Sistahs Shop Talk – 5/1/16 – A Tall Glass of Lemonade

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Sistahs Shop Talk is random ramblings from yours truly about books, news, and views that captivate me.

One Thought…

A Tall Glass of Lemonade: The world stopped when Beyoncé dropped Lemonade, the visual album that told a story of love, infidelity and really big baseball bat. I couldn’t resist. The words of Warsan Shire paired with the images of a woman scorned and healed, and the songs that only Beyoncé could pull off, made for a stunning work that I was impressed with. I think it’s one of her best, if not the best, albums to date. With that being said, I knew that a million and one think pieces would be written: whose story was #Lemonade; who’s Becky with the good hair; was Jay-Z in a safe place. I’m all for the discussion – because black women need to unearth and talk about the wounds of love — but I wasn’t here for mainstream publications analyzing her work as if it was done for them and writing about concepts they knew nothing about. (Here’s looking at you, USA Today.) The one thing these outlets were so smug in their reporting while often getting it wrong or not understanding the nuances of a work like this. Again, everything ain’t for everybody. It’s also another call for diversity (a word I’m starting to abhor) to have black women (and men) not only tell our stories, but to hire the right people dissecting and critiquing them.

returntoarmsWhat I Finished Reading…

A Return to Arms by Sheree L. Greer

I’m not going to talk too much about A Return to Arms, Sheree L. Greer’s most recent book, because I plan to put out a review of it this week, yet suffice it to say, this book is so powerful and so real in a way that I’m not sure how I’m going to sum up. The words are there, inside of me, and damn it, I’m going to try my best to pull it out. Read this book, ya’ll.

 

rubyBook Quote…

Ruby walked over to the bed, sat next to Daphne, touched the broad shoulder.

“Daphne?”

Then she was in the strong arms, feeling the full strength of those arms. Her mouth was being kissed, and she responded eagerly to those full, blessedly full, lips. At last she had found herself, a likeness to herself, a response to her needs, her age, an answer to her loneliness.

— From Ruby by Rosa Guy (1976)

Trolling for New Books…

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By My Precise Haircut – Cheryl Clarke
Word Works
Release Date: May 1, 2016

Cheryl Clarke’s long-awaited fifth poetry collection, By My Precise Haircut, travels the political and spiritual trails of her many commitments to social justice, to women of color, to the LGBTQ community, and to the rage, love, and song that live in each reader. Says Nikky Finney, “Cheryl has stayed the firebrand course, all while inventing new and wondrous paths.” 2016 Judge Kimiko Hahn adds, “Whether the tone is wily or grieving, wise or wise-ass, the reader is drawn closer by the page and into a world that may be Black, Lesbian, middle-aged, sister of a deceased Sgt. J. L. Winters, daughter of the Block Elder but is certainly a threshold for all.”

 

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Pat Greene: Her Story – Anondra Williams
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Release Date:  April 3, 2016

From the author of black girl love and SistaGirl, two collections of stories and poems about me and you and the women you love comes Pat Greene.

Pat Greene wanted to tell her story and I was willing to listen. It turns out her story is my story and your story. A story full of highs and lows of loving women from the 1950’s till her now. Join in as Pat speaks from the heart, sharing the good and bad of being a black woman, of being a lesbian and more importantly being all of that and more while surviving.

From Mississippi to Michigan, journey along the great migration that is Pat Greene. Get to know Pat through the women she thought she loved, pretended to love and the one who taught her what love really is.

This is Pat Greene and her story.

Visit This Website…

brown-books1Brown Books & Green Tea
https://brownbooksandgreentea.com

I discovered Brown Books & Green Tea, and liked (plus bookmarked) this site immediately. Run by Whitney, a lifelong student and tea lover, her blog features reviews of diverse books, discussion topics, recommendations and monthly book wrap-ups. Her writing is clean and concise, and she knows her stuff (check out her review of Goslyn County). In Whitney’s own words, “I’m just a 20-something with a love for multicultural literature and hot tea.”


When I Was Your Girlfriend by Nikki Harmon

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wheniwasyourgirlfriendPublisher/Date:  Mt. Airy Girl Press; Jan. 2016
Genre:  Romance
Pages: 214
Website:  http://mtairygirlpress.weebly.com/

Rating: ★★★★½ 

How can you be sure that your first love wasn’t your true love? Dee Armstrong leads a seemingly charmed life. She has a successful midwifery practice, a supportive family, and an exciting romantic life. But when Dee mistakenly believes she will have to confront her first love and first heartbreak, Candace, it sends her tumbling back into her memories to re-live the terrifying and exhilarating joy of being a teenager in love … with another girl. Suddenly convinced that Candace was her one true love, Dee sets off on a tumultuous cross country journey to find her in hopes of renewing their relationship. Her quest leads to some serious soul searching and the realization that maybe love wasn’t the only thing that she lost all those years ago.

sistahspicklogoWHEN I WAS YOUR GIRLFRIEND by Nikki Harmon is a rich romance tinged with nostalgia, a refreshing story about a woman looking for her first love.

Dee Armstrong recognizes the good things in her life: a rewarding career as a midwife in a thriving Philadelphia practice; co-workers and clients she adores; family and friends who provide support and pull no punches when it comes to advice.

The only thing to give Dee pause is her girlfriend, Pepper. While Pepper is primed to take their relationship to the next level after six months, Dee is not sure this is where she wants to be. This hesitancy gives way to thinking about all the women she’s been with, and the only one woman that she could ever say she was in love with: her high school sweetheart, Candace.

For 31-year-old Dee, high school was a while ago. Thoughts about a woman whom you haven’t talked to since breaking up in your senior year would be just that: notions about where she is now, whether she’s married or single, or has children; if she ever thinks about you after all this time. Yet Dee takes this to a new level and tries to track down the one who got away. Interspersed with this journey to the past that includes a road trip, cross-country flights and internet detective work, Dee is reliving the rise and fall of her young love with Candace, a dimension that adds depth to the story.

I really enjoyed this jaunt Harmon took me on with Dee because she’s a likable character, even when she’s being a little selfish and a tad presumptuous in her love scavenger hunt. Ultimately, she has a great heart, and her friends, Viv especially, made this book so easy to fall into. I also loved the inside look Harmon offers in Dee’s occupation as a midwife, how passionate she is about her patients and the new lives she facilitates into the world.

The biggest part of this story – the mystery of Candace – is what I gravitated toward. I mean, there are times when I was cautious about what she would find, but I had to know, just like Dee, what happened to her former love.

Harmon’s writing is well done; her descriptions of Philadelphia (or wherever else Dee landed), made me feel as if I were there. However, I feel the pacing of the novel could be better; at times there are big jumps from days to weeks that seemed a little incongruent. There was also one plotline involving one of her clients that could have been left out because it added nothing to the story. As far as the ending, all I can say is I’m happy, but I wonder what will happen next.

When I Was Your Girlfriend is a romance I indulged myself in over a weekend because who doesn’t want to know where her first love is? Read this story, and it just might make you look her up on Facebook. Just maybe.

Reviewed April 2016

Read the Sistahs Pick Interview with Nikki Harmon

About Nikki Harmon

Nikki Harmon, an alumna of The Philadelphia High School for Girls, Wesleyan University and Temple University, has always pursued academic challenges. However, cursed with an overabundance of curiosity, she chose a creative lifestyle as a way to indulge her many interests. As a filmmaker, television producer and a teacher of the aforementioned, she gets to spend her days weaving stories and images together and trying to make sense of it all.

Writing her first novel began as a personal challenge, specifically, the NaNoWriMo write 50,000 words in a month challenge. And so, without any training or planning at all, she did. And out came a book. Despite the guilty pleasure that came with ignoring her three children that month, she didn’t write again for three years. Then, with the encouragement of friends, she decided to dig the book out, make it better and hope somebody else would enjoy reading it as much as she enjoyed writing it.

Having ruined her eyes at a young age reading Stephen King by flashlight, it is only fitting that this Philly native finally come full circle to squint at her own scratchings on the page. Here is one truth learned ….it takes much longer to write a book than it does to read one, especially when one has dropped out of typing class in high school.


Books 2 Check Out – April 2016

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Looking for something new to read? Here’s a round-up of a few novels you should check out (the titles are linked to Amazon, but most are available for purchase at Barnes & Noble, as well):

The Beast of Callaire: A Young Adult Fantasy (The Legend Mirror Book 1) by Saruuh Kelsey
Young Adult/Fantasy

Discover a world of magic and monsters in this fantasy series.

Yasmin is the daughter of a God and a mythical creature. A Legendary, she has power and the ability to change forms every full moon.

When a voice cries out to Yasmin – in her head – and she’s drawn into dreams that aren’t her own, she is led to Fray, a girl who once saved Yasmin from hunters. Fray has memories that suggest she has power no human should have – Legendary power. As Yasmin and Fray grow close, they find themselves caught up in a war of Gods and Creatures.

