet, yet forceful, nature was worthy of respect; I wish he’d been able to receive the respect and honor he deserved while he was alive to appreciate it.

Thank you to Edelweiss+ and City Lights Publishers for this Advanced eGalley. Opinion is my own and was not influenced by the early receipt of this work.

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REVIEW: Shades: Detroit Love Stories by Esperanza Cintron

Shades: Detroit Love StoriesShades: Detroit Love Stories by Esperanza M Cintron

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**********3.5**********

A collection of stories–most of which follow three women and their children–through several decades in Detroit.

It was difficult, at first, to understand who the main voice was within each tale. However, once you figure out the stories were connected to each other–via the women and their daughter’s relationships–it made sense.

That was when it got interesting; you understood the actions of not only the women–but of their daughters–and you become invested in the decisions they choose to make; in many cases you can see the outcome before it happens. Not because Cintron is predictable but, rather, because the world we live is.

The most heartbreaking moments to read were those where missed opportunity, the presence of prejudice, or just the “luck” of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, derailed the possibility of “something better” changing the circumstances of a woman’s life.

Cassandra’s story sat with me for a long time; so much of her beginning was steeped in a violence that not even time and distance was able to shake. To watch her be subjected to such a brutal truth of toxic masculinity was both sobering and painfully honest in its telling.

Cassandra’s mother, Belle–the only woman whose arc was traceable from its origin to its end–touched the hem of many of the women mentioned within these stories. Her influence, at times bad, typically went unnoticed but it was clear her impact was tangible in the lives of many of the women within these stories.

Women who’d eventually raise daughters of their own.

Daughter’s who’d find their validation in a myriad of ways–usually via male company–and who’d often repeat the mistakes of their mothers: by placing too much trust in the promises made by some man whose only goal was to make them another sexual/emotional conquest.

The connections between the women offered the most interesting thread but Cintron strayed from that, at a few points, and–even though the intention was to offer a myriad of stories–it broke the continuity and severed the connection it seemed Cintron was attempting to establish.

Each of the stories held their own but it was my personal preference to have seen her hold steady to the course she began–especially given the way the book ended. Also, the other stories didn’t add anything; they almost felt like filler for the sake of pages.

Again, this was more a personal annoyance but it did lead to my not rating it higher.

Overall, a strong bit of storytelling centered around women, toxic masculinity, and how difficult it can be to survive in a world where your worth is tied exclusively to the male gaze.

Pub Date: August 6, 2019, 160 Pages, Kindle

*Thank you to Edelweiss+ and Wayne State University Press for the Advanced e-Galley. Opinion was not influenced by the early receipt of this work.

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Review: The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai

Rhiannon is the founder of Crush: a company built upon a dating app that’s geared towards putting women in control of their options.

Rival app, Matchmaker, appears on the verge of collapse and Rhiannon is hoping to buy the aging, but well-known and respected, company to form a dating app juggernaut. However, she’s been unsuccessful in getting a meeting with it’s reclusive founder–Annabelle.

Opportunity presents itself when Rhiannon crashes a Matchmaker function, where Annabelle is slated to appear, but instead finds Rhiannon coming face-to face with former football star, and steamy one-night stand, Samson Lima …the man who ghosted her less than a year before.

Samson is introduced  as the new face of Matchmaker and neither can believe they’re seeing the other.

That said, while she remains angry over the way he exited her life, especially after he expressed a desire to meet again, Samson sees a chance to explain himself and hopefully win a second chance at Rhiannon’s heart–even once she’s made it clear she has no interest in going down that road again.

The story is heavy on dialogue and light on the steamy stuff–but the steamy stuff is definitely there, trust me–and as one who read the Fifty Shades Series *gasp* (don’t judge me), I can tell you I was fine with Rai’s decision to go easy in that department.

Once you’ve read one dress down scene, you’ve read them all, it’s not necessary to see it play again …and again …and again

Rai took great care to build a book with plenty of strong female characters: From Rhiannon’s assistant Lakshimi to close friend Katrina to the eccentric Annabelle (the owner of Matchmaker), every woman was the ruler of her requisite world.

I appreciated seeing such strength, mixed with the flaws and doubts that so many women shoulder daily; but it was also important to see Rai writing those flaws without letting them effect the ability of her characters to business.

The message that a woman cannot handle the corporate world without allowing emotion needs to become passé–both in books and movies–because it’s no longer a message worthy of entertaining in a world where women are so clearly capable of being leaders. 

Samson, while at times is “too good to be true”, is also an example of the type of man women hope to find in the modern world: one aware of the issues facing women and, as a result, is respectful of the boundaries they seek and focused on being an advocate not an oppressor. 

