Jul 9, 2014

Book Looks: The Leaning Tower Of 2014 Summer Reads

Its blazing balls of fire outside in the furnace that South Texas so it's time to keep my rumpus indoors and get some good ol' reading in. Reading is never something I do during a holiday season --- it's a year-round deal for me --- but this summer I found myself with a leaning pile of books on my bedside table and began to think, "yeah, I need to get to reading these", you know, before I buy nine more books (which is usually the case for me). Unfortunately, I don't get to escape to a beach to read them, because I'm well, poor, and don't know the right people. Still I'll ~imagine~ and share with whoever is out there what I'm reading at the moment, and maybe find some fellow book sniffers out there who are flipping pages in order to keep cool this summer. 

  • Bright Boulevards and Bold Dreams: The Story Of Black Hollywood, by Donald Bogle: An in-depth look back at important figures in Hollywood history who just so happen to be African-Americans. The book spans from the 1920s to the 1950s and it not only covers the important actors like Hattie McDaniel and Paul Robeson, but also dives into the back stories about the costume designers, architects, make-up artists, choreographers, screenwriters, directors, and even "the help" who built from the ground up their own private paradise in the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles'. Fascinating stuff.
  • Shanghai Girls, by Lisa See: The story of two sisters who due to their father's carelessness with money (go fig), are forced to become Chinese brides to American suitors, but a little something called World War II gets in the way. Be still my historical fiction heart.
  • The Wedding, by Dorothy West: Important back in the '90s for being Harlem Renaissance alum, Dorothy West's first book in about forty-something years at the time, but remains significant as a literary drama about a family in Martha's Vineyard who get all up in a tizzy when one of their own marries a white Jazz musician. Oh, and the story takes place in the 1950s, so yeah, this is big ol' issue. Saw the movie with Halle Berry and Lynn Whitfield eons ago, but wanted to give the novel some attention. 
  • Dust Tracks On The Road, An Autobiography, by Zora Neale Hurston: Alice Walker claimed that this book is complete fabrication. A real fanciful trip into delusion, that was geared as entertainment for curious White folk, and is possibly the worst thing Hurston scribed in her lifetime. Okay, I'm a few pages in and um, hmm, yeah, dammit Walker is kinda right as she does wax poetic about some magical White man who was there at her birth and helped her learn how to fish. Hurston completely spun the 'magic negro' trope and made it land on its head. Still I shoulder shrug to Walker and naysayers because Hurston was a craftsman at words who weaves a good story. Still, who wouldn't pad their autobiography with color coated lies?
  • Caucasia, by Danzy Senna: Another "sisters in peril" story this time set in the 1970s and follows a biracial family who just cannot get it together as the parents get knee-deep in the radicalism of 1970s Boston, split, and then divide the sisters up --- the father taking one to South America, and the mother masking the other sister's true racial identity. You know some ish is about to go down with a recipe of disaster like that.
  • Under The Ivy: The Life & Music of Kate Bush, by Graeme Thomson: To know me is to know that I adore me some Kate Bush, the kooky progressive rock queen of the '70s and '80s. She's more to it than having a hit song about Emily Bronte's classic Wuthering Heights and the Mother Goose-on-acid holiday specials she did back in the day (YouTube them). She's a fantastic songwriter and, to me, an awesome storyteller who writes songs about haunted houses, the war in Vietnam, and about her bearing witness to one of her ancestors being tried for witchcraft. Serious. I'm curious to see if this book will give me insight on the context behind those beloved musical novellas and Bush's provocative imagination. 
  • Theatre, by W. Somerset Maugham: Ah, Maugham. He always writes about discontented and fussy rich people, and after reading the brilliant bratty couple's quarrel that was The Painted Veil, I decided to check this one out as its about a self-centered actress who meets her match when a ~brooding stranger~ strolls into her world. Ooo, scandal.
  • Incidents In The Life Of A Slave Girl, by Harriet Jacobs: Slave narratives don't exactly scream "summer reading", so this might get pushed back to those winter months of discontentment, but ever since seeing 12 Years A Slave and re-watching Amistad recently its duty to finally sit down and read a slave narrative and check my privilege and note how far we've come and how we still have a long way to go. 
  • Mo' Meta Blues: The World According To Questlove, by Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson: Questlove's sorta-kinda-maybe-not memoir about his yellow brick travels into music and infamy and the soundtrack that backs this thought-provoking journey. Within a few pages, Questlove has gone to the top of my list of "People Dead or Alive That I Want To Eat Enchiladas With and Annoy With Questions", knocking Shelley Duvall down a slot. He is the music nerd of my dreams.

So what is everyone reading for the summer?

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