Craving Comfort by Monique Thomas
Romance

For the love of sweets in the form of cupcakes and brown thighs.

Keiko is finally getting back on track and the last thing she needs is distractions. Even if the distraction is a well dressed, sexy business owner named Zora.

The Gloaming by Antares DaVinci and Essence Renata
Prose/Poetry

The Gloaming is an intricate web of science fiction and the erotic that spans beautifully spun tales from two sets of hands. The stories are bedded in a series of collected poems that leave you with the same milky clarity that twilight whispers.

In Search of Happiness by Sonwabiso Ngcowa
Romance

Nana is fifteen when she travels from her village in the Eastern Cape to the city. She is overjoyed to be reunited with her family, even if they are living in a tiny shack. But she struggles to fit in at her new school, and she is shocked at the violence shown to Chino and Agnes, her Zimbabwean neighbors. When she and Agnes become close friends, and find love in unexpected places, Nana learns firsthand just how brutal ignorance can be and how hard it is to hold on to happiness.

Irresistible Desires by J L Dillard
Erotica

A FIRST KISS
When she travels to Miami to spend a long weekend with her sister, Hope Donovan-Sinclair has no intention of starting a hot affair. While her marriage wasn’t perfect, infidelity was not the answer to her problem. But a one chance meeting with a beautiful stranger changes her mind completely.
LEADS TO MORE THAN AN AFFAIR
After a heated argument, Hope gives into her desires and discovers her one-night stand opened doors she’ll never be able closed. Now her secret looms overhead, forcing her into a world she despises until an unexpected turn of events wreaks havoc and backs her against the wall.
AND SHOWS NO SIGNS OF SLOWING DOWN
J L Dillard, the new kid on the block, delivers a riveting novel about love, passion and revenge that’ll leave you wanting more. This twisted tale filled with surprises and consequences will have you on the edge of your seat until the very end.

Loving You Wasn’t Enough by Fatima Warsame
Romance

Ebyan Jama has always led a life of clarity. She knows who she is and is committed to her Islamic faith. She has one passion in life. Music. Gifted with a beautiful voice, she can make it big in the music industry. When she is offered the opportunity to sign with a major record label on condition she takes off her hijab, Ebyan walks away. With her dream crushed and her best friend Tiffany by her side, she heads off to UC Berkeley. It is during her freshmen year at Berkeley that she meets Noreen, a sophomore and an aspiring filmmaker. The unexpected, but electric attraction Ebyan develops for Noreen makes her question everything she thought she knew about herself. As Ebyan and Noreen get to know each other, a deep love blossoms between them. Ebyan fights hard to put out her passion for

Noreen, but finds it impossible. Noreen is perfect for Ebyan, her soul mate, but their love is forbidden by faith and tradition. How will Ebyan face her moral dilemma?

From Fatima Warsame, a new voice in contemporary fiction, comes a unique and powerful story on an unexpected love between two young Muslim women.

Meeting Her by Lee Loveless
Romance

Is it possible to fall in love in the rebound? That is the question that Jordan asked herself as she begins to have strong feelings for the famous choreographer Vivian Taylor. A chance meeting put these two women together and created a connection hard to ignore. Will these two be able to move away from the ties of their immediate past to satisfy a mutual attraction?

Tommy Boys, Lesbian Men, and Ancestral Wives: Female Same-Sex Practices in Africa by Ruth Morgan and Saskia Wieringa
Non-Fiction

This unique book documents same sexuality in East and southern Africa. Eight of the chapters have been co-authored by women activists spanning six different countries. They have collected personal narratives on a range of issues related to sex and secrecy. This is an incredibly difficult area to research as many African leaders declare it taboo on the basis that these practices are alien to African culture and an import from the depraved west.

The book demonstrates that there are silenced, traditional, institutionalized ways in which African women contracted same-sex relations. Second, it proclaims the right of African women engaged in same-sex practices or relations to their identities as Africans, as several interviewees state: we, lesbian women, are born here in Africa, we belong here. Who can say we are un-African? Third it gives a vivid portrait of the lives of African women engaged in same-sex relations and practices, portraying the joys of having found love as well as the pains of betrayal and the hatred encountered in their communities, as well as the many shades of emotions in between. This book eloquently testifies that although silence isolates and protects these women, some are beginning to speak out.

The TurnOut Queens: With Just One Taste…They’ll Have You Sprung (Volume 1) by Fabiola Joseph, Christiana Harrell, Renee Wallace, Raynesha Pittman, Ben Burgess Jr., N’Tyse (Foreword)
Romance/Erotica

Sodom and Gomorrah is Washington, D.C.’s premier gay and lesbian nightclub. Beyond the music, bottles, flyers, cages, and V.I.P sections, are the workers who keep the party going on and off the dance floor. Find out what happens once the last records are spun, and the drama follows them home. Sex, betrayal, lies, lust, and love, is never too far behind once these sexy employees clock out. Enter Gomorrah, and sit on the throne with the TurnOut queens.


Turn Me Out: The Novel by T. Ariez

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turnmeoutnovelPublisher/Date:  Amazon Digital Services LLC, March 2016
Genre(s):  Stud 4 Stud, Romance
Pages:  199
Website:  https://www.facebook.com/T.Ariez3

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Angel and Ace are best friends who happen to both be studs. When Angel realizes that she has developed feelings for Ace, she devises a plan that will go against everything she’s ever known and believed in. She is tired of the traditions and rules that make her feelings taboo and decides to risk everything. When she finally decides that she can’t take it anymore and throws caution in the wind, will it all be worth the risk?

In 2013, T. Ariez’s short story, Turn Me Out, introduced studs Angel and Ace who found themselves in the precarious situation of being attracted to one another. Two studs in lust? Where they do that at? Though it’s oftentimes inconceivable in our black lesbian community, Ariez made the romance between two best friends believable through her writing and characters in such a brief tale.

Fast forward to 2016, and T. Ariez has expanded her earlier quickie into TURN ME OUT: THE NOVEL, and this version is meatier than I imagined it would be. It broke me in several places. The novel pretty much follows the same basic premise as the short story, but focuses more on the “where do we go from here” aspect and explores Angel and Ace becoming a couple. This is where shit gets real.

Now I’m not a stud. So I don’t fully understand what it’s like be a masculine woman in a man’s world.

But it’s hard not to empathize with Angel as she contemplates her feelings for Ace, who’s as hard as they come. We’re in her head as Angel as she grapples with being in love with her best friend, the person who showed her the ropes of stud life and sheltered her during their teenage years. The lengths she goes through to tell Ace how she feels are real and moving and hard to read at times, but the affection they have for each other is hard-fought and raw. Their love scenes were some of the hottest because of this masculine, loving vibe between them.

My biggest concern, though, was how Angel felt she had change herself to what Ace wanted. Ace, Ace, Ace. It was all I could take not to slam her hand in a car door, mostly because of how she dealt with loving Angel. Her hangups, based on what people would think, about loving another stud were going to be the death of her friendship; I just wanted her to wake up and see what was in front of her. Ace was also spoiled, a stud used to bedding a different femme almost every night, and being in love was something she envisioned as a last resort. Until Angel.

I was so invested in Turn Me Out: The Novel. The resolution Ace comes to, and the fight Angel goes through to prove her love, is what makes this book special. I hope this book will help our community let go of the rigid stereotypes we place on each other and ourselves.

T. Ariez, I’m ready for the next one.

Reviewed March 2016

About T. Ariez

T. Ariez is a Texas native currently living in Dallas. He has been writing since the second grade but only started exploring writing for an audience a few years after graduating high school. He enjoys reading in his spare time, playing board games with his family and watching football.


Sistahs Shop Talk – 3/27/16 – Happy Easter!

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Sistahs Shop Talk is random ramblings from yours truly about books, news, and views that captivate me.

One Thought…

Happy Easter/Resurrection/New Beginnings:  Easter has, to me, always been a time of new beginnings or a reinvigoration of life. On that note, I count year 2016 as a time of renewed passion for reviewing at Sistahs on the Shelf after its dormancy in 2015. Last year I was in love with reading but not necessarily reviewing, and I have to admit, it felt good to just pick up a book and not think about how to craft my thoughts into a review post. To be honest, I was just burnt out. It happens; I’m human. But thanks to supportive people in my life, I’ve refreshed my outlook, and how I want to run this site, and have a stoked fire about sharing my thoughts with you about the great books I’ve read. So tell me: what helped you get through a rough patch in your life?

returntoarms
What I’m Reading Now…


A Return to Arms
by Sheree L. Greer:
  After just finished When I Was Your Girlfriend by Nikki Harmon (such a pleasant reading experience), I’m gravitating toward A Return to Arms by Sheree L. Greer. This newest book, recently published on March 15, is about activism and romance, and whether the two can co-exist. I’m excited to dig in, especially since I’ve never been disappointed by a Sheree L. Greer book.

