My Seven Black Fathers by Will Jawando

My Seven Black Fathers: The Men Who Made Me Whole

My Seven Black Fathers: The Men Who Made Me Whole by Will Jawando

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This book is a love letter to Black youth and Black men all around. This book details Will Jawando’s life and the impact that seven men had on his upbringing, who shaped and molded him to be the man he is today. This book is awe inspiring, authentic, and necessary.

Jawando shares his touching memoir with us in a deeply personal, and engaging way, that you become heavily and emotionally invested in his life, and how these men inspired, crafted, and shaped Will’s perspective on life, and his journey into social justice. One of the messages I got from reading his memoir was: “Be Bold. Be Brave. Be Authentic.” His mentors and friends ingrained this into him at such an early age, that Will began to see the fruits of these relationships on him over time. His mother, may or may not have understood the need for these seven Black fathers in his life, but she knew enough that he needed to be surrounded by men who could give him the things he needed, that he may not have been able to receive from her, being a white woman, and his African father who was not emotionally equipped at the time to provide what was lacking.

Being raised in an African American community myself, I saw the value and importance of raising a child up in the village. It is paramount to Black children that they are raised in a village or with a village mindset because it will only enrich our lives exponentially. The struggles his mother faced in trying to get him the right education, surrounding him and exposing him to culture-rich activities, keeping him engaged with his father despite the struggles they faced as a family, raising him up with someone who could relate to his ethnicity, were all done with such care and thoughtfulness, that Will was set up to succeed, and that was a blessing to see his life unfold the way it was able to do. The value of mentoring and community raising is not lost here, but explained in a first-hand way that you cannot ignore the value of Black male mentors to our Black youth. If every Black male had seven Black fathers to help them in this thing called life, Black youth would be/could be raised in such a way that everyone would benefit. Though these mentors are just a part of his life, what Will does with this knowledge he receives from these men, help to propel him into a successful career and life. His choices and opportunities become endless for him, and he reaps all the seeds that were placed in his life at an early age.

This memoir has been different from other past memoirs I’ve read. For some reason or other, this memoir seems intricately complete and lacking nothing. We see Will during his ups and his downs. He doesn’t shy away or hide the ugly parts of his life, but uses those weak areas as a means for greater good, for a learning opportunity, and strategically recalls things that can be helpful for others like him. He also exposes us to the very real dangers of racism, prejudice, and institutional racism and their effects it has on Black youth, Black boys in particular. It was especially disheartening to read about his struggles in parochial education, and how his behaviors were always punished whereas the whites were praised for the same/similar things Will did. He talked about the struggles of being the only child in a bi-racial family, and his need to reconnect to his African family to get a better sense of who he was, and from what he came from. He spoke about his father’s struggles with depression, racism, foreignness to America’s issues, and his failures.

One quote that stuck with me: “All American children need meaningful ties to their heritage, but Black children need it urgently. Knowing who and where you come from is the history our children need to make them resilient in the face of racist miseducation.”

Although many readers will understand the overarching them of the importance of role models, mentors and community for children in general, it is especially important that Black youth (specifically Black boys) be provided these opportunities to have Black male teachers in school, black mentors they trust in the community, trusted adults who can expose them to things and ideas that are different than what they are used to; all of this is so deeply needed for the change we want to see in our nation and entire world.

A parting message for those who have considered being a mentor, a teacher, or role model to the youth: “Mentors don’t have to be involved in every aspect of someone’s life to make a difference. Nor do mentors have to be a constant presence to have a deep impact.” Your willingness to be there when it counts is enough. The youth will see you. The youth need you in any capacity you are willing to give. Having trusted adults connected to young Black children is worth it in any capacity because it is just that necessary.

I highly recommend this book to everyone. 5 stars.

Thank you to Ferrar, Straus and Giroux (FSG), Coriolis, and the author, Will Jawando, for this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

***The way many of these white reviewers have 1 starred his book is exactly the vitriol that was spewed at him during his parochial education. Those reviews make the case that many Black authors have shared. No matter the story or content, there will always be those white people who try to demean, diminish, and take giant steps into the past against their own interest. Will Jawando has done more and have proved beyond a shadow of a doubt his worth despite the naysayers and racists. His success only helps us all. He is for the people and betterment of his community for all. To try and diminish his work is beyond sickening.



