The winner of the Sistahs 8 Years Young Contest is:
She has received a $25 gift card to Amazon.com.
Thanks to her and the many entrants in the contest. Check back here for more contests and more reviews.
I don’t know about you, but when I’m reading, I can always picture the scenery, the setting, and most importantly, what celebrities I would cast as the characters. For me, it always helps me to get more into the book. Some of the most popular and talked about books (I’m looking at you, Skyy) have been discussed frequently as to who would play the roles of the main characters. For me, it may not always be about looks, but just about who could bring life to the roles. These are just a sampling of whom I could see in my favorite books. Agree or disagree?
Denise from the Choices series by Skyy: AzMarie Livingston
She has the physique and the attitude. She could make women swoon (at least for me). I think AzMarie embodies who Denise is: power with a sensitive side. Her being gay will also bring an authenticity to the role of Denise. AzMarie would need to bulk up a bit, and grow her hair out, but she’s who I picture when I think of Denise.
Symone Holmes from the I Am Your Sister series by Ericka K. F. Simpson: Chamique Holdsclaw
She’s been a baller most of her life. She’s weathered some troubles. All of which can only help her in the role of Symone, who falls but never loses her stride. I would love to see what Chamique could bring to this role.
Kyla from The Exchange by Nikki Rashan: Paula Patton
Let me say this: Paula has this bubbly charm, an almost naivety, that I could see her playing Kyla, a woman who began confused about her sexuality in Double Pleasure Double Pain and was still having drama in her lesbian life in The EXchange. Let’s hope Paula can stay sober enough to play the role (have you seen her at award shows lately?)
Alana Quick from Ascension by Jaqueline Koyanagi: Sonja Sohn
Though she doesn’t have the engineer’s trademark dreadlocks, Sonja is whom I picture playing Alana. From her turn on The Wire, Sonja has a strength and maturity I could see her bringing to disabled Alana’s story. That mellifluous voice doesn’t hurt also.
Tonya Mimms from Water in a Broken Glass by Odessa Rose: Esperanza Spalding
Jazz bassist, cellist and singer Esperanza is a true artist, just like sculptor Tonya. I know she could rock it. And have you seen Esperanza’s short movie, Radio Music Society, based on the album of the same name? She is a natural actress.
Lynette Folsom from Deepest Desire by Anne Shade: Tatyana Ali
Lynette, the love interest of main character Eve, is of African-American and Puerto Rican descent, and Tatyana’s own Afro-Panamanian-Trinidadian heritage can translate well to the role of Lynette.
AnnMarie Walker from On the Come Up by Hannah Weyer: Rae’Ven Larrymore Kelly
I had a hard time coming up with an actress who I really thought could fit the role of AnnMarie, a pregnant teen with big dreams while struggling in the projects. At first, I thought about Keke Palmer, but I wanted a under-exposed face for AnnMarie. Rae’Ven, who portrayed a young Tina Turner in What’s Love Got To Do With It and A Time To Kill, has the chops to skillfully show AnnMarie’s dramatic life.
So what do you think? Who could play the roles of your favorite characters?
Publisher/Date: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR), May 2012
Genre(s): Young Adult
Summertime is what most high school students look forward after a year of homework, teachers and exams. Ever walk down a school hallway after the final bell has rung on the last of day school? You might get mowed down.
For Ellis, though, the summer means spending more time with her friends, but most especially with her father, still in a coma after a work accident two years prior. She currently skips her first period class just to see him, though he can’t hear or notice she’s there. Her father’s condition is also a source of contention between Ellis and her mother, believing it’s time to take him off life support. Ellis knows he will wake up one day, and become the man she remembers, take her on new adventures, reassert himself as no. 1 of one of the 37 things in her life she loves.
Most of the 37 things – from goldfish crackers to warm chocolate chip cookies to rain on a stain-glass window – in some way remind her of her father or the void he leaves in her life.
One thing she loves, her best friend Abby, manages to distract her, whether it’s telling Ellis about her million and one boyfriends or sneaking her out to a party, which turns out to be one crazy night (it involves jello – that is all). Abby’s selfishness is a welcome distraction so she won’t have to think about how strained things are with her mother or the therapist she forces Ellis to see. But her shallowness slowly becomes the thing that makes them drift apart because Abby can’t relate to Ellis’ family woes. But one person can.
