Each year, Library Journal presents an overview of new and forthcoming titles for Black History Month in February‚ way in advance, so people can get ready for the books they want. Since the writing fell to me this year, I’ve pulled titles from my Prepub Alert column, as well as LJ reviews and online catalog hunts. The books on this list, by no means comprehensive but representing the most intriguing titles I could find, will appear from October 2011 through February 2012. The range is broad, from Du Bois Institute director Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s Life Upon These Shores: Looking at African American History, 1513‚ 2008 to music and culture critic Nelson George’s mystery, The Plot Against Hip Hop. Together, these titles give a powerful picture of African America today.
For the greatest perspective, you can’t beat the fresh and heady scholarship of Life Upon These Shores: Looking at African American History, 1513‚ 2008 (Knopf. Nov. 2011. 880p. ISBN 9780307593429. $50)‚ or the credentials of author Henry Louis Gates Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard. Challenging the notion of a single Black Experience, Gates contextualizes his work with more than 800 images and doesn’t duck controversy.
Elsewhere, you’ll find more focused studies. In To Free a Family: The Journey of Mary Walker (Harvard Univ. Feb. 2012. 360p. ISBN 9780674062122. $29.95), Sydney Nathans, history professor emeritus, Duke University, describes Mary Walker’s 1848 escape from slavery and relentless 17-year quest to free her family, drawing on the diaries and letters of her North Carolina slaveholders and the Northern family that sheltered her because Walker left no record of her own.
While Deborah Davis’s Guest of Honor: Booker T. Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, and the White House Dinner That Shocked a Nation (Atria: S. & S. Dec. 2011. 304p. ISBN 9781439169810. $26; eISBN 9781439169834) focuses on former slave Booker T. Washington’s news-making, barrier-breaking dinner at the White House with President Theodore Roosevelt, Stephanie Deutsch’s You Need a Schoolhouse: Booker T. Washington, Julius Rosenwald, and the Building of Schools for the Segregated South (Northwestern Univ. Dec. 2011. c.208p. ISBN 9780810127906. $24.95) goes broader. Deutsch chronicles the efforts of Washington and Rosenwald to bring education to African American students.
Edited by Danielle L. McGuire and John Dittmer, Freedom Rights: New Perspectives on the Civil Rights Movement (Univ. Pr. of Kentucky. Nov. 2011. 400p. ISBN 9780813134482. $40; eISBN 9780813134499) highlights new scholarship on the Civil Rights Movement, showing the importance of local politics, for instance, and the value of arts activism. Michael Vinson Williams’s Medgar Evers: Mississippi Martyr (Univ. of Arkansas. Nov. 2011. 453p. ISBN 9781557289735. $34.95) goes heartbreakingly to the heart of the movement, commemorating the oppression-hedged life of Evers, Mississippi’s first full-time field secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the consequences of his 1963 assassination.
Alpha Phi Alpha: A Legacy of Greatness, the Demands of Transcendence (Univ. Pr of Kentucky. Jan. 2012. 480p. ISBN 9780813134215. $39.95; eISBN 9780813134574), edited by attorney Gregory S. Parks and history professor Stefan M. Bradley, profiles one of the oldest and largest African American fraternities, founded in 1906 at Cornell. Diane Brady’s Fraternity (Spiegel & Grau. Jan. 2012. 288p. ISBN 9780385524742. $25; eISBN 9780385529624) is of a different sort. In 1968, Rev. John Brooks, a Jesuit priest at Holy Cross College, went looking for talented young African American high schoolers to lure to his school. Among his finds: Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Pulitzer Prize‚ winning author Edward P. Jones, and former New York City deputy mayor Stanley Grayson.
In No Higher Honor: A Memoir of My Years in Washington (Crown. Nov. 2011. 448p. ISBN 9780307587862. $30; eISBN 9780307952479), Condoleezza Rice discusses her service as national security adviser and then secretary of state, with special emphasis on 9/11 and the subsequent decision to go to war in Afghanistan and Iraq. Brothers (and Me): A Memoir of Loving and Giving (Little, Brown. Dec. 2011. 288p. ISBN 9780316021845. $25.99; eISBN 9780316193191), from Donna Britt, an award-winning former columnist for the Washington Post, is more personal but no less significant. Reflecting on her father, three brothers, two husbands, and two sons and particularly one brother’s murder by the police decades ago, Britt realizes just how much she has needed to give to African American men and how much she needs to learn to take care of herself.
