PODCAST: Lawrence Jackson Discusses Biography of Black Author Chester Himes

September 17, 2017 Leave a comment

In Lawrence Jackson’s monumental biography, CHESTER B. HIMES, readers are introduced to one of the most prolific and underrated Black writers of the 20th century.   Himes, who lived from 1909-1984, was the author of 17 novels and numerous short stories.  Himes was a black literary realist who used fiction to honestly express the rage he felt at racism, despite the criticism of some of his contemporaries that his perspective was too bleak.  It was his Harlem detective novels that paved the path for enduring financial success as two of those novels were made into movies in the 1970s, Cotton Comes to Harlem and Come Back Charleston Blue.

Lawrence P. Jackson is a Professor of English and History at Johns Hopkins University and also the author of RALPH ELLISON: Emergence of Genius.

 

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PODCAST: Rodrigo Hasbun Examines Bolivia in Historical Novel AFFECTIONS

September 17, 2017 Leave a comment

Rodrigo Hasbun’s new novel, AFFECTIONS, is a historical novel loosely based on the lives of Hans Ertl, his wife and three daughters who immigrated to Bolivia from Germany shortly after world war 2.

Set against the backdrop of the both optimistic and violent 1950s and 1960s, Affections traces the Ertls’s slow and inevitable breakdown through the various erratic trajectories of each family member: Hans’s undertakings of colossal, foolhardy projects and his subsequent spectacular failures; his daughter Monika, heir to his adventurous spirit, who joins the Bolivian Marxist guerrillas and becomes known as “Che Guevara’s avenger”; and his wife and two younger sisters left to pick up the pieces in their wake.

Rodrigo Hasbún is a Bolivian novelist living and working in Houston. In 2007, he was selected by the Hay Festival as one of the best Latin American writers under the age of thirty-nine for Bogotá39, and in 2010 he was named one of Granta’s Best Young Spanish-Language Novelists. He is the author of a previous novel and a collection of short stories.

PODCAST: Vanessa Valdes Discusses Biography of Arturo Schomberg

September 17, 2017 Leave a comment

In Vanessa K. Valdes new book, DIASPORIC BLACKNESS, she examines the life of Black Puerto Rican–born scholar, Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, (1874–1938) was a well-known collector and archivist whose personal library was the basis of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library. Born in 1874, Schomburg cofounded the Negro Society for Historical Research and lead the American Negro Academy, all the while collecting and assembling books, prints, pamphlets, articles, and other ephemera produced by Black men and women from across the Americas and Europe. His curated library collection at the New York Public Library emphasized the presence of African peoples and their descendants throughout the Americas and would serve as an indispensable resource for the luminaries of the Harlem Renaissance, including Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston.

Vanessa K. Valdés is Associate Professor of Spanish and Portuguese at the City College of New York, City University of New York. She is the editor of Let Spirit Speak! Cultural Journeys through the African Diaspora and the author of Oshun’s Daughters: The Search for Womanhood in the Americas, She currently serves as Book Review Editor of s/x salon, an online literary salon on Caribbean literature and culture.

Review of Deji Bryce Olukotun novel AFTER THE FLARE: “Fascinating Blend of Science Fiction and Fantasy”

September 16, 2017 Leave a comment

By Tim Chamberlain

In his latest novel AFTER THE FLARE, Deji Bryce Olukotun delivers a fascinating blend of science fiction and fantasy from a new point of view.

It’s the near future, and massive solar flares have crippled North America, Europe and Asia. Not only does this cause massive disruption on the ground, but all satellites are in danger of crashing, including the manned International Space Station. Nigeria has the only functioning spaceport in the world, and they are scrambling to send a rescue mission to the ISS. Enter our hero, Kwesi Bracket, a displaced American NASA employee thrust into a whole new world in Nigeria.

Fans of plausible, near-future science fiction will enjoy Olukotun’s many inventions which include the Geckophone (a moving, lizard-like phone that can crawl up on

Deji Olukotun Photo © Beowulf Sheehan

the roof to charge in the sun), food-based security (it’s Tuesday, so you have to eat a kola nut and blow through a straw to pass–it’s complicated, and Olukotun does a much better explanation), and the future of currency–cowrie shells. It’s the many little touches like these that make this story vibrant.

But it’s not all just solid science fiction–from the beginning there are mysterious goings-on at the spaceport, and it soon becomes obvious that something beyond science is also somehow involved. Beyond that, the very real members of Boko Haram menace the entire situation, and the terrorists must be dealt with. Olukatun expertly brings all of these various elements together by the end.

The plot of AFTER THE FLARE itself is action movie-worthy, never keeping still for very long. But perhaps the most interesting parts of the book to me were the little asides on life and culture that weave a fascinating picture of Nigeria as it exists now, and how it would evolve in this solar flare ravaged future. The descriptions of the interactions of different local ethnic groups alone is instructive for someone like me that is mostly unfamiliar with the intricacies of Nigerian culture. Also, the fact that Bracket is American gives Olukotun a very natural way to get into these things–the American needs to know what’s happening.

In the end, AFTER THE FLARE is a seriously satisfying journey through a dystopian future and Nigerian culture that keeps itself grounded with interestingly plausible tech and frighteningly real monsters. Any fans of classic sci-fi should enjoy this new entry that puts things in a setting not typically seen in this genre.

PODCAST: Interview With Chaitali Sen

August 12, 2017 Leave a comment

img_3732I interviewed Chaitali Sen about her wonderful debut novel, THE PATHLESS SKY, live at KAZI on July 23.  Enclosed is the recording of the interview.  Here is a description of the book from Chaitali Sen’s web site: In The Pathless Sky, Chaitali Sen conjures a world in which a nation’s political turmoil, its secret history, and growing social unrest turn life into a fragile and capricious thing and love into a necessary refuge to be defended at all cost. A world, that is, not unlike the one we live in. John, a hapless young student with a potentially brilliant academic career ahead of him, and Mariam, a shy, preternaturally perceptive woman from the north, fall in love in college. Their early careers, their seemingly mismatched natures, and the alarming changes occurring in their country conspire to keep them apart for years….

Nicky Drayden Debuts Near Future Thriller

August 6, 2017 Leave a comment

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Jeff Guinn Interview on Jim Jones & the Jonestown Massacre

August 6, 2017 Leave a comment

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