Author Archives: coloredboy

Wednesday Lit Roundup


American Uprising by Daniel Rasmussen details one of the largest slave revolts in America, which took place 200 years ago this week. Comedian Steve Martin’s newest book An Object of Beauty, which gives insight into the art world, is getting … Continue reading

Teaser Tuesdays: Group Post

As part of a new weekly feature, The Page Turners are here to share a piece of what we’re currently reading. Anyone can participate! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title, page number & author, too, so that other readers can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

“I never came on to her, so I wasn’t any kind of threat.  With no sexual investment, she couldn’t lose with me. She couldn’t win either, but that suited us best, with Lorna you had to keep your distance.”

pg. 35, “K” is for Killer,
by Sue Grafton

This new girl had better be taking note that this was no flim-flack family that she was moving in with, I thought. We had a sister who went to boarding school in England!” 

pg 40, The House at Sugar Beach
by Helene Cooper

Breaking away and moving a comfortable distance from poverty seems to require a perfect lineup of favorable conditions. A set of skills, a good starting wage, and a job with the likelihood of promotion are prerequisites. But so are clarity of purpose, courageous self-esteem, a lack of substantial debt, the freedom from illness or addiction, a functional family, a network of upstanding friends and the right help from private or governmental agencies. Any gap in that array is an entry point for trouble because being poor means being unprotected. You might as well try playing quarterback with no helmet, no padding, no training and no experience, behind a line of hundred-pound weaklings.”
pg. 5, The Working Poor: Invisible In America,
by David K. Shipler

“My brother ran away in fright. I found a piece of rope, made a noose, slipped it about the kitten’s neck, pulled it over a nail, then jerked the animal clear of the ground. It gasped, slobbered, spun, doubled, clawed the air frantically’ finally its mouth gaped and its pink-white tongue shot out stiffly. I tied the rope to a nail and went to find my brother. He was crouching behind a corner of the building.
pg. 11, Black Boy,
by Richard Wright

“Ma takes her pill from the silver pack that has twenty-eight little spaceships and I take a vitamin from the bottle with the boy doing a handstand and she takes one from the big bottle with a picture of a woman doing Tennis. Vitamins are medicine for not getting sick and going back to Heaven yet.”
(read via Kindle) Room,
by Emma Donoghue
What are you reading??

My Favorite Book

During the last six months of my time in Brooklyn, I met Rodney McKenzie, a fellow Brooklyn resident with one of the most inspiring life stories I’ve ever heard. An endless fountain of positivity, support, and knowledge, we became fast friends, and hung out almost daily, sharing our life experiences and motivating one another along the way. He turned me on to dozens of books, authors, and ideas. He helped me rediscover my love for Baldwin, and helped me become more confident as a writer. At the top of the list of his gifts is Self-Reliance.  My life is forever changed from my encounter with this piece of work.

Released in 1841, Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson has become one of my go-to pieces of literature. In the essay, Emerson discusses the importance of listening to your gut instinct regardless of how unconventional, strange, unique, or controversial your idea or thoughts may be. He stresses the importance of believing in YOU, without waiting for external validation and acceptance. It’s still universally applicable today. I recently pulled out my weathered copy of the book, which contains the life-changing essay along with five other powerful pieces. There are entire pages highlighted and the margins are riddled with exclamation points, and “WOW” and “Oh SH*T,” “Why didn’t I think of this?” and so on. I remember reading this book for the first time on the 4 train into Manhattan in January 2008, and having to put the book down, shaking my head, and reflecting for a minute. The words are so simple, but moving. Here are a few excerpts that touched me:

“To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men,–that is genius. Speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense; for the inmost in due time becomes the outmost,–and our first thought is rendered back to us by the trumpets of the Last Judgment.” -page 19

I had to put the book down after reading this for the first time:

“A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the luster of the firmament of bards and sages. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty…They teach us to abide by our spontaneous impression with good-humored inflexibility…” -page 20.

“There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion…” – page 20

“Another sort of false prayers are our regrets. Discontent is the want of self-reliance: it is infirmity of will.” – page 33

…and so on.