Though the recently deceased Gil Scott-Heron was a notable musician/songwriter, often called the godfather of rap, The Last Holiday (Grove. Jan. 2012. 382p. ISBN 9780802129017. $25) goes beyond music to examine his participation in a 41-city tour in fall 1980 aimed at encouraging the creation of a national holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Big Boy (aka Kurt Alexander) also has music in his veins‚ he’s one of the country’s biggest hip-hop DJs. But in An XL Life: Staying Big at Half the Size (Cash Money Content: Atria. Dec. 2011. 336p. ISBN 9781936399215. $23.99), he discusses dropping his weight way down from a high of 510 pounds. His title is one of the first from Cash Money Content, an imprint that Cash Money Records cofounders Ronald Slim Williams and Bryan Birdman Williams are launching with Atria: Simon & Schuster.
Mark Whitaker’s father was the grandson of slaves and his mother a refugee from World War II France, where her pastor father helped hide thousands of Jews. Whitaker, executive vice president of CNN Worldwide, tells the story of their biracial marriage and corrosive divorce in My Long Trip Home: A Family Memoir (S. & S. Oct. 368p. ISBN 9781451627541. $25.99). Peggielene Bartels & Eleanor Herman tell a sunnier story in King Peggy: An American Secretary, Her Royal Destiny, and the Inspiring Story of How She Changed an African Village (Doubleday. Feb. 2012. 304p. ISBN 9780385534321. $25.95) When her uncle died back in Ghana, Bartels suddenly found that she had inherited his post‚ king of Otuam, a town of 7000 residents on Ghana’s coast.
The Ongoing Struggle for Justice
Hailed for The Race Card, Stanford law professor Richard Thompson Ford returns with two titles this fall. Rights Gone Wrong: How Law Corrupts the Struggle for Equality (Farrar. Nov. 2011. 288p. ISBN 9780374250355. $27) argues provocatively that while Civil Rights Movement ideas can be used to fight overt discrimination, they can’t address broader injustices‚ and they’re cynically exploited by both the Left and the Right. Universal Rights Down to Earth (Norton. Nov. 2011. 144p. ISBN 9780393079005. $22.95), part of the Amnesty International Global Ethics series, addresses the clash between human rights ideals and the reality of specific cultures worldwide, arguing that do-gooders must work locally to make things happen.
As several books clarify, the battle for justice has a long way to go. In Multiplication Is for White People: Raising Expectations for Other People’s Children (New Pr., dist. by Perseus. Jan. 2012. 256p. ISBN 9781595580467. $26.95), MacArthur fellow Lisa Delpit shows how to close the continuing achievement gap between black and white children in public schools, a gap that doesn’t exist at birth. (The title references a student who told Delpit, Black people don’t multiply, black people just add and subtract.) University of Pennsylvania history professor Michael B. Katz asks Why Don’t American Cities Burn? (Univ. of Pennsylvania. Dec. 2011. 240p. ISBN 9780812243864. $29.95), using his experience as juror on a murder trial to address the split between the urban entrepreneurial poor and a relentless black underclass that has turned its rage inward.
Two books present focused examples of the continuing mistreatment of African Americans within our justice system. In Anatomy of Injustice: A Murder Case Gone Wrong (Knopf. Feb. 2012. 336p. ISBN 9780307700216. $25.95), Pulitzer Prize‚ winning journalist Raymond Bonner profiles Edward Lee Elmore, a sweet, mentally retarded young man convicted of murdering a white widow in early 1980s South Carolina and the spunky female lawyer who fought 20 years for a fair trial. Michael Berryhill’s The Trials of Eroy Brown: The Murder Case That Shook the Texas Prison System (Univ. of Texas. Oct. 2011. c.244p. ISBN 9780292726949. $29.95) travels to 1980s Texas, where black inmate Brown endured three trials before being acquitted of drowning a warden and shooting another white prison official. (It was ruled that he acted in self-defense.)
Connie Rice’s Power Concedes Nothing: One Woman’s Quest for Social Justice in America, from the Courtroom to the Kill Zones (Scribner. Jan. 2012. 368p. ISBN 9781416575009. $26) is more encouraging. Of mixed African, African American, Native American, and Irish ancestry, Rice details her ongoing battle for civil rights causes in Los Angeles, where she has successfully challenged the bus system, the school system, the death penalty, and the LAPD. But Maggie Anderson’s efforts to persuade the black community to buy black met with less success. As she details in Our Black Year: One Family’s Quest to Buy Black in America’s Racially Divided Economy (PublicAffairs: Perseus. Feb. 2012. 320p. ISBN 9781610390248. $25.99), after she and her husband declared in January 2009 that for a year they intended to patronize only black-owned businesses, they met with resistance and sometimes condemnation from the black community itself.
