May “It’s Lit” Review

June 16, 2020

May was exciting! I revisited one of my favorite authors (Tayari Jones), got some good political commentary from my girl Symone Sanders, Elizabeth Acevedo dropped another bomb book on us and my friend and fellow South Carolinian, Bakari Sellers, made his author debut. Let’s get into it.

I am a Tayari Jones fan. I loved American Marriage and Silver Sparrow. I recently finished watching the HBO documentary, “Atlanta’s Missing and Murdered: The Lost Children and as an Atlanta transplant, I was intrigued. Leaving Atlanta is a fiction novel set during the time of the Atlanta Child Murders. It follows the lives of three fifth graders (Tasha, Octavia and Rodney) during this crazy time in Atlanta. It’s a coming of age story of black kids in Atlanta (which is already hard enough) plus the looming fear that they are their friends would be the next child on the news. Even after all of the specials and news reports about the Atlanta Child Killings on the local news, I have never thought about this story from the point of view of the children. As a kid, you already have the normal problems and fears, but to think that at any given time you could be snatched up…how horrifying. Although this is an interesting story, I didn’t enjoy it as much as American Marriage or Silver Sparrow, but it’s still a good read.

I read At Mama’s Knee: Mothers and Race in Black and White by April Ryan around Mother’s Day. I am always looking for books about “Mothering While Black”, so this seemed like the perfect selection. This book is a collection of essays from mamas in the struggle and lost their children, like Sybrina Fulton to Hillary Clinton and Valerie Jarrett. I don’t know what it was or where this book fell flat for me, but it did. Maybe it was the length of the book? It’s not a long one, but this subject is one that probably needed and definitely deserves more exploration. Nonetheless this is a celebration of mothers and motherhood and how we are shaping and trying to protect our children in this racial society.

“Daughters get either their courage or their fear from their mothers.”

Naima Coster

Halsey Street by Naima Coster explores the complicated relationships between mothers and daughters, the good cop/bad cop parenting situation, aging parents and what we owe them and coming back home to a gentrified neighborhood. Penelope Grand is a struggling artist in Pittsburgh. After her father’s constant falls and injuries, she decides to pack up what little she has and head back to Brooklyn. Her childhood home is on Halsey Street, in a neighborhood that gentrification has taken over. Instead of moving in with her father, she rents a room in the attic from not far from Halsey Street. Her mother, Mirella, had abandoned New York years ago to live her life in her home country of the Dominican Republic. Halsey Street goes back and forth between Mirella and Penelope as they tell the story of their strained relationship and their perspectives on how and when it all went downhill. It took me a while to really get into this book, but once I did, I was all in. The mother/daughter relationship is tough and these two made it hard to take sides and easy to see how generational issues plague us. This was a good read that caught me totally off guard at the end and left me wanting to know what happens next.

You probably know Symone D. Sanders from her many appearances on CNN. She is the political commentator that spices things up, so when she released her debut book, No, You Shut Up: Speaking Truth to Power and Reclaiming America, I had to read. Symone is probably one of the most woke folks in the political world and her book is too. She takes the time to educate about politics today and how the apparatus works and can/should be changed. Having worked in the Bernie and Biden campaigns, she speaks from a place of experience and understanding when it comes to how the electorate is feeling. She speaks for and to her generation about the time being now. It’s time to learn, understand, and be a participant in the process. Per the usual, she’s funny and candid. She’s open and honest about the missteps in her life and how she has learned from them. She’s asking us all to reclaim America. This is a timely book. November 2020 will be here before you know it.

“Playing chess taught me a queen is both: deadly & graceful, poised & ruthless. Quiet & cunning. A queen offers her hand to be kissed, & can form it into a fist while smiling the whole damn time.” 

Elizabeth Acevedo

I waited for what seemed like forever for this release! I am not a young adult, but I am a devout Elizabeth Acevedo fan. Clap When You Land is the story of two girls and their father’s secret. Camino Rios lives in the Dominican Republic. Yahaira Rios lives in New York. They are separated by an ocean but bonded by the same father – except they don’t know it. Shortly after September 11, there was another plane crash that received little to no media attention. That plane was filled with Dominicans. That plane crash is the one that takes Papi. The loss of Papi changes the girls forever. Papi’s secret life takes them both by surprise. They have lost a father and now they are left to mourn him and discover each other. This is a story of love, regret, forgiveness, anger, grief and hope. Elizabeth Acevedo continues to blow my mind. Her writing is lyrical and real and soul stirring. I never want her books to end. I didn’t want this one to end either. I wouldn’t mind a Part 2 of this one. I would love to know what happens to the sisters. Did you know that it is customary for Dominicans to clap when a plane lands? I didn’t either, but that’s where the title of the book came from. Go get this one asaptually!

My final book for May was My Vanishing Country by Bakari Sellers. This book deserves it’s on separate review…so stay tuned.

Have you read any good books lately? I am always looking for my next good read.

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