Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Purple Hibiscus

Purple HibiscusPurple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Kambili and Jaja Achike live what seems to be a privileged life. But their father Eugene is tyrannical, controlling and abusive. He is respected in their Catholic church due to his wealth and position in the community, owning a newspaper, and several factories that produce various goods. But he refuses to allow his father to enter his house because Eugene considers him a "heathen" who holds on to his traditional African ways, refusing to become a Catholic.

Kambili and Jaja live in fear of their father who insists that both of his children must have the highest grades in their respective classes in Catholic school. They are both smart students, but when Kambili brings home her grades as the second highest in her class, she is whipped for that transgression.

Eugene's sister Ifeoma is a lecturer in the University at Nsukka several hours away from Eugene's family in Enugu. Aunty Ifeoma recognizes her brother's controlling and abusive nature, and invites Kambili and Jaja for a visit during the holidays. Aunty does not tell Eugene that the children will also visit their grandfather who lives in a traditional village. Kambili and Jaja's eyes are opened to a different way of living in Aunty's house, and Kambili finds her own voice, and her own freedom.

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Friday, March 25, 2016

Baby Girl

Baby Girl (Memory House Collection, #4)Baby Girl by Bette Lee Crosby
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cheryl Ann falls in love with Ryan when she is a teenager, living with a mother who never has anything good to say about her. Cheryl's Daddy has died, and Cheryl sees so much of her Daddy in Ryan, that she falls in love.

When her mother puts Cheryl out of the house, Cheryl is determined to make her own way in the world, with Ryan by her side. When she becomes pregnant, Ryan isn't ready to get married and have a baby, and Cheryl won't consider abortion. Ryan would rather have a boat. She does, however, decide to give the baby up for adoption to a loving couple she has met.

Ryan stays around long enough to see the birth of "Baby Girl," while Cheryl becomes as bitter as her mother always was. After she and Ryan are divorced, Cheryl falls in love again. This time with Nick who loves her, but who decides he is too old to have a family. After Cheryl has his baby, whom she keeps this time, Nick leaves.

Cheryl is determined to keep this baby named Violet, and manage by herself. But she does have people in her life to help and guide her through being a single mom. She has her best friend Nicole from work, Ophelia who helped her through the decision to give her Baby Girl away, and her landlady who was always at the ready to babysit. But Cheryl Ann was sure she was the strong one who could do it all by herself.

And then there is another baby, Felix. How did that happen? No spoilers here. But it took a few more years for Cheryl to see she didn't have to always be the strong one, didn't have to do it all by herself.

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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Gone Crazy in Alabama

Gone Crazy in Alabama (Gaither Sisters, #3)Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have fallen in love with Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern, the Gaither Sisters. I was late discovering this series for "Middle Grades" with great historical lessons.

It started with "One Crazy Summer," with the sisters visiting their wayward mother in Oakland, CA. Then the aftermath and return home to Brooklyn in "P.S. Be Eleven."

The latest installment is "Gone Crazy in Alabama" when Pa sends the girls "Down South" to meet the relatives on the farm. I so much enjoyed the voices of the girls as they complete each others' explanations in an almost poetic harmony. They remind me so much of my middle sister, my niece, and me.

I was so charmed that every time I opened the book at the next chapter, I couldn't hold back the smile on my face. Their adventures, learning the family history, helping gather the fresh eggs, and help milk the cow reminded me of days in Forsythe, Georgia, so long ago.

I was happy just reminiscing until something went terribly wrong, when I found myself in the middle of the night, with an unexpected page-turner. No spoilers here. You have to read it for yourself.

Rita Williams-Garcia is a winner.

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Sunday, January 24, 2016

Good Read for an Ice Storm

The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man by James Weldon Johnson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I completed reading The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man overnight. It is a short read at about 140 pages, and free on Kindle.

James Weldon Johnson first published this book anonymously in 1912, to avoid any controversy that might endanger his diplomatic career. And it is actually not an autobiography, but rather historical fiction.

As he wrote this book anonymously, he created characters who were also anonymous. Of all the dozens of characters in the story there were only about four who had names, some of them nick-names. Even the young man who tells his story has no name.

Much of the story draws from Johnson's personal life as a Civil Rights activist and a musician along with his brother Rosamond Johnson.Together the Johnson brothers composed Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing ("The Negro National Anthem"). But unlike Johnson who attended Atlanta University, the protagonist in the story spent many years in a variety of jobs where he learned various trades and several foreign languages.

Not until the "Ex-colored man" returns to the South knowing he could pass for white, did he begin to deal with the "race problem." But rather than involve himself in the issues of racism, Jim Crow, and the rights of black people, he spent much of his time learning the music and the vernacular of the early 20th century.

It is an easy book to read, probably more so due to the anonymous characterizations which would not point to the identity of the author.

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