Most readers know about Phillis Wheatley, born in West Africa, sold into slavery, and the author of luminous verse who became the first person of African heritage and the second woman to publish a book in America. Vincent Carretta’s Phillis Wheatley: Biography of a Genius in Bondage (Univ. of Georgia. Nov. 2011. c.304p. ISBN 9780820333380. $29.95), which carefully analyzes the poems while uncovering new material about Wheatley’s life, should tell us a whole lot more. Taking a cue from Wynton Marsalis, who has called Ralph Ellison the unacknowledged political theorist of the Civil Rights Movement, Timothy Parrish’s Ralph Ellison and the Genius of America (Univ. of Massachusetts. Dec. 2011. 280p. ISBN 9781558499218. $80; pap. ISBN 9781558499225. $26.95) refreshes our view of Ellison, challenging critics who dismiss him as the author of just one big novel.
Edited by Steven C. Tracy, Writers of the Black Chicago Renaissance (Univ. of Illinois. Nov. 2011. c.560p. ISBN 9780252036392. $50) catches us up on the writers who shone in 1930‚ 1950s Chicago, somewhat after the better-known Harlem Renaissance. Among them: Richard Wright and Lorraine Hansberry. In lost in language & sound: a memoir of coming to the arts; essays (St. Martin’s. Dec. 2011. 160p. ISBN 9780312206161. $22.99), Ntozake Shange unfolds her experiences as an artist, a woman, and a woman of color while considering the creative process. The author of the Obie Award‚ winning For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf, not to mention novels, poetry, essays, and children’s books, Shange is a Renaissance woman in her own right.
The Poet’s Craft
A round of applause, poetry lovers, for two old hands with brand-new collections. Nathaniel Mackey’s Nod House (New Directions, dist. by Norton. Nov. 2011. 144p. ISBN 9780811219464. pap. $15.95) continues the magic of his National Book Award‚ winning Splay Anthem, following a group of travelers through a mythic Africa and highlighting the close connection between music and poetry. There’s also a lot of traveling in ErranCities (Coffee House, dist. by Consortium. Feb. 2012. 140p. ISBN 9781566892766. pap. $16) from poet/performer/editor Quincy Troupe. His title echoing the French word errance (wandering), Troupe takes us from ancient Yoruba to Harlem to Guadeloupe and on to contemporary America.
A cofounder of Cave Canem, an organization aimed at encouraging the growth and richness of African American poetry, Paterson Poetry prize winner Toi Derricotte returns with The Undertaker’s Daughter (Univ. of Pittsburgh. Oct. 2011. 80p. ISBN 9780822962007. pap. $15.95), which explores her own troubled childhood. Cave Canem Fellow Monica Hand is releasing her first collection, me and Nina (Alice James. Jan. 2012. c.80p. ISBN 9781882295906. pap. $15.95), a 2010 Kinereth Gensler Award winner that rapturously twines the great Nina Simone’s artistry with Hand’s own.
This fall, two distinguished literary authors work beyond their accustomed borders. MacArthur fellow Colson Whitehead’s Zone One (Doubleday. Oct. 2011. 240p. ISBN 9780385528078. $25.95; eISBN 9780385535014) envisions a postapocalyptic world infested with zombies, with a provisional U.S. government of the still healthy trying to take back Manhattan. Dos Passos Prize winner Percival Everett offers a murder mystery of sorts with Assumption (Graywolf. Nov. 2011. 272p. ISBN 9781555975982. pap. $15), with Ogden Walker, the African American deputy of a small New Mexico town, tracking the killer of an old woman and finding much more.
A mix of thriller, thoughtful, and historical verisimilitude, Rashad Harrison’s Our Man in the Dark (Atria: S. & S. Nov. 2011. 320p. ISBN 9781451625752. $25) draws on the true story of the comptroller working for Dr. Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC), who became an FBI informant. The Silence of Our Friends (First Second: Roaring Brook. Jan. 2012. 208p. ISBN 9781596436183. pap. $16.99), a graphic novel by video game designer Mark Long and Emerald City Comicon founder Jim Demonakos (authors) and Eisner Award winner Nate Powell (illustrations), is also rooted in fact. Long partly fictionalizes events in 1967 Texas, where his reporter father covered the Civil Rights Movement as two families‚ one black, one white‚ work together toward a common goal.
