An Emotional Review of A Brief Review of Seven Killings by Marlon James

•June 5, 2016 • Leave a Comment

I am someone who reads books that break my heart, time and time again. The Book of Night Women broke my heart. Apparently, A Brief History of Seven Killings, which I’m 14 pages away from finishing, is going to do the same. And they’re both by Marlon James.

I so want to say that I hate him and his damn novels but that wouldn’t be true. They resonate too deep for hate. The Book of Night Women stayed with me so long I was extremely reluctant to buy A Brief History. I waited; saw it in my favorite bookstore, saw it win prestige and still said I ain’t buying fucking bullshit that breaks my fucking heart. I nah fi do it.



whose music reached me before Prince.


whose reggae connected me to my family in a way no other music does.

And so I bought it…and started reading.

Fucking Marlon James, man. I mean, damn.

I can’t fault him for his knowledge, or sense, of history. I can’t fault him for me reading past the sick ass murder that occurred in the first few pages. I can’t fault him anymore than I could fault Dylan for Masters of War or NWA for Fuck the Police or War for The World is a Ghetto because neither him or Dylan or NWA or War are the originators of this violent ass world I’m raising my son in.

I can’t even fault him for my reaction to a book that I haven’t yet finished, although I only have 14 pages left out of a 686 page novel. I can’t fault him for me feeling sorrow for the fictional psychopath Josey Wales. I can’t fault him because he’s an honest writer. His research is solid. His writing is beyond great. I can’t do anything but finish the novel, post this review and this song…

Selassie I Jah Rastafari

Addendum: I just finished the book. Considering the deranged violence that occurred throughout the book I never thought I would end it smiling and happy but I did! I’d read the whole tome all over again just to read that ending but first, I need a year or two to recover, just like I did with The Book of Night Women. With this ending, I do believe Marlon James has joined my very small list of favorite writers.

How To Get Kids Hooked On Books? ‘Use Poetry. It Is A Surefire Way’ : NPR

•April 4, 2016 • Leave a Comment

“The power of poetry is that you can take these emotionally heavy moments in our lives, and you can distill them into these palatable, these digestible words and lines and phrases that allow us to be able to deal and cope with the world,” [Kwame Alexander] says. “I think it’s one of the reasons why young people love reading novels in verse. It’s because, on a very concrete level, it’s not that many words so it’s not that intimidating to me. There’s so much white space.”

Source: How To Get Kids Hooked On Books? ‘Use Poetry. It Is A Surefire Way’ : NPR

Star Wars’ abandoned Tunisian locations – in pictures | Film | The Guardian

•December 4, 2015 • Leave a Comment

In the Sahara desert, the sets from the Star Wars movies were once huge tourist attractions. Photographer Simon Speakman Cordall finds the locals struggling since the revolution and terror attacks

Source: Star Wars’ abandoned Tunisian locations – in pictures | Film | The Guardian

Pre-Review Interlude: The Fabulous History of the Dismal Swamp Company

•December 3, 2015 • 1 Comment

I am absolutely fascinated with The Great Dismal Swamp (TGDS); so much so I find myself daydreaming Hitchcock-like scenarios to get the money to spend several months on both the Virginia and North Carolina sides of it. While I am daydreaming, I am also reading. The first book I got on the area was Daniel Sayers’ A Desolate Place for a Defiant People: The Archaeology of Maroons, Indigenous Americans, and Enslaved Laborers in the Great Dismal Swamp. Quite a lengthy title, isn’t it? Such a weighty title deserves people behind it. I don’t know whether it’s a result of the lack of archaeological material available (due to the nature of swamp life) or what  but it lacks people. So I put it aside and started The Fabulous History of the Dismal Swamp Company by Charles Royster. Boy, are there people in this! Related people, intermarried people, so much so that if I had to pick one word to describe the  37 pages I read so far (out of 434, not including the notes, index and permission acknowledgements), that word would be nepotism. So and so married so and so who was the sister of a member of the House of Burgesses. That Burgesses member married the sister of the man who married his sister and when the sisters or the husbands died, they married ever deeper into their economic and social circle. The litanies of who married who (and who gained what lands as a result of such marriages) is almost biblical! There are definitely plenty of people in this book but they are not the people I am looking for.

However, I will continue reading because 1) I am absolutely fascinated with the Great Dismal Swamp; 2) in looking for material to read  about TGDS, almost everything referenced this book; 3) it will help me populate Sayers’ book; 4) regardless of the bloated self-satisfaction of the ghosts in this book, I am already aware that from the time the first ship landed in Jamestown until the end of the Civil War, a not insignificant number of enslaved people successfully sought freedom (refuge) in the Swamp.


