Sistahs Shop Talk – 6/20/2020 – Baby, I’m Back!

Sistahs Shop Talk is random ramblings from yours truly about books, news, and views that captivate me.

One Thought…

Hi, I’m back: Hello, it’s nice to be acquainted again. I’m Rena, the owner of Sistahs on the Shelf, and reading black lesbian books is not only my mission, it’s my passion. Every time I read a book featuring women who love women, I feel as if I’m home. This is what I hope I am able to convey through this website. Thank you being here, thank you for supporting me since 2005, thank for finding me. If there’s anything you want to see, please let me know.

Being here since 2005 is a remarkable and bizarre feeling for me. My tastes have changed; some of the stories I read then would never fly now. Sometimes when I look at old reviews, I realize that I am not the same person who wrote that (and some I feel still ring true), but such that is life.

What I’m Reading Now…


Real Life: A Novel by Brandon Taylor

I’m almost done with this novel about Wallace, a black gay man struggling with pursing his biochemistry degree in a Midwestern university town (enough said) , the isolation of being the only POC in his friend group and reconciling his traumatic past. It’s harrowing but beautifully written, and I’m putting sticky tabs in all the places.

I am not sure what I’ll read next, but here’s what’s on my nightstand:

 

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson

dayliGht: Poems by Roya Marsh

Book Quote…

There will always be good white people who love him and want the best for him but who are more afraid of other white people than of letting him down. It’s easier for them to let it happen and to triage the wound later than to introduce an element of the unknown into the situation. No matter how good they are, no matter how loving, they will always be complicit, a danger, a wound waiting to happen.
— from Real Life: A Novel by Brandon Taylor (2020)

Trolling for New Books…

Some recent editions and upcoming releases to add to your shelves…

Sweet Dark Rum by Cheril N. Clarke
Publisher: Dodi Press
Release Date: May 6, 2020

Erica Reed is overworked and underwhelmed with life. Despite having a thriving corporate career, she is in desperate need of a break from it all. When she goes on a spur of the moment trip to Colorado Springs, she meets Zara—a woman she’d befriended online—and Erica’s boring life takes an erogenous turn that she’ll never forget!

 


The Closet Case (A Girl Trouble Mystery Book 1) by Tawanna Sullivan
Publisher: tpsulli Publications
Release Date: June 16, 2020

What would you do if your ex were in trouble?

Shanice Wilkins graduated college with dreams of growing her part-time web design service into a full business. To keep her expenses low, she moved in with friends Debra and Gina. Still, turning “hang out” money into rent money isn’t easy. Her bank account is struggling.

Being broke does stop Shanice from wallowing in her breakup with Renee. The gospel singer abruptly ended the relationship – no explanations given. Rather than deal with the heartbreak, Shanice concentrates on finding new clients.

When Pastor Walter Robinson and his wife Barbara contact her for a free consultation, Shanice happily makes a house call. The couple needs more than a website. They believe Renee is trying to blackmail them and want Shanice to deliver a warning.

Getting paid to talk to her ex? Shanice agrees to become a messenger. The simple task gets extremely complicated when she finds Ms. Barbara dead before Sunday service. Caught up in a swirl of gossip and suspicion, can Shanice and her friends uncover the truth before the killer strikes again?

 


Rainbow (Audible Audiobook) by Verde Arzu (Author), Distinctly Unique (Narrator)
Publisher: Rainbow Editions
Release Date: June 18, 2020

*NOW ON AUDIO*

Taylor has room for exactly two things in her life: improving her performance as a college basketball player and maintaining the grades she needs to stay on the team and someday play in the WNBA.

But when she meets the beautiful and confident Melony, Taylor’s whole way of life is called into question.

Rainbow is a coming-of-age queer love story with a Love Jones kind of vibe. It’s the first of many queer black novellas by the author Verde Arzu.

 

Things Hoped For: A Vow Series Spin-Off (The Vow Series Book 4) by Chencia C. Higgins
Publisher: EKOL Media
Release Date: July 28, 2020

Can two women who only want to be loved, find a home in each other when the world around them is moving too fast for them to settle down?

Growing up in an intolerant town, Latrisha Martin was used to shrinking the most important parts of herself. She hid her loneliness within a busy life and kept the yearning in her heart tucked away from those closest to her. Just as the façade became too heavy to maintain, Trisha received wise words from a strange woman that helped redirect her life’s journey. On a whim, she relocates to Houston, and while adjusting to a new normal, she finds that those desires she’d once hidden begin to manifest in ways she never imagined.