In Daniel Black’s Twelve Gates to the City (St. Martin’s. Dec. 2011. 352p. ISBN 9780312582685. $25.99), a sequel to They Tell Me of a Home, T.L. struggles to understand the death of his sister, even as she speaks to him from beyond the grave. White male author Jonathan Odell draws on the WPA’s first-person slave narratives to write The Healing (Nan A. Talese: Doubleday. Feb. 2012. c.352p. ISBN 9780385534673. $26), about a woman healer on an antebellum Mississippi plantation.
Also set in Mississippi Bernice L. McFadden’s Gathering of Waters (Akashic. Feb. 2012. 250p. ISBN 9781617750328. $24.95; pap. ISBN 9781617750311. $14.95) promises to be a powerful story. Two-time Black Caucus of the ALA award winner McFadden offers a tender romance between Tass Hilson and Emmett Till, whose awful murder drives Tass to an early marriage and escape to Detroit. Decades later, she returns as a widow and releases Emmett’s spirit from the dark waters of the Tallahatchie River.
Mystery fans, do not hesitate to pick up Walter Mosley’s All I Did Was Shoot My Man: A Leonid McGill Mystery (Riverhead: Penguin Group (USA). Jan. 2012. 304p. ISBN 9781594488245. $26.95), whose prime suspect may have shot her lover and may have something to do with the theft of $6.8 million. Also get music and culture critic Nelson George’s The Plot Against Hip Hop (Akashic. Nov. 2011. 220p. ISBN 9781617750243. pap. $15.95), in which security boss D Hunter tracks the murderer of his friend, music critic Dwayne Robinson. (Evidently, writing reviews is dangerous.)
Pop fiction highlights include Essence best-selling author RM Johnson’s Deceit and Devotion (S. & S. Feb. 2012. 288p. ISBN 9781439180570. $25), a follow-up to The Harris Family featuring Daphanie Coleman’s struggles to retrieve the baby she was persuaded to sign over to the father at birth. The queen of gospel comedy, Pat G’Orge-Walker returns with No Ordinary Noel (Kensington. Oct. 2011. 320p. ISBN 9780758259660. $15), the story of Sister Betty’s efforts to help the Crossing Over Sanctuary Church’s congregation pay off a debt before Christmas. Finally, prolific romance author Brenda Jackson’s late fall works include Temptation (Harlequin Desire. Nov. 2011. 192p. ISBN 9780373731336. pap. $4.99), in which millionaire security expert and rancher Zeke Travers gets tangled up in love.
Street lit is booming so big that detailing every title would be a challenge, but here’s an overview. Rapper Tip T.I. Harris joins with David Ritz to give us Power and Beauty: A Love Story of Life on the Streets (Morrow. Oct. 2011. 352p. ISBN 9780062067654. $23.99), about the struggle of Power and adopted sister Tanya, called Beauty, to get out from under Atlanta gangster Charles Slim Simmons. Kiki Swinson and Noire offer two sizzly novellas in Lifestyles of the Rich and Shameless (Dafina: Kensington. Dec. 2011. 320p. ISBN 9780758251800. pap. $15). While Kia DuPree’s Silenced (Grand Central. Oct. 2011. 352p. ISBN 9780446547741. pap. $13.99) realistically portrays the working poor in Washington, DC, De’Nesha Diamond’s Street Divas (Dafina: Kensington. Nov. 2011. 352p. ISBN 9780758247575. pap. $15) revisits the Hustlin’ Divas of Memphis.
Atria’s Strebor imprint offers a mother lode of titles, including J. Leon Pridgen’s Color of Justice (Strebor: Atria. Nov. 2011. 320p. ISBN 9781593093259. pap. $15), about brothers on opposite sides of the law; Cairo’s sexy Kat Trap sequel, Kitty-Kitty, Bang-Bang (Strebor: Atria Nov. 2011. ISBN 9781593093037. pap. $15); and Rae’s Abnormal Lives (Strebor: Atria. Nov. 2011. ISBN 9781593093815. $13), featuring two cousins who pay the bills through prostitution. In addition, Thomas Slater’s No More Time-Outs (Strebor: Atria. Nov. 2011. 304p. ISBN 9781593093471. pap. $15) concerns the black market for human organs and one son’s efforts to save his mother’s life. Scandalicious (Strebor: Atria. Oct. 2011. 352p. ISBN 9781593093686. pap. $15), featuring a trendy cupcake business and a scandalous love rectangle, is Allison Hobbs’s 16th book.
