Perfect Peace by Daniel Black | Book Review

 

perfect peaceBook: Perfect Peace by Daniel Black
Genre: Fiction
Published: March 2010
Pages: 352

The Rundown:
Emma Jean Peace is a mother and wife living in the south during the 1940s. She desperately wants a daughter, but all of her pregnancies far have resulted in boys, six of them. During her seventh pregnancy she is disappointed to discover that it is another boy. Pissed off and full of anguish, she decides to raise her seventh son as a girl. Everything goes as planned until her daughter’s eighth birthday, when she questions Emma Jean about womanhood. Realizing that she can’t hide the truth forever, Emma Jean decides to tell her family and community that her little girl was actually born a boy. This revelation threatens to tear a hole  in the Peace family as they cope with teaching the baby girl of the family how to be a man and navigating the judgement from the community. On top of that, each member of the family is dealing with their on hang-up of self-discovery.

I read this book last month during #ReadSoulLit. Since it was published quite a few years ago, I had no intentions of doing a review on it (because I felt like everyone has read/head about it and I’m just late…as usual). But let me tell you that I have not been able to get this book off my mind!

Daniel Black does a damn good job of using the children in this novel to show how we are conditioned at an early age to view gender-roles, sexuality, and religion. He also shows how the things our parents do to us as children-even when they think they’re doing what’s best for us-follows us into adulthood.

My favorite themes:

  • The consequences of not letting go of old pain. Emma Jean’s decisions are selfish attempts at hiding from the pain she refuses to acknowledge. Gus, Emma Jean’s husband and the father of her seven children, also struggles with childhood pain. This shows in their parenting skills and they end up being not much different than their own parents.
  • The consequences of not allowing yourself to forgive. Emma Jean won’t forgive her mother; she down right refuses to talk about the things she went through as a child and pretends that it doesn’t bother her. This refusal to forgive it what causes her to raise her son as a daughter and damn near destroying her family.
  • The struggle of accepting yourself. Several characters struggle to accept themselves: Perfect (the son raised as a daughter), Gus, and some of the people within the town they live. Trying to be who the family and community expected them to be while hiding who they really were caused them to be full of shame and self-hatred.

Holding onto old pain and not living in your truth can cloud your judgement, causing you to make selfish choices and do more harm than good. It’s hard to let go, to forgive, and to accept your authentic self, but the flawed characters in Perfect Peace reveal why it’s a necessary and important step in the growth process.

Oh! How can I forget about the names! There is tons of symbolism in this book-from the Jordan river that flows through the town, Emma Jean’s obsession with the color yellow, and the name Perfect decides to give her doll-but the names stood out the most to me. It required me to do a little research on the meaning/origin of the names, but it was worth it. The names of everyone in the Peace family and the townfolks all reveal something about the individual. I loved it.

I enjoyed this book. The characters are all damaged and full of drama (exactly how I like my books). I would have liked to see more of Perfect’s journey, though. Let me know if you’ve read Perfect Peace or if it’s on your TBR. I’ll leave you with two of my favorite quotes from this novel:

“You can’t lie a lifetime. Either you gon’ tell the truth, or the truth’s gon’ tell on you”

“But remember this: You’re strong because of your people–not in spite of them.”

 

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Advertisements

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas: Review

Sixteen year old Starr Carter spends her time floating between living in Garden Heights (a poor, black neighborhood), working in her dad’s grocery store, and attending a majority white private school surrounded by her rich friends and boyfriend.

While attending a party in her neighborhood, she runs into her childhood best friend, Khalil.  Their re-connection is cut short as  unarmed Khalil is shot and killed by a police officer. The shooting makes national news and Khalil is treated more like a criminal than a victim. Meanwhile, the residents of Garden Heights are pissed and want justice. Soon, Starr’s life is turned upside-down as she struggles to do the right thing and seek justice for her best friend  while also saving face among her private school peers.

thug

Book: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Release: Feb. 28, 2017
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 464

Let me jump right in and say that I thoroughly enjoyed this book! The Hate U Give was inspired by Black Lives Matter and it highlights the injustices Black people (especially those in low-income areas) face at the hands of a government that is supposed to protect them. This novel is about more than that, though.

This book is about what it’s like living in the ghetto. Garden Heights, the neighborhood Starr and her family live in, is plagued with gun violence, gangs, and drugs. I loved that Angie Thomas decided to discuss why these things occur in poor, inner city areas. I also enjoyed the fact that she showed how no matter what, the residents of Garden Heights had each others back when it really mattered.

It’s about what it’s like to be Black in  majority white spaces. When Starr is at her private school and she describes how she is overly conscious of how she comes across to her classmates. She describes how she can’t show anger; she can use AAVE, but not too much; and how she has to constantly talk in an overly friendly tone. Blackness in her school only matters when it allows her peers to feel cool (while they are doing the nae-nae and dabbing). This is all too familiar to Black people who work, attend school, or live in an area were they are the minority.

