Descendants of Hagar by Nik Nicholson (Jan. 2014 Pick of the Month)

Posted on

descendantsofhagarpotmlogoPublisher/Date:  AuthorHouse, July 2013
Genre(s):  Historical Fiction
Pages:  398 pages
Website:  http://www.niknicholson.com

Rating: ★★★★★ 

I’ve stated in a previous post that DESCENDANTS OF HAGAR was outright the best book I read in 2013. The reason why belongs to Madelyn “Linny” Remington, the heroine of this tale set in a fictional version of Zion, Georgia in 1914.

Linny carried away my heart in world that wasn’t made for modern women: where women are voiceless without a man; when marriage was an arrangement between a father and the man he chose for his daughter; where a woman’s only calling and accomplishment is to bear children.

And in this sheltered life stood Linny, treated like a son instead of a daughter, groomed to build and work beside men, and given a voice unlike her own wedded sisters who were expected to keep quiet. At 20 years old and unmarried, she could have been considered an old maid, but she never saw her worth tied into being betrothed.

Lambda-Medal2014

2014 Lambda Literary Award Winner From http://www.lambdaliterary.org

Underneath the way Linny’s expected to take on a masculine work ethic lies the heart of a woman. She can hunt and slaughter, but her favorite time is sitting in the women’s quilting circle, connecting with the grandmothers, mothers and sisters of Zion, relishing the women’s stories and lost dreams.

Nicholson creates Linny’s most significant female relationship with her great-great-grandmother, Miemay, who ensures Linny’s purpose wasn’t being someone’s wife. Miemay, an ex-slave and the only woman in Zion to own land and businesses (without ever learning to read), is highly respected as a town elder. This knowledge she passes on to Linny, slowly giving her control over her affairs. Whereas Linny believed she was following the wishes of the woman who practically raised her and spending time with a woman with more head smarts than five men combined, Miemay was preparing Linny to be self-sufficient.

There are so many layers to unravel in Descendants of Hagar, and Nicholson has done her research to tie them in a vibrant arrangement. Linny’s strong voice brings to life a woman’s sexuality in a post-Reconstruction era novel and all the challenges it brings – a single woman taking care of her own home without a man’s help, feeling slighted by her mother because of her unlady like ways, being treated like one of the guys but being left out of their conversations.

Family is also one of Hagar’s solid storylines, because Nicholson touches on just how important kin is to Zion, not only to provide a foundation but also to its prosperity. All of the work done in Zion, from the construction of houses, to picking cotton, to running the main store, is kept in the family, and working together has allowed them to be better off than many in the poor white towns surrounding them – but also creates worry about the next threat from will bear “strange fruit” in their own backyards. Linny’s relationship with family is tenuous, most especially with her parents and brothers, but the love from her sisters is her lifeline. Though they treat her with kid gloves at times, they depend on her, admire and envy her unencumbered life, and add such a great life to this novel.

And falling in love is aspect of Hagar that’s significant but not an overpowering part of the novel, which I enjoyed. I assumed there would be some romance, but I appreciated how Nicholson didn’t make it the bulk of this tale. The love between her and Coley is realistic of and fits into the context of the time. Coley means well, and I like how she allows Linny to think outside the box, but Coley is a piece of work. Just get to know her.

Descendants of Hagar is a potent story – somber, sweet, funny, uplifting, enriching – and Nicholson does a fantastic job of capturing this time period. She truly did her homework. This makes me even more excited for the sequel, Daughter of Zion, out this fall.

[rating-report]

Reviewed January 2014

About Nik Nicholson

In 2009, Nik Nicholson began research for Descendants of Hagar. She interviewed approximately sixty women. The research exposed the challenges of masculine-centered lesbians, including how they come to terms with and express their sexuality and gender roles. Descendants of Hagar is Nicholson’s highly-anticipated debut novel. It is the first novel of a two-part series, which includes the intoxicatingly beautiful, Daughter of Zion., scheduled to be released September 2014.

Nik is an artist; in addition to writing she is also a poet, a spoken-word performer, actor and painter.


Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Read In 2013

Posted on

toptentuesday2

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme hosted at The Broke and the Bookish.

This week’s topic: Top Ten Books I Read In 2013

This year has been one of the best for me at Sistahs on the Shelf.

