Salvation: Black People and Love by bell hooks

Salvation: Black People and Love

Salvation: Black People and Love by bell hooks

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

bell hooks is a very enlightening writer, one in which you always learn something from her, or feel compelled to write notes regarding her thoughts on topics, such as black people, feminism, black life, and culture. This book is no different. There are many ideas, topics, and analysis that bell hooks discusses in this book about Black People and Love.

Originally, this book was published in 2001, as part of a trilogy of love, and it shows the infamous style in which the writer expresses her social commentary, critique, and history-infused ideals that she shares with us regarding this broad topic of love. This book is personal, open, honest, and definitely makes a clear distinction between care, discipline, and love. hooks is very critical in her critique of understanding the love shared between black parents, the love expressed from black males and females, and love shared as a black couple. She explains that “this book is a response to this crisis of lovelessness. It dares us to courageously create the love our children need to be whole, to live fully, and well.” (xvii)

“Prophetically, Salvation calls us to return to love. Addressing the meaning of love as the platform on which to renew progressive anti-racist struggle, and offering a blueprint for black survival and self-determination, this work courageously takes us to the heart of the matter. To give ourselves love, to love blackness, is to restore the true meaning of freedom, hope, and the possibility in all our lives.” (xxiv)

However, as great of an introduction she gives us into where she comes from in writing this book, there is an over-arching blanketing of generalizations that doesn’t work for me in this book. She talks in great detail of when she grew up in a two-parent patriarchal home, but also discusses how she identifies with Christian ideals. As a Christian myself, it is understood that God ordained marriage to be so that males are the head of the household. Women are to be the helpmate, and to be submissive to their husbands and respect him, and he is instructed to love his wife, as Christ loved the church and sacrificed his life for it. However, hooks, massively critiques the patriarchal marriage and has much disdain for how her father raised her and her siblings, pretty much blaming her father for her brother’s choices/outcome in life. She says, “homes should become sites of resistance, where we create the oppositional spaces where we can be self-loving. Homeplace is the site where love that is the foundation of all healthy self-love/self-esteem exists.” (p. 92) She describes that her home was not like this at all while being raised by her father and mother. She is heavily critical of a patriarchal relationship in the home because her father was very patriarchal and detrimental to her brother’s demise in life.

I had numerous conversations with my husband in regards to what hooks discussed in regards to black masculinity and black love with women and parents. We both agreed that she makes sweeping generalizations regarding the black male, love and family life. There are many speculative conclusions based on conversations, but without specific studies or evidence pointing to this as true, I just couldn’t agree wholeheartedly with her on many things, without specific evidence. For example, she states that verbally abusive and domineering mothers who shame and humiliate their sons, breed men who has a penchant for violence against women later in life. Although that may be true for some, it is not true for all. In her writing, she makes it seem as if this is true for all black men who were raised in this type of environment.

Where I agree with hooks is that there is much need for a love ethic in all spheres of living. Domination and love cannot coexist together. Representation of loving black people are needed in mass media, and the depictions of black people in media should never be used as the only portrayal of African American culture. Self-love and self-care is paramount to having healthy relationships, for which we have seen increased in the recent years.

Overall, I think this is still a great resource for black males and females, black couples, and black parents to assess or reassess how you portray love to others and yourself, especially in the home. I would rate this book a 3.5 (rounded up to 4) due to the heavy critique and blanketed generalizations she has without definitive evidence and using her upbringing as the gold standard to which all is judged.

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Missing the Gift by Traci Wooden-Carlisle

Missing the Gift

Missing the Gift by Traci Wooden-Carlisle

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a bookclub read for me. I most likely would not have chosen this book voluntarily, as I am not into romance novels; however, this novel wasn’t too “romantic” for me and I enjoyed the story.

This is a story of and interracial Christian romance, which I wasn’t too sure of at first thought, but the story played out well to incorporate God and romance in an appropriate manner, based on Christian morals. Maddison Baer was left for dead by her ex-husband, who was a volatile, narcissistic man, who believed in beating women into submission for their own good. He didn’t just try to beat his wife, he wanted to kill her. Maddison’s life is then a series of ups and downs as she navigates life while her ex-husband is behind bars, and praying to God that she doesn’t get found again by him when he and if he makes parole. While celebrating her best friend’s wedding, she meets Ryan, who she hesitantly befriends. Ryan is the man of the hour, coming to her rescue as drama escalates in her life. Maddison isn’t too willing to be won over by Ryan, although her life circumstances seems to be pointing the two of them together. Through it all, Maddison has a choice to make while trying to stay safe and alive. What will she choose?