It’s about forgiveness and second chances. There are a ton of characters in this book who are broken: crackheads, teen moms, gang members, and drug dealers. The Hate U Give showed that regardless of someone’s lifestyle, they are a human being and their life matters.

Finally, it’s about togetherness and doing what’s right even when it’s hard and you’re afraid. When Khalil is shot the neighbors in Garden Heights come together to show their support and love to Khalil’s family.

Even though this is a young adult novel, it tackles some heavy issues from the perspective of a teenage girl. The Hate U Give is a damn good book! It’s 400+ pages, but it’s an easy read packed with so much goodness. I read this a week ago and I’m still thinking about the book!

I would definitely call this a must read.

Rating: 5/5 Stars

note: My copy of this book was an advance reader copy that I received from my job. I work at a bookstore where I have access to tons of ARCs!

Review| The Darkest Child by Delores Phillips

darkestchild

Book: The Darkest Child by Delores Phillips
Genre: Fiction (Historical)
Edition: Kindle E-Book
Published: 2004

I don’t know where to start with this book!

It’s set in 1950s Georgia where Rozelle (Rosie) Quinn is living in extreme poverty with her ten children. She’s a Black woman who’s light enough to pass for white; all of her children are varying shades of light skin, expect for Tangy Mae–she’s the darkest (and smartest) of the children. Rosie dislikes Tangy’s dark skin and she thinks she’s lazy because she would rather get her high school diploma instead of dropping out to find work.

Tangy Mae tells the story of her siblings and the struggles they face at the hands of racism in the south (segregation, lynchings, and the Civil Rights Movement is the backdrop) and their mother Rosie, who is crazy. When I tell you she’s crazy, I mean it! She physically, psychologically, and emotionally abuses her children at the drop of a dime. I was constantly questioning her mental state.

I like how the author showed how children of an abusive, mentally unstable parent wrestle with hating their parent and wishing to get away from them, but also needing and loving them. I also liked that she showed how Rosie’s parenting reflected in how some of the Quinn children (specifically the older ones: Mushy, Harvey,  Martha Jean, and Tarabelle) handled their own problems and treated their spouses.

I give this 4.5 star. I felt every emotion while reading this and I find myself still thinking about the Quinn children, as if they are real. I could not give it 5 stars because I didn’t like what happened with Edna and Tarabelle (two of the Quinn children) towards the end of the book.

This book definitely deserved a sequel!

Note: I also posted this review on Goodreads.

Review: Here Comes the Sun


Title: Here Comes the Sun
Author: Nicole Dennis-Benn
Pages: 352
Published Date: July 5, 2016

My copy of Here Comes the Sun is an advance reader copy I grabbed at work (I work at a bookstore). The cover caught my eye first, then I flipped it over on the back and saw it was written by a black author and called dibs on it. I read the first chapter while on my lunch break and I decided to bring it home with me.

Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn is set in Jamaica during the early(?)’90s.  We are introduced to Margot who works in Montego Bay at a resort hotel. By day she checks in guest and supervises the hotel staff. At night she sneaks into the rooms of the male guests and provide “turndown” service to make extra money. She also maintains a sexual relationship with the hotel’s heir, a white Jamaican, in hopes that he will make her the manager of a new resort he’s building on the island. Margot’s main goal is to make enough money so  her teen sister, Thandi, can continue to attend private school and go to college. Trading sex for money is not the only secret she hides; she and her childhood friend, Verdene, are secret lovers.

 Margot and her sister live with their mother Delores, a stone-cold bitch. Delores has her own secrets and demons she’s battling, but in her eyes, Margot is the cause of all the problems the family faces and Thandi will be the one who pulls them out of poverty. As Thandi carries the weight of being the family’s ticket out of the slums, she hides secrets of her own. She doesn’t fit in with her peers and is overlooked at school; she blames her dark complexion for making her an outcast. She feels that if she had lighter skin she would be able to accomplish more and live a happier life.

This is a tragedy full of  suffering, sorrow, and betrayal. There is no happy ending, so brace yourself. Majority of the story is narrated by Margot, but you also get Thandi’s perspective of things. It was a roller coaster ride watching Margot and Thandi make one bad decision after another. Margot is determined and fierce; she doesn’t let anyone stand in the way of her pursuing what she wants. However, her determination turns into greed and she ultimately becomes just as callous as her mother–destroying her relationship with Verdene and exposing her sister to the life she worked so hard to protect her from.
Thandi is intelligent and uninterested in being the person her mom and sister are planning for her to be;  she’s also discovering what’s it like to be wanted as a local boy shows interest in her. She allows her need for independence and her longing for acceptance (and love) take her down an ugly path.

All characters were well developed; anytime they were being described or had any dialogue, especially when they spoke in Jamaican Patois, I could picture them clearly. Nicole Dennis-Benn does a great job of showing how racism, colorism, homophobia, and tourism affect Jamaica.  This is a great read that I gave 4 stars on Goodreads. Here Comes the Sun is scheduled to be released on July 5th, so make sure you add it to your summer reading list. However, if you’re planning a trip to Jamaica don’t pack this book!