Cara. Both Abby and Ellis’ former best friend became estranged from them for reasons unknown to Ellis. Chalk it up to high school differences, but when her and Cara reconnect, Ellis discovers how much she missed their friendship; it gives her the warmth she needs to deal with her so-called life. Their connection also sparks something tenuous between them that Ellis isn’t sure she can handle right now, but doesn’t want to lose — even if it means giving up Abby.
37 Things I Love (in no particular order) is heart-wrenching, because as a daughter who’s lost her own father, I can empathize with Ellis. It’s tough to watch the man who seemed like the strongest man person in the world, wither away, and on that note, I got Ellis. But there were times I felt I didn’t get enough into Ellis’ head, and I wasn’t too keen on how Abby took advantage of Ellis and never offered much in return. In a lot of the book, Ellis is a pushover, the only real fight she shows is battling her mom to take her dad off life support. The brightest spot comes in Ellis possibly discovering love for the first time with Cara; it’s sincere and sweet. Magoon captures Ellis’ confusion well, and the end of 37 Things may find you caring for just one more thing.
Reviewed August 2013
Publisher/Date: Black Ink, July 2013
Genre(s): Romance, Short Story, Poetry
A Southern woman is a delicacy: defined as a delicious, rare, or highly prized item of food; pleasing subtlety in something such as taste, smell, or color; or the quality of being easily damaged or broken.
All these qualities are revealed reading SISTAGIRL from Anondra “Kat” Williams, also author of black girl love. Her newest collection of stories and poems picks up where black girl love left off, but adds an extra pinch of down-home charm. For a girl like Williams, born and bred in Mississippi, this volume of Southern sensibilities is her bread-and-butter, her calling card. She knows the South, and she definitely knows women.
I saw it when I read the title story, about loving your sista no matter whom she loves, and in “Saturday Mornings,” recalling the memories of Mama and her friends gossiping and commiserating around the table over cups of coffee, at a time when children were to hush when grown folks are talking. It’s also clear in “Southern Living,” narrated by a Northerner loving a “Mississippi thick girl” with hot grits ready every Sunday.
One of the biggest themes in SistaGirl is growth, as a woman and in relationships, a trip back to the girl you used to be, and the woman you are now. Tales such as “Years” recount the affair between a woman in love and a woman who doesn’t want to be caught, realizing one can come back home. In “Firsts” and “15,” the evolution of love is shown, the former being first loves, and the latter growing older together. I reveled in the coziness of the poem, “morning,” reminding me with talks in the arms of your soulmate.
Like a side of buttered cornbread next to your collard greens, the drama finagles its way to the plate in SistaGirl, as well. Stories of crazy love (“Time”), domestic abuse (“Roses”), and dating women with husbands (“How You Get’em”) round out this set. And lest you worry, there’s some “good joog” in there also, with a stimulating game of “Tic-tac-toe” that I need to, ahem, play one of these nights.
Her bonuses, “Top 10 Rules for Being a Lesbian” and “The 11 Lesbians You Will Meet in Your Lifetime”, are humourously spot-on. Williams also includes a except from her upcoming fall 2014 novel, Pat Greene, which I’m looking forward to.
Williams’ SistaGirl exposes the hearts of real women. I found her stories to be exceedingly true in sentiment, but a little slack on the editing. A couple of stories ended abruptly that I wanted to see continue, or at least be fleshed out further. That aside, SistaGirl is all the women in your life, and may be you. And the love of good woman is hard to beat.
Reviewed August 2013
Publisher/Date: Masque Books, Aug. 2013
Genre(s): Science Fiction, Romance
When I was 7 or 8 years old, I wanted to be an astronaut. Believing I could do anything at that age, I imagined floating among the stars and exploring our solar system. I wanted to feel weightless, unbouyed to Earth. I was also curious whether there was other human life in this big wide universe. I still do.
