Rose's Booklist Number Three
22. SMALL, GREAT THINGS by Jodi Picoult
23. Nafisa Thompson-Spires' Short Story Collection, HEADS OF THE COLORED PEOPLE
In one of 2018’s most acclaimed works of fiction—longlisted for the National Book Award and winner of the PEN Open Book Award—Nafissa Thompson-Spires offers “a firecracker of a book...a triumph of storytelling: intelligent, acerbic, and ingenious” (Financial Times)
24. GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN by James Baldwin
25.PURPLE HIBISCUS by Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie
26. THE YELLOW HOUSE by Sarah Broom
27. Terry McMillan's DISAPPEARING ACTS
28. THE AUDACITY OF HOPE by Barack Obama
29. TUMBLING by Diane McKinney-Whetstone
I’m an avid reader, and what I love to read most are novels about Black love. One of my favorite books is Tumbling (1996), by Diane McKinney-Whetstone. I decided to revisit the text for my book blog and I found it just as enthralling as I did when I read it twenty years ago. This is a story that does not disappoint.
Noon and Herbie are deeply in love and living in a tightly knit African American neighborhood in Philadelphia during the 1940s. But their marriage remains unconsummated because of a horrible incident in Noon's past, so each seeks comfort elsewhere: Noon in the warm acceptance of the neighborhood church; Herbie in the arms of Ethel, a jazz singer. Then one day an infant girl is left on their doorstep, and later Ethel blesses them with her five-year-old niece. Suddenly and unexpectedly a family, Herbie, Noon, and their two girls draw closer—until an outside threat reawakens a fire in Noon, causing her to rise up and fight to hold her family and her community together. Surprising secrets are exposed as the community and church fight against gentrification and destruction. Though a fiction novel, this story reflects the all too common chipping away of thriving Black communities by greedy outsiders who want their homes to make a profit, to take back the cities they, themselves, have abandoned.
Tumbling is a novel about love, community, and forgiveness. It explores the fate of the Great Migration and the attack on established, flourishing communities. McKinney-Whetstone’s skill with language recalls the characters and settings of Toni Morrison. This was the first of many literary masterpieces. Her other novels include Tempest Rising, Blues Dancing, Leaving Cecil Street, Trading Dreams at Midnight, and Lazaretto. They are all set in Philadelphia, from the 1860s to the 1990s, and share lyrically described settings and creatively developed characters from all walks of life. At the end of her home page on her website, mckinney-whetstone.com, she wrote, "In my latest novel, Lazaretto, I return to doing what I most love to do: telling stories of everyday people existing in families and communities; characters faltering, yielding to their desires, falling, fighting, climbing, reaching for their better selves." That's something we can all relate to. You'll never go wrong with a novel by Diane McKinney-Whetstone.
30. RAISING THE ROSES by Ernestine Rose
Yes! Every tenth book is one by me! After I finished my first book, 7 Tips for a Successful Marriage, I quickly realized that this was not the kind of book I wanted to write. I love a good story, and while I had added some personal illustrations, this book was mainly an explanation of what I thought worked in a marriage. What I really wanted to do was to tell a good story. And I had shared many in my classroom about my own children, from things they said to how we handled parenting. My funny stories about my sons engaged my students and allowed them to see the mom side of me, not just the English teacher. I loved being both a mother and a teacher, and I juggled the mixed roles by bringing my four sons to many of my extra-curricular activities, from play practices after school to football games on the weekends. They knew my students and my students knew them. Sharing some of these stories was closer to what I wanted to write, so my second book became Raising the Roses. While 7 Tips for a Successful Marriage was more expository with a few personal anecdotes, Raising the Roses was a memoir of motherhood, with lessons learned at the end of each chapter. They make a great pair for people who are just starting their families.
Raising the Roses begins with “Soulmates,” and covers my choosing a college and later the husband I found there. I move on to “The Wedding,” “The Newlywed Game,” and “Having Babies 101”. They all share the idea that finding your partner and starting a family are usually not like you expected them to be. You have to learn to compromise and be flexible as you quibble over everything from choosing baby names to defining husband and wife roles. I learned to juggle time and money as the boys grew older, to debunk the “Superwoman myth” that society tells us we have to take on, and I share some of my tips in the middle chapters. We laughed as our teenaged sons explained their reluctance to choose and settle in “The Shelf Life of Girlfriends,” and I end the book when my oldest gets married and I start the cycle all over again as a grandmother.
In the video below, I discuss Raising the Roses and what prompted me to write it.
Check out my books and blogs on my website, www.rosefreelance.com.