With her star attached to a rocket ship, Xenobia Cooper was quickly transforming from a locally known talent into a name known in households across the nation. Viewed as an overnight success to many, the only thing that the veteran of the Houston underground music scene hadn’t prepared for was living a life without someone to come home to at the end of the day. A reckless tweet sent out in the middle of the night brings an influx of women with stars in their eyes, but they all lack the key component that Xeno is looking for. A chance encounter after her largest show to date and she’s convinced that those things she’d hoped for are just within her grasp.

 


Femme Like Her: A Lesbian Romance by Fiona Zedde
Publisher: Red Hills Publishing
Release Date: December 8, 2020

Nailah Grant only dates studs, races her Camaro for therapy, and believes in leaving her exes in the past where they belong.

But with a layoff looming and her retired parents about to take a life-changing step Nailah isn’t ready for, her world becomes far from stable. Enter Scottie, the only femme she’s ever allowed close enough to touch her heart. They say trouble comes in threes, and this femme is one with a capital T.

Scottie is an ex though, and somebody Nailah never should have been with in the first place. Yet, when the foundations of her life crumble fast, Scottie is the one Nailah finds herself clinging to. Just as things settle into a semblance of something Nailah could only dream about, a shattering secret from Scottie’s past threatens to destroy everything the two women have built together.

Will Nailah stay the course with Scottie, or allow her fears to ruin her chance at a real and passionate love?

 

Visit This Website…

The Black Lesbian Literary Collective
https://blacklesbianliterarycollective.org/

The Black Lesbian Literary Collective is a non-profit organization (organized in North Carolina) founded by Lauren Cherelle and Stephanie Andrea Allen to bring together women with shared cultural experiences that desire a nurturing and productive writing setting. The Black Lesbian Literary Collective creates a nurturing and sustainable environment for Black lesbian and queer women of color writers. The site has a lovely book review blog, The BLLC Review, that offers excellent in-depth reviews and conversations about black lesbian books. Please check them out.

The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus (& Giveaway!)

Publisher/Date: Dutton Books for Young Readers; Sept. 2019
Genre(s): Romance, Magical Realism, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Website | Instagram | Twitter

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Reading THE STARS AND THE BLACKNESS BETWEEN THEM by Junauda Petrus feels like the spiritual balm needed in times like these when we need our ancestors more than ever. The romance between 16-year-olds Audre and Mabel is a lyrical, tender love story about the healing magic of love.

When Audre is sent from Trinidad to live with her father in America, she’s still in pain over being caught by her mother in a compromising position with the pastor’s granddaughter – and simultaneously separated from her first love. She is shipped off to Minneapolis, to a father she sees on occasional visits. While in Trinidad, she adored her grandmother, Queenie, and consumed all things of the earth – food, nature, spirits, magic. In America, she has to adjust to a new country and new customs.

What makes it easier is Mabel, the daughter of her father’s best friend, who she spent time with in recent years. They hit it off pretty well, and it’s clear a connection is forming between the girls who used to spend summers eating raspberrries from Mabel’s family garden.

Even through the growing attraction, Mabel is going through her own crisis, dealing with a mysterious pain that is far more serious than she thought. Mabel seeks answers to both living and dying, and with the help of Audre, is given the answers via her ancestors near and far. The spirit of Whitney Houston also plays a prominent role in Mabel’s life.

What I loved about The Stars and the Blackness Between Them is the pure, unyielding love between Audre and Mabel. At 16, to deal with life and death, while still being alive and in the moment is something Junauda Petrus captures with such a depth. The narration, mostly by these two young women, also includes the dreams and thoughts of people in their lives, such as Audre’s grandmother Queenie, whose visions provide courage in the face of the unknown. The inclusion of an incarcerated man who corresponds with Mabel seems even more relevant to the ongoing saga of Black people held hostage by an unjust society.

For those reasons, The Stars and the Blackness Between Them is a book that should be read and loved and celebrated.

Reviewed June 2020

GIVEAWAY!

 

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SapphicAThon Announcement and Recommendations

When the SapphicAThon was announced, I was stoked. A two-week readathon focused on reading female/female romance books? I’m in, mostly because I love readathons. Hey, it fuels the book nerd in me.

