Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Troy Johnson's Black Books and Film Review

Who's Afraid of Marvin X?

Marvin X has been ignored and silenced, like Malcolm X would be ignored and silenced if he had lived on into the Now. He's one of the most extraordinary, exciting black intellectuals living today. A master teacher in many fields of thought: religion and psychology, sociology and anthropology, history and politics, literature and the humanities. He is a needed counselor, for he knows himself on the deepest personal levels and he reveals that self to us that we might be his beneficiaries.... One of America's great story tellers. I'd put him ahead of Mark Twain! --Rudolph Lewis, Chickenbones

He's Plato teaching on the streets of Oakland.--Ishmael Reed

The USA's Rumi. The wisdom of Saadi. The ecstasy of Hafiz!--Bob Holman

Marvin X has three titles in print:

The Wisdom of Plato Negro, Black Bird Press, Berkeley, 2013
Beyond Religion, toward Spirituality, Black Bird Press, Berkeley, 2007
How to Recover from the Addiction to White Supremacy, BBP, 2007

Dear Marvin,
It was not possible for me to thank everyone personally this period but your paid subscription greatly is appreciated, thank you!
My goal is to get at least 1% of our current subscribers to purchase their subscription to the AALBC.com eNewsletter for only $7.99 per year. Your paid subscription makes it possible for me, with the support of dedicated writers, to continue to improve our coverage of books, films and related subjects.
Troy Johnson
Founder, AALBC.com

Power List Best-Selling Book Written or Read by African Americans

On April 22nd, three leading African-American literature web sites announced the launch of the Power List, a quarterly compilation of best-selling books written or read by African Americans. The Power List is a joint project of AALBC.com, Cushcity.com and Mosaicbooks.com, three Web sites which have promoted African-American literature for more than a decade.
The Power List accumulates data on books written or read by African Americans and compiles that information into a quarterly Best-selling books list. Add the Power List to your website or Blog and get automated updates when new lists are published. Read the entire press release.

Authors You Should Know


Derek Walcott - Recipient Nobel Prize in Literature

At the age of 18, Walcott he made his debut with 25 Poems, but his breakthrough came with the collection of poems, In a Green Night(1962). In 1959, he founded the Trinidad Theatre Workshop which produced many of his early plays.
In addition to having won the Nobel, in 1992, Walcott has won many literary awards over the course of his career including an Obie Award in 1971 for his play Dream on Monkey Mountain, a MacArthur Foundation "genius" award, a Royal Society of Literature Award, the Queen's Medal for Poetry, and the 2011 T. S. Eliot Prize for his book of poetry, White Egrets.

Jamal Joseph (video)

Sister's Uptown Bookstore hosted a presentation and conversation with Jamal Joseph author of Panther Baby on April 27, 2013.
In this video Joseph, who was eventually incarcerated for his participation in the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense in New York City, talked about his experiences as a teenager in the organization. He also talked his personal experience with the agent provocateur who got him and 20 other Panthers arrested. He shares his experience mentoring Tupac Shakur and why he greatly respected for Tupac's mother, Afeni Shakur, who was also a member of the Panthers and much more.

Gary Phillips

Gary Phillips writes fictional stories of chicanery and malfeasance in various formats, often drawing on his past experiences. He is a Los Angeles native, and was born and raised in the then South Central area of the city. There he was a community activist on issues ranging from police abuse, the anti-apartheid movement and opposing the contras in Central America during the Reagan era.
"Phillips is a veteran crime novelist who creates a plausible postapocalyptic scenario in which the safety of middle-class America can dissolve in a moment. Exciting, violent, and entertaining." —Booklist

Tracy Price-Thompson

Price-Thompson is a speaker, novelist, and retired United States Army Engineer officer. She is a veteran of the Gulf War. She self-published her first novel, Black Coffee, at the age of 37. A story about an illicit romance between a female officer in the United States Army and a married enlisted man, it was quickly bought by Striver's Row, an imprint of Random House and became a bestseller.
She has since published five more novels: Chocolate Sangria, A Woman's WorthKnockin' BootsGather Together In My Name, and 1-900-ANYTIMEA Woman's Worth won the 2005 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Contemporary Fiction.

Nonfiction Book Reviews


Sugar in the Blood: A Family’s Story of Slavery and Empire by Andrea Stuart

Although Andrea Stuart was born and raised in the Caribbean, she never knew much about her ethnic heritage growing up. As a curious adult, she started digging around in library archives and was able to trace part of her ancestry as far back as the 17th C. to a white plantation owner of a sugar plantation on Barbados.
A credible, cross-cultural examination chronicling the unresolved master-slave relationship still reflected in today’s Barbados where, as Faulkner sagely surmised about America’s Deep South, “The past is never dead. It isn’t even past.”