Reading ASCENSION: A TANGLED AXON NOVEL by Jacqueline Koyanagi is what I would imagine this would be like. In this sci-fi tale with romance mixed in, Koyanagi has created a character named Alana Quick, a dreadlocked sky surgeon in Heliodor City on the planet Orpim, whose life is fixing space ships with her aunt Lai and barely getting by. Alana’s debilitating illness, Mel’s Disorder, makes her job that much harder, but repairing these vessels are her lifeline to the sky, her first love since childhood. She always wanted to be an engineer aboard a flight crew, and when a Gartik ship with its members looking for her sister, Nova, she figures this is her chance to stow away and make the money she needs to support her and aunt and cure both of them from Mel’s once and for all.
Alana doesn’t really have much of a reason for the crew to keep her once she’s caught, since now they have another mouth to feed, but the captain — a blonde bombshell in a tank, cargo shorts, and boots — needs Alana’s sister, and only Alana knows her whereabouts. Her engineer’s locs alerts them that she knows a bit about repairing and maintaining ships, so they make room for this hitchhiker.
And the ship is crowded: we meet Ovie, the reigning ship engineer whose half-man, half-canine characteristics confound their new passenger; Dr. Helen Vasquez, better known as Slip, the medical officer ready to repair any bruises and bumps the crew will undoubtedly occur on their journey; Marre, the ship’s pilot with an interesting condition that endears her to Alana; and Captain Tev Helix, the self-assured leader of the ship’s tight-knit family. Once they allow Alana to stay, and eventually take on her sister Nova, it’s truly a full house.
Yet their target is simple, the same one Alana has when she hides in the craft’s cargo bay: invade Transliminal Solutions. The infamous corporation holds the remedy to Alana’s illness and can help others on the ship as well. Its cure-alls are known throughout the universe, but like any big business, it makes them unattainable to those without the resources to obtain them.
Alana could barely to afford the just stabilizing meds that keep her working without much pain; even with the drugs, the searing pain to her nerves can stop her from doing her life’s greatest passion – repairing space ships, making them sing again in the Big Quiet. It’s a love affair that no woman has been able to match (her ex-wife can attest to that). But being aboard the Tangled Axon might just make her think of having more than one passion in her life.
Digging into Ascension was treat for me. I haven’t read many science fiction novels, and the fact that this book has a black lesbian protagonist was a big draw. Alana is headstrong, albeit impulsive (jumping aboard an unfamiliar ship comes to mind). And for someone so into her work, she quickly fell in love with the Captain, and the romance between them is slow-building, though almost sluggishly so.
I enjoyed each character having his/her own backstory, ones that propel the story forward, the most convincing one being Alana and sister Nova’s tenuous relationship. Siblings with a difference of what constitutes a meaningful life, they never really saw eye to eye even as children. Nova’s successful career as a spirit guide has afforded Alana the shop in which she and Aunt Lai work, but Alana has never felt respected by Nova for her choice to be a “dirtheel” playing with ships for a living. Flying though the black gives them a chance to see past their careers, air their differences and possibly heal their bond.
Koyanagi’s creativity is evident, as the sexually-fluid world in which Alana lives and the details surrounding their travels to Transliminal are not hard to follow, but being inside Alana’s head can be; she’s a classic overthinker, especially when it comes to love, but I have to admire her tenacity to fight past her disease to follow her desires – both in the sky and on the ship.
I still wish I could be in space, though. Sometimes I wonder if there are other humans out there, ones more evolved than we are. Ascension gives me taste of what it may be like.
Reviewed August 2013
Publisher/Date: Nan A. Talese, July 2013
Genre(s): Young Adult, Coming of Age
“It came to her just before sleep, an idea crystallizing in the dark—how maybe the size of your world ain’t what matter, whether it expand or shrink up or expand again—how maybe it was about finding your place in it. Hurdles to jump. You jump. Erase the lines, draw new ones. Chart a course and follow.”
By the time AnnMarie Walker realizes how to make her way in the world, she’d already been pregnant at 13, starred in a motion picture at 15, and fallen in love with a woman at 18. Her life had been full of accomplishments and setbacks, laughter and tears, kisses and bruises – but along the way, she never stopped dreaming.
It’s the thing I love most about AnnMarie, and it’s also the reason ON THE COME UP: A NOVEL, BASED ON A TRUE STORY is one of the most compelling books I’ve read this year.