It was a refreshing dynamic.

You’ll also find discussions about both the #MeToo Movement as well as a further discussion surrounding the issue of Chronic traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) which has caused a major overhaul in the way the NFL treats concussions.

Both are issues Rhiannon and Samson, respectively, deal with outside of their own complicated “relationship”.

There is a lot of good stuff between these pages and, while it did drag a bit at the start, it got decidedly better as the pages continued.

*Thank you to Edelweiss+ for this Advanced E-galley. Opinion is my own and was not influenced.*

 

 

 

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NEW REVIEW: A Particular Kind of Black Man by Tope Folarin

A Particular Kind of Black ManA Particular Kind of Black Man by Tope Folarin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**********3.5 Stars**********

I’ll admit this began as a page-turner but, somewhere around the halfway mark–when it became clear there was some confusion developing within the core of the main character (which I won’t go into detail, due to its importance)–I temporarily lost interest
as it became difficult to know what was important.

Tunde painfully longs to understand who he is, and where he fits, in a world he’s inherited only by virtue of birth.

His parents, Nigerian-born, arrived in Utah with hopes of attaining the American dream of success and great fortune. Tunde’s father eventually comes to the realization that whatever “dream” he’s assumed was his wasn’t actually meant for him. This realization leads to disillusionment for his wife– which manifests itself as a darkness that breaks her psychologically–and she decides to escape the disappointment, along with her children, and return home.

Tunde’s father eventually finds his wife and children holed up at a women’s shelter. However, once it becomes clear his wife is no longer fit to raise their children, due to the mental issues exacerbated by her overall sadness, he brings the boys home.

His wife, too emotionally broken and physically tired to continue to live in a place where their Blackness is viewed as a negative, goes back to Nigeria, leaving Tunde and his younger brother alone with their father.

What follows from there is Tunde’s attempt to understand how to live in a world where different women are left to fill the role his mother was unable to play. In time, and with knowledge of how unforgiving America can be to Blackness (no matter its origin), his father attempts to vicariously live the American dream through his sons: pushing them towards education and assimilation.

Hoping the former will open the door, to the success he never had, while the latter will ensure they’re allowed to remain.

Tope Folarin weaves a captivating story of one man’s search for acceptance in a world where his Blackness is considered a) a novelty, b) a crime, or c) an inconvenience. Tunde is a complex character where each layer uncovered only leads to more discussion.

Tunde constantly feels he doesn’t belong, no matter how hard he tries– a feeling that phone conversations, with the Nigerian grandmother he’s never met, only serves to complicate– and since his father has seemingly abandoned the idea of fostering familial connections to Nigeria, in favor of encouraging his sons to focus on American success, Tunde’s turmoil over this genealogical unmooring are palpable; it’s clear that much of the disconnect is about the lost relationship with his mother.

It was painful to see him search for maternal connection in every woman he met.

Any woman who thought him worthy of more than a passing glance.

While the relationship with his father was consistent, it was built upon Tunde’s ability to be “a particular kind of Black man”, which only added to the deficiency he felt within himself.

How can you be any kind of man when you’re uncertain of the origins of that man? How can you understand who you are if a whole part of yourself is left unseen and unheard (i.e. his mother’s sudden painful exit)?

By the end, Tunde begins to understand how important the answering of some of the lingering questions will be to his healing–via the coaxing of a new love–but the abruptness of that part of the journey, via an ending which felt, at best rushed left me unsatisfied; to have traveled so far with him, only to see the journey end in such a frustrating manner, was what decreased the rating for me, personally.

It’s understood that a neat and tidy finish was not a probability because there was so much to sort out but there was too much left unresolved: conversations not had, relationships left unresolved, etc.

Where exactly could he go from where Folarin chose to end it?

The void left by the sudden ending didn’t highlight the uncertainty of life, if that was the author’s intention, rather it made it clear Folarin was more comfortable with the reader figuring it out than finding a way to do so himself–this reader felt Tunde deserved better than whatever I could imagine.

Overall, a strong offering, and one I am certain will find it’s way into the hearts of many but one which fell short for me due to the way the author chose to bring things to a close.

Release Date: August 6, 2019, Kindle, 272 pages,

*Thanks to NetGalley for the advanced eGalley of this work. Opinion is my own and was not influenced.*

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NEW REVIEW: Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson

Never Have I EverNever Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Despite my tendency to stay away from thrillers–they don’t tend to be my go-to genre–I’m a sucker for a great premise. I chose this book because it looked good on paper. Plain and simple.

However, it was clear early that the “heroine”, Amy Whey, was going to be a pathetic character.

