Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Celebrate Black History Month!

Celebrate Black History Month

I am not Sidney Poitier:  An irresistible comic novel from the master storyteller Percival Everett, and an irreverent take on race, class, and identity in America

I was, in life, to be a gambler, a risk-taker, a swashbuckler, a knight. I accepted, then and there, my place in the world. I was a fighter of windmills. I was a chaser of whales. I was Not Sidney Poitier.

Not Sidney Poitier is an amiable young man in an absurd country. The sudden death of his mother orphans him at age eleven, leaving him with an unfortunate name, an uncanny resemblance to the famous actor, and, perhaps more fortunate, a staggering number of shares in the Turner Broadcasting Corporation.

Percival Everett’s hilarious new novel follows Not Sidney’s tumultuous life, as the social hierarchy scrambles to balance his skin color with his fabulous wealth. Maturing under the less-than watchful eye of his adopted foster father, Ted Turner, Not gets arrested in rural Georgia for driving while black, sparks a dinnertable explosion at the home of his manipulative girlfriend, and sleuths a murder case in Smut Eye, Alabama, all while navigating the recurrent communication problem: “What’s your name?” a kid would ask. “Not Sidney,” I would say. “Okay, then what is it?”

THE WEARY BLUES: A beautiful new edition of this beloved poet's first collection, originally published in 1926 when he was just twenty-four.
From the opening "Proem" (prologue poem) he offers in this first book-"I am a Negro: / Black as night is black, / Black the depths of my Africa"-Hughes spoke directly, intimately, and powerfully of the experiences of African Americans, at a time when their voices were newly being heard in our literature. As his Knopf editor Carl Van Vechten wrote in a brief introduction to the original 1926 volume, illuminating the potential of this promising young voice, "His cabaret songs throb with the true jazz rhythm; his sea-pieces ache with a calm, melancholy lyricism; he cries bitterly from the heart of his race...Always, however, his stanzas are subjective, personal" and, he concludes, they are "the expression [of] an essentially sensitive and subtly illusive nature." That illusive nature darts among these early lines and begins to reveal itself, sometimes with shocking confidence and clarity: "Bring me all of your / Heart melodies / That I may wrap them / In a blue cloud-cloth / Away from the too-rough fingers/ Of the world."

BLOOD IN MY EYE: Blood In My Eye was completed only days before its author was killed. George Jackson died on August 21, 1971, at the hands of San Quentin prison guards during an alleged escape attempt. At eighteen, George Jackson was convicted of stealing seventy dollars from a gas station and was sentenced from one year to life. He was to spent the rest of his life -- eleven years-- in the California prison system, seven in solitary confinement. In prison he read widely and transformed himself into an activist and political theoretician who defined himself as a revolutionary.

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