A novel based on a true story, On the Come Up by filmmaker Hannah Weyer recounts the coming-of-age of AnnMarie, a teen embedded in a Far Rockaway, Queens housing project after being shuffled around the foster system. She’s back living with her mother, Blessed, who left Trinidad to escape her abusive relationship. Brooklyn-born AnnMarie has typical teenage hopes: making money for back-to-school clothes (Diesel jeans especially), wanting to be noticed by the older guy on the block, better known as Darius Greene. A wannabe music producer, Darius begins to flirt with AnnMarie, and she’s in love. This love manifests itself into sex with no protection, eventually leading to a baby – and of course with foolish promises of being together forever.
At her school for pregnant teens, AnnMarie spies a flyer for a movie audition. Despite being 21 weeks pregnant, she lands a lead role in a film about female friendship, and the set, the cast and the director inspire her to dream beyond Darius’ disappearing act, her mother’s disability and deal with her new life as a mother. The movie encourages her to see a world beyond the Rock as she is swept into Sundance movie premieres and sees herself on the big screen.
After her dizzying turn as an actress, reality plays a bigger role as AnnMarie raises baby Star without much help from Darius, and without a high school diploma or GED. It’s her determination that lands her a job being a home nurse, while time after time taking hard-knocks.
The harshest lessons AnnMarie learns are about love. Without a father figure, AnnMarie sees how proud Darius is to make a baby, but not enough to raise their child. He could dog her, beat her, and still want to call himself a “father,” until AnnMarie recognizes his mistreatment is not worth tolerating just so Star will have the father she never had. Surprisingly, it’s a woman who shows AnnMarie what love is, someone who actually cares about the well-being of her and Star. The kind of love AnnMarie is worthy of.
AnnMarie Walker…engaging, smart, and endearing. Those are the best words I can use to describe her. On the Come Up, I must admit, is not a book for everyone – the omission of quotation marks to indicate who’s speaking makes it hard to follow at times; the vernacular and grittiness of the characters aren’t certain folks cup of tea; and the secondary characters could be stronger. However, On the Come Up is authentic. It’s a credit to Weyer, a screenwriter whose credits include the HBO movie Life Support featuring Queen Latifah, who won a Golden Globe for her role. She’s worked with teens in the media arts for 15 years, and it’s evident. AnnMarie could have been any girl growing up in her neighborhood, but her insightfulness and fortitude is shown even from the first pages, as she’s selling her kool-aid pops and Polaroid pics near the beach, when she takes the A train to an against-odds audition, as she’s falling in love…
She thought, What the fuck you got to be afraid of. You is you. Fuck everybody and they opinion. If you love her, then you love her.
You is you.
Reviewed August 2013
I saw this on The Perpetual Page-Turner, and thought this was a cute idea. I used to enjoy taking surveys (takes me back), so enjoy. Get to know me and my book habits a little.
Author I’ve Read the Most Books From
E. Lynn Harris. This shouldn’t be a shock to me, because he was is one of my favorite authors. I’ve read 10 of his books, and honestly, it should be more. Lately, I been feeling his void (he passed in 2009), so I recently purchased And This Too Shall Pass and If This World Were Mine at Goodwill and plan to get to them soon. I miss his literary voice, and from others I know who’ve met him, he was a kindhearted soul. I only wished I had met him before he was taken away from us.
Best Sequel Ever
The Men of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor. I don’t read a lot of series, but this sequel to The Women of Brewster Place, its signature storytelling of women living on a walled-in street sharing happiness and heartache, continues the stories from the men’s perspective and how they caused or healed the women’s anguish.
Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi. It’s the story of an engineering trying to accomplish her life’s goal of being a sky surgeon after she stows aboard a space vessel – with a love story tangled mixed in. An interesting read, especially because science fiction is a new genre for me to explore. I’d like to read more sci-fi, mostly if it’s from a female perspective.
Drink of Choice While Reading
If I’m at home, it’s always water. If I’m at Barnes & Noble or Books-A-Million, it’s usually a frappuccino, usually vanilla or coffee flavored.
E-reader or Physical Book?
Physical book. Though I have a Kindle, it could never replace the sensuous feeling of the turning the pages and smelling the ink and paper.
