Author Archives: malcaj

Malca’s Favorite Books of 2010

I stepped outside of my box when it came to my book selections in 2010. I really wanted get out of the rut of reading the same types of books by the same types of authors and I think I achieved that goal. I read quite a few books last year and surprisingly my favorite books were the ones that weren’t the type that I usually read.

Cereus Blooms at Night by Shani Mootoo 
When I feel like I’ve read everything there is to read I log in to Amazon to look for books that are far away from the sites recommendations and my comfort zone. After that I log in to my library search engine and place books on hold get it poppin’. This book was one of those random finds. The story centers around Mala Ramchandin, her sister, Asha, and the other inhabitants of the fictional Caribbean island of Lantanacamara. We are introduced to Mala when she is admitted to an elderly home among suspicions of her being a murderer and all out crazy. Tyler, the first male nurse in Lantanacamara is the only nurse who’ll take care of Mala and is also the narrator for the story. The story centers around their unconventional friendship, while attempting to make sense of Mala’s sordid childhood, alcoholic father and missing mother and sister.  It took me a while to get into this book because  I had no idea what was going on the first couple chapters, but, once I realized who was narrating the story and that the author refers to the character Asha by different names I couldn’t put the book down. The sights and smells were so vivid that I can still remember them months later while writing this review.
                                                                                                                                       
 
River Cross My Heart by Breena Clarke                              An Oprah’s book club recommendation; this is the story of Johnnie Mae, a young African American woman living in the Jim Crow South who must deal with the tragic loss of her younger sister Clara, for which she feels responsible, and the racist town she lives in all while trying to make it through adolescence. This is one of those stories that really doesn’t have much of a storyline but is still good because the writing is amazing…if that even makes sense. It focuses on the many impacts of racism, some that I had never even realized. And while the novel was hard for me to read at times because of the depressing subject matter, I think the death of Clara was added to the story to for the reader to ponder if the racist society they lived in inadvertently caused her death. Thanks O!
 
The Six Liter Club by Harry Kraus                                                                              The Six Liter Club is about the life of Dr. Camille Weller, the first African-American woman trauma surgeon of the Medical College of Virginia. “Six Liter Club” refers to the illustrious club for those few surgeons that are able to save a patient who has lost six liters of blood and Camille becomes a member of the club within the first few days of her residency. Camille must fight racism and sexism in her career and also struggles to fight the demons of a past that she has a hard time remembering but still manages to haunt her daily. This book was written by a white author about a African-American woman and centers around themes unfamiliar to those outside of the medical community like myself, so I wasn’t really sure about this book. I think most of us can  relate to Camille’s plight on some level, though, and if not, you should at least get a kick out of some of the drama in the novel because there is plenty from start to finish.
 
Girls Of Riyadh by Rajaa Alsanea
Like a Saudi Arabian Sex And The City, Girls of Riyadh follows the lives of Gamrah, Lamees, Michelle and Sadeem, four upper-class women who have more drama than a little bit. This book was a Dollar Tree find. When I picked it up, I had no idea this book was banned in Saudi Arabia because of the risqué subject matter (which would be considered tame here) about sex, love and the freedom to marry who we choose. The book is told from the perspective of a mystery woman who is familiar with all of the ladies but never reveals herself and tells stories of the ladies lives from a Yahoo chat group weekly. I love that the author was able to teach those of us on the outside about her culture while also managing to provide an entertaining read. So glad I had the chance to read this novel.

Some Sing, Some Cry by Ntozake Shange & Ifa Bayeza
I have to pat myself on the back for finishing this book. I’m a fast reader and I’ve read some big books but this book was huge. Not just huge in size but huge also in the amount of characters the reader is introduced to as well. Some Sing, Some Cry starts off on an island in South Carolina where freed slave Mah Bette and her granddaughter, Eudora, are forced from their home in the wetlands and move into the city. The story centers around Mah Bette, a freed slave and her influence on seven generations of family. The novel travels from Charleston to New York to Chicago to Paris but the second biggest theme next to Mah Bette is music and how it brings the family together, while also ripping it apart.  I enjoyed Eudora, the headstrong granddaughter of Mah Bette, who set out to start her own business as a dressmaker and was later viciously raped by white men. resulting in the birth of her daughter, Elma. I also liked Lizzie, the wild-child second daughter of Eudora who fought like hell to make her dream of becoming a star come true even at the sake of the relationship with her own daughter, Cinnamon.  Written by Ntozake Shange (For Colored Girls) and her sister Ifa Bayeza (award winning playwright), this is an epic novel in every sense of the word. The sisters take turns writing the novel with different writing styles and dialects, and along with the millions of characters, it got a little confusing. But, just breathe, give yourself about a week or two to read this book, and you’ll be glad when you finish.

