Books

Inspiration: Deborah Willis

I own a copy of photographer Deborah WillisReflections in Black that chronicles black photographers and photography of black life from 1840 to the present. 

Even before I knew of her own photography achievements, I knew that her work in this project was special and something that I had to own.  I tracked down a hard copy at a fabulous black owned bookstore in Harlem called Sisters Uptown Bookstore  and began my journey into a comprehensive history of black photography.  I stumbled upon a Vice article about her and it quietly relit the flame under my own journey as a black woman carving out a space for herself in this white male dominated industry.  As a 30+ year old digital photography student, it comes as no shock that most of the studied “greats” of this field look nothing like me and do not capture work that reflects my existence.  Representation matters and Deborah Willis’ continued effort to share stories of our existence inspires storytellers like myself to soldier on and continue sharing our perspective.  Check out the Vice article featuring Deborah Willis here and Reflections in Black can be purchased here.  

 

What I’m Reading: Citizen: An American Lyric

I’m not exactly sure how to describe Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric, but I can say that I can’t put the book down.  I’m a few pages away from finishing it (devoured it in 3 days) and it resonated deeply with my being as a black woman.  Her combination of poetry, essays and what I would call think pieces weave together to form an intricate and important collection of timely work in a society undoubtedly fueled by race. 

Via bn.com:

Claudia Rankine’s bold new book recounts mounting racial aggressions in ongoing encounters in twenty-first-century daily life and in the media. Some of these encounters are slights, seeming slips of the tongue, and some are intentional offensives in the classroom, at the supermarket, at home, on the tennis court with Serena Williams and the soccer field with Zinedine Zidane, online, on TV-everywhere, all the time. The accumulative stresses come to bear on a person’s ability to speak, perform, and stay alive. Our addressability is tied to the state of our belonging, Rankine argues, as are our assumptions and expectations of citizenship. In essay, image, and poetry, Citizen is a powerful testament to the individual and collective effects of racism in our contemporary, often named “post-race” society.

 

What I’m Reading

I love being able to share my current book list with you and since I’ve discovered The New York Public Library’s mobile app I’ve been able to download and read tons of books right on my phone for FREE.  A bookworm’s dream!  I’m currently reading a few books including one that I didn’t think I’d enjoy, Luvvie Ajai’s I’m Judging You.  Reason being for the initial trepidation has everything to do with this current “It’s cool to be mean/You can’t sit with us/the only way to get a few clicks is to degrade people” atmosphere.  I thought this book would be filled with these snippy antidotes disguised as a smart or helpful read.  I was wrong…sort of.  It is steeped in shade.  The title alone gives that away, however it’s a realistic view of many of life’s everyday situations.  It’s not mean for the sake of being mean, it’s brutally honest and so far, I’m enjoying it.

Another book that I decided to give a try was Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. This novel follows the tale of two half-sisters born in different villages in 18th Century Ghana.  The tale follows their lineage from their very different beginnings, one sister being married off to an Englishman the other imprisoned in the dungeon below and sold into slavery.  It’s most definitely a page turner.

A few other books that I’ve downloaded:  No Name in the Street by James Baldwin, Buddhism for Dummies and I’ve also been quite curious about The Nation of Islam so I’ve decided to try and read The Qur’an…I know, very light reading material over here J.  Happy reading! 

Download library books with NYPL’s SimplyE app

This isn’t entirely new news, but it’s new to me and since I made the trip down the block to my local library to renew my library card (I didn’t know they expired) specifically to try this app out, I thought I’d share the info with a few other New Yorkers who might not be aware of it.  Simply put, the New York Public library decided to move with the change and now has an app that will allow you to “borrow” ebooks.  The best part about it?  No late fees!  You download the app, enter your library card’s barcode number and pin and off you go!  Like the library however, not all books are immediately available for download, some have waiting lists.  For these books, you can reserve them through the app and then see a time period of when the book will be available.  As a test, I reserved George Orwell’s 1984 which isn’t currently available for immediate download.  There is a 4 week waiting period before an e version will be available (no coincidence there, this country is definitely starting to look eerily similar to the pages of the novel).  If you enjoy reading and not paying late fees, check out the SimplyE NYPL app.

