#LiteraryManicures: Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self

Hey y’all!

This week I decided to do a Literary Manicure for the book Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self by Danielle Evans. She’s a young writer from the DMV, and her first book was awesome! It was one of the first books in a long time where I felt I could recognize myself in the stories. Also, the cover had lots of great autumnal colors, so I wanted to give it a shot. Peep the tutorial below:



1. Always prep your materials! From left to right: some random maroon color from my beauty bag, “L’orange” by L’Oreal, French Tip White by NYC, Diamond Flash clear coat by Sally Hansen. Also, note the sponge, the nail brush and the mixing rod.



2. I did an ombre for this mani, so go ahead and paint the base color (L’orange). I gave it about 3 coats because it was thin and dried quickly.




3. Alright, so for the ombre (check this post from last week for more info). Add some droplets of orange and maroon polish, stir with the mixing rod, dab your sponge in and apply to the nail around the tip. Make sure your base color is completely dry so that when you apply the ombre it doesn’t lift off with the sponge. Also, don’t mix your colors on a Jordan shoe box, it creates a film on the polish. Use a plastic sheet or a sandwich bag. I was being a bit lazy, lol.




4. Next, grab that nail brush and the white polish and get creative! The cover of BYSYOFS has free form white lines, so I kinda just did whatever. Enlist the help of others if you are not ambidextrous.



5. Apply a coat of quick drying clear polish and voila! Book nails! Let me know what you think in the comments section, and what books I should do next.



[Book Review] How To Slowly Kill Yourself and Others In America


Last week I spent a good amount of time reading after a forced retreat from social media. After Day 2 of not going online feeding my addiction, I decided I needed something else to read if I couldn’t endlessly scroll the timelines of Black Twitter. What better way to do that than to read a book that had been on my list for a while? So I downloaded Kiese Laymon’s How To Slowly Kill Yourself and Others In America.

Now, just a little background: Kiese Laymon also had another book, Long Division, that was released earlier this year. It was a book of fiction that I had the opportunity to read and had lots of thoughts and opinions on. It was hilarious, it was crazy, it was thoughtful, it was…a lot to process. And I don’t think I realized that having so many conflicting thoughts and feelings about Long Division was ok until I read this passage from “You Are Second Person”:


Well damn, lol. Just for context, this is a quote from Laymon’s book agent, basically shitting on his dreams of putting out the type of book that was in his heart. I recognized myself as the bougie black woman who loved plot-defined prose about professional hijinks. But I also recognized the writer in me that empathized with not wanting to change your story for anyone, not even a black-dude-bro-book agent who acts like he is doing you a favor by shitting on your vision. This line alone made me go back and challenge the way that I read Long Division, and throughout “How To Kill Yourself” I slowly began to see how the concepts Laymon explores in his non-fiction and the fiction fit together.

In my opinion “How To Slowly Kill Yourself” tackles issues like race, class, and sexism particularly well in the essays “The Worst of White Folks”, “How To Slowly Kill Yourself and Others In America”, and “Kanye West and HaLester Myers are Better at Their Jobs…”.  Reading “Hip Hop Stole My Southern Black Boy” validated how I felt about hip-hop’s identity owing some level of respect and gratitude to Southern artists. Reading “You Are Second Person” was a peek into what I might be getting myself into if I decide to go the mainstream publishing route. “Echo: Mychal, Darnell, Kiese, Kai, and Marlon” offered up insightful and varied perspectives on life as a black man in America. This book, as Laymon likes to say, “reckons with” a lot of issues that young people of color are dealing with every day and I appreciated it.

Anyway, I really dug the book. It’s funny, it’s smart, and it’s real. I think you’d dig it too. Check it out.

The Problem with HuffPo’s 30 Before 30 Book List


On Sunday a follower on Twitter hit me up for my opinion about the Huffington Post’s list of 30 Books You Should Read Before 30. After taking a look at the article, my response was a resounding “meh.”

At first I didn’t really want to get into why the list didn’t move me, in part because it’s hard to articlulate my thoughts on Twitter without getting rant-y. However, I’m known for not being able to keep my mouth shut when it comes to offering my opinion, which was this: these types of lists are pointless, because A. there are literally too many books out there and B. whichever books they choose are not going to meet the needs of wide swaths of readers out there.