The SapphicAThon goes from 12 am your time on December 14 through 11:59 your time on December 28. You can read as many books as you like, but the main focus is to have fun.

There is an optional bingo challenge where you try to complete as many of the themes listed on the card below. You can use a different book for each spot or one book for multiple spots, but the only rule of the readathon is to read f/f romances that involve the main character.

If you are looking for suggestions, I have compiled a list of books that fit the category and are based on books I’ve read, enjoyed and reviewed for Sistahs on the Shelf. All feature POC main characters. Any book I haven’t read is marked and are based on other participants’ recommendations (*).

Bisexual MC

SF/F

Under 500 Ratings on GR

  • The majority of the books on this list meet this criteria. Please check Goodreads.

Jewish MC

QWOC MC

Ace Spec MC

Established Relationship

Friends to Lovers

Trans MC

Non Coming Out Story

Hate to Love F/F

  • Les Tales – Skyy, Nikki Rashan, Fiona Zedde (story from Nikki Rashan)

Both WOC

  • A large majority of these titles qualify.

Disabled MC

F/F Retelling

Interracial F/F Relationship

MC Realizes They’re Queer

If you’re tweeting about it use the hashtag #sapphicathon or tag the twitter @wlwreadathon.

If you have any questions, tweet any of the hosts: ,

If you plan to participate, I would love to know! Tweet me @sots.

Books links are to Amazon.com, where I have an affiliated and receive a small referral fee. Thank you. 💖

Sistahs Shop Talk – 10/9/2016 – Responsibility and Flavored Coffees

Sistahs Shop Talk is random ramblings from yours truly about books, news, and views that captivate me.

One Two Thoughts…

Where I’ve Been:  It’s been a while since you’ve seen me here. I’m happy to be back, but there’s a part of me that feels pressure, mostly to promote things in the right way. With all this talk about “diversity,” the stakes are higher than ever to make sure the work that’s being done is right. Not only do I want to showcase our gifts to the world, I feel a responsibility to this blog, and keeping it around means a lot to me. Yet there’s a few things in my personal life I have to attend to, and that comes first. But just know if you don’t find me here at Sistahs on the Shelf, I’m ALWAYS reading. My Goodreads account is where you can keep track of what I’m devouring at the moment.

Summer’s over:  Yes, autumn is here, and I for one am happy about. It’s a been a hot summer, and I’m all for cooler, light-jacket weather. And book-snuggling. I’ve already picked out my fall-flavored beverage, Green Mountain Coffee Autumn Harvest Blend, and it’s so good. Now I’m ready to dig in and read some good books. What are you excited about reading this fall?

What I’m Reading Now…

The Dawn of Nia by Lauren Cherelle

I’m a third of the way through The Dawn of Nia by Lauren Cherelle, and what a powerful story so far. This book deals with Nia, a nurse who tended to her mentor Pat during her illness, and discovers after her death that she didn’t know Pat as well as she thought. Complicating things is a fling that has takes another life of its own during Nia’s grief and betrayal. This book has colorful, flawed characters, which is my literary kryptonite. I can’t wait to see what happens next, especially when Pat’s meddling sisters contest her will.

Book Quote…

“First time I got the full sight of Shug Avery long black body with it black plum nipples, look like her mouth, I thought I had turned into a man.”
From The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Trolling for New Books…

  

My Secrets Your Lies by by N’TYSE (Re-release)
Urban Renaissance
Release Date:  September 27, 2016

Given all that Sand and Rene have been through, the couple lands an opportunity to share their life story in the upcoming documentary, Beneath My Skin. The question is―are they truly ready to take that trip down memory lane?

As they subconsciously relive their past, Sand ventures to a dark place where agony and judgement has tormented her since the day her parents discovered her sexual orientation in a shoebox full of love letters. Their rejection left her homeless and dependent on the streets, but it was during those trying times that she learned how to not only walk in her truth, but how to survive.

Recycled through the foster system as early as four, Rene is one who has become accustomed to change. Sand introduces her to another side of love and gives her a reason to open her mind and heart to something new―that is, until Rene finds herself questioning not only their relationship, but her sexuality. A series of events leaves them entangled in a web of deceit, wicked passion, and murder. As their love story unfolds, they’ll find out soon enough if they are truly each other’s ride or die!

