"Love, Peace and Soul!" And More
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Returning December 2
Richard Prince's Book Notes™: Stocking Stuffers (Part 1)
Looking for the right holiday gift for the readers on your list? If they're good at what they do, journalists know the craft of writing, they keep readers engaged and their facts are unimpeachable. After all, didn't James McBride, who wrote for the Washington Post, the Boston Globe and People magazine before moving on to books, film and fiction writing, just win a National Book Award?
Below are 10 nonfiction books by or about journalists of color published this year; more will follow in a column to come. These potential stocking stuffers take us back to the civil rights movement, to the limber-limbed days of television's "Soul Train," to the breathtaking personal drama of reporting in Mexico. Writers' takes on the tastiness of New Orleans cuisine, a low point in the boxing ring, African American relationships and the life of a Native American television news pioneer are just pages away.
A. Peter Bailey, a journalist, author, lecturer and Malcolm X disciple, has written "Witnessing Brother Malcolm X: The Master Teacher: A Memoir." (Llumina Press, paper, signed $20, numbered $30). Bailey edited the newsletter of Malcolm X's Organization of Afro-American Unity and was present when the black nationalist was assassinated in 1965. Bailey went on to become an adjunct professor at three universities, an associate editor of Ebony, a president of the New York Association of Black Journalists and lecturer on Malcolm. He says that he self-published this memoir so it would appear exactly as he wanted, but that subsequent editions will be more scrupulously edited.
The 180-page paperback includes the text of a letter from Malcolm to civil rights leaders inviting them to a Nation of Islam rally in Harlem, and Malcolm's complete statement to the Organization of African Unity in 1964 linking the African American struggle with those of Africans. It expressed the view that the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act, which barred discrimination in public accommodations, was "actually only a desperate attempt to make the African States think she was sincerely trying to correct the continued injustices done to us, and thereby maneuvering the African governments into permitting America to keep her racism 'domestic,' and still within her sole jurisdiction." As the civil rights establishment of the time considered the bill's passage a hard-fought triumph, Malcolm was clearly not a civil rights leader, as he is sometimes called today.
For information on the book, call 202-716-4560 or reach Bailey by email at apeterb (at) verizon.net.
Jinx Coleman Broussard has written "African American Foreign Correspondents: A History. (LSU Press, $45 hardcover, $35 ebook, $19.25 Kindle via Amazon).
Broussard is the William Dickinson Distinguished Professor in the Manship School of Mass Communication at Louisiana State University, and her book, begun seven years ago, is written textbook-style.
"During World War II, 30 Black journalists helped make history, but for the past 60 some odd years, no one has been talking about them," Travis M. Andrews wrote in May for the Louisiana Weekly.
Broussard writes, "Despite representing a vast output of editorial content for almost two centuries, black foreign correspondence remains almost invisible in media history. When the journalists appear in major works, they are little more than asterisks." She also writes, "groundbreaking works on the black press pay scant attention to black international news gatherers."
She continues, "While this book seeks to rescue an important genre from obscurity, it also breaks new ground in several ways. First, it argues that slavery and the status of free people of color in American society during the antebellum period led to the birth of black foreign correspondence and determined its subject matter.
"Second, this book argues that reporting by blacks is important as an antidote to the elite media. Correspondents saw the world primarily through the race lens. . . . Third, news from abroad sought to elevate the standing of people of color by highlighting their accomplishments and refuting the negative stereotypes in mainstream media. . . . "
Andrews adds, "The book begins with Frederick Douglass and moves through history until the movement began to quiet down around the time of the Korean War and through Vietnam, when The New York Times finally sent a Black correspondent of its own, Tom Johnson, to report. . . ."
Alfredo Corchado, Mexican bureau chief for the Dallas Morning News, has "Midnight in Mexico: A Reporter's Journey Through a Country's Descent into Darkness." (Penguin Press, $27.95 hardcover, $14.99 ebook, $11.99 Kindle)
Writing for Voxxi, author Tony Castro said, "this may be the best journalist's book about a personal reporting adventure since Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein's 'All The President’s Men' in the 1970s. . . . Corchado tells us about enduring the personal hell of wondering how his untimely violent end will come. The book reads like one of those Cold War thrillers from another time — novels like Frederick Forsyth's 'The Odessa File' — that Hollywood turned into films."
Castro writes, "There have been some American Latino journalists who have knocked the book. I’m not sure why. Professional jealously perhaps is a start. Their own work, in many ways, pales in comparison with Corchado's."
Not all the reviewers are Latino. Dimitri Nasrallah wrote in the Toronto Star, "Corchado decides against sharing the beat he knows so well in favour of presenting it through the lens of his personal story. It's a shame, because the personal story here is not as universally appealing as the story of the world of the author's reporting. In the end, Midnight in Mexico aims to be a memoir and a work of non-fiction journalism all at once, even though the two stories don't converge convincingly."
Syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette Jr., a friend and former colleague, disagreed. "The most important story in this book is the most personal one," Navarrette wrote. 'Midnight in Mexico' is primarily about a son's argument with his mother, who took him out of Mexico as a boy along with his siblings after one of his sisters died in a tragic accident. Before leaving her home country for the United States, his mother took her children to a spiritual cleansing, to wash off what she considered the evil essence of Mexico. . . ." The paperback is due in June.
- Alfredo Corchado, Dallas Morning News: Why I can't leave Mexico
- Excerpt: In 'Midnight in Mexico' excerpt, News journalist recounts phone call that altered landscape (Dallas Morning News)
- Hector Tobar, Los Angeles Times: Journalist Alfredo Corchado says it's 'Midnight in Mexico'
- Video: Dallas Morning News Sunday Editor talks with Dallas Morning News Mexico Bureau Chief Alfredo Corchado about his new book, "Midnight in Mexico."
Ericka Blount Danois, pop culture writer and adjunct professor at the University of Maryland, has written "Love, Peace, and Soul: Behind the Scenes of America's Favorite Dance Show Soul Train: Classic Moments," her first book. (Backbeat Books, $24.99 paper, $14.74 Kindle via Amazon.)
Danois managed to beat out the musician Questlove and author Nelson George to produce the first book about the television show since the 2012 death of creator Don Cornelius. The account from the Roots musician was published Oct. 22; George's is scheduled for March.
Danois' paperback "makes you want to grab a bowl of ice cream and cookies (or yogurt and fruit considering the book's generation's age), call up an old friend and have a long, bounding conversation about the good old times and the beauty of youth," Tony Jones wrote in the New Tri-State Defender of Memphis.
"Not long after I got a publishing contract, Don Cornelius committed suicide," Danois writes. "There couldn't be a more macabre ending to a life filled with bringing enjoyment to the masses on his Saturday show along with the various award shows. Notoriously private, many of his secrets died along with him. In writing the book, I was forced to interview around him — those people who were close to him, people who worked on the show, the artists, the dancers, the people who could re-create the scenes that my daughters will never get to experience first-hand. For them, they will never bang the side of the television set to make the picture clear or wait up until two in the morning for a showing on WNEW-TV New York, when in the early '80s the show — without warning — was suddenly switched from the noon showing to a two in the morning time slot. But they could experience it from the eyes of those people who were there."
The book has its share of "I never knew that . . ." moments. For example, why did all the entertainers lip-sync? Danois traces that to an appearance by Detroit guitarist Dennis Coffey. "He would be the first white artist to perform on the show [on January 8, 1972] and one of the first to perform live, ad-libbing, extending, improvising — which created havoc with the production schedule," Danois writes. "After that performance, Cornelius insisted on artists' lip-syncing or singing as closely as possible to how the songs sounded on the album."
- Ericka Blount Danois and Jared A. Ball: Love, Peace and Soul Train with Ericka Blount Danois (podcast)
Lolis Eric Elie, former Times-Picayune staff writer and columnist, and a story editor and official blogger for HBO's "Treme," has written "Treme: Stories and Recipes from the Heart of New Orleans." ($29.95 hardcover, $21.99 ebook).
This book, which features more than 100 recipes, marries Elie's passions: the Treme district of New Orleans, food and storytelling.
Before the HBO series, Elie was writer and co-producer of the 2007 documentary "Faubourg Tremé: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans," which aired on PBS the next year. He edited "Cornbread Nation II: The United States of Barbecue" in 2004, and in 1993, Elie and a photographer researched America's barbecue culture while both were on the road with trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. The result was the handsomely packaged and elegantly written "Smokestack Lightning: Adventures in the Heart of Barbecue Country," published in 1996.
Elie's writing and reporting background show in the essays in this latest coffee-table volume. "It's amazing how many people didn't die in the days before health inspectors and restaurant regulations," Elie writes in a chapter called "The Food of the Streets."
"Vendors could just walk the streets at will, selling food of all descriptions, and eke out a living doing so. Not just in New Orleans; this was happening all over. Think of the strawberry vendor's cries in the opening of the song 'Who Will Buy?' from the musical Oliver! Think of the Strawberry Woman in Porgy and Bess. But those are old shows about times long ago. In most cities in America, vendors like that are as rare as hen's teeth.
"Street vending was especially important around New Orleans. During slavery, it provided a way for African-American women, free and enslaved, to earn money. . . . "
David Simon, co-creator of HBO's "The Wire" and "Treme" and a former journalist himself, wrote the preface; Anthony Bourdain, author, television host and writer for "Treme," produced the foreword; and Ed Anderson took the photographs.