The book altered the way I approached ideas. Whereas I may have originally dismissed potentially unpopular concepts, I try to embrace them. Hell, it may strike a chord with someone.

What book has inspired you the most??

Wednesday Lit Roundup

  • Book giant Borders starts 2011 on a shaky note, facing delays in payments to publishers. Competition from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the electronic reader market have led to more declining sales for the retailer.
  • Future editions of Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer will have the word “nigger” replaced with “slave.” All instances of the word “Injun” will be removed as well. Good idea?
  • In a new biography, Young Mandela: The Revolutionary Years, David James Smith shares an intimate look into the private life of activist Nelson Mandela, showing that even near-saints aren’t perfect.

Teaser Tuesdays: Group Post

As part of a new weekly feature, The Page Turners are here to share a piece of what we’re currently reading. Anyone can participate! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title, page number & author, too, so that other readers can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

“With a loud grunt, he flung the severed hand halfway across the library floor.  Then he reached into his wound and yanked at the spurting ulna and radial artery, pinching and twisting it closed as best he could.”

by Wally Lamb

“For here the past survives in the scent of a coffee bean, a person’s  history is captured in the shape of an ear, and those most precious memories are hidden in the safest place of all. In stories.”

– page 11 & 12, Ancestor Stones by Aminatta Forna


“Randolf stayed for ten days, returning home by bus shortly after a neighbor cornered him in the hallway, asking if he might be so kind as to enter his penis in a blind taste test. Veronica and I left three months later, headed up to Oregon, where we hoped to make a killing picking apples and pears.”
-page 130 Naked by David Sedaris

“I roll over to check the clock on the milk crate doubling as a mightstand, nudging aside the tiny stack of business cards I garnered at the ‘job fair.’  Eleven-fifty-three. I inhale deeply, trying to slow my buzzing brain from replaying the phone calls I’ve put into every half-baked Remy-stained lead.
pg. 53 from Citizen Girl by Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus

What are you reading??

Book Review: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

“You really want to know what being an X-Man feels like? Just be a smart bookish boy of color in a contemporary U.S. ghetto. Mamma mia! Like having bat wings or a pair of tentacles growing out of your chest.”

I’d heard about this book on a few occasions prior to picking it up. My good friend Vaughn, of The Nubian Drifter, was particularly passionate about me reading Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao, as he thought the writing style was “very me”. Then, I saw the book on three different “to read” lists, hit up Amazon, and ordered  it.

This tells the tale of Oscar de Leon, a likeable “ghettonerd” with an unhealthy obsession for “Dungeons and Dragons”, sci-fi, and women, who has no game whatsoever and hopes to become the Dominican J.R.R Tolkien. The book alternates between Oscar’s story and that of his rebellious punk rock sister Lola; his roommate from Rutgers and on/off boyfriend of his sister, Yunior; and his traditional, imposing mother, Belicia Cabral. We are also introduced to the multigenerational family curse (the fuku) that indirectly brought a young Beli to the states.

Oscar’s desire is simple: to be cool. Well, that, and to be loved by a girl. Oscar fears that he will be the only Dominican man to die a Virgin. He falls madly in love with any girl who shows him even the slightest bit of attention, be it negative or positive. He loves hard, obsessively, ignores his own needs, feelings, and well-being in pursuit of affection. Hell, who hasn’t been there?

Reading this book took me on quite the emotional journey. Junot Diaz kicked me in the face from the first page. Diaz masterfully blends wild and fanatical prose, brilliant characterizations that propel the story along, pertinent historical background, and humor (both effectively and effortlessly) to create a magnetic family saga that I could not put down.

Perhaps one of the strongest tools used is the unconventional presentation. From the ¾ page historical footnotes, to his mashing/creation of words, to his fluid use of Spanglish, to the very distinct, clear, obscure cultural references, the book demanded my full attention. He’d use an entire page to drop relevant (or irrelevant) tidbits on the background of “the Dominican Republic of Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina, the Dictatingest Dictator who ever Dictated” or go off on a tangent about how fuku followed his family from father to daughter across oceans and onto a new continent and new generations. There’s a moment when one sentence spans over a page and a half. Several times a sentence will shift from English to Spanish and back. More importantly, Diaz is unapologetic for his cultural nods. The English-speaking reader is forced to infer, decipher meaning, and guess on multiple occasions.

