As another trite, commercial and trope-filled Black History Month wanes, here are some voices bearing a big, long listen:
First is Friends and Lovers in Black and White, debut novel by Altomease Rucker Kennedy, prominent D.C. attorney who chronicles the life of a young black girl at an exclusive all-white women's college in the 1960s. Bittersweet and insightful with none of the triteness and trope I relate above. In short, something new for black folks. Speaking of insightful, Princeton man Obery Hendricks, Jr., Professor of Religion at New York Theological Seminary and one of our best philosophers, gives us The Politics of Jesus. Obery is a genius. This is a must read for all of you Faith-based social money grubbing, Jaquar-driving, suburban mega complex building mega-preachers out there who seem to think Dick Cheney or Fox News are friends of black folks. Obery is the author of The Living Water. And speaking of genius, my boy Mat Johnson, author of Drop and Hunting in Harlem; Professor of English at Bard College up in the great white north gives us a harrowing account of the first black slave revolt in America: in Manhattan, not the South, circa 1741. The Great Negro Plot takes the track of creative non-fiction invented by Truman Capote in In Cold Blood, and thus brings this event and the players to living blood and sinew. William Styron is smiling from the grave. Finally, check out William Frederick Cooper's new novel There's Always a Reason. Unless you've been living under a log or too snobby (I should talk!) to review the barrage of BlackExpressions mailers, William has arrived. This isn't the usual insipid black soap opera being marketed as a novel; this dude pours an entire heart's-worth, plus a few extra ventricles, into his work. The pay-off can be seen here in Reason. To William, "passion" isn't a mere punchline or gimmick and you owe yourself a look.
Enjoy and learn, before Fiddy Cent and C-Murder publish any more "novellas," and see my previous recommendations this month, including new works by Jonathan Luckett and Cora Daniels.