African American History Month – Michele Andrea Bowen


Michele Andrea Bowen Fan Page | Facebook

This post is part of a feature at Jorie’s Reads by Starry Night Elf called “Celebrating Authors.” It’s also in honor African American History Month.

Back in my college days, my mom recommended I read Michele Andrea Bowen’s Church Folk. I heeded her recommendation and finished the book during spring break. Church Folk offered a realistic Christian romance between two African Americans set against the backdrop of the Civil Rights movement. Bowen’s book raised the bar for Christian Fiction in my opinion. I revisited and reviewed it in one of my library school classes. Check out my 2007 review of it by clicking on Well, isn’t that special? The story of Church Folk by Michele Andrea Bowen.

Bowen has gone on to write more stories, including a sequel to Church Folk. I recommend her writing to anyone seeking historical fiction and/or no-nonsense Christian fiction.

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Celebrating African American History Month


Wheatley, Phillis, engraving. The Library of Congress. | COPYRIGHT 2014 Gale, Cengage Learning.

Part of the “Celebrating Authors” feature established last May, Candice P. of warmcuppatea and I featured Asian-Pacific American authors in honor of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month. Then, I went on to acknowledge National Hispanic Heritage Month by posting author profiles in October and November. Now, I endeavor to celebrate African American authors.

As the U.S. Government sees it,

February is African American History Month

As a Harvard-trained historian, Carter G. Woodson, like W. E. B. Du Bois before him, believed that truth could not be denied and that reason would prevail over prejudice. His hopes to raise awareness of African American’s contributions to civilization was realized when he and the organization he founded, the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), conceived and announced Negro History Week in 1925. The event was first celebrated during a week in February 1926 that encompassed the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. The response was overwhelming: Black history clubs sprang up; teachers demanded materials to instruct their pupils; and progressive whites, not simply white scholars and philanthropists, stepped forward to endorse the effort.

By the time of Woodson’s death in 1950, Negro History Week had become a central part of African American life and substantial progress had been made in bringing more Americans to appreciate the celebration. At mid–century, mayors of cities nationwide issued proclamations noting Negro History Week. The Black Awakening of the 1960s dramatically expanded the consciousness of African Americans about the importance of black history, and the Civil Rights movement focused Americans of all color on the subject of the contributions of African Americans to our history and culture.

The celebration was expanded to a month in 1976, the nation’s bicentennial. President Gerald R. Ford urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” That year, fifty years after the first celebration, the association held the first African American History Month. By this time, the entire nation had come to recognize the importance of Black history in the drama of the American story. Since then each American president has issued African American History Month proclamations. And the association—now the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH)—continues to promote the study of Black history all year.

(Excerpt from an essay by Daryl Michael Scott, Howard University, for the Association for the Study of African American Life and History)

Throughout February, Jorie’s Reads by Starry Night Elf will join the festivities by recognizing writers of African descent. Who will they be? Stay tuned!

Who are your favorites?

National Hispanic Heritage Month – Julia Alvarez


Julia Alvarez | Goodreads

This post is part of a feature at Jorie’s Reads by Starry Night Elf called “Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month.”

As high school seniors, we had to read Julia Alvarez’s In the Time of the Butterflies. While the guys balked, I finished the book long before it was due. Alvarez’s rendering of the Mirabal Sisters’ cause led me to do research in my spare time. 

Later, I picked up her book How the García Girls Lost Their Accents and took note of her use of reverse chronological order. This is also present in In the Name of Salome. There’s no really unifying story line! 

Wikipedia states:

Many of Alvarez’s works are influenced by her experiences as a Dominican in the United States, and focus heavily on issues of assimilation and identity. Her cultural upbringing as both a Dominican and an American is evident in the combination of personal and political tone in her writing. She is known for works that examine cultural expectations of women both in the Dominican Republic and the United States, and for rigorous investigations of cultural stereotypes. In recent years, Alvarez has expanded her subject matter with works such as In the Name of Salomé (2000), a novel with Cuban rather than solely Dominican characters and fictionalized versions of historical figures.

In addition to her successful writing career, Alvarez is the current writer-in-residence at Middlebury College.

I often recommend Alvarez’s work. She writes everything from historical ficion –  In the Name of Salomé, Alvarez’s telling noted Dominican poet Salomé Ureña and her daughter, Camila Henríquez Ureña to Young Adult – Finding Miracles to poetry. I like how diverse she is in her writing.

For more on Julia Alvarez, check out her site by clicking here.

 

National Hispanic Heritage Month – Alisa Valdes


Alisa Valdes | Goodreads

This post is part of a feature at Jorie’s Reads by Starry Night Elf called “Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month.”

It was a happy accident when I came across an audiobook version of Alisa Valdes (formerly Valdes-Rodriguez) Haters. This book had great characters, good story, and a strong moral. The cover of this book touted her as the author of The Dirty Girls Social ClubOf course, I had to read that one as well!  Again, these characters were so clearly defined by Valdes that I felt they were sitting in the room with me.