The Motherhood Diaries: A Humorous Look at Motherhood in the New Millennium by ReShonda Tate Billingsley

While the first half of the timely tome is comprised exclusively of ReShonda’s pithily-delivered pearls of wisdom, the rest of the opus is devoted to the relatively-sobering reflections of a couple dozen other moms. For instance, there’s Lorna Lewis’ “Diary of a Grieving Mother,” Raquel Rogers’ “Diary of a Forgetful Mom,” Edna Pittman’s “Diary of a Special Needs Mother,” Crystal Brown Tatum’s “Diary of a Breast Cancer Survivor,” Jamesina Greene’s “Diary of a Depressed Mom,” Miranda Parker’s (who tragically succumbed to her affliction in October of 2012)“Diary of a Mom with a Disability,” and Lichol Ford’s “Diary of a Welfare Mom,” to name a few.
Overall, this alternately comical and heartbreaking collection adds up to a compelling compendium of refreshingly-honest conversations about modern-day motherhood.

The Lace Wig Bible: How to Style, Care & Maintain Lace Wigsby Morgan R. Gantt

Beauty guru Morgan Gantt, a sister with her finger on the pulse when it comes to solving any sort of hair care nightmares. She speaks from experience, as she has not only worn wigs for years but is the founder of a premium line of wigs woven from the locks of East Indian females. In The Lace Wig Bible, the definitive guide on the subject at hand, Morgan shares her tricks of the trade, covering everything from appearance to grooming.
In Chapter One to answer the ten questions most frequently asked about lace wigs, including “How long will my wig last?” and “Will lace wigs damage my hairline?” In the next chapter, she lays out the ten most popular pitfalls leading to a bad wig day, such as showing too much lace, using too much adhesive and improperly securing your wig.



The 20 Most Well-Read Cities for African-Americans

We reviewed our website’s traffic and ranked, on a per capita basis, the number of visitors from cities with more than 200,000 residents. The total number of cities captured in the sample was over 500 globally.
Durham, North Carolina, home of North Carolina Central University, tops the list. The state of North Carolina shares the honor of having the most cities in the top 20 (three), with New York State. New York State had the highest number of visitors, but North Carolina easily beats New York on a per capita basis.
Now I know why these are some of my favorite cities.

The Importance of Independent Black Owned Bookstores (video)

Authors and industry professionals talk about the importance of Black owned, independent, book stores. These clips were recorded by during the 2012 Bayou Soul Writers and Reader's Conference, held annually in New Orleans, Louisiana.
In this video you'll hear from; ReShonda Tate Billingsley (Power List best-selling author); Renee Daniel Flagler (author and President of Aspicomm Media, Inc.); Victor McGlothin (author of 13 novels); Yvette Hayward (founder of the African American Literary Awards Show); TaNisha Webb (author and president of the KC Girlfriends Book Club) and others. Some of the bookstores recommended include Pyramid Art Books & Custom Framing in Little Rock, AR andCommunity Book Center, New Orleans, LA

The Book Look (video) - Season 2, Episode 3 - April 2013

The hit online show, The Book Look, speaks with Keli Goff about her book The GQ Candidate; Host Monda Webb keeps the pages turning as Cornel West and Ledisi pop in and Jessica Ann Mitchell of Black Bloggers Connect covers James McBride’s Song Yet Sung.
Run the “The Book Look” videos on your website or blog. Just cut a paste a few lines of code and we'll update your site with the latest Book Look videos.

Amber Books Marks 15 Years

Amber Books, an independent publisher specializing in nonfiction titles for the African-American market, marked its 15th anniversary in February by winning an NAACP Image Award in the Youth/Teen category for publishing Gregory Reed’s book, Obama Talks Back: Global Lessons—A Dialogue with America’s Young Leaders.
Amber Book revenues grew about 20% in 2012 compared to the previous year, ACGI president and CEO Tony Rose (pictured) said, credited the growth to e-books, as well as increasing international sales “and the global popularity of African-American history and culture.” Read the entire article written by Diane Patrick in Publishers Weekly.

Tyler Perry Scribe Acquires Film And TV Rights to Children’s Book

Former Tyler Perry’s House of Payne Head Writer, Brian Egestonrecently acquired the worldwide TV and film rights to Acoustic Rooster and His Barnyard Band (Sleeping Bear Press). The NAACP Image Award nominated book was written by Kwame Alexander and illustrated by Tim Bowers.
“I’ve followed Kwame’s work for more than a decade as a poet, playwright, novelist and now as a children’s author,” said Egeston. “When I heard the rights to his book were available, I jumped on it.”
The book’s main character, Acoustic Rooster, hopes to win the Barnyard Talent Show, but first he needs a band. Turned away by other barnyard musicians such as, Mules Davis, Ella Finchgerald and Thelonius Monkey, he starts his own jazz band with Duck Ellington, Bee Holiday, and Poncho Ernesto Cruz.

