Book Review | Manjani by Freedom Speaks Diaspora

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ManjaniManjani is a new and riveting novel by an author by the name of Freedom Speaks Diaspora. From the beginning of the novel, the heroine, Manjani, springs to life as she describes how she was “born conscious.” From that point on, it is clear that Manjani is not your average teen girl.

She’s a rather fierce character. On one hand, she’s wise beyond her years. On the other hand, this young lady has a lot to learn about life, love, family, happiness, and her purpose in life. From birth, she has had a militant belief that blacks have been and continued to be oppressed in “Amerikka” and that she will be a leader who will lead her people to The Revolution. The novel is bursting with vibrant themes such as adolescent challenges, sexuality, spirituality, and race relations. At the same time, the novel centers around a young girl’s coming of age, and her struggle to save not only her own family, but also the world. Manjani wants to see change – in her own life and in society. However, Manjani discovers that not everything in life is as black and white as it appears.

After her family faces a tragedy, things begin to fall apart for Manjani. Problems in school and at home force her out into the world and she has to make some very difficult choices about who she is and what she has become a part of in her quest to lead her people to The Revolution.

The style of the book is captivating. After an initial shock at the blunt truthfulness of the language, the book instantly became a page turner. Crucial issues facing communities across America are discussed in a meaningful way, throughout the dialogue of the characters and in each situation that Manjani faces. This book will make you challenge your own attitudes about sexuality, spirituality, and race relations.

From the publisher:

“Manjani Jackson is a mouthy New York teenager who believes her life’s purpose is to lead her “deaf, dumb, and blind” brothas and sistahs into The Revolution. On one of the worst days of her life, tragedy strikes, landing her at an all white school. Although she is working on getting along, the racist students make it impossible, and before long, the administration crosses the line, forcing Manjani into political action. Then one of her events gets out of hand, sending Manjani on the run. Her journey leads to a place where bittersweet lessons about liberation are learned as her comrades turn against her. Only tough love, spiritual revelations, and self-determination will help her find her place in the struggle.”

Suncycle Publishing

For more information, and to purchase this title, please visit:

Suncylepublishing.com

www.myspace.com/manjani_novel

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Book Review | Time to Write by Kelly L. Stone

After beginning my adventures in blogging and becoming much more serious about producing a novel, I found myself stuck in a rut. During this time, I turned to my first love (reading) and began this blog to record my thoughts and reactions to my readings.

Browsing along the shelves in Barnes & Noble, I found the book Time to Write by Kelly L. Stone, which served as a catalyst to renew my writing spirit. Time to Write does not serve as a “how to write” this or that piece kind of book; Ms. Stone instead focuses on the reason that many writers have trouble writing; they simply can’t find the time to.

The book is a small size, very handy for throwing in a purse, bag, or briefcase and it covers topics ranging from how to find & schedule time to write daily, in writing blocks, or in other schedules of time that are detailed in the book, along with how to find inspiration in everything from conversations on the street to past experiences. Ms. Stone discusses how to turn children into “idea machines” rather than distractions and the importance of having your own “writing space” set aside and designated as your time to write.

Whether your reason for writing is personal, to become published, or to boost your business, Time to Write can serve as an excellent guide to help you learn how fit time into your busy schedule to write. Stone also enhances her commentary with quotes and advice from published writers, many of whom maintained families and/or professional careers when they became writers.

Visit www.kellylstone.com for more details on the author and her books.

Novel Review | Passin’ by Karen E. Quinones Miller

The latest novel by Essence Bestselling Author Karen E. Quinones Miller is entitled Passin‘. As the title implies, the fiction novel centers around a fair-skinned, blue-eyed young black woman who, initially for career reasons, decides to pass for white. She moves to New York and starts a new career, takes on love interests, and successfully fools her co-workers and friends until an unexpected event challenges her lie.

The author does an excellent job of providing social commentary through the characters’ dialogue with each other and developing the lead character’s transition from cultural experimentation to a lifestyle change.