The two book books I reviewed for The Page Turners, Hold Love Strong and Third Girl From the Left were also great reads that I highly recommend.

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Book Review: Third Girl From The Left

 I’m so excited to bring in the new year with a review of my latest read Third Girl From The Left by Martha Southgate.

Third Girl From The Left centers around  the lives of three generations of African-American women who come to realize that they share more than blood and familial relation as they discover their shared love of cinema is the thread that links their lives together.

Their lives didn’t matter to anyone but me. They were the only parents I knew. But not being able to talk about who they were, acting as if it wasn’t happening, that was the hard part. (p. 182)

Tamara, a self-described “film nerd”  has big dreams of becoming a film director with only a small budget to make it happen. Tamara has spent her whole life desperately wanting a family, affection, and a past to help her to decipher the meaning of her current life. When Tamara’s estranged grandmother gets sick, she leaves her job behind and flies from New York to Oklahoma and, with the permission of her family, she uses her ever present video camera to capture their stories.

My mother believed in the power of movies and the people in them to change her life. (p. 2)

Tamara’s mother, Angela, has star-studded dreams so big she can’t contain them in the small town of Tulsa, Oklahoma where she grew up. She moves to L.A to be “in the movies” and meets up with a fellow Playboy bunny Sheila who introduces her to the fast life and stays with her until Angela is forced to slow down and change her wild ways.  Angela didn’t look back once she got her first taste of stardom and alienates herself from her family and hometown, which trickles down to Tamera being forced to grow up without the presence of any of her family, besides her mother and Sheila.

There was always this need to do things right, to be seen to be right, never to be too mussed or too loud or too worked up or too anything. (p. 20)

For Angela’s mother, Mildred, life is boring and routine as a housewife and mother. She has everything a woman in her small town could want but she ends up finding what she needs in the most unlikely of places and from the most unlikely of people. Mildred later finds herself unable to deal with her wayward daughter because of the guilt she feels for satisfying those needs.

And there we are. My mother is beautiful and my grandmother is beautiful and I’m beautiful. You see that beauty as it finally is even though no one wants to see it as it is in a black woman in America, not a hoochie, not a ho, not a mammy, not a dyke, not a cliché,  just a woman. (p. 268)

And there you have it. This book was amazing. I love everything about 70’s culture so I was super excited reading about the era of Blaxploitation movies and foxy sistas with Afros. The author dedicates a good portion of the book to that era and even manages to squeeze in a guest appearance by Pam Grier. Southgate did a wonderful job of staying true to the time period each character lived in with so many details if felt like I was reading historical documents. The 1921 Tulsa race riots were of particular interest to me since I’m from the area and this book has inspired me to research the incident further.

The major theme in the novel that ties the characters lives together, second to their blood relation, is their love of movies. Mildred used watching movies as a way to escape her mundane life, Angela desired to be in the movies, and Tamara wanted to be behind the camera creating them.

I loved how Tamara filming the women for her documentary made them feel comfortable enough to reveal their secrets to each other which, as a result, helped them to heal. Southgate addresses issues like infidelity, sex and drugs, homosexuality and racism. And I must say she does a wonderful job of fully exploring these themes in only 268 pages. 

I was able to relate to each of the main characters and I loved that none of them were perfect. The women had flaws and some of the relationships that were broken were never fully mended in the story…like real life. The author wasn’t afraid to take risks or approach subject matters in depth  that others would shy away from and that’s why her characters and story are so dynamic. I can’t wait to get my hands on the other books shes’ written so I can get my read on!

I want to thank Author Carleen Brice who recommended Third Girl From The  Left on her blog.

