Ta-Nehisi Coates 'Between the World And Me' is essential reading



Famed author Ta-Nehisi Coates has become one of the more respected voices on race in America. Coates' writings for the Atlantic, his participation in several panels on race and culture have placed him at the forefront of a national conversation on race that has intensified over the last two years with the high-profile deaths of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and Mike Brown drawing police brutality against black people back into the spotlight. Coates released his book, Between the World and Me, back in July and serves as an unofficial sequel to The Beautiful Struggle, his 2008 memoir about his formative years in Baltimore.

With Between the World..., Coates addresses the perils of being black in America as framed through a conversation with his teenage son. Coates writes of the exhausting defensiveness that young black people embrace to protect them from an environment full of antagonism and hostility, both from authorities like the police and from peers. He criticizes the dream of suburbia, a culture that was largely created out of racism and divisiveness, as well as funded by the exploitation of undesirables--particularly black people.

"[They] have forgotten the scale of theft that enriched them in slavery; the terror that allowed them, for a century, to pilfer the vote; the segregationist policy that gave them their suburbs. They have forgotten, because to remember would tumble them out of the beautiful Dream and force them to live down here with us, down here in the world," Coates writes.

Between the World and Me has drawn comparisons to James Baldwin's essential The Fire Next Time and has also drawn criticism from those who think that Coates isn't directly acknowledging "progress" or who feel that he's further centering young, black cis manhood in the dialogue surrounding American racism--to the exclusion of black women and LGBTQ members of the community. Coates recently discussed his book during an interview at the Schomburg Center For Black Research in Harlem and said that he only seeks to be honest in the hopes of furthering this conversation.

“You would talk to folks and they would be aware of certain truths and you could feel them pulling their punches. I think that’s disrespectful to white people. I don’t see how you are respecting folks by not speaking truthfully and from the heart. I don’t personalize stuff, but the history is what the history is. But it’s disrespectful to white people to soften the history or talk to them like they’re three years old. If I go hear a lecture on feminism or LGBT rights, I don’t want you to soften it for me,” he said.

Excerpt from Suzette Webb's new book: 'Blues to Blessings'


It took author Suzette Webb five years to write her memoir, Blues to Blessings: from Fearful to Faithful. Three of her biggest challenges were "finding the inner peace to tell my story in such raw detail," time and motivation. Pure perseverance played out in her favor.

“In our lives, we all have the beautiful parts and the ugly parts. We have become a society of reality TV watchers where we like to see everyone else’s ugliness. However, there is beauty, strength and endurance in those ugly parts,” Webb says.

With Blues to Blessings, her biggest goal is to turn millions of souls toward God.

"My first book – Moments of Truth is book of affirmations was written nearly 18 years ago. The second affirmation in the book was titled "Blues to Blessings," which is the title of my current book, my spiritual memoir.

Read an excerpt here.

Bishop T.D. Jakes reveals secrets about the power of instinct

Social media has been buzzing these past couple of weeks since Bishop T.D. Jakes’ lifeclass on OWN. During a recent airing of “Oprah’s Lifeclass,” Bishop Jakes commented “We live in so much noise that we don’t have time to hear what’s coming out of inside you.”

This revelation followed a conversation among a zoologist, a Zulu and Bishop Jakes while on a safari. The zoologist enlightened Bishop Jakes about the habitats, biology and the mating practices for every animal in their sight but when he started explaining the elephant, it was nowhere to be found.

Before the day ended, “The Zulu stood up and said, ‘The elephant is over there.’ And when he said it, bells went off in my head. Because all of a sudden, I realize I am seated between intellect and instinct. Intellect can explain it, but instinct can find it.”

“All of my life flashed before me in the most incredible way,” he says. “Intelligence may load the gun—but instinct pulls the trigger.”

Last week, this writer had a one-on-one interview with Bishop Jakes to discuss his latest book,Instinct: The Power to Unleash Your Inborn Drive, which was the subject of the life class.