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Metropolis by B.A. Shapiro

Metropolis

Metropolis by B.A. Shapiro

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This is basically a book of several characters who all share a commonality; they all rent storage units at a facility called Metropolis in Boston, MA. This is an intertwined story of all of the characters as they learn about each other and interact with each other on a regular basis.

First of all, I never knew this much activity went on in storage facilities! I personally rent a storage unit, but I haven’t seen my items in so long, I’m sure I’ve forgotten what’s all in there. However, any time I’ve gone, I’ve never seen many people there just lounging around, or many people to do anything other to go and grab a few items, move in, or move out. This story, surrounding 7 unique people, show you how eventful a storage facility can be, and how all the characters together in some way throughout this story.

When the story first opens, an auction is happening with the belongings of people who have not came to reclaim their stuff. As the auction is going on, the owner, comes around secretively to claim a few items that people have left behind; namely an old Rolleiflex camera and all of the developed and un-developed film. As we continue to read on and find out what could potentially be in these unclaimed units, the story starts to unfurl with who actually rented some of these units. We meet Jason, a lawyer who has an office in his storage unit; Mercedes (AKA Marta) who is seeking asylum in the US and pursuing her doctorate degree in Boston, and is using the space as a refuge; Serge, who is the original owner of the Rolleiflex camera and film, and has fallen on hard times; Liddy, the wife of a prestigious real estate tycoon, and unable to part with her children’s things; Rose, the storage facility office manager, who is trying to keep her family together and make some extra cash on the side to keep things afloat financially; Zach, the owner, who bought the facility by potentially illegal/sketchy means.

As you meet all of the characters, we get to see how all of their lives unintentionally and intentionally converge and intertwine with one another. All of them will be forced to do something outside of the box (literally and figuratively), and prioritize what is important and what needs to be given up.

Very voyeuristic novel, as a reader, you are literally the fly on the wall as you read this book, transporting you into a space similar to a mystery game/movie-like feel, sort of like “Clue,” where you are piecing together puzzle pieces trying to find out who did what, and what actually happened to them all.

Shapiro’s writing was very imaginative, vivid, and eye-opening as they tackled many topics in today’s modern world:
– Domestic violence
– Narcissism
– Poverty/Homelessness
– Socioeconomic status
– Citizenship
– Privilege
– Politics
– Inequality
– Survivorism
– Feminism
– Mental illness

The book slowly unfurled each POV, and it came together with such a vengeance that I couldn’t put the book down after I made it half way through. A truly unique and original story that will surely keep you entertained and guessing throughout the story. 4 stars.

Thank you to Algonquin Books, and the author B.A. Shapiro for this book in exchange for an honest and fair opinion.



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In Every Mirror She’s Black by Lola Åkerstrom

In Every Mirror She's Black

In Every Mirror She’s Black by Lola Akinmade Åkerström

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


The book was very slow for me in the beginning. So slow to the fact that I had to ditch reading the book to listening to it. The writing was cumbersome to say the least. The story was somewhat interesting in various parts throughout the book, but by the end, I wasn’t very impressed.

The story is about 3 Black women who have all found themselves in Sweden for various reasons. Kemi, relocates to Sweden because she feels undervalued, restricted, and underhanded with her current boss, and is being headhunted to be the Director of Diversity and Inclusion for one of the top marketing firms in the world, IKON, owned by Jonny von Lundin. Due to a diversity debacle IKON has recently experience, Kemi has come to save the face of the marketing firm from complete ruin. She is also very lonely, and is hoping this move is the right one. However, quickly upon arriving, she realizes that the same troubles facing her in the states is also present in Sweden.

Muna, is a refugee from Mogadishu, and has lost everyone she loves. She is in search of a place to call home. Upon arriving in Sweden, at an asylum center that is funded by the owner of IKON, Jonny von Lundin, she befriends a man name Ahmed, who has also lost everyone he loves, and they both hang on to each other since they have no one else. However, Ahmed is constantly being rejected by this new country and the people in the asylum center, and he also leaves Muna behind. Muna is longing to be apart of something, and not be in this world by herself, but it seems she never can catch a break.

