August “It’s Lit” Review

November 4, 2019

This month I found two new (to me) authors that I fell in love with! Kudos to Jasmine Guillory and Elizabeth Acevedo. I’m a fan.

The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory is the second in her series of books. I read them out of order. My bad. Nikole Paterson is a freelance writer who has been dating an actor for five months. He takes her to a Dodgers game and proposes to her…even though they are nowhere near that point in their relationship. She declines his marriage proposal…in front of thousands of people at Dodger stadium!  Carlos and his sister happen to be at the game and take it upon themselves to save Nikole from further embarrassment by getting her past the camera crew and out of the stadium.  This chance encounter between Carlos and Nikole leads to a friendship with benefits that they both claim they want. Nothing more…just friendship and good times. But, all of the sudden, the rules of the game change and they both have to come to terms with where the relationship is headed and if they want to go there.  The best way to describe this book is delightful.  It was light, a little funny, a little sexy. A good romance read. 

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory is the first book in the series. “Alexa Monroe walked into the Fairmont hotel in San Francisco that Thursday night wearing her favorite red heels…” – and nothing was ever the same again! Alexa Monroe is a young, Black, lawyer who works for the Mayor of Berkeley.   She ends up stuck in an elevator with a fine, White dude named Drew. While they are stuck, they make conversation and flirt a little. Drew ends up asking Alexa to be his fake girlfriend and date to his best friend’s wedding. Alexa reluctantly agrees, and in true Jasmine Guillory fashion, this crazy encounter becomes the impetus for a roller coaster of a relationship. Alexa and Drew are determined (in their heads) to keep this relationship “fake,” but it’s really hard to do.  Beyond these two crazy kids trying to figure out what they want and if they want it with each other, Guillory tackles beauty standards, interracial relationship drama and the ever-present white privilege. I think I liked this one a little more than “The Proposal.” A great read. 

The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory is number 3 in the series.  Alexa and Drew’s wedding is right around the corner and Maddie and Theo are besties of the bride – but they can’t stand each other.  They cannot stand each other, they are very vocal about their hate for each other and everyone knows this.  Nonetheless, they vow to be there for their girl, Alexa, and somewhere along the way, the closeness gets to them.  They end up being a couple before they know it and spend all of their free time hiding their relationship from Alexa.  How they got from hate to love is a long story…but it’s a good one.  

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo was such a delightful read.  I did not want it to end.  Emoni Santiago is a high school senior with a lot on her plate – figuratively and literally.  Emoni has a daughter, lives with her abuela and is juggling all of the things that come with the senior year of high school.  She has adult-size responsibilities, but she also has a gift. She is a chef in the making and cooking is her real passion.  A new program at her high school, allows her to take a culinary class, hone her skills, make some connects in the restaurant world and travel to Spain, where her dream becomes amplified.  Although she dreams of being a chef, she often backs away from it because her reality makes it hard to see how any of it could happen for her.  When Emoni finally lets her passion take control, everything else starts to fall into place. With this book, I fell in love with Elizabeth Acevedo.  Her writing is so vivid and rich. I immediately became a part of Emoni’s world and felt every emotion with her. This was a marvelous read. 

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo did not disappoint.  Who knew that slam poetry had healing powers? Xiomara Batista is a young girl living in Harlem with her twin brother, mother and father.  She is stuck between her mother’s hardcore religious ways and the young woman screaming to get out.  She is a gifted poetess, but has to hide her talent.  She discovers a slam poetry club at her school and that opens a whole new world for her, but it’s still a world that she has to hide from her mom.  Eventually, the cat is out of the bag, and Xiomara and her mom have to face all of the things they have been silent about – including Xiomara’s first love, Aman.  In the end, it was poetry that helped Xiomara navigate through the maze of young adulthood. And again, Elizabeth Acevedo for the win! I loved this one, too.  Go get it.  You will love it.  

Ballerina Body: Dancing and Eating Your Way to a Leaner, Stronger, and More Graceful You by Misty Copeland was a light read that I desperately needed from my favorite ballerina. In this book, she shares some of her story and how she overcame obstacles. Most importantly, this book is about taking care of your mind, body and spirit.  There are tips for motivation to push through, exercise routines to keep the body flexible and toned, meal plans and recipes.  There were several recipes I cannot wait to try.  I loved how she touched on the importance of taking care of your mind with journal writing and meditation.  This probably won’t rank among my favorite books of all time, but it was a book that made me play closer attention to my body and all it does for me…and inspired me to do a better job of taking care of it.    

Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison 

“You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.”   

I read this one in high school. But this time, the theme that stood out the most for me in this book was flight and flying.  Ruth Dead, Milkman’s mother went into labor after seeing Robert Smith, an insurance agent attempt to fly by jumping off of a roof.  The event caused so much commotion, that Macon aka “Milkman” ended up being born at a hospital that was only for whites.  Milkman is estranged from his father, but eventually sets out on a journey to reconnect with his father’s side of the family, thereby reconnecting with his past via a spiritual journey and reclaiming his history.  That’s a very, very short synopsis of this book.  Very. I always find it difficult to tie Toni Morrison’s book up in a neat little paragraph. It’s kinda impossible.  There’s just so much. I definitely recommend this one. And, I recommend that you read it when you have the time and mental space to take it all in. All of Queen Toni Morrison’s book require that. Rest in Power, Queen Toni.

Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is a new historical favorite.  Recently, PBS aired a documentary entitled, “Reconstruction: America After the Civil War,” which was a Henry Louis Gates production.  I would say that this book is a great companion to that documentary.  It’s a book, so there’s an opportunity to dig deeper into all of the stories and history presented in the documentary.  Gates does a masterful job of explaining what Reconstruction was, why it failed and how the end of it put America on a dangerous trajectory.  He weaves the stories and themes of the past with current day America.  I especially enjoyed the discussion on the “The New Negro” and what it means/meant to each generation.  Yall already know I stan for Skip Gates and he did not disappoint with this one. Go get it.  

Before the Mayflower: A History of Black America by Lerone Bennett was a book I decided to read because of the 400th Anniversary of the first enslaved Africans arrival in America.  “Before the Mayflower” is an in-depth account of our story, which begins in Africa. There’s an extensive discussion of the African empires, Kings and Queens and life before colonization. From Africa, it moves to the period of time before the Mayflower reached America’s shores and then to the founding of America, the institution of slavery (complete with all of the revolts we never knew happened) and the post-slavery era, also known as Reconstruction.  Mr. Bennett’s work doesn’t stop there. Jim Crow, important leaders in hour history, contributions to culture, race and sex…it’s all there.  I would consider this book as a historical resource more than anything else. It reads like a very good history book – filled with things most people never knew. A must read from one of my favorite historians. 

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