I’ve met some great people. And I’ve branched out and tried some ideas that I’m definitely carrying into the new year.

Most importantly, I’ve read some fabulous books – both of the lesbian and the mainstream variety. These are truly my favorites, though. Browse through my garden of good and lovelies, shall you?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Descendants of Hagar by Nik Nicholson

I finished reading this book only a couple of weeks ago, and just like that it became my favorite book of 2013.  Why? Because of Madelyn “Linny” Remington, the main character of Nicholson’s novel about a 1914 woman who doesn’t follow the strict conventions of her time. She can match wits and strength with any man, but knows being a woman is her greatest asset. Even as ladies in her Georgia town of Zion can’t vote unless through a man, Linny strives to make her voice heard. But the book goes even deeper. Hands down, Hagar has the best characterization I’ve seen in a novel this year. Look for a review of Hagar very soon.

Full Circle by Skyy

What more can I say about a beloved series that has come to a close? That Skyy needs to write more books, that’s what. Full Circle, this final novel starring Denise, Lena, Cooley and Carmen, said everything that needed to be said by the last page. Hearts were broken, truths were told, and love brought people together. If you haven’t read any of the Choices series, please get on that.

I am Your Sister 2 by Ericka K. F. Simpson

Just as intense is Simpson’s I Am Your Sister 2, with Symone Holmes undergoing painful flashbacks while finally achieving her dream as a WNBA player. Her growing pains from the previous novel are testaments to Simpson’s talent, tying religion, sports, sexuality and love.

On the Come Up by Hannah Weyer

AnnMarie Walker simply could have been product of her public housing upbringing. Yet there was so much more to AnnMarie than her surroundings, a fact beautifully drawn by filmmaker Weyer in On the Come Up, a novel based on a true story. Pregnant at 13, she’s no one’s victim. AnnMarie is engaging, smart, and endearing. She becomes a movie star, falls in love, and charts her path – and we know she’ll be all right. Not a book for everyone (but it should be), On the Come Up has a unique voice.

Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi

Ascension was an out-of-the-box read for me, considering I don’t read a lot of science fiction. But Koyanagi endeared me to the story of Alana Quick, a dreadlocked sky surgeon in Heliodor City on the planet Orpim. Her life is fixing space ships with her Aunt Lai, barely getting by, and coping with debilitating illness. She gets aboard a stranded vessel, and goes on a wild ride with her ragtag crew. I was enamored by the space travel. This is the first in the Tangled Axiom series.

If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan

What is it about first love that allows us to see only roses and skip over the weeds? This is portrayed in If You Could Be Mine, a young adult romance set in Iran. I enjoyed it, mostly because I watched as Sahar genuinely laid her heart bare for her best friend. Everything she went through to prove this love – including a possible sex change operation – was what kept me reading. Sahar is a great character, and I really want to know what happens to her next (which means I want a sequel).

The EXchange by Nikki Rashan

What hot piece of drama this book was! Kyla – from Double Pleasure Double Pain and You Make Me Wanna – and her partner Asia decide to bring in a third party to spice up their dull relationship – and not in the way you think. It’s more like Kyla decides to date her ex while Asia waits for her to decide what she truly wants. A recipe for disaster, but also an entertaining, make-you-think-about-your-own-relationship read.

Turn Me Out by T. Ariez

After reading this e-book, I immediately had to interview this author. T. Ariez’s work about stud-on-stud love compelled me to explore her motivation for writing. This concluded in my first Interview & Review feature (which I will do more of in the coming year). Turn Me Out is a spicy book, and it managed to get a lot of people reading it and discovering Ariez as an author. I think she will have great things in store in 2014, as she’s been teasing about a new project on Facebook.

Abandoned Property by Kai Mann

Hands down, one of the best sequels I read this year. I was so enthralled by the revolving narratives in Mann’s sequel to 30 Day Notice. All the character’s stories come together so seamlessly in the life of Kori Maitlin, whom we’re introduced to in Notice. Well done and fully absorbing.

Broken in Soft Places by Fiona Zedde

The beauty is not necessarily in how the characters in Zedde’s latest book, Broken in Soft Places, treat each other, but in how Zedde deftly writes a novel that makes a deplorable character appealing. Rille can’t be contained by monogamy, much to the chagrin of Sara, but Zedde’s prose keeps you wanting to know what will happen to this couple next.