– Malca

 

Book Review: Getting to Happy

terry mcmillanIn Getting To Happy, we revisit the four women from Terry McMillan’s classic novel Waiting To Exhale. Its been 15 years and the ladies have all experienced their share of growth, gains, losses and grieving.

Robin is still single and has a sassy teenaged daughter named Sparrow who frequently fills in as Robin’s BFF, instead of as her child. After hoping for love for so long, Savannah has married her Mr. Right, but finds out the hard way that her husband may not be who she thinks he is. Gloria is married to Marvin, but must adjust everything she’s known for the last 15 years when a tragedy strikes.
After her kids leave for college, Bernadine finds herself alone, fighting new and old demons from her past, leaving her bitter.

Let me start off by saying that Terry McMillan is one of my favorite authors, so I was excited to read this book. Once I checked out the copy that was reserved at the library for me, I  hopped on Facebook and posted on my wall that I was so happy to have the book and then hurried home to crack it open!

Unfortunately that’s where the excitement ended for me. 
After the first few chapters I was on the phone calling my mother complaining about how McMillan chose to make one of the main characters deal with a traumatic, life shattering event before we even got to witness the good times in her life.

This was a frustrating read for me for a few different reasons. The story was all over the place with no central focus on the issues each character was dealing with. In the parts about Bernadine’s struggle, the author goes from the relationship she has with her adult daughter,  to the entire process of her making a pot of gumbo and what each person thinks about the meal. The transitions were not smooth.

Robin experiments with internet dating and the author adds fictional responses from the guys who view her profile to show the type of undesireable men online. These details were simply not needed and had me wondering if they were used as page fillers in the novel.

The dialogue between the ladies was as real and hilarious as they were in the first novel, but it too seemed to run on and on with no purpose. I never thought I would find myself bored reading a Terry McMillan book, but I must admit that I lost focus while reading a few different times.

Maybe the problem was that the author waited too long to re-introduce the characters to us. Fifteen years is a long time and I found myself wanting to know what was up with the ladies a few years back. I would’ve loved to check in on Robin right after she had Sparrow, or witness the bliss Gloria and Marvin shared early on in their relationship, not 15 years after their nuptials.

Nothing is ever all bad, so I will say that that there were a few parts of the book that I enjoyed, and if you follow Terry McMillan on Twitter, you will see the same traces of humor that she shares daily in her tweets, throughout the book.

Overall it was nice to catch up with the ladies, but I would have loved for the reunion with them to be a few years sooner and with more character development. Perhaps there should have been a a book titled Glad To Be Content in between Waiting To Exhale and Getting To Happy.
– Malca W.

Book Review: Hold Love Strong

Written by: Malca

My family’s love was unwavering, unflappable, greater than anything presented by the Bible, the Torah, and the Qur’an combined. Where we’d go, what would occur, what we lost and gained, suffered and championed, our lives, the occasions and circumstances, were more than everything, more than forever, more than even our truth.

-Exerpt from Hold Love Strong: A Novel

A few months ago I was at Borders perusing the clearance shelf when the clerk came over and announced that all the books on the shelf I was looking at had been marked down even more than the clearance prices to $1. I could barely contain my excitement as I walked out with a large bag bulging with literary treats. Hold Love Strong was one of those treasures. I wasn’t familiar with the book and this being his first novel, I had never heard of the author Matthew Aaron Goodman either. A few weeks after my bookstore bargain day I chose Hold Love Strong from my bookshelf and discovered a book that has earned a place on my list of favorite books and in my heart.

Hold Love Strong cover

Hold Love Strong is the coming-of-age story of a young man named Abraham Singleton who grows up in Queens, New York in the Ever Park projects. The story, told from Abraham’s point of view, begins in the 1980s with his Mother giving birth to him at 13 and his 30 year old Grandmother Gloria, helping to deliver him into a world where young, unwed mothers raising babies without fathers are the norm. Abraham lives with his Mother Angela (Jelly), Grandmother Gloria, Aunt Rhonda, Uncle Roosevelt (Nice) and cousins Donell and Eric.

Wasn’t this America; wasn’t this the greatest land of all great lands of opportunity? In Ever Park, we were three things: broken, desperate to leave, or soldiers in a war so impossible to win that everything we did, even blinking our eyes, even licking our lips, might be suicide.