Whether we’re learning about Oscar’s mother’s torrid affair with a Dominican mobster or Lola’s struggle for independence, the voices are distinct and discernible. Diaz switched flawlessly between characters, giving them their own unique style of storytelling, each with a clear, strong voice. Though the title alludes to the impending demise of the central character, watching his numerous failed attempts at love, the reader naturally roots for Oscar, hoping to see him shed pounds or dorkiness, to succeed at something. Your heart breaks for him time and time again, while applauding his unshakable determination. The four narrators’ tales are intertwined, supporting one another to collectively convey that, ultimately, it is that same unyielding determination—not a fuku—that ends lives here.

An excerpt:

In September he headed to Rutgers New Brunswick, his mother gave him a hundred dollars and his first kiss in five years, his tío a box of condoms: Use them all, he said, and then added: On girls….The white kids looked at his black skin and his afro and treated him with inhuman cheeriness. The kids of color, upon hearing him speak and seeing him move his body, shook their heads. You’re not Dominican. And he said, over and over again, But I am. Soy dominicano. Domincano soy. After a spate of parties that led to nothing but being threatened by some drunk whiteboys, and dozens of classes where not a single girl looked at him, he felt the optimism wane, and before he even realized what had happened he had buried himself in what amounted to the college version of what he’d majored n all throughout high school: getting no ass.

There were moments when I had to put the book down and walk away. I’d literally yell out, “I WANT TO WRITE LIKE THIS,” or I’d call Vaughn and express my disbelief that this person, Junot Diaz, actually exists. He so smoothly seams Dominican folklore into the family’s epic that I sometimes questioned the line between reality and fiction.

Here is a man who has obviously been reading voraciously since sliding out of the birth canal. Diaz flexes his geek muscles, weaving Japanese Manga, Marvel comics, history, and fantasy into the tale. The most lasting sentiment is that my desire to polish my own craft is newly intensified. This piece of work ignites that fire to read more, study more, learn more, and live more. Diaz writes fluently and freely and takes full advantage of writer’s privilege. There had to be times when his sprawling (but warranted) run-on sentences were marked up by some editor’s red pen. I’m certain someone frowned on some of the graphic scenes presented. But I love the shit. Every crazed bit of it. He undertakes feats that are only pulled off through literary mastery. He gives me hope that my tangential rants do have value. This work has earned a place among my favorites. Junot Diaz’s writing touched me the way the drug-fueled ramblings of fictionalizing memoirist James Frey did. His style is mesmerizing, inspiring, and my life has been enriched by exposure to this masterpiece.

Do yourself a favor and buy (versus checking it out—you’ll want to re-read) this book.

-Alex H.

Alex’s Bookshelf

The first book I can remember purchasing with my own money was Billy, by Albert French. It was a dark, gut-wrenching tale about a ten-year old boy, Billy Lee Turner, who was found guilty and executed for stabbing a young white girl in 1930’s Mississippi. I read this book in the sixth grade and its colloquial delivery and ever-present tension struck me more than any book I had read up until that point. It was heavy. Billy Lee lived in a time where Blacks were less than second class citizens, and seeing such hate directed at a child stuck with me for a long time.

Billy opened the door of my imagination. I remember being fascinated by the use of language as the dialog was true to speech used in rural, segregated South at the time. It was a powerful moment for me; I began to read not just for the story, but to absorb the language and take note of varying writing styles. That signaled the beginning of my love affair with books.

In a book I could imagine my awkward self decades, centuries in the past, light years in the future, in any place or situation imaginable or unimaginable. They offered me an escape from reality, and I sought refuge in books when my social dealings weren’t exactly satisfactory. I began accumulating books, reading anything I could get my hands on. In Miss Sexton’s seventh grade class, I was introduced to Uncle James Baldwin, with If Beale Street Could Talk. Fonny and Tish’s saga drew me completely into the world of Black literature.