Although the overall story was good, unfortunately, the writing was not. The editing was very poor in this book, and it distracted me from engaging in this story completely. There are spelling errors galore, grammatical missteps, poor sentence structure, spacing issues, past/present tense errors… I could go on for days. I powered through this book because it was a bookclub read, but had it not been, I most likely would not have finished the book. The plot twists in the book (2) were weak and poorly developed, and the climax of the suspense was very anti-climatic. I also didn’t understand how the title of the book tied into the overall story. The book just left me with tons of questions, which aggravated me as a reader. It’s unfortunate, but I don’t think the author did a good job in tying up all the loose ends in the story to make it come together in a cohesive manner.

I did appreciate the Christian romance theme in the book. The religion that was presented in the book was done in a very tasteful way and didn’t hit you over the head with God in a fire-brimstone type of preaching message. The domestic abuse issues in this book was covered well, and it shared the woman’s perspective of coming out of that terrorist type of behavior and how the abuse mentally takes a toll on the woman who is experiencing abuse. The story of Ryan and Maddison was presented in a third person narrative and made me feel as if I was observing Ryan and Maddison’s life. I do wish that the narrative was a little more engaging instead of observing, but the story was decent overall. I would have to rate this a 2.75 (rounded up to a 3) because of the poor writing and editing.

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The Deep by Rivers Solomon

The Deep

The Deep by Rivers Solomon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Deep is a very conceptual piece of work. Very unique and original novella that tells a story of how a particular people, the wajinuru, have existed through time and how they came to be in ‘The Deep.’ There is no plot, no buildup of a climax to some plot twist, nor is there a hard end to the story. All the things people come to depend on in fictional work is not necessarily true in this abstract piece of art. You most likely will need to read the Afterword first to get a sense of what you’re about to get yourself into, but reading this book is definitely worth all of the 155 pages and more. Once you finish, you quickly wish for more of the story, but bewildered as to what you’ve just read. This is nothing like you’ve ever read before, and you shouldn’t box this into a traditional fiction novel either, as you will soon be disappointed. You want to have an open mind when it comes to this book, and just allow it to take you to a different dimension in your brain.

Yetu, the Historian, is a young woman who has been chosen to hold all the memories of her people. Seeing that all the memories are too traumatic to be remembered by everyone, this society chooses one person to bestow all the memories on, and once a year have a Remembrance ceremony where the Historian shares the memories of their ancestors with the wajinuru for three days, and then takes the memories back until the next ceremony. However, Yetu, flees this responsibility to find a world in which she can be herself, all while trying to escaping the 600 year tradition for personal freedom.

The wajiniru is a webbed strange fish, that may resemble merpeople, and who have originated from pregnant African slaves who were thrown overboard during the Middle Passage. I was immediately intrigued, as historical fiction is my most favorite genre. However, this was not a traditional historical fiction novel, and it did not check off any boxes for me in the traditional novel sense. I kind of struggled with the pacing of this book… it was slow for me. 155 pages I can typically read in a day or so, but this book took me 4 days to read. There is very vague world-building going on, and no detailed backstory for the main character Yetu, or other primary characters, and you kind of get lost somewhat in what’s going on in parts of this book, as it jumps timelines seemingly at random intervals in the book.

However, some really deep thoughts are brought out in this book. Especially dealing with race relations here in the US and abroad. Being of African American descent, I gravitated towards the author’s concept of holding on to traumatic memories and what it does to a people to pass on trauma generation after generation. We as African American’s do not fully understand what our past trauma has done to us as a people. Although we can make some assumptions, but we don’t know how deep the trauma actually runs in our veins, from our ancestors, and into our own families. Yet, we still have a need and desire to know where we came from. “One can only go for so long without asking who am I? Where do I come from? What does all this mean? What is being? What came before me, and who might come after? Without answers, there is only a hole, a hole where a history should be that takes the shape of an endless longing. We are cavities.” (p. 8) However, some people feel, like Yetu, that the need to know the trauma is not worth the pain. “If the past is full of bad things, if a people is defined by the terror done to them, it’s good for it to go, don’t you think?” (p. 94) There are other people who feel like they would take any amount of pain in the world if it meant that they could remember their ancestors and history. “How could you leave behind something like that? Doesn’t it hurt not to know who you are?” These are the concepts that go back and forth in this novella.

I did appreciate this original concept of a book like this, but unfortunately, I was left wondering what was going on in most of it as it jumped from past to present to future in parts of the book that leaves the reader floundering/lost as if in the middle of a vast ocean. If this was the author’s intent, I think they succeeded very well in that concept, but for me, I was frustrated as a reader as to what to do with parts of the book and already rubbed raw having to be open-minded to a conception work in the first place. I would rate this book a 4 because I felt like the overall concept and story was a great original piece, but it does leave the reader lost in places in the book and it is a very slow read.