So tell me:  What’s the best lesbian book you’ve read this year?


Sistahs Shop Talk – 11/10/13

Posted on

shoptalklogo

Introducing this new series, Sistahs Shop Talk is just random ramblings from yours truly about books, news, and views that captivate me (hopefully on a weekly basis).

One Thought…

  • black-girls-rock1#BlackGirlsRock:  I watched Black Girls Rock last Sunday on BET, and as always I felt inspired by these women who are making a difference and the encouragement it gives young women. Lord knows, girls and women of color aren’t visible enough or are only visible as negative portraits painted by media), so the show’s message is important and needed. Young girls like my 20-year-old niece, who just got her real-world job disappointment a while ago, need to know that they are special and they do have a place in this world. My only issue with Black Girls Rock is the exclusion of black lesbians. I thought it would be amazing to have Brittney Griner earn the Star Power award for accomplishments in sports (not to take anything away from this year’s winner Venus Williams). Brittney’s rise from college phenom to WNBA Phoenix Mercury player is extraordinary. Not to mention she’s unapologetically open about her sexuality and passionate about working with children in order to bring attention to the issue of bullying, particularly in the LGBT community. It would serve black girls who rock to see that sexuality is just one aspect of being comfortable in your own skin, especially those girls who identify or struggle as gay. Well, there’s always next year.

 News Snippets…

  • Kerry Washington is pregnant:  I know all you Scandal fans are excited to hear Kerry’s pregnant with a little Gladiator. Congrats to Kerry and husband Nnamdi Asomugha.
  • Young gay leaders in the workplace:  The Human Rights Campaign recently hosted the HBCU Leadership and Career Summit, which brought together an effective group of LGBT HBCU student leaders committed to developing their personal leadership and career skills. Watch video of “Generation Equality: Entering the Workforce” panel, hosted November 4 as part of HRC’s 2013 HBCU Leadership and Career Summit. (http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/hbcu-leadership-and-career-summit)

 What I’m Reading This Week…

descendantsofhagarDescendants of Hagar:  Nik Nicholson has crafted a wonderful character in Linny Remington in the Descendants of Hagar, a woman charting her own path in a small Georgia town. She doesn’t follow the conventions of living as a lady in 1914, being 21 and without a husband and kids. It’s unheard of. She’s as smart and strong as the men building houses around her and just as gentle as the women she knits with. I think I heart her. I’m a good ways in the novel and I’m trying to savor it.

Book Quote…

“Being unmarried, I’m like some eternal child, less than a man and always at odds with everybody.

Then again, may not have nothing to do with none of that. Mama was always hovering over my sisters, and I was always running behind Daddy when he what’n pulling me with ‘im. They always use to tease that he raised me like a boy, and that I would grow up to think and act like a man. They say that’s probly why I’m so stubborn and ain’t got no respect for men. I know all they know and can do all they can do, so it ain’t no place for one in my life. That bother Daddy, don’t bother me.”

– Nik Nicholson, Descendants of Hagar

Trolling for New Books…

Slippery When Wet:  Author Cairo’s latest erotica outing, Slippery When Wet, involves women-on-women action flaunted in short stories. With titles as “Juicy Fruit” and “Sweet ‘n’ Sticky”, it’s bound to be wild ride. I’ve read at least one story in the book already, and I must say that Cairo, a dude with 11 books under his belt, has a way with the raunchy. But it brings up the issue of can a man write good lesbian lit? I haven’t found many men who’ve quite gotten it right – well, with the exception of Terry B., author of Dancer’s Paradise. What do you think?

Visit This Website…

Sapphic Pages:  Have you checked out Sapphic Pages, a new website review for gay and lesbian books?


Books 2 Check Out – Oct. 2013

Posted on

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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):

Abandoned Property by Kai Mann
Kori, Jerard, Darius, Jay, Layla, Karina, and CoCo all have something in common; they’ve been abandoned. Even though their issues of abandonment stem from some of the same situations, how they play out is different in nature. Whether it’s Kori’s guilt and shame, Jerard’s revolving door of relationships, Darius’ daddy issues, Karina’s attention seeking, Layla’s insecurities and self doubt, Jay’s fear of being abandoned, or Coco’s trust issues; they all allow their issues to manifest negatively in all of their relationships.