Hattie Kauffman, a member of the Nez Perce tribe and the first American Indian to report on a national newscast, has written "Falling into Place: A Memoir of Overcoming" (Baker Books, $17.99, hardcover and ebook).
Kauffman was a special correspondent for ABC’s "Good Morning America" before joining CBS, where she worked for nearly 22 years until her departure in 2012.
"I remember Kauffman as the warm spot on the set during the reincarnation of the CBS morning news show that included Paula Zahn," the columnist C.J. wrote in the Star Tribune of Minneapolis, where Kauffman worked at WCCO-TV. "Kauffman reported from many CBS platforms including 'CBS This Morning,' 'The Early Show,' 'CBS Evening News with Katie Couric' (and Dan Rather) and '48 Hours.' Despite how Kauffman radiated warmth to me, she said she didn’t become a truly giving, caring person until 'my coming to God, my conversion experience.' ”
Tim Giago, elder statesman of Native journalists and founder of the Native American Journalists Association, wrote, "Many Native Americans reading 'Falling into Place' will immediately identify with the extreme poverty of Hattie's childhood. Of not having anything to eat sometimes even for days and of boiling water for a small cup of mush that had to feed seven children.
"Hattie went to public school and experienced the racial prejudice so prevalent in the 1960s in communities with small Native populations. She found her solace and happiness by embracing a Christian Jesus, but not all Native Americans will agree with her on this topic. Many have turned their backs on Christianity and found their own solace and happiness in their traditional spirituality, a spirituality that was torn from them and their ancestors by the missionaries preaching the Doctrine of Christianity. . . ."
Gil L. Robertson IV, freelance lifestyle journalist and author of two previous anthologies about African Americans, has edited "Where Did Our Love Go: Love and Relationships in the African-American Community" (Agate Bolden, $16 paper; $9.99 ebook).
A founder of the African American Film Critics Association, Robinson told Journal-isms by email, "In addition to getting the book done, the thing that I am most proud of is the array of my peers in media who have participated. From print, radio and broadcast, it's a tremendous group assembled.
"Byron Pitts, Tenisha Bell (EP, CNN) JaQuitta Williams (CBS Atlanta), Amy Elisa Keith, Leslie Bardo-Gordon, Nekesa Moody, Anslem Samuels Rocque (JET), Clay Cane (BET), Dyana Williams (Radio One), Danielle Belton, Tia Williams, Marcia Cole, Vic Everett, Melody Guy, Regina Robertson (Essence), Morris O'Kelly, Jimi Izrael and Raqiyah Mays — three-fourths of the contributors are part of the journalism community."
Robertson includes same-sex and interracial perspectives in the book, which is divided into "single," "married" and "divorced" sections.
Kelley L. Carter, an entertainment journalist who has worked for USA Today, the Chicago Tribune and the Detroit Free Press, is in the "single" section. She holds up her parents' marriage as an ideal.
"Thinking of my parents makes me challenge myself. I think a lot of us single, educated, black women holding out for the real thing get too caught up in semantics," Carter writes. "When we really examine these power couples we're so beholden to, the common denominator isn't any of the aesthetics that we think we need to have in order to have some sort of victorious healthy, black relationship. Instead, it often times is a story like Carolyn and Bill Carter — a woman who knows what she wants and what she won't accept, and a man who steps up to the plate to make it happen. And that's the way it should be."
Pitts, an ABC News anchor and its chief national correspondent, met his second wife, television producer Lyne Pitts, now interim managing editor of The Root, at a convention of the National Association of Black Journalists. "My career has taken me into war-torn areas around the world, and when I've covered tragedies and interviewed the survivors, what they often talk about is the last conversation they had with a loved one," Byron Pitts writes.
"Because of these experiences, I have become more sensitive about expressing my feelings for the people who are most important in my life. I now tell my wife each day how much I love her and that she is the most important person in my life. It's important that she completely understands, through both my words and my actions, that she is loved."
- Kam Williams, syndicated: Book Review: Where Did Our Love Go?
Miki Turner, visual journalist, former sportswriter and television and website producer, offers "Journey to the Woman I've Come to Love: Affirmations from Women Who Have Fallen in Love With Themselves" ($25, paper).
A multiracial cast of 91 women from a variety of occupations responds to the question, "At what point did you fall in love with yourself?"
"It took me six years to finally get it done," Turner writes of her coffee-table project, except that she writes everything in lower case, including her book's title. "there were many stops and starts along the way. sometimes I just got bored with it, sometimes it frightened me, and there were other times when life's distractions just got in the way — death, unemployment, love, travel, chronic laziness, you know the drill. that, too, however, was part of some divine plan."