Goodreads states:

Alisa Valdes is a NY Times and USA Today bestselling author of women’s fiction, young adult fiction, and memoir, including The Dirty Girls Social Club. She has a master’s in journalism from Columbia University and spent ten years as a staff writer for the Boston Globe and LA Times before becoming an author. She lives in New Mexico with her family and pets and wishes the calories you ate when no one was watching didn’t count.

Another thing I’d be remiss in not mentioning is how Valdes manages to bring together diverse female characters. This especially comes through in her books about the Dirty Girls (Las Sucias) – six successful Latin American women who met and bonded while students at Boston University. There’s been much talk of getting Las Sucias on film.

For more on Alisa Valdes, check out her website by clicking here.

National Hispanic Heritage Month – Junot Díaz


Junot Díaz | Goodreads

This post is part of a feature at Jorie’s Reads by Starry Night Elf called “Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month.”

Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao changed my perception of something which seemed so scholarly – footnotes. My goodness, I’d never seen anything like it – little contradictions and factoids to add to the story of the woeful ghetto nerd Oscar. Within a page, I got narrative and the Dominican Republic’s volatile history. His work pointed me towards other books about the DR. I felt I had an idea and that’s mostly due to Díaz.

Goodreads states:

Junot Díaz is a contemporary Dominican-American writer. He moved to the USA with his parents at age six, settling in New Jersey. Central to Díaz’s work is the duality of the immigrant experience. He is the first Dominican-born man to become a major author in the United States.

Díaz is creative writing professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao in 2008.

In addition to the Pulitzer Prize, Díaz has received a Eugene McDermott Award, a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, a Lila Acheson Wallace Reader’s Digest Award, the 2002 Pen/Malamud Award, the 2003 US-Japan Creative Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, a fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University and the Rome Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He was also awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 2012. He was selected as one of the 39 most important Latin American writers under the age of 39 by the Bogotá Book Capital of World and the Hay Festival. In September 2007, Miramax acquired the rights for a film adaptation of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

After reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, this book became a staple on my Top Ten Tuesday posts 🙂 … I also pushed through his previous work Drown, a collection of short stories (not my favorite prose) simply because they were written by Díaz. Lucky for me, Yunior, Díaz’s narrator, was there, too.

His latest – This is How You Lose Her – is on my TBR pile. Why? Well, his blend of facts and narrative bring forth a gloriously clear picture of what has happened, what is happening, and what will happen. Thus, I couldn’t celebrate without mentioning Díaz.

National Hispanic Heritage Month – Sandra Cisneros


Sandra Cisneros | Goodreads

This post is part of a feature at Jorie’s Reads by Starry Night Elf called “Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month.”

Sandra Cisneros holds the distinction of being the author of the first book I reviewed on this blog. To check out this review, click on “Wrapped up in Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros.”

Goodreads says:

Sandra Cisneros was born in Chicago in 1954. Internationally acclaimed for her poetry and fiction, she has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Lannan Literary Award and the American Book Award, and of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the MacArthur Foundation. Cisneros is the author of two novels The House on Mango Street and Caramelo; a collection of short stories, Woman Hollering Creek; two books of poetry, My Wicked Ways and Loose Woman; and a children’s book, Hairs/Pelitos. She is the founder of the Macondo Foundation, an association of writers united to serve underserved communities (www.macondofoundation.org), and is Writer in Residence at Our Lady of the Lake University, San Antonio. She lives in San Antonio, Texas.

While Caramelo is the only Cisneros work I’ve read, it’s a stellar one. She wrote a family saga with characters so distinctive that one can’t confuse them. Also, I found myself reminiscing about family road trips my own very different family. I liked the vignettes from the famous people as well.

I’d be remiss leaving to not mention hearing the legendary “Woman Hollering Creek.” I think of it each time I take a road trip from my native Houston to San Antonio. Shiver!

Celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month


Don_Quixote_1-Huntington.JPG | Grafixar | morgueFile free photos

In May 2013, Candice P. of warmcuppatea and I featured Asian-Pacific American authors in honor of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month. While I didn’t post as many authors as I’d originally hoped, I did want to acknowledge National Hispanic Heritage Month by posting author profiles throughout the month.

As the U.S. Government sees it,

Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.

The observation started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting on September 15 and ending on October 15. It was enacted into law on August 17, 1988, on the approval of Public Law 100-402.

The day of September 15 is significant because it is the anniversary of independence for Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, México and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September 18, respectively. Also, Columbus Day or Día de la Raza, which is October 12, falls within this 30 day period.

Each week, Jorie’s Reads by Starry Night Elf will join the festivities by recognizing writers of Hispanic descent. Who will they be? Stay tuned!

Who are your favorites?