January “It’s Lit” Review

January 1, 2019

I got my entire life this month! I don’t even know where to begin. I guess I will start with the two books that I cannot stop thinking about – Rabbit and Heavy.

Rabbit: The Autobiography of Ms. Pat by Patricia Williams reminded me a lot of A Piece of Cake by Cupcake Brown. I was in a constant state of shock. This was an Audible book that I had in my library for a while before reading. But, honey…Ms. Pat had me from the very beginning. I should have read this sooner. First, she is telling her story. I love it when the author narrates(most times, anyway). Second, her story is filled with sadness, tragedy, bad choices, and crazy circumstances–however, the way she was telling the story had me cracking up. And then I would feel bad for laughing, but then she is a comedian so maybe she wants me to laugh…I don’t know. But this internal banter is what was happening to me throughout the book. I was crying and laughing. It was crazy. Anyway, Rabbit and her family basically define what it is to be poor. She grew up in Atlanta in the midst of the crack epidemic. They stay in the struggle. She’s the kid that went to school hungry (and subsequently stole other people’s lunches because of it), she had a teacher bring clean clothes and soap to school for her to use, she became a teen mother, a drug dealer, an inmate, an auntie who takes in her nieces, a person ready to turn her life around(eventually), a wife–and the list goes on. Rabbit’s story is honest, hilarious, traumatic, tragic, but also hopeful. Ultimately, she never stopped trying to be better. I enjoyed this one and highly recommend that you make it your next Audible pick.

Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon was another read that I cannot get out of my head (and one that I feel like I need to re-read soon). This book is about growing up Black in America and the weight of it all. Weight plays a huge part in this book. There’s the mental weight and then there’s the physical weight. As he chronicles his upbringing, he always goes back to how much he weighed at the time. The connection between mental and physical weight was intriguing. Another fascinating thing about this book is that it is written as a letter to and for his mother. His mother is brilliant, but she couldn’t quite figure out how to do better for her son. This book is his truth. And it’s a truth that she hardly even knows. He explores the weight of secrets and lies that families hide and tell. Heavy is a deep dive into addiction, education, trauma, abuse, love, family, race and so much more. Heavy is honest, and sometimes the honesty is gut-wrenching. But, the honesty is also necessary. I truly appreciate Kiese Laymon for this testimony and his truth. It was “heavy” but worth the read.

Well – Read Black Girl by Glory Edim was such a delightful read! This book is a collection of essays by black women writers, many of whom I greatly admire. The essays are quite diverse, but they all hone in on the importance of literature and how we can and do find ourselves in between the pages of a good book. Each contributor also shares their stories of when they fell in love with a certain book and story and why. A constant theme was the feeling that the authors had when they had found “that” book. You know…the one that changes you or that allows you to see yourself (perhaps for the first time). I have had so many of those moments and I get a chill every time. It never gets old. It also reminded me of why reading is my favorite pastime. I recommend this one for the avid readers and for anyone who has a love of literature. I promise it will resonate.

The Truths We Hold: An American Journey by Kamala Harris is a book I had been waiting to read (I had pre-ordered it and everything) because I was anxious to learn about her backstory. It wasn’t the page turner I was hoping for, but it was interesting. Kamala Harris is the daughter of immigrants (from Jamaica and India), raised in California, journeys to Howard U for undergrad, follows a passion that was always within (law and justice) and became the top attorney in San Francisco. The stories I enjoyed the most were those about her upbringing and the fierceness of her Indian mother who did her best to raise two fearless black daughters. Throughout the book, Kamala explains her decisions as a prosecutor and as the DA, which I totally appreciated – especially since she is running for President. Because I didn’t know much about Kamala Harris before reading this book, I appreciated the insight and peek into her life and why she believes what she believes.

Aretha From These Roots by Aretha Franklin and David Ritz was wasn’t as “juicy” as I hoped it would be, but I did enjoy learning about the “Queen of Soul.” Auntie Re Re has quite a story, she knows EVERYBODY and she is low key (ok…high key) shady. I mean…she didn’t forget anybody who had done her wrong or failed to say “thank you” for something she had done for them. Hey, I’m here for it. I got some good cackles. She takes us through her early life going back and forth between her father and mother’s homes, growing up in the church and starting her music career at a very young age. She was a teenage mother, but her family supported her career and that allowed her to keep moving. She was friends with the greats, like Sam Cooke and Martin Luther King and she always put her money and support behind the freedom movement. Reading this book after the passing of the Queen made me appreciate her even more. So many songs, so much cultural influence, so much work for our people. Her legacy is amazing. She is beautiful talented, funny, an excellent cook (she said so herself) and a powerful singer. This book allows the reader to see the hidden parts–the hurt, the passion, the heartbreaks, the passion. May she rest in power.

The Sisters Are Alright: Changing the Broken Narrative of Black Women in America by Tamara Winfrey Harris gave me all kinds of black girl magic vibes. “What’s wrong with black women? Not a damned thing.”And that pretty much sums up this book. LOL. Harris takes us back in time to pinpoint the origins of anti-black-woman propaganda. How did we get here? From slavery to mammy to baby mamas, she covers it all. I would highly recommend this book for the young sisters. It gives a historical perspective in a modern way. It makes you think about the things you have “accepted” from society. It is a primer on black feminism. It is affirming, funny and true. A good read, indeed.

High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America by Jessica B. Harris wasn’t as wonderful as I had hoped. The author is a cookbook author who has dedicated much of her life to researching the roots of African-American food. She traces food from Africa, through the Middle Passage, slavery and beyond. And although the book was enlightening and I learned a few new things, I finished it and felt like I didn’t get enough. Maybe the balance of history and food was off? I am not sure exactly what it was, but I wanted…more. It wasn’t a terrible read, but it doesn’t rank among my favorites.

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