Accomplished poet and up-and-coming novelist Erica Buddington talks about her work on HBO’s Def Poetry, fiction writing, and why Junot Diaz is one of the coolest people she’s met in her literary adventures. Peep the audio!
Do slavery, single motherhood, sugar cane harvesting, immigration, and politics fit together? Check out Attica Locke’s “The Cutting Season” to see how she pulled it all off in this coherent, thrilling novel. Usually I try not to be so blunt about what people ‘need’ to do – it’s kind of presumptuous to dictate another grown person’s actions – but you need to read this book. It is so good. I mean, better than “Gone Girl” (I personally wasn’t too entertained by that book, but a lot of people were). I was totally riveted. My Django was unchained.
The main character is Caren Gray, manager of a Louisiana plantation that is also her ancestral home. When she discovers the body of migrant cane worker on the border of the Belle Vie property, the story takes a harrowing turn as she struggles to figure out who the killer is. Could it be Donovan, one of Caren’s rabble rousing employees on the plantation? Or could it be the notoriously troublemaking overseer for Groveland Farm, which borders the Belle Vie plantation and is positioning a buyout of the Clancy family’s ownership? You really won’t know who the killer is until the very end, and you’ll be shocked. Along the way Caren also uncovers facts about another murder on that plantation that hits extremely close to home (I don’t want to give too much away, but it ties everything in very nicely). The themes of family, “home”, past, and labor are all woven together so tightly that you forget that the story itself isn’t real.
Locke’s experience writing for television certainly showed in this book – the action was fast paced, and I had a difficult time putting it down. In total it took me about 2 days to read all 300+ pages. Get your life, and get this book. It is, quite literally, the most breathtaking thing I’ve read in a very long while. Cop it here.
Story #2 in my Kendrick Lamar-inspired Fiction Series. The first installment can be found here. Also, the experiment I used in the story (Briggs-Rauscher reaction) was found here, and more information can be found about it here and here. Let me know what you think in the comments section.
The materials were aligned neatly on the blacktop desk, Solutions A, B, and C carefully measured and ready, beakers, timer, notebook and pen. The rest of the class was already starting their experiments. Jana adjusted her glasses over her face and watched her lab mate watch her. “Are you going to suit up?” she asked. “Oh, yeah,” Chris responded. He sat up and put on his goggles.
“Did you read at all for today’s experiment?” she asked. Her eyes were fascinating even from behind the suction-cup eyewear that trapped them. He felt like she was boring holes into his insides, which wasn’t really a bad thing when he thought about it. Waves of hair brushed up against the plastic band of her goggles. He remembered it being much longer the year before, when he sat behind her in homeroom and fantasized about playing in it. Rumors whispered at lockers and in the cafeteria said that she cut it after some guys jumped her walking home from school.
“No.” Continue reading
“I don’t need to go to that shit, because I’m just fine without it.”
Donna watched him intently as hung one long, sinewy arm from the metal rail and thoughtlessly chewed at the skin around his fingernails.
“It can’t hurt. Besides what else you got going on”
“I have things…” he said unconvincingly.
Chris sat down again, legs agape, and began to chew on the nail beds of his other hand. He nibbled and gnawed until the dark brown skin around his fingers was baby pink. Even as a child his hands gave away when he was anxious or distracted. Their mother had threatened to chop off his fingers with a butcher’s knife when he was five for his absentminded habit. “You won’t have nothing else to bite off of,” she told him. But his hard-headedness was evident even then. He replied “I’ll just chew on what’s left.”
Donna swayed as the bus rocked over the rough patches of H st. The city was re-paving the stretch of road that separated the money in Northwest from the struggle in Northeast. Little cafes had already started to crop up near where people who worked downtown were no longer afraid to jog in the neighborhood at night.
“Look Chris, I’ll make you a deal. I will pay you to keep going to your sessions, like every week like you have been,” Donna said. It was her last resort. “And if you can’t do that, then I’ll pay you just to take your medicine again.”
His eyes glimmered. “For real?”
He pondered, for a moment, the thought of free money, all for doing what he was supposed to do anyway. But the warmth of his sister’s offer held unspoken attachments. And he knew that money could be better used for other things.
“But,” she added, “it means you have to go, today, to your class. And show me all the work you did when you get home. And be home by…”
Chris got up again. His 6’’0 frame took up their section of the bus. His voice was cool as water.
“Nah, I’m good”
“Fine.” Donna rolled her eyes and looked away. “Just know you can’t keep operating like this.”
Her soft jaw hardened into an angular bit of stone.
“I’ll go. Next time.”
Chris pulled the dingy yellow chord and the bus came to a halt at Benning Road. He pushed his way to the front to meet G waiting at the stop.
Donna watched her brother and his best friend head towards the carryout. Such a large gulf had never existed between her and her younger brother. She turned in the opposite direction and walked home. I wish he would just focus, she thought. Maybe he needs an intervention. Since their mother’s cancer diagnosis he had been erratic, stopped going to class, stopped taking his medicine, stopped caring. Medical bills became the silent noose that slipped itself snugly over the family, threatening to choke out their lives. She struggled to go to school and take care of their mother and earn extra money. Now “keeping Chris out of trouble” was added to the list.