Nikkie, the lead character who passes for white is forced to question her own motives as she reaps the benefits of passing, while losing the her place in the black community. Is it really worth it? Will Nikkie get caught? Normally, I give away the whole plot in my reviews, but this is definitely a book that requires you to read it on your own, think about it on your own, and come up with your own conclusion.

I would also suggest doing some research of the “passing” phenomenon, popular doing times of more open discrimination against black, but still going on in present times, as in the case of Nikkie in Passin‘ which takes place in present-day New York. I first learned of passing as a little girl when I watched Halle Berry in Alex Haley’s Queen, and more recently upon reading Our Kind of People by Lawrence Graham. With simple internet research, I learned about some very high-profile cases of blacks who were light enough to pass for white. The whole phenomenon is intriguing and the way that Miller presents it is witty and entertaining.

I would definitely recommend this novel, along with two other novels that I have read by Karen Quinones Miller: Using What You Got and Uptown Dreams. Miller is the author of several other works. For more information, visit her website or click on this link to purchase the book.

Short Story Review: “The Karate Kid” by Gary Soto

“The Karate Kid” is the story of a young boy, Gilbert, who wants to protect himself from a bully. Inspired by the classic movie Karate Kid, he finds stands up against the class bully, only to be badly embarassed in front of his classmates, including a girl that he likes very much.

Instead of letting himself continue to get beat up by Pete the Heat, the “not so bright fourth grader,” Gilbert decides to take karate classes. He enrolls in the classes, but his teacher is lousy and lazy, accusing the kids of being disrespectful while practically ignoring them and putting no heart into his teacher. The instructor, Mr. Lopez, closes the karate school due to “bad business” and Gilbert is relieved. He has found karate to be painful, difficult, and useless in helping him defend himself against Pete the Heat.

When Gilbert’s mother offers to send him to a new karate school, he tells her that it’s not necessary, and that he she will never hear about him getting beat up again. The reader can assume that this does not mean that he no longer got beat up, but that he simply no longer told his mother about it.

The title of the short story, “The Karate Kid,” turns out to be ironic because the reader learns that Gilbert is not a fighter in any sense of the word. His skills at fighting are lacking and he has no “fighter” in him because he does not press on to become skilled enough at karate to fight back. In fact, he loses interest in karate altoghther, preferring to stick to reading comic books which, “didn’t hurt.”

There are several themes throughout this short story; the theme of childhood memories as Gilbert’s mother is motivated to pay for the classes due to her own unrequitted ballet dreams. There are themes of fighting, winning, and losing. The fighting represents Gilbert’s stuggle to prove himself, for his friend Raymundo it may symbolize letting a friend down (when he does not help Gilbert, calling him a menso) and for Pete the Heat it symbolizes a way for him to hide his own weaknesses.

One can write a whole character analysis on Mr. Lopez, the lackluster instructor who aids in dashing Gilbert’s dreams of becoming a great fighter.

Gary Soto is a short story master and I have been reading many more of his works in Baseball in April and Other Stories while my 8th grade students have taken an interest in his short stories about love.

Short Story Review: “Only Daughter” by Sandra Cisneros

“Only Daughter” is an ethnic short story about a young girl who is the only daughter in a family of 6 sons. The story begins with her childhood and how the daughter was unappreciated by her brothers who never play with her and her father who refers to her as one of his “siete ninos” or seven sons, even when he is speaking English he never bothers to correct the mistranslation. The daughter expresses her desire to go to college and the dad agrees because he hopes she will meet a man in college. She completes undergrad and grad school, still unmarried. Her father feels she has wasted her education. The narrator discusses how she was always writing for her father and people like him the “public majority disinterested in reading.” In the end, after she has been a professional writer for 10 years and her father has grown much more sickly, he reads one of her works that has been translated to Spanish (he could not read English) and enjoys it. In this way, he expresses that he is proud of her and the conflict between them is resolved.

This is a great story, but I would love to know the father’s point of view. He was trying to support nine people in foreign land and did not even read English. Anyone who has ever felt disconnected from their father would certainly enjoy this story.

Sandra Cisneros is also the author of House On Mango Street, which I am currently reading.  http://www.sandracisneros.com/

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