A love letter to Black literary art that leaves you wanting more.

SOUL CULTURE

BLACK POETS, BOOKS, AND QUESTIONS THAT GREW ME UP

Essays for poets and poetry lovers framed by personal narratives and interviews with Black poets who have influenced the author in her life and career.

In her latest book, Bingham-Risher champions literacy, writing, and teaching as acts of love and social responsibility. The author emphasizes the work that spoke to her early on and led her to mentors like E. Ethelbert Miller, Sonia Sanchez, Lucille Clifton, Natasha Trethewey, and a host of other significant writers who fueled her burgeoning career. She recounts her life through the lens of poetry, asking vital questions: What is the Black poet’s responsibility as a writer? To the community? To the self? Each interview offers something to ponder. Bingham-Risher recounts how poetry softened the blow of personal and political hardships, enriched her education, and “grew her up.” Some essays, like the ones linked with the author’s interviews with Patricia Smith and Tim Seibles, are cohesive and sharply rendered, while others are meandering. The author doesn’t deeply explore each topic she addresses; the narrative operates at a loosely associative level, the voice and persona of the narrator remaining somewhat elusive. Nearly every experience—e.g., marrying the love of her life, a chance meeting with children’s book author Eloise Greenfield, coping with personal losses—is expressed in the same register. This sometimes creates a static reading experience, and some chapters get bogged down or brush too lightly over important territory, including Black Lives Matter, the death of Sandra Bland, and the massacre at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The book is strongest when the personal narrative is sharper, as when Bingham-Risher writes about her daughter’s unique name, the tragic tale of a good friend who was killed by police in Phoenix, or her family’s biannual The Color Purple breakfast, a festive, all-day affair of cooking, mentoring, and honoring elders. Still, Bingham-Risher asks questions of poetry, community, and responsibility that will inspire both seasoned and aspiring poets and educators.

A love letter to Black literary art that leaves you wanting more.

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-8070-1592-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 3, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2022

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A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

TANQUERAY

A former New York City dancer reflects on her zesty heyday in the 1970s.

Discovered on a Manhattan street in 2020 and introduced on Stanton’s Humans of New York Instagram page, Johnson, then 76, shares her dynamic history as a “fiercely independent” Black burlesque dancer who used the stage name Tanqueray and became a celebrated fixture in midtown adult theaters. “I was the only black girl making white girl money,” she boasts, telling a vibrant story about sex and struggle in a bygone era. Frank and unapologetic, Johnson vividly captures aspects of her former life as a stage seductress shimmying to blues tracks during 18-minute sets or sewing lingerie for plus-sized dancers. Though her work was far from the Broadway shows she dreamed about, it eventually became all about the nightly hustle to simply survive. Her anecdotes are humorous, heartfelt, and supremely captivating, recounted with the passion of a true survivor and the acerbic wit of a weathered, street-wise New Yorker. She shares stories of growing up in an abusive household in Albany in the 1940s, a teenage pregnancy, and prison time for robbery as nonchalantly as she recalls selling rhinestone G-strings to prostitutes to make them sparkle in the headlights of passing cars. Complemented by an array of revealing personal photographs, the narrative alternates between heartfelt nostalgia about the seedier side of Manhattan’s go-go scene and funny quips about her unconventional stage performances. Encounters with a variety of hardworking dancers, drag queens, and pimps, plus an account of the complexities of a first love with a drug-addled hustler, fill out the memoir with personality and candor. With a narrative assist from Stanton, the result is a consistently titillating and often moving story of human struggle as well as an insider glimpse into the days when Times Square was considered the Big Apple’s gloriously unpolished underbelly. The book also includes Yee’s lush watercolor illustrations.

A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

Pub Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-27827-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2022

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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