Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Great Pat Down

Thanksgiving is over, and we didn't travel this weekend. When we did travel on November 13, that was my first experience with the full body scan at RDU airport.

Dear hubby had a hip replacement a couple of years ago, and he has gotten in the habit of requesting a "male assist" as soon as we get to the security checkpoint. He leaves me to keep up with his carry-on backpack and shoes while they pat him down. I have my own backpack with my assorted electronic gadgets, medications and "jewels"....important stuff. So I have my own shoes, backpack, and mini-PC to keep up with as well.

Before I entered the scan machine, they reminded me to take everything out of my pocket. I had a tube of Chapstick that had to go on the conveyor belt. I forgot I was wearing my money belt. It's not like I have big bucks, but I get nervous if I have more than $40 in my purse. When I travel, I stash the rest of my cash under my clothes.

After the scanner detected stuff under my clothes, I volunteered to take the money belt off, as I did on a trip through Heathrow airport a few years ago. But the female attendant, said no she would just pat me down. UGH. She really was very polite, and did it quickly, touching my underwire bra with the back of her hand, while I was trying to keep an eye on our stuff going down the conveyor belt. Then she had to dig into the front of my jeans to feel my money pouch....hmmm. But it was so quick, I was just glad to get out of there with all our stuff.

I know there have been lots of complaints across the country about TSA inspectors doing some really invasive feeling, and requiring passengers to remove prostheses, but my experience wasn't much worse than the old security inspection. I'm willing to give up some privacy for the sake of security.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

To Love a Stallion

To Love A Stallion (Kimani Romance)To Love A Stallion by Deborah Fletcher Mello

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I met Deborah Mello at a Black History Month event earlier this year. Several of us black authors were hawking our books. She bought mine, and I bought one of hers. When I asked which one she would recommend that I read first, she started talking about the Stallion brothers as if they were her own children. There was that look of loving pride on her face when she talked about them. Then she said I should start with To Love a Stallion.

What I didn't tell her was that I had only read maybe five romance books in the last 25 years. I used to read Jacqueline Susann and Danielle Steel until they got to be too predictable and I quit cold turkey. The few romances I have read recently were book club recommendations or were written by an author I knew or had met.

My Stallion brother was a pleasant surprise. Of course a romance novel has to follow certain prescription. Girl meets boy and in spite of their initial conflict we know they will end up together. Marah Briscoe and John Stallion start out with conflict, then they get together, and break up, and get back together. Then there is something else to keep them apart. There are some surprises, even with the prescribed formula. Ms. Mello interweaves the history of black cowboys and the care and breeding of thoroughbreds against a backdrop of western life, where you wouldn't expect to see black people.

There are no trite details of luxury cars, lushly decorated houses, and perfectly matching shoes and underwear. The details are rich, varied, and imaginative. There is even a twist in the erotica, in that John Stallion always uses a condom. I'll have to read another of Deborah Mello's Stallion series, maybe Matthew, Mark, or Luke. I give John 4 stars.

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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Black Water Rising

Black Water RisingBlack Water Rising by Attica Locke

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Somehow I thought this book was a mystery. But the real mystery is Jay Porter...why he doesn't connect with his wife whom he loves, who loves him, and on whom he hangs his whole future.

There is that mysterious rescue of a woman from drowning in the bayou; a young man gets beat up by union guys who supposedly support the strike; oil seepage in the back yard of a kook who did a a one-man march on Washington; why is somebody following Jay or is he just paranoid from his "militant" days in the 70's.

But somehow I connected with Jay because I lived through the turbulent 60's and 70's. Although I never had a platform, my husband and I associated with people who were known as "militant," we had our phone bugged, and I often found myself spouting the rhetoric, "by any means necessary." (Ms. Locke uses the term "militant" only once in the whole book, in referring to Stokely Carmichael.)

Jay Porter was like so many people I knew from "The Movement," so I couldn't put this book down. I was transported back in time to those days when we had to be doing something relevant. It was a troubling story that will stay with me for a long time.

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Friday, November 5, 2010

For Colored Girls...

If anybody went to see "For Colored Girls" expecting to see Madea, they were sadly disappointed. I have to give Tyler Perry his "propers." He made millions giving (some) people what they want, now he's giving the people what he thinks they need. The credits for the movie list Tyler Perry as screen writer....based on the play by Ntozake Shange "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf."

I never had the opportunity to see Ntozake Shange's choreopoem, as it is called, performed, but I have read the 20 poems that make up the performance. In the original, seven women are known by the colors of the rainbow that they represent. TP uses the words of those poems and assembles them into a story, adding transitional scenes and men who don't appear at all in the original. They are the men whom the women are talking about, or talking to in the original.

I thought the screenplay was well constructed, sometimes moving quickly from one issue to the next, so there was no point where the story dragged. The scenes are emotionally draining, covering the worst experiences women can live through. The poem about rape was originally performed by several women, in the movie it becomes a monologue by the victim in closeup. (Spoiler alert!) This was an outstanding performance by Anika Noni Rose. I also loved Loretta Divine, Kimberly Elise, and Thandie Newton.

I have seen mixed reviews for "For Colored Girls." I give it four stars. I think it's Oscar material for somebody in the cast. I would vote for Anika Noni Rose.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Help

The HelpThe Help by Kathryn Stockett

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When I first heard about this book, I felt some apprehension about reading it as I often do with books about black people, written by a white person. I tried to avoid it, but then the nice (white) ladies in my exercise class started buzzing about it, so I knew I had to read it. Then my book club made it our selection for November.

I will say that I enjoyed the book, loved the characters, especially Minny and Celia. I laughed and cried and got anxious along with Skeeter and Aibilene when their book came out. It's a story of bravery of a group of women in Mississippi in the 60's, from different backgrounds coming together to bring about a change.

BUT...and this is where my apprehension comes in as with many books about black people written by white people...sometimes the heroine is too wise, too perfect, and the white people in the story are one extreme or the other, either too patronizing or too evil. The black person's whole purpose in the story becomes solving the life issues of the white heroine.

The black hero/heroine starts to fit the stereotype of the "Mystical Magical Negro" that Spike Lee talked about in his lectures on film. Aibilene becomes another Boatwright sister from the Secret Life of Bees. You have to also consider Sydney Poitier's character in the Defiant Ones, Michael Clarke Duncan's character in the Green Mile, Whoopi Goldberg's character in Ghost. There are many others.

OK, it makes a good story, enjoyable cinema. When they make The Help into a movie, it will provide work for a lot of black actors. And I'll be there in the theater opening week, booing and hissing Hilly Holbrook.

I was going to excuse Kathryn Stockett's patronizing until I read her Postscript. She said she wished she had asked her family's maid before she died what it was like to be black in Mississippi. I remember the 60's when I attended a mostly white college in New Jersey after growing up in the Jim Crow South. One of my classmates asked me what it was like to be black. My response was, "Compared to what?"

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