21 Questions by Mason Dixon
Bold Strokes Books
Release Date:  November 15, 2016

Kenya Davis’s ability to find the perfect employee is unparalleled. Her ability to find the perfect mate? Not so much. After she takes a chance on speed dating, she finds herself with not one but two chances to find true love. But with her spotty romantic track record, how can she be sure which woman is Miss Right and which is only Miss Right Now?

Simone Bailey works as a bartender at one of the hottest nightclubs in South Beach, has more female attention than she knows what to do with, and spends her spare time following her musical ambitions. Then she meets Kenya Davis. After her initial attempt to charm her way into Kenya’s heart fails, she resolves to reach her ultimate destination one question at a time.

A Failure to Communicate: Stories by S. Andrea Allen
BLF Press
Publication Date:  January 10, 2017
Available for Pre-sale:  November 8, 2016

A Failure to Communicate, S. Andrea Allen’s debut collection of short fiction, focuses on a singular theme: communication, and how it, or the lack thereof, impacts Black women’s lives. The stories range from the humorous to the heartbreaking: one woman wins a bake-off because her co-worker misunderstands the contest; an overweight woman finally learns to love herself, even though it means leaving her girlfriend; a teenager reflects on his mother’s inability to discuss her depression; a woman realizes that her partner has been hiding a gambling addiction, and has to decide whether to help her or save herself. The women in these stories are often silenced, but Allen figures out a way to give them all a voice that demands to be heard.

Solace: Writing, Refuge, and LGBTQ Women of Color edited by S. Andrea Allen and Lauren Cherelle
BLF Press
Publication Date:  January 31, 2017
Available for Pre-sale:  November 1, 2016

Deeply troubled by recent acts of violence against Black and Brown lesbian, bisexual, and trans* bodies, Solace: Writing, Refuge and LGBTQ Women of Color explores how LGBTQ women find solace: in each other, in their communities, and from within themselves, as they traverse the challenges of living as LGBTQ women of color in the United States.

Solace is a collection of poetry and prose that explores our pain, as well as our attempts to find solace in a world that seeks to destroy us. What are our strategies for survival? Where do we find solace? Audre Lorde writes that “we were never meant to survive,” yet here we are.

Visit This Website…

rainbowlit

Rainbow Lit

https://rainbowlit.com

Rainbow Lit serves to promote the reading, writing, publication, distribution, and public awareness of books that reflect the rich variety of the SGL experience. It features information on new book releases, book excerpts, and interviews, as well as Call for Submissions for LGBT publications. Check it out.

Fall Reading List 2016

When autumn comes, I’m ready to fall into some cozy books and warm drinks. Here’s a few of the titles I really want to read this season.

The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez:  Halloween is just around the corner, so October would be a fitting month to read The Gilda Stories, a multi-layered black lesbian vampire story with a historical theme. This has been on my TBR for ages, and considering it was re-released with a 25th anniversary edition, it’s the right time to read this classic novel.

21 Questions by Mason Dixon:  About a year ago, I discovered author Mason Dixon, the pen name of mainstream lesbian novelist Yolanda Wallace. As her nom de plume, Dixon has published two books starring black lesbian characters, Charm City and Date with Destiny. Her latest, 21 Questions, deals with a woman trying to choose between Miss Right and Miss Right Now in South Beach. This will be the perfect steamy read to warm up the cooler nights ahead. Will be released November 15.

I’m Judging You by Luvvie Ajayi:  Anyone who has a twitter account has heard of Luvvie of Awesomely Luvvie. A writer, digital strategist, and techie, she’s also a true shade master. I’m looking forward to getting her humorous take on pop culture, race, and the media that she provides daily on twitter. Gotta read it soon since it’s due back to the library.

Cinder Ella by S. T. Lynn:  A story involving a transgender girl falling in love with a princess while contending with a wicked stepmother? I’m all in! It looks to be a fresh, well-needed adaption on the classic fairy tale, and I’m ready for it. Cinder Ella should make for a cozy, quick read.

Yabo by Alexis de Veaux:  Blending poetry and prose, Yabo is the book that speaks to my literary heart. From the first few pages, it had me hooked, and I can tell this one will challenge me once I dig in. Dealing with love, sexuality and gender, Yabo won the 2015 Lambda Literary Award in Best Lesbian Fiction.