“One Book, One New York”

If nothing else, the country most certainly feels divided.  As a NYC’er I am constantly blown away by our ability to hunker down when necessary and come together for a greater cause.  Protests, petitions, community check in’s and various other ways have made themselves present throughout my city to resist the corruption, hatred and ignorance currently plaguing the highest level of our government.  One thing that I’ve heard about that gave me a glimmer of excitement is the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment’s “One Book, One New York” reading imitative.  It’s a call for NYC’ers to all read the same book with an NYC connection or theme at the same time which will hopefully lead to discussions about something other than that guy that won the election (well at least that is my hope).  People are being asked to vote on which book should be read by February 28th here (http://www1.nyc.gov/site/mome/initiatives/1book1ny.page).  The Mayor’s office also snagged the help of a few celebrities (the dreamy Gincarlo Esposito, Danielle Brooks from Netflix’s Orange is the New Black and William H. Macy of the hilarious Showtime hit Shameless to name a few) to campaign for the cause.  The books on the list include:

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

 The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz

 Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

 A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

 The Sellout by Paul Beatty

Personally, I’ve already started reading Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book and I believe it is a very important book for everyone to read but I’m thinking I will try and read them all.  A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a classic that I actually own but I’m almost ashamed to say I’ve never read and the other books are new to me so why give them a shot?  For more information head over to the official website and cast your vote!

Wishlist: Reflections in Black A History of Black Photographers 1840 – Present by Deborah Willis

‘Tis the season to be jolly and shit and I’d be the jolliest photographer in all the land if someone were to put this book in my Xmas stocking this year!  Ok cut the cheesy holiday talk,  I really want this book.  I’ve had my eyes on it for awhile now but have never gotten around to hunting down a new copy.  It’s out there for sure and I’m sure it is waiting to start its new life on my bookshelf 😉

blk-photo

 

Summer reading: Queen Sugar by Natalie Baszile

In anticipation of the new OWN series Queen Sugar, I decided to pick up a copy of the book that its based on by Natalie Baszile.  My goal is to finish “Queen Sugar” before the premiere of the Ava DuVernay directed series in September.  I flew through 80+ pages the first day that I purchased it so I don’t think this deadline will be a problem!  So far it’s quite entertaining.  I think reading it during this sweltering August heat allows me to further transform myself into the story of a city woman relocating to the bayous of Louisiana to revive a sugar cane farm passed down from her deceased father.  Check out the trailer for the series below and support the book that spawned the series!

What I’m Reading: New and old book purchases!

I’ve decided to start a new tradition.  Every year, I’m going to purchase at least 8 books. Four that I’ve already read but no longer own and four that I’ve never read.  So here we go!  For 2016 my new purchases are:

The Power of I Am by Joel Osteen

Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung aka Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book

Soul on Ice by Eldridge Cleaver

Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

I’ve already started Chairman Mao’s little red book and so far, it’s interesting.  I’m not afraid of the idea of communism in any way and this book was actually one of the required reading pieces on the original Black Panther’s reading list when the organization was first started.

As for my previously read books, I purchased up:

The Autobiography of Malcolm X

Angela Davis: An Autobiography

Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglas

Assata: An Autobiography

I’ve read these books years ago but this was back when I frequented the library on an almost weekly basis so I never got around to purchasing them for my library.  I have a pretty good collection of books already that have almost completely filled up an entire bookcase.  I love reading and learning and I’m a fan of E readers (I own a couple) but there’s just something about owning hard copies of books that I don’t think will ever go away.  Do you have any must own books in your library?  If so, do share, I love hearing book suggestions!

 

 

 

 

 

Sporting Guide: Los Angeles 1897

I saw a quick interview with the author of Sporting Guide: Los Angeles 1897 Liz Goldwyn and after watching the trailer for the book was immediately intrigued.  Check it out below.

Apparently “sporting guides” were handed out at brothels way back when as a sort of who’s who of the best *ahem* providers of service.  Amazing.   According to the author’s Instagram page, Sporting Guide is described as a book “set in LA 1897 in the world of vice and prostitution…before Hollywood.”  I’m all in.  You can purchase the book from the author’s site.  Oh, she also happens to be the brother of Tony Goldwyn aka President “Fitz” from Scandal for all my fellow gladiators.