Will the cycles of physical or emotional abandonment like being left with strangers or relatives, placed in foster care, physical abuse, sexual abuse, or even death determine their futures? Or will they go to the extreme opposite to ensure that the cycle ends with them? Or maybe they’ll realize the blessing in being abandoned by people who never knew how to care for them in the first place? (The sequel to 30 Day Notice.)

At Her Feet by Rebekah Weatherspoon
During a night of Web surfing for celeb gossip and masturbatory material, digital marketing producer Suzanne Kim stumbles across an intriguing thread while checking her profile on kinklife.com. Suzanne isn’t exactly looking, but the request for a very specific type of submissive from the attractive mistress, Mami-P, is hard to resist. Though the two hit it off during their first online conversation, Suzanne never imagines how strong their real life attraction and compatibility will be. After a few missteps in training, trust, and communication, Suzanne finds a deep love with her mistress, Pilar.

Overworked and overstressed in her daily life, Suzanne comes to crave their relationship for the visceral escape it provides, but before they can make the ultimate commitment, someone from Suzanne’s professional life threatens to disrupt their perfectly balanced bliss.

Between Right and Wrong by S. Stephens
Elise James has finally found her place in Miami. She’s a high-end real estate agent and loves selling homes to the rich and famous of Miami, Florida. With all her success she continues to live on the edge with the women in her life. The constant turmoil she’s in with her best friend, recording artist Carmen Trammel, the struggle with whether to reconcile with her long time love Symphony Graves or to start something new with Monica Adams who has to make the ultimate sacrifice in order to be with Elise. Just as Elise and her friends are basking in the glow of Carmen Trammel’s success a phone call rocks their world. Will Elise be the glue that holds them together or the piece that tears them all apart? Will the friends stay together long enough to get through it or will the choices between right and wrong derail them forever? (The sequel to Am I My Sister’s Keeper?)

Descendants 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 and go back on her word?”

Dreams in Acapella by Alicia Clark
Poetry with a distinct edge. It will have you snapping your fingers, each one better than the last.

In Pursuit of Joi by Olivia Renee Wallace
Joi McIntosh is a woman torn. She is married to the perfect husband. She is the mother of the perfect daughter. She has her own thriving business and seems to be living the perfect life. But she has secrets… Secrets that haunt her dreams. Along comes Latoya Bradshaw. She’s beautiful, successful, and edgy. She awakens feelings in Joi that have lain dormant for years. She reminds Joi of her past. Joi must decide on whether she wants to continue living the life of the woman that she has become or risk it all to become the woman that she once thought that she was meant to be.

Soft Tsunami by Claudia Moss
Poems About Desire, Awakening, Fearlessness, Love, Acceptance and Lesbian Love From the author of If You Love Me, Come and Not Without Passion, Soft Tsunami is a collection of 55 poems, each flowing through torrents and gushes and surges and streams and inundations of life and love. “Soft Tsunami was written like Sanskrit on my Soul, splashed across wire-bound notebook sheets, trickled down yellow legal pads and, eventually, tap-danced across my laptop’s lit screen, each poem flowing into a line-up of regimented and sexy showgirls awaiting applause,” Claudia Moss Poet/Author/Blogger/Speaker/Performer. Soft Tsunami is the complete collection of the 5-part series, The Soft Tsunami Collection, in one book. Readers now have choice. You can delight in one or more sections or read the entire collection.

Two Times A Lady by Seconya Y. Bagby
Four years ago Yvonne was a ‘womon’ on the edge… of love that is. Caught between head and heart, she found herself at the mercy of both Dorian and Corrine, having inexplicably fallen for them both. In the end, Yvonne is forced to choose. This time around she is back with a vengeance and remains firm in her decision. It is only when adversity strikes, testing the solidity of her relationship, that she begins to ponder if love is enough. She soon discovers that one bad apple does indeed spoil the bunch as all of her relationships become affected in one way or another. In trying to salvage the most important relationship of them all, Yvonne must confront her past head on. It is through this vulnerability that she comes to understand what it truly means to love. (The sequel to The Womon.)