The Cherokee Rose: A Novel of Gardens & Ghosts by Tiya Miles:  Nominated for a 2016 Lambda Literary Award, Cherokee Rose revolves around three young women discovering their connections to a Georgia plantation and their slaveholder pasts. I’ve seen good reviews about his historical novel, with Miles’ writing being compared to Alice Walker, Octavia Butler and Louise Erdrich.

Sistahs Shop Talk – 6/12/16 – Summer Loving….

Sistahs Shop Talk is random ramblings from yours truly about books, news, and views that captivate me.

One Thought…

The thing about summer: Lately I’ve been reading a lot of mass-market romance books, the kind that promise a torrid love scene or two and happily ever afters. I think it’s because summer is approaching, and I need to indulge myself in an uncomplicated world where true love wins, considering the tragedies we’ve been experiencing as of late (#prayforOrlando). In addition to black lesbian romance, I plan to dive into Beverly Jenkins (of course), Francis Ray and was just turned on to Rochelle Alers’ Cavanaugh Island series. So what are some of your favorite romances? Also, what are your summer reading plans?

What I’m Reading…

Lez Talk: A Collection of Black Lesbian Short Fiction edited by S. Andrea Allen and Lauren Cherelle

I’m about 45 pages in, and the stories so far have captivated my attention. It’s almost like coming home because I know what I’m getting with this array of talented authors I’ve read before and enjoyed, like Claudia Moss, Lauren Cherelle, K.A. Smith, Eternity Philops, and Sheree L. Greer, etc. We need more compilations like this that show the range of our lives and our experiences. I think this will be a satisfying read.

Book Quote…

Attend me, hold me in your muscular flowering arms, protect me from throwing any part of myself away.
— From A Burst of Light: Essays by Audre Lorde (1988)

Trolling for New Books…

The Belle vs. the BDOC: A Bend or Break Novella by Amy Jo Cousins
Amazon Digital Services LLC
Release Date: May 23, 2016

Love is a battlefield.

Shelby Summerfield is a Southern belle at a northern college in 1993, which is a challenge to begin with. And yes, Florence Truong, the object of Shelby’s lust and the only other woman on campus not wearing flannel, does catch her in what looks like a compromising position with a straight boy at pub trivia night.

But Shelby is a gold star lesbian and Florence’s dapper fashion sense makes her weak in the knees, so her rejection stings hard. To exact her revenge, Shelby cheats a little when putting together her own trivia dream team, because nobody strategizes to win like a Southern girl on a mission. And if trivia can’t settle their rivalry, then maybe the annual campus-wide game of assassin will do the trick.

Shelby’s gonna come out on top of Florence—in bed or out, one way or another. Bless her heart. And her silk pocket squares.

Heat Wave: Southport by La Toya Hankins
JMS Books LLC
Release Date: August 16, 2015

When Zora comes to visit her childhood hometown for the Fourth of July, she expects to be helping with the family business, greeting old neighbors and friends, and carefully avoiding the topic of her sexuality. But then Zora’s old mentor introduces Zora to her granddaughter Sarah, a blast from Zora’s past, now grown into a leggy brunette who remembers Zora more than fondly.

As the two women reconnect over old memories, sweet treats, and tales of the intervening years since they’d last met, Zora begins to suspect the attraction she feels for Sarah might be returned. The sparks flying between them ignite into fireworks celebrating their independence from sexual solitude when they exploring a new way to use the town library.

Visit This Website…

Brown Girl Reading
https://browngirlreading.com

Brown Girl Reading is a book blog run by Didi, who reads and reviews diverse books with passion, and also has a booktube channel on YouTube. You need to check her out because she is hella funny, hella smart, and tells it like it is. She has lived in France for 23 years, where she teaches English as a Foreign Language, and enjoys reading, writing, painting/drawing, music, origami, movies, languages, etc. In her bio she states, “If it’s good, I’ll read it!”

A Return to Arms by Sheree L. Greer

Publisher/Date:  Bold Strokes Books; Mar. 2016
Genre(s):  Activism, Romance
Pages:  240
Website:  http://www.shereelgreer.com

Rating: ★★★★★ 

When Toya meets Folami and joins the activist collective RiseUP!, she thinks she’s found her life’s purpose. Folami’s sensuality and her passion for social justice leave Toya feeling that, at last, she’s met someone she can share all parts of her life with. But when a controversial police shooting blurs the lines between the personal and the political, Toya is forced to examine her identity, her passions, and her allegiances.