Brittany-Rae, hailing from Atlanta, GA has piqued the interest of Sweden’s IKON owner, Jonny von Lundin. So much so that he has went to extreme lengths to get her to come to Sweden and be with him. Brittany, beautiful former fashion model, turned flight attendant, she meets Jonny on one of her flights, and decides to pursue what he is throwing out to her. A chance of a lifetime. She takes it. However, when getting to Sweden, she realizes she’s bitten off more than she can chew.

The story follows these three women and how their lives are shaped by Sweden’s culture, and Jonny’s presence in their lives. The women briefly all come in contact with one another, but their stories do not intersect in a way that makes them intertwined, which kind of makes meeting feel like happenstance, instead of meaningful. I wish the author had put more thought into an interconnecting story about these three women and Jonny, but the way it was written, did not make the stories of the women’s lives interesting enough. Matter of fact, I don’t even know why Muna’s story was even included because it seemed so inconsequential to the entire plot of what was going on.

By the end, you learn some new details about Jonny, but it makes for more questions instead of clarifying things with him and his behaviors. He was depicted as quirky and eccentric, when there is a bit more going on, and the details don’t really shed that much light, but makes things even more murky and underhanded.

Some of the topics of interest were:
– Immigration
– Ex-pats
– Politics
– Racism/prejudice
– Sexism
– Micro/macro-aggressions in the workplace
– Assimilation

TW: suicide, domestic violence, death

Overall, I’d give this a 3.



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The Science of Being Angry by Nicole Melleby

The Science of Being Angry

The Science of Being Angry by Nicole Melleby

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Super inclusive middle grade book that discusses a host of topics that are so important in this day and age.

Joey is 1/3 of triplets born to two moms through in-vitro fertilization. Like, let’s stop there and reflect on how important it is to see representation in our families! So many books shy away from this type of family dynamic, but it is real and children need to see families represented in all possible ways as well.

The MC, Joey, is having issues with anger, and is trying to figure out, not only her emotions, but her budding romance with a used-to-be close friend, her identity with her gender/sexuality, and how her genetics is playing a role in how she feels because she isn’t sure how all this “stuff” works or makes sense to her.

Her moms, are really trying their best to help Joey figure things out, but sometimes parents can project things onto kids in ways that makes the child feel insecure, uncertain, apprehensive, etc. However, the moms are going the extra step to help Joey, and they find a therapist to step in and help navigate their family’s issues before it gets out of control.

Through all this, Joey and her two brothers, Colton and Thomas, are 11 years old and are just being kids. They are joining the hockey team, they are dealing with bullies, they are navigating friendships, and just being siblings to each other in the only way they know how.

Also, Benny, the oldest brother, is also apart of this family dynamic, and it is interesting to see how the entire family interacts when there are so many moving parts in their blended family.

I really enjoyed their science teacher who gave the Nature vs Nurture assignment, as it took the focus off of traditional families and made it about genetics, and how they play in our lives. The assignment was truly inclusive and no one felt singled out or alone when discussing genes, as we all have them. Kudos to the science teacher!

I also love the aspect of how the moms were realistic in their emotions and how they approached this difficult time for Joey who is truly trying to figure out who she is and how she’s made up. As parents we don’t always have all the right answers, and I’m glad the parents were able to seek counseling for them all to get to the root of the problem.

It is so important to be open and honest in these types of conversations when our children are coming of age because it helps them understand how they tick, how they function, where it comes from, and what to do when they hit a snag. I love how the author is always so inclusive and gets down to the level of these middle graders in sharing these types of stories. It’s empowering!

Definitely a must read for any middle grader! 4 stars.



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Trailed by Kathryn Miles

Trailed: One Woman's Quest to Solve the Shenandoah Murders

Trailed: One Woman’s Quest to Solve the Shenandoah Murders by Kathryn Miles

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Wow. This is a must read. Hands down. Point. Blank. Period.