Great Dismal Swamp Links:

Great Dismal Swamp Hid a Secret Human World

Fleeing To Dismal Swamp, Slaves And Outcasts Found Freedom

Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge

The Resurrecting Writers Series: Song of Lawino & Song of Ocol (Repost)

•December 2, 2015 • Leave a Comment


Taking the book solely at face value, Song of Lawino & Song of Ocol are verses concerned with the disintegration of the marriage of Lawino, a rural African (Acoli) woman and Ocol, her western-educated husband. However, peeling back the cover of the words even a tiny bit reveals a woman committed to her indigenous culture versus a man who thinks that her culture needs to be removed from the face of the earth. How could two such people co-exist in the same household? How could two such differing ideologies co-exist on the same planet? According to Ocol, not at all. His song is full of imagery that calls death upon the culture Lawino praises in her song.

We will smash

The taboos

One by one,

Explode the basis

Of every superstition,

We will uproot

Every sacred tree

And demolish every ancestral


In Ocol’s song, the thing that is so striking about this book – the use of indigenous Acoli symbols to present a woman solidly rooted in her culture – gets turned on its head. Every thing African becomes associated with death, decay and other imagery meant be extremely negative. However, that is not the case with Lawino. Unlike she does not hate foreign customs. They are simply not hers.

I do not understand

The ways of foreigners

But I do not despise their


Of course if things were as simple as that, there would be no need for Lawino to sing her song. For instance, I agree with Ocol’s installing of an electric stove in their house. . Lawino doesn’t know how to use it and is, in fact, scared of it.

I am terribly afraid

Of the electric stove,

And I do not like using it

Because you stand up

When you cook.

Who ever cooked standing up?

And the stove

Has many eyes

I do not know

Which eye to prick

So that the stove

May vomit fire

And I cannot tell

Which eye to prick

So that fire is vomited

In one and not in another plate.

Instead of patiently teaching Lawino the benefits of the stove and how to properly use it, Ocol rails against her. He considers her lack of knowledge one more African deficiency he wants to divorce himself from. His attitude is revealing especially because he later becomes a leader of his country’s independence struggle for Uhuru (freedom). As Lawino tells it, Ocol says

White men must return

To their own homes,

Because they have brought

Slave conditions in the country.

He says

White people tell lies

That they are good

At telling lies

Like men wooing women

Ocol says

They reject the famine relief


And the forced-labour system.

After revealing this, Lawino goes on to question an Uhuru where her husband can’t even get along with his brother.

When my husband

Opens a quarrel

With his brother

I am frightened!

You would think

They have not slept

In the same womb,

You would think

They have not shared

The same breasts!

And they say

When the two were boys

Looking after the goats

They were as close to each other

As the eye and the nose,

They were like twins

And they shared everything

Even a single white ant.

Even more astute however, is her statement describing the period of “independence”.

Independence falls like a bull


And the hunters

Rush to it with drawn knives,

Sharp shining knives

For carving the carcass.

And if your chest

Is small, bony and weak

They push you off,

And if your knife is blunt

You get the dung on your


You come home empty-handed

And the dogs bark at you!

In raising questions that center around the concept of post-colonial independence and how such an entity impacts on the consciousness of Africans who have been educated outside of africa as well as rural Africans who have never left the continent, the Song of Lawino & the Song of Ocol ranks up there with Ama Ata Aidoo’s Sister Killjoy. Both Sissie and Lawino were asking the same questions. The current state of the continent provides the answer.

Mad Reader Revival

•December 2, 2015 • Leave a Comment

As my 48th birthday fast approaches, I find myself wondering what can I do to make the golden anniversary of my time on earth less intimidating? One of the things I thought of, from the perspective of the reader I am, is to revive the mad reader. As my son enters his tweens and needs less…ummm…helicopting, I find myself returning to my modus operandi. Reading. Thinking about reading . Writing about reading. Incorporating what I am reading, in a non-plagiarist manner, into my writing.

So here I am, 14 days from 48, resurrecting the mad reader. In the spirit of resurrection, my first “new” post will be a blast from the past. Check it out.