Book Quote…

Kiana winced. She didn’t need to look into the other room to see it, the lavender wedding invitation sitting like a strong, elegant tent in the center of her wooden kitchen table. Without seeing it, she could smell it, the vanilla musk whispering from the fold; she could feel it, the heavy cardstock soft against her fingertips as she traced the gold script. She struggled to her feet, the memory of Michelle, of being in love, weighing her down. Though Michelle had been gone just over six months, Kiana ached as if she had just left, as if she just realized that her love was gone for good. “Fuck that invitation,” she said, pulling up on her baggy jeans.

– Sheree L. Greer, Let the Lover Be (2015)

Trolling for New Books…

thewindisspirit

The Wind Is Spirit: The Life, Love and Legacy of Audre Lorde – Dr. Gloria Joseph
Villarosa Media
Release Date: April 15, 2016 (pre-orders available now)

Told Griot style (a western Africa oral tradition of storytelling to maintain historical ties to the past), this combination anthology and biography brings together a wide range of prominent authors and activists, including Sonia Sanchez, Angela Y. Davis, Jewelle Gomez and Assata Shakur. These contributors have submitted essays, reflections, stories, poems, memoirs and photos that illuminate how Lorde’s literary vision and her turbulent and triumphant life continue to challenge and inspire. The book also contains conversations with Lorde, Joseph’s personal photos and travelogs, and remembrances from her three memorials, in New York, Berlin and St Croix.

Written by author and activist Dr. Gloria Joseph, Lorde’s partner in life and love, the book was born from an interview conducted a few months prior to Lorde’s death. They discussed a comprehensive biography that would tell her story in full, revealing her tenacity, complexity and passion. With that mandate, Joseph sat down to the task of creating The Wind is Spirit.

Visit This Website…

G-List-Society-logo

The G-List Society
http://www.glistsociety.com

The G-List Society is an online media networking and entertainment group who caters to the style of life in the urban gay social scene.
The website highlights lifestyle topics and pop culture, spotlights gay personalities and events in exclusive features, and celebrates the achievements of gays and lesbians of color. The G-List publishes its annual BLACK GAYS ROCK! Power 100 list to celebrate Black same-gender-loving (SGL) achievers around the world.


Sistahs Shop Talk – 3/13/16 – A Diversity Haiku

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Sistahs Shop Talk is random ramblings from yours truly about books, news, and views that captivate me.

One Thought…

Diversity – a Haiku
(to Non-POC Authors)

some things ain’t for you
if you do it, do it right
we gon’ be all right

News Snippets…

2016 Lambda Literary Award Finalists Announced:  Finalists for the 28th Annual Lambda Literary Awards (“Lammys”) were announced last week. The Lambda Literary Awards celebrate achievement in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender writing. The awards ceremony will be held on June 6, 2016 at the NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts in New York City. For more information and to buy tickets, please visit www.lambdaliterary.org/awards.

Below are the finalists in the Lesbian categories:

Lesbian Fiction
Apocalypse Baby, Virginie Despentes, The Feminist Press
Blue Talk and Love, Mecca Jamilah Sullivan, Riverdale Avenue Books
The Cherokee Rose, Tiya Miles, John F. Blair
The First Bad Man, Miranda July, Scribner
Jam on the Vine: A Novel, LaShonda Katrice Barnett, Grove Press
Like a Woman, Debra Busman, Dzanc Books
Thérèse and Isabelle, Violette Leduc, The Feminist Press
Under the Udala Trees, Chinelo Okparanta, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Lesbian Memoir/Biography
Cooking as Fast as I Can: A Chef’s Story of Family, Food, and Forgiveness, Cat Cora, Scribner
Dirty River, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Arsenal Pulp Press
Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl, Carrie Brownstein, Riverhead Books/Penguin Random House
Objects in the Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear, Kate Carroll de Gutes, Ovenbird Books
You’re Not Edith, Allison Gruber, George Braziller

Lesbian Romance
Autumn Spring, Shelley Thrasher, Bold Strokes Books
The Chameleon’s Tale, Andrea Bramhall, Bold Strokes Books
Full Circle, Dillon Watson, Bella Books
Heart of the Game, Rachel Spangler, Bold Strokes Books
Infiltration, Jackie D, Bold Strokes Books
Making A Comeback, Julie Blair, Bold Strokes Books
My Best Friend’s Girl, Blythe H. Warren, Bella Books
The Renegade, Amy Dunne, Bold Strokes Books

Lesbian Erotica
Desire Behind Bars: Lesbian Prison Erotica, Salome Wilde and Talon Rihai (editors), Hillside Press
The Muse, Meghan O’Brien, Bold Strokes Books
Sweet & Rough: Queer Kink Erotica, Sinclair Sexsmith, Maverick Press

To see the complete Award list, visit the Lambda Literary website. 

walkingthetightropeWhat I’m Reading Now…

Walking the Tightrope edited by Abayomi Animashaun, Irwin Iradukunda, Timothy Kimutai, Tatenda Muranda, Spectra Speaks: Walk the Tightrope: Poetry and Prose by LGBTQ Writers from Africa is an anthology featuring writers from different parts of Sub-Saharan Africa portraying gay and lesbian life. So far it is touchingly honest.


Book Quote…

I sometimes forget how well you know my heart.

If ever I get lost in the woods of pain I feel, you’d find me.

If I ever drown in the seas of sadness that often lap over me, you’d pull me out.

You know the world’s burdens weigh me down, so often you hold me up.

But even more often I forget I love you.

And you remind me.

You remind me in soft subtle hints.

I sometimes forget how well you know my heart.

How well you understand the song this broken instrument plays.

Then I remember you’re my composer.

You wrote the notes that make this song.

You know it well.

So you fill in the missing notes.

When I falter, you stand strong.

When I forget how it goes, you sing my parts.

When I forget, you remind me how well you know this heart of mine.

– a sample of “Broken Instrument” by Tsepho Jamillah Moyo
From Walking the Tightrope

Trolling for New Books…

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Turn Me Out – T. Ariez
Amazon Digital Services LLC
Release Date: March 15, 2016 (pre-orders available now)

Angel and Ace are best friends who happen to both be studs. When Angel realizes that she has developed feelings for Ace, she devises a plan that will go against everything she’s ever known and believed in. She is tired of the traditions and rules that make her feelings taboo and decides to risk everything. When she finally decides that she can’t take it anymore and throws caution in the wind, will it all be worth the risk?

This is the full version of the novella previously published by T. Ariez. Read the Interview and Review Chat for Turn Me Out (the 2013 novella).

fistfuloflove

Fistful of Love – Renee Cronin
Release Date: April 1, 2016 (pre-orders available now)

At the age of 23, social worker, Jeya Wellington was pretty much on her own. The devastating loss of her parents left her bereft and alone. Her best friend, Roman and his family have been like surrogates, but they could never replace what she lost. She needed a different connection. Shortly after losing her parents, she finds love and comfort in the arms of Rayne Watson, a correctional officer.

Rayne was exactly what she needed at the time, but now, two years later, Jeya wants out. She never expected love to come with bruises. She didn’t anticipate losing friends and living in fear. This was not her idea of true love. With the support of Roman, Jeya finds a way to leave. But Rayne isn’t letting go that easily. They made a commitment to each, and she has the tattoo to prove it – ‘Til Death Do Us Part.

Torn between the love she has for Rayne and the instinct to protect herself, is Jeya’s will stronger than her vow?

shesjustnotthatintoyou

She’s Just Not That Into You – Aryka Randall
Dragon Fruit
Release Date:  April 5, 2016

As Editor-in-Chief at TheFabFemme.com, Aryka Randall has become the authority on Girl+Girl love, especially for women of color. Now in her first book, She’s Just Not That Into You, Randall tells her story and gets the conversation heated up on queer dating, relationships, open commitments, living arrangements, work, money, love, sex and lust.

She’s Just Not That Into You covers everything from reality checks your friends won’t give you and learning to love yourself to avoiding toxic relationships and why serial dating often leads to disaster – the kind of advice any young woman in love or looking for love needs.

Enter a giveaway for Aryka Randall’s She’s Just Not That Into You at The Fab Femme website.

Visit This Website…

wocinromanceWOC In Romance
http://www.wocinromance.com/

WOC In Romance celebrates and promotes Women of Color who write romance novels. Operated by author Rebekah Weatherspoon, this blog features new release and backlist promotions, as well as weekly recaps. The site is a beautiful mélange of colorful book selections, and is trans inclusive and open to gender fluid and non-binary authors of color as well. Follow WOC In Romance on Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook.