From the time Abraham is born, his cousin Donnell, who is just a few years older than him, takes the role as the father figure since Abraham’s own father left his mother while she was pregnant with him. In his younger years, Donnell has an eerie resemblance to Riley from the Boondocks cartoon. So picture a young man who’s father figure is a angry little boy who grows to be an angrier young man until he eventually explodes, a Grandmother who’s had her heart broken and dreams deferred so many times that she only trusts those she gave life to or were products of the life she gave. Then there’s the mother and aunt who both had children while still children, and want so desperately to be loved  that they head down a path of drugs and sex to try to fulfill those needs. And finally, an uncle who goes from being a god considered capable of walking on water to a man drowned by the reality of his shortcomings searching for authority in his own house.

Essentially, the Singleton family has Huxtable dreams with a Good Times reality. But Abraham is a fighter. He fights for his mother’s love, to protect those he loves, and ultimately, he fights not only to escape Ever Park, but to even feel worthy of making it out, since countless before him never had the chance.

Many Authors would take all these pieces of the story and present the puzzle to the reader already solved. They would have left it as a ghetto tale where the characters are either good or bad and they either make it out alive or they don’t. Thankfully Goodman chose to go a different route. Goodman doesn’t just paint a picture of a crackhead, an unwed mother or young black man incarcerated. He breathes life into his characters by providing the reader with their history, their motives, their fears and their joy, which collectively become their stories. Goodman weaves tales for his characters which fit together like patches on a quilt and all contribute to the bigger story. Life isn’t simply black against white or right against wrong and Goodman conveys this with the connected lives and stories. The novel not only centers around Abraham and his family, but the neighborhood as a whole and outside evils such as drugs and poverty both play an equally important role in shaping Abraham’s life.

Cherrie, Abraham’s mother’s best friend, who shares a piece of his absent mother with him, helps him to realize who he is. There’s Mr. Gates who has a crush on Abraham’s grandmother and provides a good male role model for the young men. Lastly, Kaya, Abraham’s girlfriend inspires everyone in the Singleton household to dream.

I was captivated by this novel. The author writes in such a way that you feel like you’re sitting on the mustard-colored couch in the living room or standing in front of their building, watching the action. There were times when I had to put the book down and take a break, particularly when Abraham spoke of his drug-addicted mother and her neglect. At one point I caught myself smiling and laughing while reading about the relationship between Abraham and his sweetheart Kaya. The central theme of Hold Love Strong is simple….love. No matter what the Singleton family experiences, their togetherness refused to be damaged.

I recommend everyone read this amazing book. It will inspire you to reach further you can see, treasure those dear to you and Hold Love Strong.

-Malca

Introducing The Page Turners: Malca’s Niche

Hello! My name is Malca and I’m a proud book slore!

I love books and anything related to books. My mother was my influence in the reading game and I was taught to appreciate books and reading at an early age. I’ve always had a very vivid imagination.  Through reading I’ve been able to experience many adventures, fascinating characters and stories that a single mother living in a small town like me could only dream of experiencing in real life.

My favorite authors, or “Dealers” as I lovingly refer to them, are California J. Cooper, Diane McKinney Whetstone, E. Lynn Harris, Mary Monroe, and Terry McMillan. I would call myself an equal opportunity reader or addict. I’ll try almost any type of book. I don’t discrimate when it comes to the pursuit of the next great read or my next fix, as I like to say. I love to read about different cultures and books that take me to faraway places one day, and later, read a book where the protagonist is just up the block.

The last book I had the pleasure of reading was Actress Pam Grier’s amazing autobiography, Foxy: My Life In Three Acts. My next book will be the first book I’ll review for this blog, and that’s for me to know and you to find out. 🙂

I love the thrill of opening a new book and anticipating a new adventure from start to finish and I hope to convey that spirit in my reviews. Having the opportunity to lead someone else to the path of their next book fix or save someone the time and money by advising what not to read (and I will be honest) is so exciting and maybe…just maybe I’ll get to lead another reader down that wonderful path to being an all-out, no turning back, in anticipation ofthat next fix Book Slore!

Latas, Malca 🙂