It’s not that she wasn’t resourceful, strong, or even interesting. In some way she was all those things. The problem was I had a hard time believing any of what she did was even necessary. Why even bother hiding her hands in the first place.

More on that later.

The mysterious Ann Roux shows up at Amy’s neighborhood book club, stirring up trouble, and making Amy wholly uncomfortable about the safety of the secrets she’s carefully kept for over a decade. Amy isn’t sure how Roux has managed to find her out but she immediately understands she’ll be forced to beat this woman, at her own game, if she wants to protect the life she’s made for herself.

Honestly, I spent most of the book thinking let Roux tell because …who cares?

I was so annoyed at the reverence of this “secret” Amy was keeping. The creepiest thing about it was her inexplicable need to keep it to herself …over two decades later. Honey, get over yourself.

Furthermore, the people she was trying to “protect” were such spineless, feckless, individuals that I had a hard time believing Amy wouldn’t have been capable of damage control: Seriously, Char was akin to a Disney Princess and Amy’s husband Davis didn’t let his Adam’s apple bob without asking Amy which direction.

Amy’s palpable fear over losing these people was one of the more annoying parts of the story because …whatever.

While the story is certainly capable of holding your interest–the interactions between Roux and Amy alone are worth the price of admission–I just never bought into the reasons behind Amy’s fear.

Then you add Roux’s son into the fray and …ugh.

I wasn’t ready.

By the time I got to the end, I was so sick of everyone, I wanted them all to return to the depths of the big boring sea from whence they came.

Thank you to Edelweiss+ for the Advanced eGalley of this work. Opinion was my own and was not influenced.

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NEW REVIEW: Marriage Clock by Zara Raheem

The Marriage ClockThe Marriage Clock by Zara Raheem

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

It feels important to begin by saying the writing wasn’t the problem.

It’s obvious Zara Raheem has a lovely grasp on creatively writing a story with fully fleshed out characters, dropped into accessible situations, with a high level of confidence.

That said, the issue for me was 1) the main character, and undeserving heroine, was unlikable and felt better suited to a YA novel than a contemporary romance, and 2) she didn’t develop as quickly as she could have given the plethora of opportunities she was given.

Many will point out how unfair it is to judge Leila without a proper understanding of the world in which she was born. A world that operates differently when it comes to marriage and relationships. The fact that Leila, at 26, is incapable of grasping all the nuances of male-female interaction isn’t uncommon.

I understood that and gave Leila the benefit of the doubt–even though it’s clear her parents were less strict in her upbringing and Leila admits to having dated serially in college–because I’ve read enough own voices stories to know that a difference exists.

I took all of the cultural differences into account in my perception of Leila and her emotional maturity/readiness as far as being ready for a serious relationship was concerned.

However, even having done that, I still felt Leila’s “list” of wants and needs came across unrealistic and fairy-tale like for any woman–above the age of 12–in any world.

Leila is a 26-year old Muslim-American whose parents have decided she’s reached a marriageable age. As such, her mother starts searching for a suitable husband, much to Leila’s chagrin. To strengthen the possibility of finding a man she actually wants to marry, Leila asks for three-months within which to do her own search. Her mother relents but Leila quickly finds that a man that embodies all the traits of the Bollywood characters she considers the ideal will be hard to find.

Well …duh.

I spent so much time scratching my head at the inability of Leila to grasp the concept that in the “real world”, the “perfect” man DOES NOT EXIST. Her stubborn resolve to dismiss any potential suitor–that failed to meet every ONE of the characteristics on her seven page, 46 item list–was eye-roll inducing.

It was akin to a woman (American born or otherwise) deciding that only the Princes, from fairy tales, would be acceptable as mates.

Honey…please.

By the time Leila finally reaches an epiphany, of sorts, it’s anti-climactic. To be truthful, by then, I was so sick of her whining, I simply didn’t care.

Again, the writing wasn’t the problem.

Raheem offers some amazing characters: Annie, Leila’s college roommate could’ve used more pages–because she was the only one who wasn’t completely unrealistic and usually offered solid advice for Leila to follow–and Tania gifted a perspective that Leila was often too slow to catch on to but should have considered far more often given the fact she understood Leila’s situation the best.

Overall, this was a book some will adore because they will look at the voice of the writer and presume the story is a realistic representation of a Muslim-American woman. I won’t dispute that because I enjoy stories written by author’s who are qualified to properly voice the nuances of what happens within their own cultures.

Irrespective of voice, however, Leila was simply not likable. She was too shallow, unrealistic, and immature; THAT, and nothing else, is what made this story almost unbearable to read.

*Thank you to Edelweiss+ for this advanced eGalley. Opinion is my own and was not influenced by the early receipt of the author’s work*

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