Goslyn County by A.M. McKnight

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Publisher/Date:  CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, Nov. 2015
Genre(s):  Mystery, Romance, Crime
Pages:  320
Website: https://ammcknight.wordpress.com/

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

 

A mostly black community with its roots in farming, Goslyn, Virginia lay just south of the State’s Capital. The once small, close-knit county had grown rapidly in the past two decades and boasted a population of just over fifty thousand. But the county’s crime stats had grown as well, and the latest offenses included several break-ins and rumors of a meth lab. Time had brought many changes, and many of the longtime folks of Goslyn no longer recognized their community and longed for days gone by. Goslyn PD Detective Olivia “Ollie” Winston loves her family and friends and shows it through her sense of humor. Just like her neighbors, she too worries about the recent events, and it’s her job to find out who’s behind the crime spree. While investigating three burglaries, Olivia meets IRS Special Agent Maureen Jeffries who is pursuing a tax fraud suspect. Their cases are connected, and both soon discover they have much in common, personally and professionally. 

Last year, I was really into cozy mysteries. Quick and satisfying reads, I was enamored by the kind of mysteries set in sleepy towns where everyone knows your name, and the crimes always wrapped up nicely.

That’s why I was so drawn to GOSLYN COUNTY by A.M. McKnight, a story set in a predominantly black community in Virginia. This mystery-romance featuring detective Olivia “Ollie” Winston finds her trying to unravel the recent break-in of a local tax filing office and the theft of its customers’ personal information. Ollie is good at what she does – rising from beat officer to detective within 10 years – but her small town’s department doesn’t have the technological capability to track down the offenders; that’s where Ollie depends on best friend, Pat Henley-Rice, owner of an IT service provider, to assist in the case. Down with each other like four flat tires since elementary school, Ollie and Pat have this friendship that’s more like sisters, and Pat is refreshingly funny.

Ollie also has help from the feds in this criminal matter, namely IRS special agent Maureen Jeffries, who is investigating a tax fraud case in nearby Atlanta that could be related to Ollie’s break-in. When the two begin comparing information is when *ta-da* sparks begin to fly. Shy around each other at first, the professionals slowly cultivate a relationship with lunches and long conversations. Everything about it is old-fashioned, but not stuffy, and it’s a grown-woman romance.

To tell the truth, the entirety of Goslyn County is grown-folk relating to each other. The richness of the town and the characters are what really drew me in. Every chapter is a revolving look into why people do what they do, including the criminals themselves. We get to know why Ollie and Maureen are hesitant about love, and why Ollie should really watch her back when it comes to her job. That’s one of the things what A.M. McKnight does best with this novel.

Like with any mystery revolving around detectives, the behind-the-scenes of an investigation is important. I got that message clearly in Goslyn County. McKnight places you there, right along with Ollie and Maureen as they both chases leads separately and together. While I think the ending did wrap up a little too quickly, the ride – and the exciting car chase – is what’s important.

I’m glad McKnight is planning a sequel, because I’m raring to see what else little ole Goslyn County can cook up next.

Reviewed March 2016

About A.M. McKnight

A.M. McKnight grew up in the south and practices law as a first profession. She decided to try her hand at writing after getting hooked on reading lesbian crime and romance novels.


Sistahs Shop Talk – 2/28/16 – Book Segregation, Anyone?

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Sistahs Shop Talk is just random ramblings from yours truly about books, news, and views that captivate me.

One Thought…

Segregation in the Store: An author friend who forwarded this Facebook post and our proceeding discussion offline inspired a lot of thoughts concerning the age-old debate of book segregation. That post mostly discusses Amazon, but it invites another question: when you walk into a physical bookstore, do you prefer African-American fiction to have its own section or to be blended with “mainstream” fiction? I’ve long preferred the African-American books to be chillin’ by themselves, away from the others because it just makes it easier to find the title I want.

And segregation also helps distinguish just how many titles of ours the bookstore carries. Books-A-Million, with their dedicated AA division, is just beautiful to look at. All these wonderful books at my reach, all about our people. When I walk into Barnes & Noble, which mixes AA books in regular fiction, it just looks sloppy to me, because I can see how many books they are (or not) selling in the store. Walking up and down the aisles (like I sometimes do) tells me that they have the smallest AA collection, and that’s a problem. But there is another side, the one that questions why there is a separate AA section at all. It makes our books seem like anomalies, as if we’re not good enough to be in the “regular fiction.” What do you think?

Something else to think about: when you lump our books together, you have Kindred and Giovanni’s Room hanging out with titles like I Jus’ Wanna Leave This Nigga (yes, this a real book title). There’s not a distinction between genres, between classics and romance and science fiction and street lit ― and some feel street lit is taking over most of the shelves nowadays. As an occasional reader of street lit as an escape of sorts, this doesn’t bother me (hey, we all gotta eat), but is this a problem for you? How do you want your books to be shelved?

BTW, the merits of street lit will be discussed at a later time….

News Snippets…

  • A Black Lesbian Filmmaker’s Reaction to #OscarsSoWhite | Advocate.com | Here’s why Charzette Torrence, executive producer, creator, and co-writer of Jillian’s Peak, a new premium scripted digital series featuring the stories of African-American lesbians, won’t be tuning in on Sunday night.

whitenightsblackparadiseWhat I’m Reading Next…

White Nights, Black Paradise by Sikivu Hutchinson: White Nights, Black Paradise follows three fictional black women characters who were part of the Peoples Temple movement but took radically different paths to Jonestown. I found the summary to be interesting, and after reading a smidgen, it seems to humanize the tragedy while incorporating members of all ages, genders and sexual orientations.

blissBook Quote…

“Across from her, Hunter devoured her meal even more completely than she had. Sinclair watched her sink sharp teeth into the chicken bone, heard it snap, then the soft grunt of satisfaction. She made soft sucking sounds then emptied her mouth of the tiny ground up remains on a corner of her dish. Hunter ate with rabbit-like intensity, biting and sucking and spitting in an even rhythm until all that was left on the plate was a small brown and beige pile of ground bones. She finally looked up and caught Sinclair staring.”
― Fiona Zedde, Bliss

Trolling for New Books…

All release dates are tentative.

thegildastoriesnew

The Gilda Stories: Expanded 25th Anniversary Edition – Jewelle Gomez (with Afterword by Alexis Pauline Gumbs)
City Lights Publishers
Release Date:  April 12, 2016

Before Buffy, before Twilight, before Octavia Butler’s Fledgling, there was The Gilda Stories, Jewelle Gomez’s sexy vampire novel.

This remarkable novel begins in 1850s Louisiana, where Gilda escapes slavery and learns about freedom while working in a brothel. After being initiated into eternal life as one who “shares the blood” by two women there, Gilda spends the next two hundred years searching for a place to call home. An instant lesbian classic when it was first published in 1991, The Gilda Stories has endured as an auspiciously prescient book in its explorations of blackness, radical ecology, re-definitions of family, and yes, the erotic potential of the vampire story.

lyricandblake

Lyric & Blake – V. Nikki Jones
Resolute Publishing
Release Date:  April 18, 2016

Astin “Lyric” Boyd leaves her uptight prep academy to start seventh grade at Alcorn Junior High. She quickly learns that public school means screaming teachers, popularity polls, and fashion wars. Lyric is nervous about being the lone new kid until she befriends a nerdy hipster that goes by her last name, Blake.

The inseparable duo want to mix up the social atmosphere at Alcorn, but their efforts spark a bitter rivalry with the Jacks and Jennies. The school year takes a new twist when Lyric and Blake are struck with puppy love and secret admirer messages. Growing up isn’t easy for two savvy girls who wear boy’s clothes and date girls. But their mothers and Alcorn ally, Coach Jackson, genuinely support them. Rumors, break-ups, or the principal’s office won’t stop these friends from conquering seventh grade.

From Resolute Publishing: “Lately, there’s been a lot of talk in the media about the lack of diversity among children’s literature– especially from Black authors. Therefore, we’re proud to publish a culturally relevant book with characters who are gay youth of color. Kids deserve options. Moreover, writers should assist parents by producing quality stories that are not only entertaining, but useful discussion tools.”

thedawnofnia

The Dawn of Nia – L. Cherelle
Resolute Publishing
Release Date: April 25, 2016

Nia Ellis is grief stricken when, Pat, her mentor passes away. At the funeral, Nia is blindsided by one of Pat’s deep-seated secrets, which sparks feelings of betrayal. Weeks after the funeral, Nia is still figuring out how to handle her wavering emotions and the unexplained secret– until the opportunity for answers forces her to step outside of her comfort zone. Nia believes she is in control of her guarded emotions when sidetracked by curiosity and thrust into a battle zone with Pat’s sisters. Nia’s legal opposition and new love interest offend Pat’s family.

Romance was the least of Nia’s concerns until a fling matures and challenges her lingering insecurities. Nia learns there is a thin line between love and hate when former relationships and loyalties are lost in her circle of friends. In the end, she realizes that Pat’s secret was a blessing in disguise.

Visit This Website…

Lez Talk Books Radio: Lez Talk Books Radio is back! A newly launched podcast co-hosted by BLF Press publisher S. Andrea Allen and Lauren Cherelle, manager of Resolute Publishing, the podcast runs on Tuesday nights and the hosts discuss Black lesbian writing and talk to Black lesbian authors about their craft. If you haven’t already, please follow their YouTube channel. Their most recent interview was with K.A. Smith, author of Get at Me and many other short stories.