Interviewed were such celebrities and journalists as Angelina Jolie, Linda Evans, Lisa Ling, Melanie McFarland, Mo'Nique, Naomi Judd, Nichelle Nichols, Queen Latifah, Robin Roberts, Sacheen Littlefeather, Sanaa Lathan, Sonia Sanchez, Suzanne Malveaux, Tananarive Due, Terry McMillan, Toni Braxton, Halle Berry, Gladys Knight, Della Reese, Angela Davis, Myrlie Evers-Williams, Nikki Giovanni and Gloria Steinem.
Turner writes of Littlefeather, "like most people, my first memory of Sacheen was when she appeared at the academy awards to reject marlon brando's oscar for 'the godfather' in 1973. well, 37 years later, I ran into her in the lobby of the beverly hilton hotel and she just cracked me up. didn't get great shots of her but man, she was something else and I loved her answer to the question."
That answer was, "i found out i had a good sense of humor, i learned how to laugh at myself. i was young, which was a long time ago because i'm having senior moments! indian people do have a great sense of humor. unfortunately, the dominant society doesn't realize that but we've been laughing at them for a long time! a person of color has to learn to laugh at the ugly as well as the beautiful. if we didn't, we would not survive."
The book may be ordered through Turner for $20 at www.mikiphotola.com. She said she is publishing a new book, "tomorrow," in Paris in two weeks. It is "a collection of photographs i've taken of kids from around the world. partial proceeds will go toward educating kids in underdevoloped nations and impoverished communities," she messaged.
George Willis, boxing columnist at the New York Post, has written "The Bite Fight: Tyson, Holyfield and the Night That Changed Boxing Forever" (Triumph Books, $24.95 hardcover, $13.99 PDF and ebook formats).
Reviewers have praised Willis' book. He even enlisted Tyson to write the foreword. "When I look back on my second fight with Evander [Holyfield], I still can't believe that I bit his ear," Tyson writes. "I mean, what was I thinking? I wasn't. I just reacted — and badly at that. The world would never look at me the same."
Here's how Thomas Gerbasi reviewed the book for SB Nation's boxingscene.com blog:
"Mike Tyson was in the jovial mood that has been his usual one these days, far removed from the time when a simple question from the media could provoke a surly outburst. So while in New York City last month for the launch of George Willis' book 'The Bite Fight,' which chronicles the second fight between Tyson and Evander Holyfield in 1997, Tyson was asked if it was difficult to go through memories of that time, which certainly weren’t good, all over again.
" 'That's so awesome you said that because at the time they weren't great at all, but they are now,' he said. 'They're great moments now.'
"In a bizarre way he's right. They're not great in terms of wanting to pat 'Iron Mike' on the back for biting Holyfield's ears — not once, but twice — and earning a third round disqualification, but when you read Willis' book, it reminds you of how pivotal a moment that fight and its aftermath [were] in boxing history. For the longtime New York Post sports reporter and boxing beat writer, he couldn’t have come across a better book topic.
" 'I was just looking for a good book project, and when this came out of nowhere I thought number one it was a story that everybody, at least in boxing, if not sports, remembers,' he said. 'It had national appeal, it had longevity, it had stars in Mike Tyson and Holyfield, it had some controversy, and it had never been written about. So I thought those were pretty good ingredients to at least give it a shot. And through Mike's cooperation and Evander's cooperation, and with everybody in boxing all having a story to tell about whatever they want to talk about, you get a bunch of good stories together.' . . . "
The book is not yet in paperback but is available as an ebook.
Gary Younge, columnist for Britain's Guardian newspaper and for the Nation in the United States, wrote "The Speech: The Story Behind Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Dream" (Haymarket Books, $19.95 hardcover,$9.99 Kindle via Amazon).
The 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington and of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech was one of the year's most anticipated events. Drew D. Hanson wrote the definitive "The Dream: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Speech That Inspired a Nation" in 2003, but Younge, a black British journalist who is based in the United States, produced his own analysis of the speech's genesis and significance timed for this year's August gatherings on the National Mall.
In an interview with Lilly Workneh of the Grio, Younge was asked, "Why do you believe Dr. King's 'I Have a Dream' speech is misunderstood? Do people today interpret the speech in a different way than was originally intended?"
Younge replied, "Absolutely. I think particularly conservatives like to interpret through one line the notion that he was calling for people to be colorblind and not to take the legacy of racism into account. I think also it's one of those; it's the most loved but least well-known speeches. People don't always know what's in it — as well as being patriotic, it's also an indictment of American racism. He's calling for redress and I think people don't fully grasp that. I think partly because it's not well-known and partly because some people don't want to understand it, but I think very few people understand it as it was intended actually.
Workneh also asked, "What are some key lessons you hope readers take away from this book?"
Younge replied, "That they understand that history is always more complex than it is presented as — and that the civil rights movement was about more than just one man and the speech was about more than just one address."
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