Fictional Character You Probably Would Have Dated Actually Dated in High School
Raymond Tyler from Invisible Life. I would like to imagine that Raymond and I came out to each other in college (much like me and my real life best male friend) and talked about our love lives in full color. Yesss, hunty!
Glad You Gave This Book a Chance
Starting From Here by Lisa Jenn Bigelow. I got this from my post office thinking it would be a light read. I was wrong. It was more than a girl-loves-dog tale, but a story of a girl allowing life to happen to her after her mother’s passing. Finding her dog helped her understand she’s not alone, find love and work though her grief. I cried because I know what it’s like to lose a parent. It’s a sorrow that lessens but never fades.
Hidden Gem Book
The Thunder in His Head by Gene Gant. This is one of the best books I’ve read about a black, gay teen. His sexuality wasn’t the main focus of the novel (he was already out), and it just dealt with him as a person – and not whom he slept with (although he does find love). Wonderful book.
Important Moment in Your Reading Life
That has to be finding Coffee Will Make You Black by April Sinclair. It was probably the first book I read about a black girl discovering her sexuality in the 1970s. I was enthralled by Stevie, and knew there had to be more books like this. I sought them out with a vengeance after Coffee.
On the Come Up by Hannah Weyer. I’ve endorsed this book several times. Read this book.
Kind of Books I Won’t Read
I’m trying to be open to any genre, but I don’t know if I could ever read westerns (yawn!), explicit horror, or true crime stories. Too squirmy for me.
Longest Book Read
Jazzy Ladies Productions: Nothing is as Sweet as it Looks by Ericka K.F. Simpson (576 pages). Great book to indulge in.
Major Book Hangover Because Of
Full Circle by Skyy. Dizzying, roller-coaster ride of a book. I’m sorry this is the last in the Choices series.
Number of Bookcases You Own
Only 1. Amazing considering the tremendous amount of books I own. Most are in neat piles along the floor.
One Book You Have Read Multiple Times
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. Read it once in high school, and again after college, when it took on a whole new meaning. I’m usually not a repeat reader.
Quote That Inspires You/Gives You All the Feels From a Book You’ve Read
“The sweetness of her body meeting and filling my mouth, my hands, wherever I touched, felt right and completing, as if I had been born to make love to this woman, and was remembering her body rather than learning it deeply for the first time.” – Audre Lorde, Zami: A New Spelling of my Name. I really need to re-read this one.
Not reading all the classics our English teacher assigned in high school.
Series You Started And Need To Finish (all books are out in series)
Truly, Madly (Lucy Valentine, #1) by Heather Webber. Cute series about a matchmaker who uses her psychic knack for finding lost objects to solve mysteries.
Three of Your All-Time Favorite Books
Mama Day by Gloria Naylor, B-Boy Blues: A Seriously Sexy, Fiercely Funny, Black-on-Black Love Story by James Earl Hardy, and The Color Purple by Alice Walker. If I could name four, the last would be Water in a Broken Glass by Odessa Rose.
Unapologetic Fangirl For
E. Lynn Harris.
Very Excited For This Release More Than All The Others
K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood by Latoya Hankins. I love college-based stories, and the author is pushing for a fall release.
Worst Bookish Habits
Falling asleep while reading or being distracted by my phone/social media.
X Marks the Spot: Start at the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book
The Other Side of Paradise by Staceyann Chin. Lucky me!
Your latest book purchase
Honeymoon by James Patterson.
ZZZ-snatcher book (last book that kept you up WAY late):
The EXchange by Nikki Rashan. It kept me wanting to know what happened next.
Looking for something new to read? Here’s a round-up of a few novels you should check out (the titles are linked to Amazon, but most are available for purchase at Barnes & Noble, as well):
Ascension: A Tangled Axon Novel by Jacqueline Koyanagi (currently available in e-book format; paperback out Dec. 4, 2013)
Alana Quick is the best damned sky surgeon in Heliodor City, but repairing starship engines barely pays the bills. When the desperate crew of a cargo vessel stops by her shipyard looking for her spiritually-advanced sister Nova, Alana stows away. Maybe her boldness will land her a long-term gig on the crew. But the Tangled Axon proves to be more than star-watching and plasma coils. The chief engineer thinks he’s a wolf. The pilot fades in and out of existence. The captain is all blond hair, boots, and ego . . . and Alana can’t keep her eyes off her. But there’s little time for romance: Nova’s in danger and someone will do anything—even destroying planets—to get their hands on her!