Folami, a mature and dedicated activist, challenges Toya’s commitment to the struggle while threatening to pull her back into the closet to maintain the intense connection they share. How ever, Nina, a young, free-spirited artist, invites Toya to explore the intersections between sexual and political freedom.

With the mounting tensions and social unrest threatening to tear the community apart, can Toya find a safe place to live and love while working to uplift her people?

A RETURN TO ARMS by Sheree L. Greer is one of those books I found hard to review, because it was difficult to find words for how powerful her story and the message are. While her book is fiction, it’s grounded in the reality of what we see on the daily news, what we read on Twitter, and alas, what we see in our streets: black people fighting for their lives.

But wading through this turmoil for justice are Toya, and her lover, Folami, who share intimacy as lovers, but find themselves on opposite ends of the bed over what version of leadership one must abide by to further the cause. Both work at RiseUP!, an organization that promotes protection and empowerment against police brutality, and Toya and Folami labor to ensure that their actions and voices are heard above the fray.

Within RiseUP!, like any dedicated group working in the trenches, the politics and viewpoints are lit like fuses. Toya all too often sees the writing on the wall, as her black lesbianism is a source of contention despite her dedication. It’s tricky enough evading minefields with the enemies at large, but to deal with it from your own people, the ones side-by-side with you during protests, it’s enough to make Toya re-think her involvement.

The tone of this book is somber, indeed. Each chapter in A Return to Arms has this almost foreboding quality, while raising issues of self-sacrifice and intersectionality in a way that shows that Greer’s endless talent to tell a story and put us in the moment.  Her book also gives much food for thought: the battle between being black and gay; the effectiveness of marches and rallies vs. simply shutting shit down; and being sick and tired of never receiving justice for our loved ones.

Romance is in the mix, but not so much that it takes away from the bigger theme at work here. Folami’s interactions with Toya are frustrating as hell, but I can understand her reasons for it. What makes up for it is the fire they possess – both for the cause and for each other – that intertwine so well. It reads like sex.

Sunlight set profiles aglow in amber and crimson; bodies contorted with passion and protest – clenched fists and tight jaws, arched back and strained necks.

And that ending? I wasn’t prepared. This was the response I shared on goodreads when I finished.

Sheree, you did it again. I just wish this story wasn’t our reality. But alas…

Reviewed June 2016

White Nights, Black Paradise by Sikivu Hutchinson

Publisher/Date:  Infidel Books, Nov. 2015
Genre(s):  Historical Fiction
Pages:  325
Website:  http://sikivuhutchinson.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

In 1978, Peoples Temple, a multiracial church once at the forefront of progressive San Francisco politics, self-destructed in a Guyana jungle settlement named after its leader, the Reverend Jim Jones. Fatally bonded by fear of racist annihilation, the community’s greatest symbol of crisis was the White Night; a rehearsal of revolutionary mass suicide that eventually led to the deaths of over 900 church members of all ages, genders and sexual orientations. White Nights, Black Paradise focuses on three fictional black women characters who were part of the Peoples Temple movement but took radically different paths to Jonestown: Hy, a drifter and a spiritual seeker, her sister Taryn, an atheist with an inside line on the church s money trail and Ida Lassiter, an activist whose watchdog journalism exposes the rot of corruption, sexual abuse, racism and violence in the church, fueling its exodus to Guyana. White Nights, Black Paradise is a riveting story of complicity and resistance; loyalty and betrayal; black struggle and black sacrifice. It locates Peoples Temple and Jonestown in the shadow of the civil rights movement, Black Power, Second Wave feminism and the Great Migration. Recapturing black women’s voices, White Nights, Black Paradise explores their elusive quest for social justice, home and utopia. In so doing, the novel provides a complex window onto the epic flameout of a movement that was not only an indictment of religious faith but of American democracy.

The Jonestown Massacre of 1978 was one of the worst mass casualties of its time. A large number of Blacks, after following leader Jim Jones to Guyana searching for a better life than what America had to offer, were directed to drink a poisonous substance to participate in what was called “revolutionary suicide.” Hence where the saying, “Drinking the Kool-Aid,” gets its origins.