An Oversimplification of Her Beauty - Annoying Narration Ruins Jay-Z Produced Romantic Romp

While the protagonists try to sort out their feelings, the picture poses some thought-provoking questions, such as, “How do you balance logic and emotions?” Unfortunately, the film is afflicted with a fatal flaw, namely, a virtually non-stop narration of the play-by-play which starts to get on your nerves after about five minutes.
Granted, this could just be an age thing, since the Hip-Hop Generation is already used to hearing incessant, mindless, staccato-style chatter in their favorite songs. So, it might not be that big a jump for them to have to listen to a non-stop voiceover for the duration of a movie. Nevertheless, the slick poetry slam approach definitely didn’t do it for this critic.

42 - Jackie Robinson Biopic Recounts Historic Breaking of Baseball’s Color Barrier

42, a poignant cinematic portrait of an American legend directed by Brian Helgeland. The film carefully chronicles a host of humiliations Robinson was forced to endure en route to equality, from “Colored Only” bathrooms to separate accommodations to the relentless ribbing from bigoted fans in the stands and rivals in the opposing dugout.
Fortunately, Jackie managed to maintain his dignity and composure in the face of wearying adversity, thereby opening the door for the full integration of baseball by other African-Americans waiting in the wings. An emotionally-draining biopic featuring Oscar-quality performances from Harrison Ford and Chad Boseman in what is easily Hollywood’s best offering of the year thus far.

Temptation - Adulteress Wife Shamelessly Violates Vows in Latest Tyler Perry Morality Play

I’ll be honest, when I heard that Lionsgate wasn’t screening Temptationfor critics, I really expected it to be a dreadful mess. But after entering the theater with very low expectations, I was pleasantly surprised by the latest morality play from Tyler Perry. No advance peek meant I had to wait until opening day to see the melodramatic soap opera, which in my case was in a sold-out house with a crowd that was about 90% black and female. As far as what the sisters thought of the picture, all I needed to hear was the chorus of Amen’s and the robust round of applause during the closing credits.
Still, it’s debatable whether the Christian-themed cautionary tale’s simplistic sermonizing will attract a broader audience beyond that loyal demographic, but I’d guess that it very well might resonate with Evangelicals in general.

Paradise: Love - Single-Mom Develops Jungle Fever in Kenya in Initial Installment of Incendiary Trilogy

Needing a break from that humdrum routine, Teresa leaves her daughter in the care of a sister (Maria Hofstaetter) before flying alone to Kenya for a much-needed vacation. However, she’s planning for a little more than fun in the sun, since her destination is a resort that caters to the carnal desires of European sex tourists.
Specifically, it’s older white women looking to get their groove back, so to speak, with help of African men, the younger and better endowed the better. The goal, obviously, is less to find romance than to mate with any hunks who find them attractive.
Warning: the film (and our review) features nudity.

Herman’s House - Eccentric Artist Lobbies for Inmate’s Freedom in Unlikely-Couple Documentary

72 year-old Herman Wallace has been imprisoned at Louisiana’s infamous Angola penitentiary since he was found guilty of committing bank robbery back in 1967. His sentence was later lengthened to life after when he was convicted of stabbing a prison guard to death solely on the testimony of a fellow inmate.
...this biopic basically revolves around Jacke’s earnest effort to turn Herman into a cause célèbre, but it carefully tiptoes around the more compelling elephant in the tiny cell, namely, whether there’s a romantic aspect to their relationship? A fascinating flick as much about a possible miscarriage of justice as about a case of arrested development who looks like a little girl playing house with an imaginary mate.

Support Independent Film

The following filmmakers are looking for support for their projects. In 2013, if we have any hope of enjoying the full spectrum of our stories being told in film or on the page, we have to provide that support ourselves.

Seize the Time: The Eighth Defendant - Bobby Seale

Bobby Seale, Chairman, co-founder and national organizer of the Black Panther Party is producing a biographical feature motion picture which will dramatize his life and the tumultuous 1960’s and 70’s, the era in which the Black Panthers emerged as the prominent revolutionary civil rights movement of it’s time.
Bobby and his partner Stephen Edwards, a filmmaker and former member of the Panthers, have written a screenplay with the title,Seize the Time, The Eighth DefendantSeize the Time is the title of Bobby’s autobiography, which has sold over one million copies since it was first published in 1970. A studio executive at Fox Search Light Pictures introduced the concept of producing a dramatized feature instead of a traditional documentary to Bobby and Stephen during a meeting one year ago.