When asked what inspired him to write the book that had the audience stirred up and has been a hot trending topic on social media, he shares, “I wrote this book because I thought was an important subject for people to identify their own instinct, what is organically inside all of us, how we can better utilize our lives and our time on earth when we follow our instinctive, inborn drive and allow it to guide us in our career choices, the decisions we make as entrepreneurs.”

He continues, “Every aspect of our life is affected by who we are, whether we are extroverts and introverts, and whether we work better in crowds or isolation … rather than try to contort yourself.

Junot Diaz’s ‘This Is How You Lose Her’

Junot Diaz’s latest book,This Is How You Lose Her, is an example of cultural and intellectual persuasion that delivers the very poignant reality of cultural indoctrination and assimilation gone wrong. The work presents the uncut experience of the Dominican immigrant in America. Sexism and self-loathing are omnipresent themes throughout. This is most evident through the constant use of the n-word.

Diaz expresses that in the Dominican culture, as with the African American culture, beauty is determined by physical features and hair textures. The more coiled the hair and darker the skin, the less you are seen as beautiful for both men and women.

Occupational positions, bloody bed sheets, and a sexually active brother all play equal roles in Diaz’s experiences and outlook. He revisits many of the tragedies found in public tenements.

The book speaks to men that are unable to accept and be loved in permanent relationships because of fear or inadequacy. These men Diaz speaks of put sexual gratification ahead of everything, consciously or unconsciously sabotaging any chance at real, meaningful relationships.

Diaz’s experience is reminiscent of many Black males: absent father, single mother household. This is a great read for men of color who are in danger of repeating their father’s mistakes and continuing the cycle.

Some who read This is How You Lose Her may understand the perspective while others may not be able to comprehend the message being relayed, which often is the case.

Book Review: 'Soul Train: The Music, Dance, and Style of a Generation'

Don Cornelius' Soul Train launched countless careers of today's megastars like Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner, the Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder among others. The Roots' Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson, who's obsessed with Soul Train, curated a phenomenal commemorative book that pays homage to the black cultural dynasty and serves as a tribute to its founder and creator, the late Don Cornelius who is credited with revolutionizing black entertainment.

A spectacular tribute, Soul Train: The Music, Dance, and Style of a Generation features more than 350 historical images, a heartfelt foreword by Gladys Knight, a guide to the most memorable episodes, revelations from Cornelius and an afterword by Kenard Gibbs, CEO of Soul Train Holdings. Television executive Nick Cannon lends an engaging and comedic narrative sharing how he snuck into Soul Train when he was underage and how Cornelius served as his mentor.

Soul Train: The Music, Dance, and Style of a Generation goes on sale on October 22, 2013.


Civil Rights icon, Rep. John Lewis, writes graphic comic novel, 'March'

Georgia Democratic congressman John Lewis, a Freedom Rider and the youngest speaker at the 1963 March on Washington, makes history as the first sitting member of Congress to write a comic book. An autobiographical trilogy, March is a graphic novel chronicling the civil rights icon’s unwavering commitment to nonviolent protest.

He tells the media, ”This story is about movement. It’s about people moving from a place of segregation to a place of reconciliation. It shows how people can overcome and build a sense of community.”

Book One of the trilogy starts with the historic Alabama march from Selma to Montgomery, Bloody Sunday. A young Lewis helped lead marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7, 1965. That date represents “one of the finest hours in the civil rights movement,” recalls Lewis.

“The [Supreme] Court’s decision makes it clear that March is needed by young people – and not so young people – to understand the importance of the Voting Rights Act,” Lewis said. “The book dramatizes what people went through to be able to register and vote. It made me very sad to see the court make this decision. It took blood, hard work and even death to create the climate for the voting act to succeed.”

Co-written with Andrew Aydin, an aide in Lewis’ office, and artist Nate Powell, March, goes on sale in August.