In reading WHITE NIGHTS, BLACK PARADISE by Sikivu Hutchinson I know that the rise and motivations of this movement were far from “revolutionary.” Hutchinson’s book paints a clearer picture of the members of Peoples Temple, but in particular focuses on three fictional women who are the anchor of this book: Taryn, a lesbian who follows her sister, Hy, into the church; and Ida Lassiter, a journalist whose connection to Jim Jones serves her ambitions to expose his warped empire.

It also exposes the beggining of Jones’s obsession with the black church and Black people in general: at first their swagger and cool, but later, their plight, their oppression and their loyalty. He’s a riveting character, in the way one would watch a tyrant come to power, in the way he thinks his actions come from a righteous place.

The novel is a bit slow in the beginning as Hutchinson relays the back story of the Peoples Temple, but picks up steam once the decision to emigrate to Georgetown, Guyana is in effect. Then, the defectors and the Jones’ brown nosers are essentially at war to either turn away from the church’s mission or devote their whole lives to it. This is when the book comes alive in terms of character development because the hard decisions the members make set them on a course that’s difficult to reverse. There’s moments in the latter part of the book that made me cringe watching our Black brothers and sisters follow behind a false prophet, who had his own demons to exorcise.

“Who will save us?” is a thought that stayed in the back of my mind while reading as it seemed his members – many impoverished and neglected black folks – blindly followed Jones because of the promises he offered them about living in world where they wouldn’t be second-class citizens. He preyed on their troubles and manipulated them to leave for what they thought would be a better life. That sad message was conveyed effectively in the novel.

Hutchinson definitely did her research with White Nights, Black Paradise, and if you’re a historical fiction fan, or enjoy reading novels based on real-life events, this novel is definitely for you.

Reviewed May 2016

Sistahs Shop Talk – 5/1/16 – A Tall Glass of Lemonade

Sistahs Shop Talk is random ramblings from yours truly about books, news, and views that captivate me.

One Thought…

A Tall Glass of Lemonade: The world stopped when Beyoncé dropped Lemonade, the visual album that told a story of love, infidelity and really big baseball bat. I couldn’t resist. The words of Warsan Shire paired with the images of a woman scorned and healed, and the songs that only Beyoncé could pull off, made for a stunning work that I was impressed with. I think it’s one of her best, if not the best, albums to date. With that being said, I knew that a million and one think pieces would be written: whose story was #Lemonade; who’s Becky with the good hair; was Jay-Z in a safe place. I’m all for the discussion – because black women need to unearth and talk about the wounds of love — but I wasn’t here for mainstream publications analyzing her work as if it was done for them and writing about concepts they knew nothing about. (Here’s looking at you, USA Today.) The one thing these outlets were so smug in their reporting while often getting it wrong or not understanding the nuances of a work like this. Again, everything ain’t for everybody. It’s also another call for diversity (a word I’m starting to abhor) to have black women (and men) not only tell our stories, but to hire the right people dissecting and critiquing them.

What I Finished Reading…

A Return to Arms by Sheree L. Greer

I’m not going to talk too much about A Return to Arms, Sheree L. Greer’s most recent book, because I plan to put out a review of it this week, yet suffice it to say, this book is so powerful and so real in a way that I’m not sure how I’m going to sum up. The words are there, inside of me, and damn it, I’m going to try my best to pull it out. Read this book, ya’ll.

Book Quote…

Ruby walked over to the bed, sat next to Daphne, touched the broad shoulder.

“Daphne?”

Then she was in the strong arms, feeling the full strength of those arms. Her mouth was being kissed, and she responded eagerly to those full, blessedly full, lips. At last she had found herself, a likeness to herself, a response to her needs, her age, an answer to her loneliness.

— From Ruby by Rosa Guy (1976)

Trolling for New Books…

By My Precise Haircut – Cheryl Clarke
Word Works
Release Date: May 1, 2016

Cheryl Clarke’s long-awaited fifth poetry collection, By My Precise Haircut, travels the political and spiritual trails of her many commitments to social justice, to women of color, to the LGBTQ community, and to the rage, love, and song that live in each reader. Says Nikky Finney, “Cheryl has stayed the firebrand course, all while inventing new and wondrous paths.” 2016 Judge Kimiko Hahn adds, “Whether the tone is wily or grieving, wise or wise-ass, the reader is drawn closer by the page and into a world that may be Black, Lesbian, middle-aged, sister of a deceased Sgt. J. L. Winters, daughter of the Block Elder but is certainly a threshold for all.”