In its Rawest Form by Monique “Being True” Thomas (available in paperback and e-book formats)
Rayne Stephens is a forty year old woman who is at the top of her game professionally and financially but her personal life could use a upgrade. She lives by a drama free and stress free modo. When her expertise as an advertising agent is needed by the Deputy mayor of New York city she jumps at the opportunity. During that time she crosses paths with the saucy mouth, unsmiling Lisa Walker and she instantly wants to feel her heat. Lisa Rene Walker has the looks of a model and the attitude of a lioness. She wants love but refuses to compromise herself to get it. A trophy girlfriend she is not, so she has decided to hold off on her personal life. When her boss asks her to volunteer at a city function she meets Rayne Stephens and she inwardly melts. Tragedy strikes and Lisa discovers that being alone may not be what she wants. With features from Cheryl and Mahogany (characters from the Loved Relived novella) this is a story about the fight, the struggle and the reward that love can bring.
On the Come Up by Hannah Weyer (available in paperbook and e-book formats)
Based on a true story, an impassioned and propulsive debut novel about a headstrong girl from Far Rockaway, Queens, who is trying to find her place in the world. Written in an urban vernacular that’s electrifying and intimate, On the Come Up introduces a heroine whose voice is irrepressible, dynamic, and unstintingly honest. Thirteen-year-old AnnMarie Walker dreams of a world beyond Far Rockaway, where the sway of the neighborhood keeps her tied to old ideas about success. While attending a school for pregnant teens, AnnMarie comes across a flyer advertising movie auditions in Manhattan. Astonishingly, improbably, and four months before she’s due to give birth—she lands a lead role. For a time, AnnMarie soars—acting for the camera, flying to the Sundance Film Festival, seeing her face on-screen. But when the film fades from view and the realities of her life set in, AnnMarie’s grit and determination are the only tools left to keep her moving forward.
Told with remarkable compassion and based on the real-life story of Anna Simpson, whom the author met during the filming of the award-winning Our Song, Hannah Weyer’s debut novel is an incredible act of literary ventriloquism that powerfully illuminates the lives of the urban unseen.
My Mom’s a Stud: A family book designed to address labels used in the LGBTQ community by Sonorra C McMath (available in paperbook format)
Maleak and Jaeqwan set out to find a stud within their community. Unfortunately, none of the studs resemble his mom. He is left bewildered and confused. With the assistance of you and your child, the two boys find answers. This book is designed for families with children that seek a non-threatening way to address the use of various labels used within the LGBTQ community. You are afforded the opportunity to positively influence your child’s self-worth by improving writing skills, exercising creativity, and increasing their knowledge and acceptance of alternative lifestyles. Family interaction is important, and encouraged. Share your knowledge, write a segment, or assist in whatever way that is most comfortable for you and your family. Develop the story using the child’s words and family cultural experiences. Just imagine the pride exhibited when your child reads his/her contribution to the story in conjunction with a published product. My Mom’s a Stud is a keepsake, one you and your child will pass along.
SistaGirl by Anondra “Kat” Williams (currently available in e-book and paperback formats)
From the author of black girl love comes another walk through the life of the everyday lesbian. Sit down and listen in as Kat tells your story. SistaGirl like black girl love is me and you and the women you love. Inside you will find over thirty stories and poems told from the heart of every woman who loves other women be it her lover, her Sista or her friend and sometimes, sometimes if we are lucky they are one and the same.
Since 2005, Sistahs on the Shelf has been providing reviews of and interviews with authors of black lesbian books. It’s been a great 8 years, and I hope to continue giving readers many more years of our stories. Most importantly, I thank you for your support to the website.
In honor of Sistahs’ birthday and for your readership over the years, I’m giving away a $25 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card (you chose which one)! Just enter the Sistahs on the Shelf’s 8 Years Young Contest. There are three ways to enter and win (and two options can be done daily)! The contest ends at midnight EST on Friday, August 23. One winner will be chosen at random, and the winner will be announced on August 30, 2013.