I think it would have been helpful if there was a disclaimer that ‘these are the books that would fit for this particular audience’. As a black woman and as a reader, I think the list got some of the books right, but it could have used a little bit more seasoning and representation from authors of color. I think they were on point with Toni Morrison’s Song of Soloman and James Baldwin’s “Giovanni’s Room”, but if I was putting together that list, I would throw some Zora Neale Hurston in there, some of Baldwin’s essays, some Edwidge Danticat, some Langston Hughes, some Maya Angelou, some Assata Shakur, some Octavia Butler, some Edward P. Jones, some Tayari Jones, some Chinua Achebe. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

I wasn’t the only person who thought the list was dry – author Junot Diaz pointed out that he felt some folks were missing from the listing in this Facebook post – and I’m not nearly as well read as he. It might seem like no big deal, but as Vida stats and this count by critic Roxane Gay point out, there is a need for literary institutions and criticism to do a better job of being inclusive to books and writers outside of the mainstream experience. As America becomes browner and more diverse it only makes sense for literature to reflect those changes.

The point is, these lists need to be clear about who they are talking to. I get that it is targeted to 20-30 somethings, but we are a vast and multicultural group with vast and multicultural tastes and lives and we deserve discussions around literature that are far more robust.

Hip Hop Productivity Tip #001: Back That Thang Up


The other day at work *almost* sucked. Not because the printer ran out of ink, or because I got caught up in a 2 hour meeting, or because Starbucks ran out of my favorite tea. No. It almost sucked because I got to my desk, logged into my computer, plugged in my headphones, turned up the volume…

…and no sound.

My headphones were broken.

Those of you who are about that cubicle-nation plantation life know *exactly* what type of hell this is – if, like me, you require a soundtrack to get you through your day, going without headphones is like having a limb amputated. A very small, white, earbud shaped limb. And my day would have been extremely long if I hadn’t abided by the following rule that I learned from a certain Nawlins’ rapper who took over for the ’99 and the 2000:

Back that thang up.

This motto is why I keep a spare pair of headphones on me. I know that music is an important part of keeping me motivated while I work, so i have to make sure there aren’t any interruptions in the flow of that music. Having a spare also kept me from blasting A$AP Ferg through my speakers at the office to get me through my 3 PM slump. Everybody wins.

Backing that thang up is not just for earbuds though. As a writer it’s important to back up your files, pictures, your website, and even chargers for your phone. Make a list of products and items that, if you completely lost tomorrow, would be a big problem for you. Then back those thangs up.


DopeReads Byke.


It’s been a minute but dopereads is BYKE with the all the book- and literature- new new. Peep the goings on below and check back every Tuesday and Thursday for more.

  • The National Book Foundation announced its “Top 5 Under 35″ writers. Zimbabwean author NoViolet Bulawayo made the list for her book “We Need New Names.” The long lists for fiction, non-fiction, and poetry are to be released this week.
  • The National Book Festival is taking place on the National Mall in DC this weekend, and DopeReads will be live tweeting it for those who can’t make it.
  • Also for those in DC, Edwidge Danticat is speaking at Politics and Prose this evening. If you haven’t copped her new book “Claire of the Sea Light,” I highly suggest it. In typical fashion Danticat wields her words masterfully – she’ll have you all in your feels!
  • Check out DopeReads on Instagram! Twitter! Facebook!
  • You can check out some of my other work at PostBourgie (books and TV) and SoulBounce (music reviews). Can’t stop, won’t stop.
  • On another note, please send your prayers and well wishes to those affected by the Navy Yard shooting yesterday. It was a tough day in the Capitol area.



Thug Notes y’all:

I I have thoughts about this, lol. Notably that the guy reviewing isn’t really giving me thug passion realness. Something about his swagger just isn’t curling quite right. I can’t hate though, what do y’all think? Does it make you care more about these books? Would you give them a shot now that a “thug” haves given them the ‘hood treatment?


(h/t to GiantLife, where I found the first To Kill a Mockingbird Thug Notes)

New Book Alert: “Difficult Men”, by Brett Martin

This book was released 6/27. Want.

The death of James Gandolfini (Tony Soprano) gave this book even more of a spotlight. Brett Martin, the book’s author, posted an excerpt of the work in July’s GQ. You can check it out here.

I’m interested to see what the processes are for the creators of these shows. I’m also curious why there isn’t a book about Shonda Rhimes yet.