Frederick Douglass by Robert Hayden

•July 4, 2013 • Leave a Comment

When it is finally ours, this freedom, this liberty, this beautiful
and terrible thing, needful to man as air,
usable as earth; when it belongs at last to all,
when it is truly instinct, brain matter, diastole, systole,
reflex action; when it is finally won; when it is more
than the gaudy mumbo jumbo of politicians:
this man, this Douglass, this former slave, this Negro
beaten to his knees, exiled, visioning a world
where none is lonely, none hunted, alien,
this man, superb in love and logic, this man
shall be remembered. Oh, not with statues’ rhetoric,
not with legends and poems and wreaths of bronze alone,
but with the lives grown out of his life, the lives
fleshing his dream of the beautiful, needful thing.

Excerpted from Collected Poems of Robert Hayden


•April 24, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Dear Reader,

The likes, follows and whatnot have done my spirit and writing over the few brief years I have been sharing quotes with you. However, the times they do change and so must I.

I have imported my diary into my main blog,  During my not infrequent post hiatuses, I scour the Internet to find and read things that will assist me in my goal of getting my own writings and other literature out to the reading public. Today, I read this:


How many is too many? For most writers, two is too many, because you end up neglecting one or the other 50% of the time. As Kristen Lamb says : “When do writers need multiple blogs? Um, never.”

Unless you write erotica or extreme political stuff that’s not suitable for all readers, put all the stuff on one blog. Don’t make your readers jump through hoops to find your author blog.

If you want to blog about recipes AND zombies AND collecting floaty pens, use your pages. Blogger has 20 of them. Until you fill them all up, you do not need a second blog.

If you write books under different names, have a page for each. Ruth Harris and I share a blog. We don’t even write in the same genre. I write rom-com mysteries and she writes womens’ fiction and thrillers. But we are able to co-habit. We have a page for Ruth’s books and a page for Anne’s. We also have an About Ruth page and an About Anne page. And we still leave much of the blog unused.

If you write SciFi under the name Brad Goodyear and sweet romance under the name Beryl Goodwife, find a neutral color scheme and let Brad and Beryl share. Everybody who is trying to find you will be grateful.

What Annie had to say was inordinately helpful and I decided to take the advice she so freely offered. Hence, the consolidation.

It is my hope that everyone who has followed and/or liked this blog will migrate with me.  I will keep this blog “alive” until May 1st. At that time what has been a semi-hellish semester involving the ancient Greeks, ethics and the problems of modern Ireland will be over and I’ll be able to breathe and share more consistently!


Thank you,


Reflections on the Boston Marathon

•April 16, 2013 • Leave a Comment

I am against terror in any of its manifestations. Any of its manifestations? How many manifestations can terror have? Isn’t it strictly Islamic fundamentalist? Growing up as a black immigrant girl child in Boston during the late 70’s and 80’s, I have to say no. In fact, I have to say more than no. I have to say this.

This is how dichotomy works in the US:  there is the legal economy of drugs (pharmaceuticals) and the illegal economy of drugs (meth – or whatever its street name is currently; crack/cocaine, etc). There is legal terror (the pigs) and illegal terror (Boston marathon bombing). The legal is sanctioned. The illegal is not. Everything inhumanely possible is being done to coerce our support for the reasoning behind the legal economy and the legal terror while corresponding attempts are made to coerce us into closing our minds and hearts to the correlation between the two.

If you need it said poetically to get what I’m saying: here it is.

Twin Towers

We are reflections of each other
except I’m on the top
and refuse to look down.

We are reflections
except I’m on the bottom
constantly looking up.

We are reflections
but I stand in the sun
which lights the way.

We are reflections of each other
but I stand under the moon
which lights the night.

We are twins
yet I stand tall.
We are twins
yet I crawl.

We are the twins towers
of poverty and privilege
by an umbilical cord
which pumps
only bad blood.

Oh look!

A plane is coming our way.
Come, plane, come!

We are the twin towers
of poverty and privilege
and there is nothing
that one plane or two
can do to us.

We can be tortured.
The steel that structures us
can be made to scream.
Cities can be blanketed
in the ash
of our destruction.
Thousands upon thousands
can die.

What is that to us?

Once the wind clears
and time has silenced the cries;
once we have sent our own
to kill and be killed
we will be rebuilt
even higher

as a single monument
to the twin towers
of poverty and privilege.

Twin Towers was excerpted from my first book, In the Whirlwind.


The Four Steps Required to Keep Monsanto OUT of Your Garden

•April 5, 2013 • 2 Comments

In addition to being a mad reader, I am an urban gardener-in-progress even if I am currently limited to balcony gardening.

word pond

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