She sensed a creeping darkness out of the corner of her eye before she realized it was a black SUV, crawling beside her on the street. Her heart quickened.
“Can I get some fries wit that shake, mmm!” he yelled from the driver’s seat. He laughed.
Donna kept walking and tried to ignore the catcall.
“Dee, girl stop playin’!”
She exhaled loudly and turned around. Her annoyance dissolved into mild amusement when she realized it was her high school boyfriend Bernard and his right hand man, Miguel.
“Really, though, Bernard?” She face fought back a smirk.
Bernard pulled over. He got out of the car and embraced her in a hug. Almost out of habit she rested her head in the crook of his neck. He smelled clean, like soap and fresh laundry. Despite his dubious career path and the years that separated the end of their relationship warmth of their bond lay just beneath the surface.
“How you doing? I heard about your moms.”
Donna pulled away. “I’m – we’re, we’re good. Just holding on the best we can.”
“Oh, ok cool,” he replied.
“What about you? What are you doing around here?”
“Well, I was looking for you,” he grinned sheepishly. “Actually I need to talk to you about your brother.”
“Yeah. He came through the other day. He was talking about getting down with my crew.”
Donna felt herself tighten. She spoke in a dangerously low tone.
“Look, I told him no. I just wanted to let you know. I don’t even think he remembered who I was, to be honest. I haven’t seen him since he was bout yay high,” he recollected.
“Thanks.” She turned to continue her walk home. Confronting the possibility that her only brother could follow in the footsteps of her first love turned her stomach.
“You need a ride or something?”
“No,” she answered curtly. Continue reading
Hey party people!
Hope you had a wonderful weekend, lots of fun stuff keeping me busy over this way. This weekend I went to the Trillectro Music Festival and it was EPIC, still coming down from the greatness that it encompassed. Check out the updates and a very special announcement in the SoundCloud clip below. Let me know how you are doing in the comments section!
Let’s be real here – a lot of what we (Westerners) know of Ethiopia is based on those late night aid commercials soliciting support for starving children with distended bellies and flies swarming their faces. This is incredibly problematic. Maaza Mengiste’s “Beneath The Lion’s Gaze” flies in the face of that monolithic stock image of the country and gives a richly drawn description of Ethiopian life before the 1974 revolution that many people know little or nothing about.
This is the story of a family set against the overthrow of Emperor Haile Selassie, and is easily one of most gripping books I’ve read in a very long time. It looks baldly at the beauty of Ethiopian culture (a strongly family, community, and faith centered way of life), Ethiopian history (Ethiopia proudly off Italian forces and was the only African nation not colonized by Europeans), and the political machinations that tore at the fabric of that society. Main characters include Hailu, a medical doctor and the father and head of the household; Selam, his ailing wife, Yonas, their eldest son, Dawit the younger, more rebellious son, and Sara, Yonas’s wife. There are a number of ancillary characters that weave in and out of the narrative to tell a story that is about family, love, war, and convictions.
For me this novel renewed my interest in Ethiopian history. As a black American I already had some idea of Ethiopia’s rich contribution to black history, and knew of Haile Selassie’s importance to Rastafarianism, but this book made me think about the ramifications of deifying political leaders, black or otherwise. The torture/death scenes in the book were hard to bear because you realize how both fragile and resilient human life can be. This book is definitely worth the read.
Ok, sooooooooooooooo. I’m supposed to be a writer…peep the story below and let me know what you think!
In the mornings she walked through the marble halls of Delano Smith, with her Italian leather attaché, in her sensibly tailored suits, breezing past the security guards who could have been her uncles, past the executive assistants who reminded her of her mother’s friends. The brass name plate on her office door bore only the name she used professionally. When she heard “Shaun, great job on the annual report,” or “Shaun, let’s grab coffee and discuss leveraging your facilitation skills in our new practice,” it caused her to swell with pride. She was going places. And she made sure to stay on the appropriate trajectory. No sudden movements; everything had to be just right, or as they say in consulting, she had to maintain her ‘synergy.’
Anne, a colleague, poked her curly blonde head into Shaun’s office. Shaun waved her in while she wrapped up a client phone call. “Hey there,” she said. “Are we still on for lunch?”
“You bet! I’m starving. Au Bon Pain ok?” Shaun replied.
Shaun grabbed her trench coat from the rack. They headed out of the building, and talked about the recent earnings statement released by the company; upcoming assessments; the health of their respective pets. Anne was sweet, one of the coolest people at her firm, but Shaun still kept a safe distance. She never revealed too much. It’s what made the relationship work. Like the Yule log on TV during Christmas time, Shaun gave off the semblance of warmth without the expenditure of effort.
At ABP she mulled over her choices at the soup bar: broccoli and cheddar, which was her favorite, but also gave her virulent gas, or tomato basil, which was probably better for her. She decided to go with the broccoli soup and prayed for mercy on her stomach. She heard a familiar voice call her by a name she hadn’t used in years.
“LaShauna? LaShauna! Hey girl!!!” Continue reading