L.E. Newell’s The Grind Don’t Stop (Strebor: Atria. Jan. 2012. 336p. ISBN 9781593093648. pap. $13), a follow-up to Durty South Grind, goes right to the edge in sex and violence, while Jaye Cherié’s The Golddigger’s Club (Strebor: Atria. Jan. 2012. 336p. ISBN 9781593093792. pap. $15) concerns three women trying to determine the line between right and wrong. Essence best-selling author Vicky Stringer brings back popular protagonist Dirty Red in Low Down and Dirty (Strebor: Atria. Feb. 2012. 304p. ISBN 9781451660869. $23.99). Finally, under its new Cash Money Content imprint, Atria is bringing back an Iceberg Slim classic, The Long White Con: The Biggest Score of His Life (Jan. 2012. 336p. ISBN 9781936399055. pap. $14.99).
Four-time NBA champion Shaquille O’Neal should have a lot to say in Shaq Uncut: Tall Tales and Untold Stories (Grand Central. Nov. 2011. 304p. ISBN 9781455504411. $27.95), written with Jackie MacMullan. Not only is he the NBA’s oldest player but he’s also an actor, record producer, rapper, student (he’s getting a PhD), conductor (he’s led the Boston Pops), and reserve police officer. Jeff Pearlman’s Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton. Gotham: Penguin Books (USA). Oct. 2011. 448p. ISBN 9781592406531. $28) builds on more than 700 interviews to give us a sense of Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton, who must be one charmer to earn the nickname Sweetness in college.
Unlike these books, Esquire writer Scott Raab’s The Whore of Akron: One Man’s Search for the Soul of LeBron James (Harper: HarperCollins. Nov. 2011. 272p. ISBN 9780062066367. $25.99) is less life story and more analysis. Raab examines LeBron James’s appeal and, looking at the reaction when he switched to the Miami Heat, the ideas of fandom and loyalty.
The Sound of Music
Two books‚ King of Calypso and political activist Harry Belefonte’s My Song: A Memoir (Knopf. Nov. 2011. 448p. ISBN 9780307272263. $30; eISBN 9780307700483), written with Michael Shnayerson, and musician/composer/producer Nile Rodgers’s Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco, and Destiny (Spiegel & Grau. Oct. 2011. 288p. ISBN 9780385529655. $26; eISBN 9780679644033) give us musicians in their own words. Entertainment journalist Ronin Ro’s Prince: Inside the Music and the Masks (St. Martin’s. Oct. 2011. 384p. ISBN 9780312383008. $26.99) works from the outside to understand an artist who’s had nearly 30 albums hit the Billboard Top 100.
A couple of more personal books include Frank Cascio’s My Friend Michael: Growing Up with the King of Pop (Morrow. Nov. 2011. 288p. ISBN 9780062090065. $25.99), which details Cascio’s long personal and professional relationship with Michael Jackson, and Bob Marley’s Plain and Simple Wisdom from 56 Hope Road (Harmony, dist. by Crown. Nov. 2011. 176p. ISBN 9780385518833. $16: eISBN 9780307952455). Taken from interviews and edited by Marley/Rastafarianism expert Gerald Hausman, this book highlights the famed reggae musician’s personal and spiritual beliefs.
Benjamin Cawthra’s Blue Notes in Black and White: Photography and Jazz (Univ. of Chicago. Nov. 2011. c.392p. ISBN 9780226098753. $45) and Kathy Sloane’s Keystone Korner: Portrait of a Jazz Club (Indiana Univ. Nov. 2011. c.264p. ISBN 9780253356918. pap. $40 with CD) give us a visual understanding of jazz, Cawthra from the 1930s through the 1960s and Sloane through the 1970s.
In Rifftide: The Life and Opinions of Papa Jo Jones (Univ. of Minnesota. Oct. 2011. c.200p. ISBN 9780816673018. pap. $18.95), Count Basie’s ne plus ultra drummer, Papa Jo, tells his story stream-of-conscious style with the help of critic/novelist Albert Murray. Moving forward, Bill Adler & Dan Charnas’s Def Jam Recordings: The First 25 Years of the Last Great Record Label (Rizzoli. Oct. 2011. 312p. ISBN 9780847833719. $60) tells the story of a label that introduced some of today’s great African American performers.