Pat Greene: Her Story – Anondra Williams
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Release Date:  April 3, 2016

From the author of black girl love and SistaGirl, two collections of stories and poems about me and you and the women you love comes Pat Greene.

Pat Greene wanted to tell her story and I was willing to listen. It turns out her story is my story and your story. A story full of highs and lows of loving women from the 1950’s till her now. Join in as Pat speaks from the heart, sharing the good and bad of being a black woman, of being a lesbian and more importantly being all of that and more while surviving.

From Mississippi to Michigan, journey along the great migration that is Pat Greene. Get to know Pat through the women she thought she loved, pretended to love and the one who taught her what love really is.

This is Pat Greene and her story.

Visit This Website…

Brown Books & Green Tea
https://brownbooksandgreentea.com

I discovered Brown Books & Green Tea, and liked (plus bookmarked) this site immediately. Run by Whitney, a lifelong student and tea lover, her blog features reviews of diverse books, discussion topics, recommendations and monthly book wrap-ups. Her writing is clean and concise, and she knows her stuff (check out her review of Goslyn County). In Whitney’s own words, “I’m just a 20-something with a love for multicultural literature and hot tea.”

When I Was Your Girlfriend by Nikki Harmon

Publisher/Date:  Mt. Airy Girl Press; Jan. 2016
Genre:  Romance
Pages: 214
Website:  http://mtairygirlpress.weebly.com/

Rating: ★★★★½ 

How can you be sure that your first love wasn’t your true love? Dee Armstrong leads a seemingly charmed life. She has a successful midwifery practice, a supportive family, and an exciting romantic life. But when Dee mistakenly believes she will have to confront her first love and first heartbreak, Candace, it sends her tumbling back into her memories to re-live the terrifying and exhilarating joy of being a teenager in love … with another girl. Suddenly convinced that Candace was her one true love, Dee sets off on a tumultuous cross country journey to find her in hopes of renewing their relationship. Her quest leads to some serious soul searching and the realization that maybe love wasn’t the only thing that she lost all those years ago.

WHEN I WAS YOUR GIRLFRIEND by Nikki Harmon is a rich romance tinged with nostalgia, a refreshing story about a woman looking for her first love.

Dee Armstrong recognizes the good things in her life: a rewarding career as a midwife in a thriving Philadelphia practice; co-workers and clients she adores; family and friends who provide support and pull no punches when it comes to advice.

The only thing to give Dee pause is her girlfriend, Pepper. While Pepper is primed to take their relationship to the next level after six months, Dee is not sure this is where she wants to be. This hesitancy gives way to thinking about all the women she’s been with, and the only one woman that she could ever say she was in love with: her high school sweetheart, Candace.

For 31-year-old Dee, high school was a while ago. Thoughts about a woman whom you haven’t talked to since breaking up in your senior year would be just that: notions about where she is now, whether she’s married or single, or has children; if she ever thinks about you after all this time. Yet Dee takes this to a new level and tries to track down the one who got away. Interspersed with this journey to the past that includes a road trip, cross-country flights and internet detective work, Dee is reliving the rise and fall of her young love with Candace, a dimension that adds depth to the story.

I really enjoyed this jaunt Harmon took me on with Dee because she’s a likable character, even when she’s being a little selfish and a tad presumptuous in her love scavenger hunt. Ultimately, she has a great heart, and her friends, Viv especially, made this book so easy to fall into. I also loved the inside look Harmon offers in Dee’s occupation as a midwife, how passionate she is about her patients and the new lives she facilitates into the world.

The biggest part of this story – the mystery of Candace – is what I gravitated toward. I mean, there are times when I was cautious about what she would find, but I had to know, just like Dee, what happened to her former love.

Harmon’s writing is well done; her descriptions of Philadelphia (or wherever else Dee landed), made me feel as if I were there. However, I feel the pacing of the novel could be better; at times there are big jumps from days to weeks that seemed a little incongruent. There was also one plotline involving one of her clients that could have been left out because it added nothing to the story. As far as the ending, all I can say is I’m happy, but I wonder what will happen next.

When I Was Your Girlfriend is a romance I indulged myself in over a weekend because who doesn’t want to know where her first love is? Read this story, and it just might make you look her up on Facebook. Just maybe.

Reviewed April 2016

Read the Sistahs Pick Interview with Nikki Harmon