2 Sides 2 the Rainbow by Unique Waterfall

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2sides2therainbowPublisher/Date:  Amazon Digital Services, Inc., Feb. 2015
Genre(s):  Romance, Drama, Studs and Femmes
Pages:  356
Website:  http://www.uniquewaterfall.com

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Say what you will about their love lives, but Ming, Nayla, Angie and Rachel know how to get down to business. The women of 2 SIDES 2 THE RAINBOW are good friends, but have professions that pair them with love interests that intersect in interesting ways. Unique Waterfall shows that the foursome is about their money, but when it comes to the studs in their lives, that’s where they mix business with more than enough pleasure.

Ming, the unofficial leader of the crew, is a lawyer trying to land a deal with the hottest stud in the modeling industry. There’s no way she can lose this account, even when a handsome samaritan stays on her mind after assisting her one night – unless that guardian angel is her new client’s agent. Even with that distraction, I loved Ming’s professionalism through it all; she seems to have her head on straight when it comes to what she wants and when her friends’ drama lands in her lap.

Especially with her friend Nayla. While her friends know her love for women, she’s apprehensive about coming out to her family. Even with her friends’ support, Nayla still can’t admit, even to herself, that she’s a lesbian. Meeting a stud who challenges her denial, Nayla is at a crossroads that one can sympathize with. Her struggle anchors the book and is the most compelling character to watch.

Angie, Ming’s assistant, is trying to find love also, but I mostly see her as comic relief to the other women. Rachel, hotel executive by day and opportunist by night, is my least favorite of the women, only because I didn’t get to know her enough throughout the novel. The stud love interests are passionate in their own special ways.

2 Sides 2 the Rainbow is a mix of fun and drama, but there are a a couple of hiccups: it needs an editor’s red pen in places, and the conversations between the women regurgitate too much what just happened in the scene before. However, Nayla’s struggles, Ming’s relationship and the bond between Ming and Nayla are the major pluses for me. Considering the book ended on the biggest cliffhanger, I’ll be happy to see how the women progress and what new they’ll get into in the upcoming sequel.

Reviewed February 2016

About Unique Waterfall

Unique Waterfall is an Illinois native that grew up on the Southside of Chicago, known as the wild hundreds. Born and raised in the Altgeld Garden Housing Projects, writing was an escape from the reality of living in public housing. The oldest of her siblings Unique was an outgoing but cautious child who always had something to read in her hand. Whether it was a book, magazine, or news paper she was constantly reading and writing. Unique is an avid lover of the arts and the Harlem Renaissance era, this love is what fueled her desire to write poetry. Writing was something that she only did for herself as a release from the pressures of everyday life she never shared her writings with others. But encouragement from her family and friends she started to share some of her writings online. After seeing the lack of positive representation amongst African American lesbians, in the literary world Unique started brainstorming writing a book. But it wasn’t until a tragic event that changed her life that she actually wrote and self published the novel 2 Sides 2 The Rainbow.


Sistahs Shop Talk – February 14, 2016 (Happy Valentine’s Day)

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Sistahs Shop Talk is just random ramblings from yours truly about books, news, and views that captivate me.

One Thought…

Who Run the World:  I like Beyoncé. Who doesn’t? While I’ve never been a member of the Bey Hive, nor attended any concerts, and I’m not the first in line to buy one of her albums (digitally or in the store), I’ve gotten my life to many of her songs (especially when Get Me Bodied comes on in my car). But Formation is a whole different level of greatness. It shows that Beyoncé hasn’t forgotten where she comes from and shows #BlackGirlMagic is a real thing. From the lyrics to the visuals (a most adorable Blue Ivy, anyone), I’m proud that she is using her platform and her status to send a message. What I’m not proud of is how white folks are losing their minds. This ain’t for you, so don’t try to understand it. To that note, Saturday Night Live has accurately portrayed this dismay in the following sketch, “The Day Beyoncé Turned Black.” It’s a must watch.

What I’m Reading Right Now…

Goslyn County:  I just started Goslyn County by A. M. McKnight, and so far it’s the kind of book I like: a story set in a small black community with simmering romance, richly drawn characters and a mystery to solve. The main character Ollie Winston is a detective trying to piece together a robbery with the help of childhood best friend Pat, while nurturing a budding romance with IRS Special Agent Maureen, who also lends her assistance to the case.

Book Quote…

“They were quiet for a spell—time enough for her to run cold water over the boiled potatoes and peel two or three before adding, “It’s like she the oak tree and you the ivy—just wrapped yourself all around her.” That’s when Ivoe reached across the table and laid a hand on her arm and said, “Momma, that’s exactly what it’s like.”
—From Jam on the Vine by LaShonda Katrice Barnett

Trolling for New Books…

All release dates are tentative.

returntoarms
A Return to Arms – Sheree L. Greer

Bold Strokes Books
Release date: March 15, 2016

When Toya meets Folami and joins the activist collective RiseUP!, she thinks she’s found her life’s purpose. Folami’s sensuality and her passion for social justice leave Toya feeling that, at last, she’s met someone she can share all parts of her life with. But when a controversial police shooting blurs the lines between the personal and the political, Toya is forced to examine her identity, her passions, and her allegiances.

Folami, a mature and dedicated activist, challenges Toya’s commitment to the struggle while threatening to pull her back into the closet to maintain the intense connection they share. How ever, Nina, a young, free-spirited artist, invites Toya to explore the intersections between sexual and political freedom.

With the mounting tensions and social unrest threatening to tear the community apart, can Toya find a safe place to live and love while working to uplift her people?

leztalk
LEZ TALK – edited by S. Andrea Allen and Lauren Cherelle

BLF Press
Release date: April 5, 2016
Pre-sale orders available March 1, 2016

A necessary and relevant addition to the Black LGBTQ literary canon, which oftentimes over looks Black lesbian writing, Lez Talk is a collection of short stories that embraces the fullness of Black lesbian experiences. The contributors operate under the assumption that “lesbian” is not a dirty word, and have written stories that amplify the diversity of Black lesbian lives.

At once provocative, emotional, adventurous, and celebratory, Lez Talk crosses a range of fictional genres, including romance, speculative, and humor. The writers explore new subjects and aspects of their experiences, and affirm their gifts as writers and lesbian women. Beginning with Claudia Moss’s “Who Cooks for You?” a lush romantic tale of self-discovery, the collection also includes work from Sheree L. Greer, Lauren Cherelle, K.A. Smith, Eternity Philops, S. Andrea Allen, and Faith Mosley.

riseoftherainqueen
Rise of the Rain Queen – Fiona Zedde

Bold Strokes Books
Release Date: July 1, 2016

Nyandoro was born the favorite. As the only girl of her parents’ six children, she gets everything she wants without even asking for it. When the latest thing she desires is the wife of a village elder, she faces consequences she never had to before.

These consequences come with the dawn of a passion she didn’t know existed, a carnal feast of flesh she can’t get enough of. But on the night she gains the ultimate satisfaction from the woman she’d always wanted, she also loses every good thing she ever had. This loss takes Ny from the shelter of her family and home to the unknown wilds of a new world flush with ancient power, and into the arms of an old lover who has always been by her side.

Visit This Website…

Life According to Tania: I stumbled upon Life According to Tania few months ago. Blogger Tania bills her website as “Thoughts of a [mostly] Morally Sane Black Lesbian, + a few good reads.” She reads a lot of black lesbian books, which is always great to find someone who has the same reading list I do.


Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta

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undertheudalatreesPublisher/Date:  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Sept. 2015
Genre(s):  Romance, Coming of Age
Pages:  336
Website:  http://www.chinelookparanta.com

Rating: ★★★★★ 

I love coming-of-age stories. The transition one makes from child to adulthood is an evolution I watch with fascination. Ijeoma’s growing up is especially captivating because the 11-year-old lives with the threat of falling bombs, food rations and army takeovers during the Nigerian Civil War in UNDER THE UDALA TREES by Chinelo Okparanta (author of Happiness Like Water).

Set in the town of Ojoto, the time is 1968, and the juxtaposition of her typical experiences of a girl her age – attending school and watching the boys play Policeman – contrasts sharply with worries of her father, a drafter obsessed with any report about Biafra’s attempt to defeat the government. Ijeoma sees him poring over newspapers that line his study or listening to his radio-gramophone, and prays for an end to the conflict so that her father, as well everyone around them, can return to normal life.

A subsequent attack leaves Ijeoma fatherless, and fearing her daughter’s safety and well-being, her mother sends her to be a housegirl to a grammar school teacher and his wife in neighboring Nnewi. An adjacent hovel with only a table and mattress – no bathroom or running water – becomes her new home, and Ijeoma has to contend with her new surroundings as well as her mother’s abandonment to prepare them a new life.