Moving to New York in 2006, my collection grew. Drifting from one temporary living situation to another, my box of books got heavier with each impromptu move. New York is the perfect place for the bibliophile. Most of my reading happened underground. With the train being the preferred mode of transit, most days I had between 30 and 45 minutes of travel time in each direction to devour a new title. Above ground, I had Union Square (center of my universe) and thousands of ledges, staircases, stoops, fire escapes, cozy corners, coffee shops and bookstores to drop my bag and get away. Falling into conversation on the subway about a book I or someone was reading was the norm. It was heaven.

In New York, I also learned about bargain booksellers. Aside from the Barnes & Noble, Union Square, Strand bookstore on Broadway is easily responsible for 25% of my book collection. The sprawling $1 and $.50 book collection that covers the sidewalk outside is endless, disorganized bliss. Classics mixed in with kiddie books, mixed in with cookbooks and the occasional damaged new release makes for a great way to while the day away.

Between Strand and other book retailers, I was introduced to The Autobiography of Malcolm X As Told To Alex Haley (among my top 5 favorites), the drug-fueled magical mind of James Fry, Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe (finished in 3 days) and other brilliance by Walter Mosely and dozens of others. Here, I also happened across Native Son by Richard Wright, my favorite book ever.

Then I moved West, to Lost Angeles. I sent three sizable boxes home to Virginia to store at Mom and Dad’s house, and came here to rebuild my collection. I carried about nine essential books with me. Among them, Self Reliance, by Ralph Waldo Emerson, which I will soon cover here. After some shady living arrangements, I felt it was time to get a proper shelf for my friends books.

I am a lover of all things second-hand, and have developed quite the keen eye for things to be potentially re-purposed. I spotted this gem on the side of the road:

…and tied that hoe to the roof of my car, brought it home, and went to work. With some spraypaint…

and some creativity (plus some wood, nails, a power drill, and aerosol fumes galore), I added five shelves and turned that discarded entertainment center into this:

A home for my books. Hooray. Since my time here felt a little more permanent that originally intended, I have had my parents gradually ship books from Virginia. Like fellow Page Turner Alise, thrift stores and many free book finds have helped contribute to the madness. Since January, my California-based collection has gone from this:

…to this:

Some people hoard teeth and backfat. My thing is books. I’ve discovered tons of new authors recently, including favorites Thomas Chatterton Williams, Junot Diaz, and Dave Eggers, two of which will be covered in future book reviews.  Mentioned in my intro, books have been there when people have fallen short. I’ve failed at several self-imposed “book-buying freezes”, but what’s the use? I see no chance of slowing down.

Look forward to the collections from the rest of the gang. How did your collection come to be?

Introducing The Page Turners: Alex’s Niche

And hello.

My name is Alexander Christopher Suchandsuch, more commonly known (on these interwebs, anywho) as ChrisAlexander. I come from Planet Virginia, from a land called Hampton, where making babies and accumulating DUIs are the local pastime. Luckily, I escaped. After spending three amazing years training as a dancer and hunting Subway rats in New York City, I now reside in the land of spray tans, bad weaves and taco stands, Los Angeles. Mama, I made it.
As a full-time magical negro, I read as much as possible. You think hair grease alone produces glorious hair? (Ha!) In attempt to remain smarter than your average bear, I try to read a few books a month. Because I hope to eventually complete and publish my personal story, I enjoy mainly memoirs and any type of nonfiction. Two of my favorite writers are Richard Wright and Junot Diaz. Anything by or concerning the lives of Malcolm X or Huey Newton is also a must-have. Rather than collect shoes and cute colored babies, I am an amateur book hoarder. It’s better than drugs, yes?

Books are essential. I am an introvert. I have become even moreso since transitioning to the West Coast. I enjoy a rich interior life, and am completely fine with spending days absorbing literature. In short, books are far less disappointing than people tend to be. Here, I hope to share my passion for the written word and be exposed to more great authors and titles in the process.

Quick facts:

I am right-handed. Left-handers are dark-sided.
I am a Lupus survivor.
I have a sister. And that’s all I’ll ever say about that.
Girls who aren’t afraid to eat make the world go ’round.
Long hair don’t care.
Hammer, Don’t Hurt ‘Em.
Whoomp, There It Is.
And so on…

I can also be found at