The Fine Arts
Recently, Harvard University Press and the Du Bois Institute have begun republishing materials from the archive founded in the 1960s by art patron Dominique de Menil with images showing how people of African descent have been represented in Western art. Three large books were originally drawn from the archives; this new project will offer ten books, including new editions of the original volumes and two new ones. This fall we have The Image of the Black in Western Art, Vol. 3: From the Age of Discovery to the Age of Abolition, Pt. 2: Europe and the World Beyond (440p. ISBN 9780674052628) and Pt. 3: The Eighteenth Century (320p. ISBN 9780674052635), each $95 from Harvard University Press’s Belknap imprint.
For a vivid picture of black urban America, and particularly 20th-century Pittsburgh, see Cheryl Finley & others’ Teenie Harris, Photographer: Image, Memory, History (Univ. of Pittsburgh. Oct. 2011. 208p. ISBN 9780822944140. $55; ISBN 9780822961741. $24.95). Harris, a photographer for the Pittsburgh Courier, a leading black newspaper, began working during the Great Depression. Her images are now part of the Carnegie Museum of Art’s permanent collection.
As head coach of Richmond High’s basketball team, Ken Carter pushed his players to excel academically. His story was made into the 2005 film Coach Carter, starring Samuel L. Jackson, and his Leading with the Heart was a New York Times and a Wall Street Journal best seller. So his forthcoming Yes Ma’am, No Sir: The 12 Essential Steps for Success in Life (Grand Central. Feb. 2012. 256p. ISBN 9781455502349. $24.99) should be in demand.
Though Bob Knowling’s You Can Get There from Here: The Bridge from Struggle to Success (Portfolio: Penguin. Oct. 2011. 272p. ISBN 9781591844228. $26.95) is billed as a business memoir, its title suggests that Knowling has lessons to deliver, particularly to his fellow African Americans. Knowling is chair Eagles Landing Partners and the former CEO of Telwares, SimDesk Technologies, and Covad Communications.
C T Shackleford’s Can We Talk?: Claiming the Happiness That You Deserve (Strebor: Atria. Oct. 2011. 240p. ISBN 9781593093839. pap. $14), a relationship book for women written in response to Steve Harvey’s Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man), appeared a few years back from a small press but made so many waves that it’s being given a big-press makeover. For the male perspective, see Ray J and Maxwell Billieon’s Death of the Cheating Man: What Every Woman Must Know About Why Men Stray (Strebor: Atria. Feb. 2012. 272p. ISBN 9781593093990. $24), in which celeb musician Ray J talks about his straying days and how Billieon set him straight. According to Potter’s House mega-pastor T.D. Jakes, all our relationships start with our relationship to God, as explained in The T.D. Jakes Relationship Bible: Life Lessons on Relationships from the Inspired Word of God (Atria. Nov. 2011. 1584p. ISBN 9781439172780. $39.99). Note that this 1500-plus-page book has a special paper-over-board binding.
Given life’s hardships, it’s good to laugh, and comedian Baratunde Thurston’s How To Be Black (Harper: HarperCollins. Feb. 2012. 256p. ISBN 9780062003218. $19.99) should keep you in stitches‚ thought there’s a definite edge to her humor. An editor at the Onion and cofounder of the Jack & Jill Politics web, Thurston offers a satiric guide to being black, with tips on things like How To Speak for All Black People. A challenge to racists and self-styled race experts alike.
While books analyzing the Obama presidency abound (see, e.g., Jonathan Alter’s recent The Promise and David Corn’s forthcoming Showdown: Inside the Obama White House), publishing in the next few months seems to be dwelling on the personal. Jodi Kantor’s The Obamas (Little, Brown. Jan. 2012. 448p. ISBN 9780316098755. $29.99) focuses on the home life of the President and the First Lady, while Mikki Taylor’s Commander in Chic Every Woman’s Guide to Managing Her Style Like a First Lady (Atria: S. & S. Nov. 2011. 192p. ISBN 9781439196724. $26) presents Michelle Obama as the 21st-century’s Jackie O.
Just one cookbook on this year’s list. But if you watch the Food Network series Down Home or crave Hoppin’ John Soup. Patrick Neely and Gina Neely’s The Neelys’ Celebration Cookbook: Down Home Meals for Every Occasion (Knopf. Nov. 2011. 288p. ISBN 9780307592941. $28.95; eISBN 9780307700629), written with Ann Volkwein, is the book for you.