 

 

Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

uprooted

Let me first say that I don’t read fantasy novels. I think the last fantasy novel I read was the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe when I was in middle school. I can’t say that I like or dislike fantasy novels…I never gravitate towards them when I browsing new books to read. I decided to read Uprooted because my coworkers were hyping it up; they told me that it was like Beauty and the Beast meets Rapunzel. That peaked my interests. The book also had great reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, so I downloaded it to my Kindle.

The Wood is this creepy place that should be  avoided. People and animals that wander into the Wood never come out; the ones that do come out are never the same. The Dragon is a very powerful wizard who protects the surrounding villages from the Wood. In exchange he takes a girl and keeps her in his tower for 10 year. When he releases the girls from his tower, they aren’t the same. They don’t go back to their home village; they move away to become scholars or marry rich.

Agnieszka is a 17 year old girl who is always dirty (even when she attempts to stay clean) and clumsy. Her best friend, Kasia, is perfect: she’s beautiful, smart, friendly, able to cook, clean etc. Everyone is sure that Kasia will be chosen by the Dragon. However, to everyone’s surprise, he takes Agnieszka.

This is all revealed in the first part of the book and Im sucked in! I want to know more about the Dragon and what’s going on in his tower and I want to know what lies within the Wood. Sadly, this story goes from mysterious and intriguing to downright disappointing.

There was no character development. Agnieszka is introduced as a girl who is clumsy and always covered in grim (she seems to prefer it). She doesnt grow or mature and remains whiny; everything she does is done on a whim, she doesn’t think anything through. The Dragon is just as dry. He’s Oscar the Grouch in wizard form. That’s all there is to him. He’s said to be the most powerful wizard in the land, but he seems to be the complete opposite! He does one or two spells and he’s drained and in the middle of a fight he had to pull out his damn spell book to find a spell! I was not impressed.  Kasia has no personality although she’s the only character who underwent any change. The other characters that are introduced are boring and flat.

The romance between Agnieszka and the Dragon was random. When he first took her, the Dragon tells Agnieszka “Look little bitch. I really didn’t want to take your dusty, horse-faced ass, but there is something unique about you. I took you because I was obligated to. Now get out my face, go wash your ass, and put on something nice.” He didn’t say those exact words, it’s just a summary. Throughout the book they cant stand each other. There is no love/hate kind of chemistry, there are no sparks; it’s just pure anger and annoyance between the two; they get along long enough to work together. Next thing you know, they’re laid up in bed together. WTF?! I didn’t see the purpose of it; it didn’t progress the story and it didn’t change her relationship with the Dragon.

I also found it difficult to keep up with time progression. The plot was all over the place,  I couldn’t tell how much time had passed (weeks, months, or a year). There was too much time spent describing surroundings and not enough time spent developing the characters and making sure the plot flowed smoothly. It’s way too much telling, not enough showing.

I think this book is very over hyped. I gave it 2 stars on Goodreads because I enjoyed the first part and the last few chapters were okay (the mystery of the Wood was revealed during the last chapters). As I mentioned, I don’t read fantasy, so maybe that’s why I found the book hard to digest? In any case, it just didn’t do it for me.

Also, I probably shouldn’t take book suggestions from my coworkers. . .

book review: Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self

suffocateyourownself

Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self by Danielle Evans is a collection of short stories whose characters are all lonely (but not alone), confused, and misunderstood. Here is a portion of the synopsis from Goodreads:

Striking in their emotional immediacy, the stories in Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self are based in a world where inequality is reality but where the insecurities of adolescence and young adulthood, and the tensions within family and the community, are sometimes the biggest complicating forces in one’s sense of identity and the choices one makes.

I gave it 3/5 stars. What I didn’t like was I wanted the stories to go on!! All of the stories ended with a dramatic cliffhanger. It kind of pissed me off in the way that you get pissed when your favorite TV show shows ends with a ‘to be continued’ and you have to wait an entire week to find out what happen; except with these stories I’ll never know what happened.

Each story does a great job in covering family relationships, friendships, love life, and sexuality from the prospective of Black Americans. There’s not much else I can say, because the Goodreads synopsis above says what I want to say.  The first story, “Virgins” is great; it follows two teenage girls who are best friends–one boy crazy and the other attempting (and failing) to be the voice of reason,–as they tackle boys, sex, and the emotions that follow.. The next few stories are pretty good, but after “Someone Ought to Tell Her There’s Nowhere to Go,” the stories become ‘eh.’ They were good stories, but I wasn’t as sucked in and intrigued as I was with the others. Danielle ends the book with a bang in the story “Robert E. Lee is Dead.” I have to say this story was my favorite.

Overall, I enjoyed the book and it pulled me out of a reading slump. I like Danielle Evan’s writing style, I can’t wait to read an actually novel by her. If she wanted to turn each of these eight stories into a book she could, and I would read each of them.