Revelatory, often moving essays by impressive writers.




Writers testify to the significance of reading and writing in their lives.

In a well-chosen selection of essays by black writers from Frederick Douglass to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and including a candid interview with book-lover and author Barack Obama, former Essence editor Oliver (Song for My Father: Memoir of an All-American Family, 2004, etc.) offers ample testimony to the power of the written word. For slaves coming from disparate African countries, it is likely, writes poet Nikki Giovanni in her foreword, that the first word they had in common was “sold.” Stories, many told through song, evolved from a need to form a community: “We write because we are lonely and scared and we need to keep our hearts open.” Oliver divides the essays, most excerpted from longer works, into three sections: “The Peril, 1800-1900,” represented by Douglass, Solomon Northrup, Booker T. Washington, and W.E.B. Du Bois; “The Power, 1900-1968,” which includes Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes, stars of the Harlem Renaissance; James Baldwin; Malcolm X; and important contemporary writers, such as Nobel Prize–winning Toni Morrison, Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.; Pulitzer Prize winner Alice Walker; and prolific bestseller Maya Angelou; and “The Pleasure, 1968-2018,” which features acclaimed, multiple award–winning writers (several have been awarded MacArthur Fellowships) such as Junot Díaz, Roxane Gay, Colson Whitehead, and Ta-Nehisi Coates. Walker reveals that poetry lifted her from suicidal depression. Morrison sees her work as an extension of and “complement” to slave narratives. Gay writes about her love of the Sweet Valley High series of young-adult novels, whose “blond and thin and perfect” characters were models of all she wanted to be. Díaz writes of his despair in Cornell’s MFA program, where lack of diversity among the faculty and “the students’ lack of awareness of the lens of race” threatened to silence him. Oliver’s cogent author introductions contextualize each piece, making the anthology an informative overview of African-American literature.

Revelatory, often moving essays by impressive writers.

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5428-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: 37 Ink/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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