Working for the childless couple proves mindless, until she meets Amina, a girl about her age whom she discovers has no family, and luckily, convinces her caretakers they could use an extra pair of hands with chores. They share Ijeoma’s small confines, but it’s where their attraction begins to blossom. Ijeoma and Amina come from different tribes – Ijeoma is Igbo, Amina is Hausa – but they shyly explore the other under the moonlight and stars while taking nighttime baths. Both without family, both working to earn their keep, the girls begin a love affair that sustains them and blinds them to the danger of being found out – until they are found out – and then Ijeoma returns to the care of her mother.

This is where Udala finds its footing. Ijeoma becomes bombarded with the decisions of whether being gay is God’s will or an abomination as her as her mother emphasizes with daily Bible studies and incessant scripture quoting. Her questioning of God’s word leads her to believe that the world is not as black and white as the pages of her Bible, but her mother sees her daughter’s life only in terms of being married and having children. Ijeoma is reluctant to take this path, but it seems the only way out in a country where being gay can be a destructive decision to make.

Under the Udala Trees is a lot of things: a coming-of-age tale, an exploration of Nigerian folklore, an examination of religious doctrine. But quite simply, at its heart, Trees is a bittersweet love story written incredibly well by Okparanta. While the religious overtones can sometimes bog down the story, it leads to Ijeoma becoming introspective about what God sincerely wants. I found the story, despite its somber nature, to be hopeful with every page toward the novel’s end. I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s something about Trees that makes me feel as if Ijeoma finds her happy ending.

Reviewed February 2016

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About Chinelo Okparanta

Chinelo Okparanta was born in Port-Harcourt, Nigeria, and was raised there as a Jehovah’s Witness. When she was ten, her family relocated to the United States. She received her BS from The Pennsylvania State University, her MA from Rutgers University, and her MFA from the University of Iowa. She has worked as a middle and high school French and English Language teacher, and an undergraduate writing teacher. She is one of Granta’s six New Voices for 2012 and has stories forthcoming from Conjunctions, Subtropics, and elsewhere.


It’s Black History Month. Read or Watch Something.

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It’s Black History Month, and I thought I’d share the women, books and stories from that should be devoured during the month of February.

Autobiography

Brown Girl Dreamingbrowngirldreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Jacqueline Woodson, one of today’s finest writers, tells the moving story of her childhood in mesmerizing verse.

Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become. Winner of the zamiNewberry Honor Award

Zami: A New Spelling of My Name – A Biomythography by Audre Lorde
Zami: A New Spelling of My Name is a 1982 autobiography by African-American poet Audre Lorde. It started a new genre that the author calls biomythography. Zami is a fast-moving chronicle. From the author’s vivid childhood memories in Harlem to her coming of age in the late 1950s, the nature of Audre Lorde’s work is cyclical. It especially relates the linkage of women who have shaped her . . . Lorde brings into play her craft of lush description and characterization. It keeps unfolding page after page.

Compilations
Afrekete: An Anthology of Black Lesbian Writing
afrekete
edited by Catherine E. McKinley
Elegant, timely, provocative, and inspiring, the fiction, poetry, and nonfiction in Afrekete — written in a range of styles — engage a variety of highly topical themes, placing them at the center of literary and social discourse. Beginning with “Tar Beach,” an excerpt from Audre Lorde’s celebrated memoir Zami: A New Spelling of My Name, which introduces the character Afrekete, the collection also includes such prominent writers as Michelle Cliff, Carolivia Herron, Jewelle Gomez, and Alexis De Veaux. Other pieces are by Jacqueline Woodson, Sapphire, Essence editor Linda Villarosa, and filmmaker Michelle Parkerson, with other contributions by exciting new writers Cynthia Bond, Jocelyn Taylor, Jamika Ajalon, and Sharee Nash.

blacklikeusBlack Like Us: A Century of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual African American Fiction
edited by Devon W. Carbado and Dwight McBride
Showcasing the work of literary giants like Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, Audre Lorde, Alice Walker, and writers whom readers may be surprised to learn were “in the life,” Black Like Us is the most comprehensive collection of fiction by African-American lesbian, gay, and bisexual writers ever published. From the Harlem Renaissance to the Great Migration of the Depression era, from the postwar civil rights, feminist, and gay liberation movements, to the unabashedly complex sexual explorations of the present day, Black Like Us accomplishes a sweeping survey of 20th century literature. Winner of the 2003 Lambda Literary Award for Fiction Anthology

doesyourmamaknowDoes Your Mama Know?: An Anthology of Black Lesbian Coming Out Stories edited by Lisa C. Moore
This is a collection of short stories, poems, interviews and essays by black lesbians. The complexity of emotions that accompany a black lesbian’s coming out are reflected in these original writings.


gritsG.R.I.T.S. – Girls Raised In the South: An Anthology of Southern Queer Womyns’ Voices and Their Allies
edited by Poet On Watch and Amber N. Williams (with introduction by Cheryl Clarke)
This cutting-edge anthology G.R.I.T.S : Girls Raised In The South – An Anthology of Southern Queer Womyns’ Voices and Their Allies, edited by Poet On Watch & Amber N. Williams, can be compared to the pioneering anthology Home Girls, which featured writings by Black feminist and lesbian activists on topics both provocative and profound. G.R.I.T.S. is a critical self-analysis and celebration with multicultural queer women voices and their allies through essays, short stories, poetry, photo stories and healing comfort recipes. The perspectives are of womyn who live in the Southern region of the United States and/or have a strong affinity for this locale. The theme of the publication surrounds the subject matter of erotica while enjoying food, our connection to the South, the bonds created between lovers, and in sisterhood, personal growth, be it spiritual or otherwise and our best G.R.I.T.S. recipes.

Feminist Works


homegirlsHome Girls
edited by Barbara Smith
The pioneering anthology Home Girls features writings by Black feminists and lesbian activists on topics both provocative and profound. Since its initial publication in 1983, it has become an essential text on Black women’s lives and writings. This edition features an updated list of contributor biographies and an all-new preface that provides a fresh assessment of how Black women’s lives have changed – or not – since the book was first published.

 

sisteroutsiderSister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde (with foreword by Cheryl Clarke)
Presenting the essential writings of black lesbian poet and feminist writer Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider celebrates an influential voice in twentieth-century literature. In this charged collection of fifteen essays and speeches, Lorde takes on sexism, racism, ageism, homophobia, and class, and propounds social difference as a vehicle for action and change.

 

womenraceclassWomen, Race, & Class by Angela Y. Davis
A powerful study of the women’s movement in the U.S. from abolitionist days to the present that demonstrates how it has always been hampered by the racist and classist biases of its leaders.

Films

bessiemovieBessie
Queen Latifah stars as legendary blues singer Bessie Smith in this HBO Films presentation, directed by acclaimed filmmaker Dee Rees (named one of 20 filmmakers to watch by The New York Times). The film focuses on Smith’s transformation from a struggling young singer into “The Empress of the Blues,” who became one of the most successful recording artists of the 1920s and is an enduring icon today.

watermelonwomanThe Watermelon Woman
Cheryl Dunye’s debut feature is as controversial as it is sexy and funny. Cheryl is a twenty-something black lesbian working as a clerk in a video store while struggling to make a documentary about Fae Richards, an obscure black actress from the 1930’s. Cheryl is surprised to discover that Richards (known popularly as “the Watermelon Woman”) had a white lesbian lover. At the same time, Cheryl falls in love with a very cute white customer at the video store (Guinevere Turner from Go Fish).


womenbrewsterplacemovieThe Women of Brewster Place

Based on the novel by Gloria Naylor, a group of strong-willed women live in the same rundown housing project and struggle against racism, poverty and troublesome men through three decades. Starring Oprah Winfrey, Jackee Harry, Robin Givens, this miniseries features a black lesbian couple dealing with the joys and pains of being whom they are.


Novels

thecolorpurpleThe Color Purple by Alice Walker
The Color Purple is a 1982 epistolary novel by American author Alice Walker that won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award for Fiction. It was later adapted into a film and musical of the same name.  The story focuses on the life of Celie and her struggles as a black woman in 1930s rural Georgia, and the relationship between her and provocative blues singer Shug Avery. Moving, painful and full of life.


descendantsofhagarDescendants of Hagar
by Nik Nicholson
It’s 1914 in Zion, Georgia, during the Black Codes, when Negroes were lynched for one wrong glance. A time when marriage was an agreement between a woman’s father and the man he chose for her. Most women had no romantic interest in their future husbands. In the worst case, they were promised to complete strangers. Madelyn “Linny” Remington is the great-great granddaughter of strong-spirited ex-slave, Miemay, who oversees her rearing. While other women were raised to be broken, Linny was reared to build and repair. When other women were expected to be seen and not heard, Linny was expected to vote beside men. As other women prayed they would be chosen for marriage before they were too old, Linny cleaned her rifle to hunt. While her sister hoped to honor her husband by bearing a son, Linny wondered how a single woman could provide for herself, when only male children could expect an inheritance. A secret has Linny slated as her father’s favorite son. Until Linny makes a promise that frees her from a conventional woman’s role, but the promise also brings shame on her family. Will Linny, threatened with alienation, honor her promise? Or bow to her father’s will an
d go back on her word? Read the Sistahs on the Shelf review of Descendants of Hagar.

lovingherLoving Her: A Novel by Ann Allen Shockley
Considered to be the first black lesbian novel. A groundbreaking novel of two very different women, one black and one white, and a remarkable love threatened by prejudice, rage, and violence

A struggling African-American musician, Renay married Jerome Lee when she discovered she was pregnant with his child. Yet even before their daughter, Denise, was born, Renay realized what a terrible mistake she had made, tying herself to a violent, abusive alcoholic. Then, while performing at an upscale supper club, Renay met Terry Bluvard. Beautiful, wealthy, and white, Terry awakened feelings that the talented black pianist had never realized she possessed—and before long, Renay was leaving the nightmare of Jerome Lee behind and moving with little Denise into Terry’s world of luxury and privilege.