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Black Man: The Poetic Experience by D. Coleman

Black Man: The Poetic Experience

Black Man: The Poetic Experience by D. Coleman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Poetry can be sensitive and personal. Poetry can mean so much to someone, and to others… nothing. I again stress that poetry is very subjective. My reading of this book is based on my own opinions and no one else’s.

I received a copy of this book from the author for a full and complete honest review of the work presented in this book. Therefore, I stress again how poetry is very subjective and personal, and the thoughts presented here, are of my own.

Black Man: The Poetic Experience… my first thought when I saw the title, I imagined poetry that talked about the experience of black men, how they navigated through life, and how they interacted with others. Seeing that the author is female, I figured that the poems would be either a collection of work that shared the black man’s experience through her eyes or how the Black Man communicated to her through his experience, thoughts, or relationships with women. However, I didn’t really get that with this work of poetry. It was hard for me to relate, as I felt many of these poems were personal and written to a specific black man, and not to black men in general. Most of all the poems in the beginning are titled “Black Man,” so I was confused as to who these poems were directed. To the black man in her life or to the Black Men in the world? There were lots of scattered thoughts, and in-cohesive sentences, many poems just didn’t rhyme correctly, and some poems were not even about the Black Man, but about the author.

In the first poem, there is a spelling error, which really made me pause and had me question the rest of the poetry I would encountered. I know that spelling and grammar can be just a cosmetic issue, but unfortunately I just couldn’t get past those errors. There are a significant amount of grammatical errors, which caused me to be disenchanted with the rest of the work. Unfortunately, I was not able to relate to many of the poems and see Black Men as the recipient. Some of the poems seem to be centered around the author and her feelings, and not the black man, although he was a subject in the poem. I think this would serve best as a personal work for a specific black man, but not the Black Man in general. I am not sure if all black men would appreciate the poems that seem to speak to one particular man in mind as all black men do not operate or behave the same. If the book focused more on poetry such as the poems titled “Admiration” and “I Have Questions” and maybe “Baby Boy,” then I think this would be a better read. I did however, appreciate the “Writer’s Thoughts” that were sprinkled through the book that gave the reader a better understanding of where the inspiration came from in writing the poem. I think that gave the book a nice touch, as many of the poems needed some explanation or a side note as to why the particular piece is in the book. All in all, I definitely acknowledge the need for a love letter to the Black Man, we all know it’s needed, but unfortunately, this particular book doesn’t really serve that purpose and intent completely.

I thank D. Coleman for the opportunity for me to read her work and give an honest review in exchange for the book I received. Please keep writing and developing as a writer. We need to tell our stories, and our words have importance no matter who the intended audience is for. Keep it up!

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Woman on the Edge by Samantha M. Bailey

Woman on the Edge

Woman on the Edge by Samantha M. Bailey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thrilling and emotional ride through this book. I was very engaged throughout this read mainly because the storyline alternated between two timelines; the past and present. Nicole Markham is the CEO of a wellness and apparel company, named Breathe. She is telling her story from the past, and taking us on an emotional rollercoaster ride that pulls on your heartstrings as she journeys into the world of motherhood in the shadow of postpartum depression. Morgan Kincaid is also telling her story from present day, and how she is or is not intertwined with Nicole’s life. After a brief moment in the train station, Nicole and Morgan meet, which changes the lives of Nicole’s children and Morgan forever.

Alternating chapters between Nicole and Morgan keeps you on edge as you try to figure out the mystery. I was deeply curious as to what was going on in this story and I was curious from the beginning to the very end. There are so many twists and turns that the story keeps you guessing what and who is controlling all the mystery. The story is about Nicole Markham, who at the beginning of the story is a very scared and overwhelmed woman who pushes her baby in the hands of a seemingly stranger, and then jumps in front of a train. Morgan, who she gives the baby to, has in the past, longed for a baby of her own, has now become a person of interest. The baby, Quinn, is presumed to be in danger, along with Morgan and anyone who is associated with trying to protect Quinn.

There are topics of paranoia, deception, betrayal, postpartum depression, harassment, revenge, motherhood, adoption, complete with foreboding, complex, threatening intriguing, and action-packed drama that is bound to keep you on the edge yourself.

However, there is something about this book I couldn’t put my finger on that didn’t work for me, but I rate this a 4 overall. Definitely recommend this book to readers who enjoy a suspenseful psychological thriller. Definitely worth the read!

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