“Women and girls being killed, women and girls going missing – it’s a major problem we still aren’t addressing. In our culture, the lives of women and girls seem to be not worth so much – particularly to law enforcement.” – Laura Richards ;

Trailed is a very carefully crafted exposé on the murder of two young women who were killed in 1996, in a National Park. Before this book, I honestly didn’t pay much attention to murders happening to white women, and I definitely wasn’t paying attention to murders in our National Parks. I, for one, was not one to visit many National Parks. Especially not this Northeast Ohioan, hailing from the inner city of Cleveland. National Parks were not on my purview growing up as a child of the 80s and 90s. However, now as an adult and fascinated by the many wonders of the world, I have wanted to go visit some of our glorious parks around the world. My daughter and I were able to take a trip to Yosemite in California for her fourth grade state study trip, and I was loving every minute in the park! The views were magnificant, and I was on a natural high seeing the sights, breathing in the air, and feeling the rough terrain of the huge sequoia trees that are everywhere in the park. I took photo after photo of the waterfalls, and trails, and soaked up all of the magic that comes with being in the open air. Now I totally get why people go camping, and want to lay under the stars. It’s beautiful! No camera can do this park justice.

However, what I wasn’t aware of, was that in 1999, there was a serial killer on the loose killing people in Yosemite. I didn’t know the level of violence that happened on these trails in the backcountry. Nor did I know how dangerous thru-hiking could be, or even what hikers call themselves as they make their way through the National Parks. The biggest surprise was that I didn’t know that there was violence out there in the woods. That people got murdered while they slept in tents or shelters. That people were stalked and hunted in our National Parks. What I definitely didn’t know, was the level of violence that seemed to be prevelant with women who hiked in these woods. White men in particular seem to have an issue with women (of any race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation) doing things that they consider “men things.” Hiking through the woods, I guess, must be only designed for other cis-het white men to do. This book highlights the fact that men stalk, harrass, terrorize, rape, murder, kidnap women, and/or anyone who does not fit the norm. There have been murders of heterosexual couples, lesbian couples, queer couples, of minorities, of single women, of single men, teenagers, you name it, in these woods. It’s astounding. Scary. Appalling.

However, this story follows the investigation of the murders of two young women, Julie and Lollie in 1996, and how they were murdered in the wilderness in 1996 by a white man. Who that white man is, remains to be seen and documented, but there was a murder, an investigation, and a manhunt for the murder of these women for over 20 years. The case remains unsolved. However, the authorities did find someone who they thought fit the mold for this murder, and they have been pursuing this man for 20 years for a crime it seems he did not commit based on the evidence that was found at the scene of the crime. This book also showcases the blatant failures of the NPS and government for their pursuit to catch the criminal for this murder, and how they have spent an exorbitant and embarrasing amount of time, money, and resources to pin this murder on the wrong person for over 20 years. It seemed as if the government didn’t care who it was, but just as long as they found someone to take the rap so that they could close this case and move on. The NPS bungled evidence. Botched documents and timelines. Forced narratives to fit what they wanted. All to catch someone for this crime due to the immense pressure of ensuring our National Parks were safe for all.

I was sick to my stomach reading this book and how everything went down. Fearful of also stepping foot into any National Park, and reeling with the realization that the government is continuing to pursue a deadend despite having no evidence to back up their claims for the person that has been in question for this crime from the outset.

Miles does a fantastic job in bringing all of this enormous amount of research into a book that is fast paced, mind blowing, and informative, exposing the NPS for their part in this unsolved murder. Miles also acknowledges how that even though this book is about white women being murdered, she raises the flag for all minorities, LGBTQIA+, and marginalized communities who are brutalized on a continous basis that do not get to see this level of investigation. She is outraged and obsessive in uncovering the real truth of what happened to Julie and Lollie in 1996, while also learning of other murders, and the men who hunted and killed without discretion.

Such a tragic story that left me feeling unsettled. Terrified. Spooked. I couldn’t put this book down, even though I was scared out of my mind to know that men like these people who kill are out here living and breathing the same air we are. This story is such a tragedy in so many ways, and the families that were impacted still have not seen the justice they deserve for taking away their loved ones.

I highly recommend this book to everyone, especially those who frequent the National Parks. This book should serve as a reminder that you are not safe anywhere. Not even in the middle of the woods. This book will have you reconsidering so many things about your wellbeing and safety. We are not safe anywhere. Especially women, and definitely women who are marginalized.

READ THIS BOOK.

Thank you to Algonquin and Kathryn Miles for this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.



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