Now, in this strange and exciting new place, Renay can experience for the first time what it is to have everything she needs for herself and her little girl. The rules here are different—often confusing and sometimes troubling—but in Terry’s home, and in Terry’s arms, Renay can be who she truly is . . . and be loved with caring tenderness and respect. Yet the storm clouds of her previous life still threaten, and Terry’s love alone may not be enough to protect Renay and her little girl from the tragedy that looms on the horizon. Read the Sistahs on the Shelf review of Loving Her.

passingPassing by Nella Larsen
Clare Kendry leads a dangerous life. Fair, elegant, and ambitious, she is married to a white man unaware of her African-American heritage, and has severed all ties to her past. Clare’s childhood friend, Irene Redfield, just as light-skinned, has chosen to remain within the African-American community, but refuses to acknowledge the racism that continues to constrict her family’s happiness. A chance encounter forces both women to confront the lies they have told others—and the secret fears they have buried within themselves.

Poetry

Jonestown and Other Madness: Poetry jonestownparker by Pat Parker
Straightforward, no-nonsense poetry about being Black, female and gay.

livingasalesbiannewLiving as a Lesbian by Cheryl Clarke
Living as a Lesbian is Cheryl Clarke’s paean to lesbian life. Filled with sounds from her childhood in Washington, DC, the riffs of jazz musicians, and bluesy incantations, Living as a Lesbian sings like a marimba, whispering “i am, i am in love with you.” Living as a Lesbian chronicles Clarke’s years of literary and political activism with anger, passion, and determination. Clarke mourns the death of Kimako Baraka, “sister of famous artist brother”; celebrates the life of Indira Gandhi; and chronicles all kinds of disasters natural and human-made. The world is large in Living as a Lesbian but also personal and intimate. These poems are closely observed and finely wrought with Clarke’s characteristic charm and wit shining throughout. In 1986, Living as a Lesbian captured the vitality and volatility of the lesbian world; today, in a world both changed and unchanged, Clarke’s poems continue to illuminate our lives and make new meanings for Living as a LesbianRead the Sistahs on the Shelf review of Living as a Lesbian.

Information compiled from amazon.com


Favorite SOTS Books Read in 2015

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While there weren’t any reviews posted at Sistahs on the Shelf in 2015, I definitely was reading last year. So I present to you my favorite SOTS books read in 2015:

undertheudalatrees1.     Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta
If done well, coming-of-age stories can make you fall in love, cry, and root for the protagonist’s journey into adulthood. Under the Udala Trees was that book for me in 2015. Tenderly written, this is the book that captured my emotions in the most heartbreaking way. Set during the Biafran War in late 1960s Nigeria, Udala Trees is a narrative that’s been done before – a young woman coming to terms with her sexuality – but Okparanta conveys Ijeoma’s life so beautifully and effortlessly as she loses her family to the war, braves the first plucks of love and being exposed, and suffers a life she’s made to want. Yet there is a small glimmer of hope in the pages – it just doesn’t come easy. (Read our 5-star review of her previous work, Happiness Like Water.)

 

lestales2.     Les Tales by Skyy, Nikki Rashan and Fiona Zedde
Hands down, the best short story collection I’ve read in quite some time, Les Tales is just that good. But why shouldn’t it be? Here you have three popular authors of black lesbian fiction writing about forbidden love, stories that are fully fleshed, captivating and give you feel after feel. (You might have seen me squealing in some instances…shhh). Skyy’s romance sets up the magic of the book, while Rashan’s plot involves a twisted but intriguing turn of events, but Zedde’s story – girl! –had my hormones all over the place. Zedde does what she does brilliantly – create extremely beddable love interests that you wish you could meet in real life. Overall, Les Tales contains hot sex scenes and striking characters. It only makes me sad that Nikki Rashan produced one her finest works in this collection, and she’s no longer with us.

 

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3.     For Sizakele by Yvonne ‘Fly’ Onakeme Etaghene
This was a debut novel that took me by surprise. For Sizakele is about NYU sophomore Taylor, an immigrant transplanted to the US as a young child, fighting to preserve her Nigerian culture in a world that overlooks the immigrant experience. She’s also struggling with girlfriend, Lee, mostly because of Taylor’s bisexuality, a serious point of contention between them. When Taylor befriends fellow Nigerian student Sy, she shares the pangs of her hot-and-cold romance, as well as the familiarity of their native land. It’s a connection she gravitates toward, in the midst of trying to figure out where she and Lee are headed and how best to live her life. For Sizakele is for anyone who’s survived a painful breakup, who questions whether love is enough, and whether the past can truly be healed. Etaghene also deftly portrays of the LGBT immigrant experience in America, something sorely needed in literature.

 

 

4.     The Rules by S. Renee Bessrulesthebess
Both a mystery and a discourse in black lesbian authorship, The Rules is truly engaging. It’s the kind of book that throws a lot at you, but makes you think. Protagonist London Phillip’s anguish to find missing lesbian author Milagros Farrow makes for a compelling, character-driven story in the way that Bess is so good at. In any good thriller, there are the good guys, the bad girls and the one whose good intentions go horribly wrong. If you enjoy mature romance and themes, The Rules definitely fits the bill.

 

 

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5.     Jam on the Vine by LaShonda Katrice Barnett
Jam on the Vine is a remarkable piece of historical fiction following Ivoe Williams from a precocious 5-year-old girl with a thirst for knowledge in the Jim Crow South to a woman launching the first female-run African American newspaper with lover Ona in Kansas City in 1919. The toils and triumphs Ivoe faces in the creation and distribution of her publication, named Jam! On the Vine, are the bread-and-butter of Bennett’s well-researched novel. She captures the strength black women employ to be heard and respected in one of the country’s most volatile times. While at times Jam moves densely toward Ivoe’s future endeavors, her family is richly drawn, and the love story is energetic.

southerncomfort6.     Southern Comfort by Skyy
Her first full-length novel since the acclaimed Choices series ended in 2013, Skyy had a lot riding on Southern Comfort. She conquered that hurdle in creating the love long-distance love affair between British bred Willow and Tennessee native Katrina. The book jet sets between London and Memphis as the pair navigate a relationship and friendships from differing coasts. The result is good fun – even when drama rears its head as it tends to do in Skyy’s books. Based on Southern Comfort, I’m excited to see where she goes next.

 

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7.   All or Nothing by J. L. Dillard
An invigorating, empowering rompfest best describes All or Nothing, the first installment in J.L. Dillard’s The Pleasure Principle series. Sideline reporter AJ Arenas’ story begins when her engagement ends, and she decides to shed her good girl image – involving a dose of threesomes, secrets and, just maybe, love. AJ’s astounding to watch: her confidence and pursuit of her desires, be it woman or man, without hurting anyone. And I found her rendezvous with women to be hotter than fish grease. With All or Nothing, prepare to be pleased.

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8.     This Time by Monique Thomas
Monique Thomas writes everyday love stories, the kind that feel familiar and whose characters that could be your real-life friends. This Time is no different. When former roommates and one-time lovers Nina and Trish are reunited by a set up, the women’s’ drunken night together evokes the hurtful memories that haunted their years of no contact. Their road to forgiveness is so genuine and real. It’s a happily ever after worth the emotions it puts you through. This Time also features one of my favorite lines all year: “Just so you know I’m not a piece of guaranteed ass.”

 

nototherwisespecified9.     Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz
The synopsis of Not Otherwise Specified depicts main character Etta to a tee: she’s a black, bisexual, bulimic, former ballet dancer who feels she doesn’t fit anywhere in her small Nebraska town. All of this could make Etta an utter mess, but she’s simply a teenager trying to find her way. Etta’s insecurities and struggles at 17 are what label her endearing because despite her shortcomings she’s very self-aware. At that age all you want is to do is find your place and friends who love you for you. I loved Etta; I rooted for her so much. There hasn’t been a character quite like Etta in young adult fiction, and I hope voices like hers get more exposure in 2016.