Poetry is an island, Derek Walcott - Director, Ida Does

A feature documentary film about the life and times of Derek Alton Walcott (1930), a St. Lucian poet, playwright and visual artist. Walcott was the first Caribbean writer of color to win The Nobel Prize for literature (1992). To this day he remains one of the most prominent English-language poets. In this film we meet the man behind the poetry. We visit him in the privacy of his home in St. Lucia where we try to capture some of the poetic mystery that surrounds him. We learn how Walcott's life has been dedicated to his art. Even as a senior citizen, at the age of 83, he keeps working, lecturing, painting and defending unspoiled Caribbean landscapes.

Butterfly Rising - Written and Directed by Tanya Wright‏

Here is an independent film worth checking out. The story behind the film, is just as inspiring as the film itself. Wright took her idea and passion. combined that with hard work and the support of others and was to get her film made.
“_Butterfly Rising_ was written in eight long days in the summer of 2006 and, like thousands of young screenwriters, I dreamed of making the movie. Butterfly Rising is a movie about love and the power of belief; it is my hope that the message in ‘Rising' compels us not to run from fear, but cultivate the courage to go toward it. I truly believe it is only in fear's nucleus where one finds a timeless and ever-present joy that transcends the vicissitudes of earthly circumstances.
Lastly, I hope this movie inspires people to believe in their dreams. Because they really do come true.” —Tanya Wright

Ken Burns - Central Park Five

Ken Burns has been making films for more than thirty years. Since the Academy Award-nominated Brooklyn Bridge in 1981, Ken has gone on to direct and to produce some of the most acclaimed historical documentaries ever made.
Ken’s films have won ten Emmy Awards and two Oscar nominations, and in September of 2008, at the News & Documentary Emmy Awards, Ken was honored by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Here, he talks about his latest film, The Central Park Five, co-directed by his daughter, Sarah, and her husband, David McMahon, which premieres on PBS on April 16th, 2013.

Mike Tyson - On His Role in Scary Movie 5, His One Man Broadway Show and More

Born in Brooklyn on June 30, 1966, Michael Gerard Tyson is an all-time boxing great who, in his prime, struck fear in the heart of any opponent he squared off against. He compiled an impressive record of 50 wins, 5 losses and 1 disqualification for biting off an opponent’s ear over the course of an incomparable career in which he became the first undisputed heavyweight champ to hold the WBA, WBC and IBF title belts simultaneously.
Mike is currently on a 36-city tour of the country in Undisputed Truth, a one-man Broadway show which is part comedy/part confessional and covers all of the above and more. Here, the pugilist-turned-actor talks about his latest movie, Scary Movie 5, co-starring a rogues gallery of controversial celebrities including Charlie Sheen, Lindsay Lohan, Katt Williams and Snoop Lion.

AALBC.com Recommends


BLACK PULP — “Literature for the Masses”

From Today's Best Authors and up and coming writers comes BLACK PULP from Pro Se Productions! BLACK PULP is a collection of stories featuring characters of African origin, or descent, in stories that run the gamut of genre fiction! A concept developed by noted crime novelist Gary Phillips, BLACK PULP brings bestselling authors Walter Mosley and Joe R. Lansdale, Gary Phillips, Charles R. Saunders, Derrick Ferguson, D. Alan Lewis, Christopher Chambers, Mel Odom, Kimberly Richardson, Ron Fortier, Michael A. Gonzales, Gar Anthony Haywood, and Tommy Hancock together to craft adventure tales, mysteries, and more, all with black characters at the forefront!
Between these covers are 12 tales of action, adventure, and thrills featuring heroes and heroines of darker hues that will appeal to audiences everywhere! BLACK PULP! From Pro Se Productions!
“Literature for the masses kindled the imagination and used our reading skills so that we could regale ourselves in the cold chambers of alienation and poverty. We could become Doc Savage or The Shadow, Conan the Barbarian or the brooding King Kull and make a difference in a world definitely gone wrong.” —Walter Mosley from his introduction.

African Lives: An Anthology of Memoirs and Autobiographiesedited by Geoff Wisner

African Lives, a pioneering anthology of memoirs and autobiographical writings, lets the people of Africa speak for themselves telling stories of struggle and achievement that have the authenticity of lived experience.
The anthology presents selections from the work of many of Africa s finest writers and most significant personalities from across the continent and spanning several centuries. Enhancing the material, Geoff Wisner s introduction and biographical notes provide important context for the selections and also highlight the challenges that African memoirs pose to the preconceptions of Western readers. The result is a book that is both an absorbing read and a valuable resource for courses on Africa.


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The Black Pack Party is an annual celebration of book industry professionals, authors, and friends. It is hosted by AALBC.com, Linda A. Duggins, MosaicBooks.com, and Written Magazine. The party will be held at Londel's Supper Club in Harlem. #BPP2013

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The $125 Manuscript Review fee is paid before the manuscript is reviewed and is subtracted from the final assessment fee.
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