'Warmth of Other Suns' penned by Isabela Wilkerson

History remains important to understand the present and what will dictate the future. Author Isabel Wilkinson spent 10 years working to present an accurate, yet engaging account of the Great Migration, the most important sojourn of a people seeking opportunity, economic growth, and safety in a country where they were born citizens, but treated as outsiders. Wilkinson tells the story of the migration through the lives of three protagonists detailing the nuances of their daily struggles and triumphs, while weaving in the intricacies of historic goal posts for African Americans during the time frame spanning 1915 – 1970. The specific details of racism, segregation and inequality are gut-wrenching but do not overshadow the sheer will and determination shown by a people who want more for their lives despite being assigned 3/5ths of a human status.

Ida Mae Brandon Gladney from Mississippi, George Swanson Starling from Florida, and Robert Joseph Pershing Foster from Louisiana are mashups of representatives from millions of black families who left their lives in the South behind for better opportunities not just for themselves, but for their progeny. According to Wilkinson, “over the course of six decades, some six million black Southerners left the land of their forefathers and fanned out across the country for an uncertain existence in nearly every other corner of America. The Great Migration would become a turning point in history. It would transform urban America and recast the social and political order of every city it touched.”

This book is not just for scholars of African American history, but should be required reading for every single American so that we know the history of our country, its truth in its barest form, which brings understanding of the real reasons for today’s societal ills and gains for different ethnic groups. The reader receives an education in 622 pages about a topic that has eluded a lengthy discussion in American history books and classes. Being informed about this history should not anger those who are descended from those great migrators (although the inhumane treatment might spark a feeling or two), but reinforce the theory behind the great words of sociologist and former U.S. Department of Labor official Daniel Patrick Moynihan as penned in The Negro Family: “That the Negro American has survived at all is extraordinary — a lesser people might simply have died out, as indeed others have.” The Warmth of Other Suns is currently the 2013-2014 One Book, One Chicago selection in Chicago, a city profoundly shaped by migration.

"Real Housewives" Cynthia Bailey and husband Peter Bailey pens new book, 'Carry-On Baggage'

"Real Housewives of Atlanta" star Cynthia Bailey and her husband Peter Thomas have have penned Carry-on Baggage - Our Nonstop Flight, a book that talks about how they make their blended families work. According to the Thomases, they wrote the book "to inspire, provoke and make readers laugh out loud" as they look at their "nonstop flight to finding marital bliss."

The book hits shelves July 2013 and will be distributed by  Griffin Scott Press, LLC, a press release from the couple revealed that they wrote the book.


'VJ: The Unplugged Adventures of MTV’s First Wave'

Four of the five original MTV veejays, f.k.a. video jockeys, Nina Blackwood, Mark Goodman, Alan Hunter, Martha Quinn collaborate with rock journalist Gavin Edwards to produce VJ: The Unplugged Adventures of MTV’s First Wave, a behind-the-scenes oral history of the early years of MTV, 1981 to 1987, when it was exploding, reshaping the culture, and creating “the MTV generation.”

Rounding out the five is J.J. Jackson who passed away in 2004.

These VJs had once-in-a-lifetime pleasure of introducing some of the greatest pop star legends to the world and even the experience of being celebs themselves with the level of access they had to the stars. MTV launched on Aug. 1, 1981. The top U.S. single at the time was Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl.” Hunter received the first picture of a naked female fan sent to the male VJ to pass along to Aerosmith’s Steve Perry.


Vintage Classic: 'War and Peace'

Russian author Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace is an epic piece of work in literature. Deemed the greatest literary work referencing the Napoleonic wars, the historical novel was first published in 1869.

The first complete edition translated in English (1886) was recently sold by Bauman Rare Books for $18,000 – it was six volumes in wonderful original pictorial cloth gilt binding. Literature matters.

War and Peace is a novel by the Russian author Leo Tolstoy, first published in 1869. The work is epic in scale and is regarded as one of the most important works of world literature

What makes this work so important?

The juxtaposition of historical, social, and personal themes and the monumental size and scope of the novel combine to present an accurate and vibrant portrait of the Russian nation.