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10.     Azure BLU: The Royal Saga by Feral Kitty

The continuing saga originating from 2012’s Royal BLU, Azure BLU is pure drama from beginning to end. It’s hopeful that the characters, Royal especially, have learned from their mistakes and matured as women. Some have, and some haven’t (I’m looking at you Royal). But I guess it’s all about growing up and learning what it takes to be in an adult relationship. Hopefully by Book 3, it’ll take effect; until then one can enjoy the flurry of these hookups.


Books 2 Check Out – October 2015

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Looking for something new to read? Here’s a round-up of a few novels you should check out (the titles are linked to Amazon, but most are available for purchase at Barnes & Noble, as well):

By Your Side by Monique Thomas
Romance

Being married had taught school teacher Skylar Dennis many things but getting a divorce was her greatest lesson learned. She is living her life as she wants it and has the love of friends. She has vowed to never get in a serious relationship. She may miss going home to the same person every night but the thought of being hurt again was not an option.

The world could be at Mystique St. Claire’s feet if she wanted but all she focused on was her life as an art gallery owner and artist. Many women had tried to get the attention of the tall and mysterious beauty but she only had eyes for Skylar Dennis. It was time to make her move but she needed Skylar to walk with her.

For Sizakele by Yvonne Fly Onakeme Etaghene
Romance/Immigrant Issues

Taylor, a queer Nigerian college student, is in a passionate relationship with Lee, a black American basketball-playing pianist. When Taylor develops romantic feelings for Sy, a Cameroonian photographer whose similarities make them instant family, Taylor battles Lee’s jealousy. As Taylor encounters challenges to her femme and African identities, she finds ways, through the kinship of her friends, to define herself on her own terms. For Sizakele addresses transcontinental identity, intimate partner violence, queer gender and how we love as illuminators of who we are.

Lipstick Dom by T. Styles
Urban Romance

Echo Kelly has a secret only her diary knows about. But when her younger sister discovers her in an uncompromising position, she uses the information as blackmail, making her world a living hell. Her burden grows when she falls in love with her best friend who is all about money, which Echo doesn’t have. After being rejected from her mother and first love, Echo goes away to find herself, resurfacing years later as a powerful drug boss with an insatiable sexual drive. Before long her BFF returns, married to a dangerous man with ulterior motives. Soon old feelings from the past bubble to the surface and Echo finds herself caught between two loves. One who is passive aggressive and the other who would do anything to maintain Echo’s heart, including kill. Lipstick Dom is for ladies who love ladies and T. Styles’ fans who appreciate a drama-filled love story.

Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz
Young Adult

Etta is tired of dealing with all of the labels and categories that seem so important to everyone else in her small Nebraska hometown.

Everywhere she turns, someone feels she’s too fringe for the fringe. Not gay enough for the Dykes, her ex-clique, thanks to a recent relationship with a boy; not tiny and white enough for ballet, her first passion; not sick enough to look anorexic (partially thanks to recovery). Etta doesn’t fit anywhere—until she meets Bianca, the straight, white, Christian, and seriously sick girl in Etta’s therapy group. Both girls are auditioning for Brentwood, a prestigious New York theater academy that is so not Nebraska. Bianca might be Etta’s salvation…but can Etta be saved by a girl who needs saving herself?

She Wants Her Too (Volume 2) by Tasha C. Miller
Romance
Sequel to She Wants Her (read our review)

Women absolutely love Cleopatra Giovanni, however, the widely-adored Cleopatra doesn’t love them back—not anymore. She only has eyes for her beloved wife, Jacqueline. While her picture-perfect life inspires some, it brings out pure jealousy in others. The envious do everything in their power to tear these two newlyweds apart. Supriti, the new woman in town who doesn’t take “no” for an answer, is just one of the many oppositions this couple has to face. This feat of love in book form is filled with more dark secrets and more recklessness than anyone should ever have to handle. These countless demons, heart-wrenching deceptions, and destroyed dreams are what cause the steadfast Cleopatra to question everything—her marriage included. Will Cleopatra betray her vows? Will she even have a choice in the matter? The real question is… Will their love conquer all—Again? This 554-page epic romance will capture your heart, crush it, and revive it at the very same time. Will you TOO get caught up in this beautiful disaster?

The Sisters Are Alright: Changing the Broken Narrative of Black Women in America by Tamara Winfrey Harris
Politics & Social Sciences/Feminist Theory

What’s wrong with black women? Not a damned thing!

The Sisters Are Alright exposes anti–black-woman propaganda and shows how real black women are pushing back against distorted cartoon versions of themselves.

When African women arrived on American shores, the three-headed hydra—servile Mammy, angry Sapphire, and lascivious Jezebel—followed close behind. In the ’60s, the Matriarch, the willfully unmarried baby machine leeching off the state, joined them. These stereotypes persist to this day through newspaper headlines, Sunday sermons, social media memes, cable punditry, government policies, and hit song lyrics. Emancipation may have happened more than 150 years ago, but America still won’t let a sister be free from this coven of caricatures.

Tamara Winfrey Harris delves into marriage, motherhood, health, sexuality, beauty, and more, taking sharp aim at pervasive stereotypes about black women. She counters warped prejudices with the straight-up truth about being a black woman in America. “We have facets like diamonds,” she writes. “The trouble is the people who refuse to see us sparkling.”

Sound by Alexandra Duncan
Young Adult/Science Fiction

Sound is the stand-alone companion to Alexandra Duncan’s acclaimed debut novel Salvage, which was praised by internationally bestselling author Stephanie Perkins as “brilliant, feminist science fiction.”

As a child, Ava’s adopted sister, Miyole, watched her mother take to the stars, piloting her own ship from Earth to space making deliveries. Now a teen herself, Miyole is finally living her dream as a research assistant on her very first space voyage. If she plays her cards right, she could even be given permission to conduct her own research and experiments in her own habitat lab on the flight home. But when her ship saves a rover that has been viciously attacked by looters and kidnappers, Miyole, along with a rescued rover girl named Cassia, embarks on a mission to rescue Cassia’s abducted brother, and that changes the course of Miyole’s life forever. Harrowing, provocative, and stunning, Sound begins roughly a decade after the action in the author’s critically acclaimed Salvage, and is a powerful stand-alone companion.

Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta
Coming of Age
Inspired by Nigeria’s folktales and its war, Under the Udala Trees is a deeply searching, powerful debut about the dangers of living and loving openly.

Ijeoma comes of age as her nation does; born before independence, she is eleven when civil war breaks out in the young republic of Nigeria. Sent away to safety, she meets another displaced child and they, star-crossed, fall in love. They are from different ethnic communities. They are also both girls.

When their love is discovered, Ijeoma learns that she will have to hide this part of herself. But there is a cost to living inside a lie.

As Edwidge Danticat has made personal the legacy of Haiti’s political coming of age, Okparanta’s Under the Udala Trees uses one woman’s lifetime to examine the ways in which Nigerians continue to struggle toward selfhood. Even as their nation contends with and recovers from the effects of war and division, Nigerian lives are also wrecked and lost from taboo and prejudice. This story offers a glimmer of hope — a future where a woman might just be able to shape her life around truth and love.


In Memory of Nikki Rashan

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In Memory of Nikki Rashan

August 18, 1972-May 4, 2015

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I was saddened to hear of author Nikki Rashan’s passing earlier this week. As a long-time reader of her four full-length novels and two anthologies, I was enamored with her talent for passionate storytelling, the kind of stories that engage and hook you within the first couple chapters. She was also a fighter, battling cancer, to which she lost her fight. Yet Nikki will always be remembered by Sistahs on the Shelf as a writer, a mother of twins, and a beautiful soul.

A year or so ago, I discovered Nikki’s blog, NB]tween Thoughts, where she discussed her life’s journey. After her passing, I began to read again, and in her last post on March 16, 2015 titled Pray or Worry, Don’t Do Both~N&B update~:-), I found this passage especially moving:

This blog isn’t written to sadden anyone, but instead I pray it’s encouraging in some way. I find refuge in blogs and books written by women who have gone through this journey. If sharing my experience can benefit someone else, I’m happy to share. My mindset right now is to absorb each day with whatever it brings. If it’s a quiet day at home, that’s fine, I have books to read, music to dance to and loved ones around me. If I’m out and about soaking up California sunshine, even better. If it’s day for treatment, all right, the treatment is only helping to rid [my] body of these busybody cells. Life goes on…I look forward to a trip home in May. I look forward to celebrating Brandy’s birthday in Hawaii this summer. I look forward to whatever is next because I trust and believe that it’s all for my good.

Nikki Rashan’s Bibliography
Double Pleasure, Double Pain (2003)
You Make Me Wanna (2005)
Cyber Case (2010)
The EXchange (2013)
Full Figured 7 (2013)
Les Tales: Tempted to Touch (2014)

Photos from www.nikkirashan.com