Rose's Booklist Number Four





In this first of six volumes of autobiography, poet Maya Angelou recounts a youth filled with disappointment, frustration, tragedy, and finally hard-won independence. Sent at a young age to live with her grandmother in Arkansas, Angelou learned a great deal from this exceptional woman and the tightly knit black community there. These very lessons carried her throughout the hardships she endured later in life, including rape, a murder, and two years of silence.  Marvelously told, with Angelou's "gift for language and observation," this "remarkable autobiography by an equally remarkable black woman from Arkansas captures, indelibly, a world of which most Americans are shamefully ignorant."


I recommend this book to all readers, but especially to those in middle school and high school for the sheer inspiration of studying a life well-lived. Miss Angelou is the matron saint of Black literature and is celebrated around the world for her poetry. I've used three stories from this book for award-winning performances in drama competitions. It was her work that inspired Oprah's Book Club. We have been relishing in the beauty of her language and lifting up the gifts of other writers ever since.




  1. THE HATE YOU GIVE by Angie Thomas

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.


Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer. Protesters are taking to the streets and police and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down and the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life...                                   

 "Heartbreakingly topical" -- Publisher's Weekly.                                                  


The title, THE HATE U GIVE, comes from Tupac's explanation of his tattoo,  "The hate u give  little infants fucks everyone," made into the acronym, THUG LIFE. The book was inspired after the police shooting of Oscar Grant when Thomas was in college in 2009. She wrote a short story for her senior project, then expanded it years later as a novel. It was made into a movie in 2018 with an amazing cast, including newcomer Amandla Stenberg.


There is a prequeL out now, CONCRETE ROSE, a new novel about the young life of Starr’s father, Maverick.



  1. JAZZ by Toni Morrison

One of my favorites is JAZZ (1992), a wonderful novel about a romantic triangle set in Harlem in the 1920’s, the Jazz Age. Inspired by a James Van Der Zee photo in the Harlem Book of the Dead, the body of a murdered teen lay in a casket surrounded by flowers. When asked who did it, she had replied, “I’ll tell you tomorrow,” protecting the jealous boyfriend who shot her at a party. Such photos were common then, and it prompted Morrison to write her own version of the story about an older man with a neurotic wife who has an affair with a teenager. When she rejects him, he kills her in a moment of passion, and the angry wife goes to the wake and attempts to mutilate her body. The characters in the story know nothing about the materialism and indulgence that characterized the Jazz Age, or what would follow the new musical styles. Instead, they are everyday people who move by improvisation, reacting spontaneously to whatever life brings their way, like jazz. The story is filled with pathos. There are also the typical Morrison flashbacks to slavery days that explain the connections between the characters. Any fan of the Harlem Renaissance would appreciate this book. So would any romance lover.


“Wonderful. . . . A brilliant, daring novel. . . . Every voice amazes.” —Chicago Tribune

“She may be the last classic American writer, squarely in the tradition of Poe, Melville, Twain and Faulkner.” —Newsweek

“Thrillingly written . . . seductive. . . . Some of the finest lyric passages ever written in a modern novel.” —Chicago Sun-Times


For more on Toni Morrison and her work, see my blog, "Toni Morrison: A Friend of Mind."



  1. ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS, Holiday love stories by Brown Girl Books

Brown Girls Books is bringing you nineteen talented writers, sharing heartwarming stories filled with the joy, sorrow and downright drama of this magical season. Christmas time brings out the best – and for some, the worst – in us and these holiday tales capture it all, just in time to warm your soul for the holidays.


ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS is filled with tear-jerking, treasured, and laugh-inducing stories. Like Sonia Johnston’s “Home for Christmas,” a ripped-from-the-headlines story of one woman willing to risk everything to have her husband home by Christmas morning….or Stacie's Lee’s amazing story about second chances in “Two Wise Men”….Then there’s Cryssy Dee’s “Red Heartstrings,” which explores a hopeful journey from shattered dreams to peace and joy…and Yvette Danielle’s “The Beat of My Drum,” which tests a single mom’s faith as she tries to fulfill the wish of her son… or Joyce A. Brown’s “Please Come Home For Christmas,” a tale about a not-so-picture-perfect family gathering … And “Sister Grinch” by Venita Alderman Sadler about a woman who is set on making everyone’s Christmas miserable…and many more. All of which are bound to fill your heart with of all the joy, wonder, and magic of the season."


  1. THE MEMORY QUILT by T.D. Jakes

Keeping with the Christmas theme, is THE MEMORY QUILT by Bishop T.D. Jakes.  He weaves inspirational life lessons into this tender and touching tale, a thoughtful reflection on our actions throughout the giving season and all year-round.


    Lela Edwards wants nothing more than to spend the holidays with her family. But her husband of fifty years passed away recently, her daughters live far from their old Chicago neighborhood, and her granddaughter, Darcie, is avoiding her grandmother for fear Lela will judge her decision to get a divorce. Irritated and lonely, Lela concentrates on the lessons of the Virgin Mary with her Bible study group and begins to piece together an unfinished quilt she set aside long ago.


    The closer she examines the Scriptures, the more she realizes how quick she is to find fault with the people around her. Lela soon discovers she has woven the Virgin Mary’s lessons into the handiwork of the quilt, a reminder that by following the guidance of the cherished story we revisit every December to celebrate the meaning of Christ, she can learn from her mistakes and find favor with God.

Readers everywhere will find an uplifting message of hope in this heart-warming story.


  1. A CHRISTMAS CAROL by Charles Dickens

A CHRISTMAS CAROL is a novella by Charles Dickens, first published in London in 1843. It is the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, an old miser who is visited by the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come. After their visits, Scrooge is transformed into a kinder, gentler man.


    This is a story of grace and redemption for everyone.  I've seen updated movie versions with feminine Scrooges, and I've revamped scripts myself for both school productions and the drama ministry at church. You may not believe in traditional Christmas legends, but you must admit that Christmas is a time of hope and giving, and that it makes us all feel good in some way.


     Who would you like to see in your Christmas past and present?  Who could you learn from in your Christmas Yet to Come?  Use this season to appreciate your friends and family, despite everything that's going on. And enjoy a really good book!


  1. THE BLACK KIDS by Christina Hammonds Reed

I had not chosen a children's or young adult book for the latest ten selections, so here it is. Great for gifting or for understanding the younger generation and what they are going through in our times of integration and  racial unrest. Perfect for fans of THE HATE YOU GIVE, this unforgettable coming-of-age debut novel explores issues of race, class, and violence through the eyes of a wealthy black teenager whose family gets caught in the vortex of the 1992 Rodney King Riots.

     Los Angeles, 1992. Ashley Bennett and her friends are living the charmed life. It’s the end of senior year and they’re spending more time at the beach than in the classroom. They can

already feel the sunny days and endless possibilities of summer.

     Everything changes one afternoon in April, when four LAPD officers are acquitted after beating a black man named Rodney King half to death. Suddenly, Ashley’s not just one of the girls. She’s one of the black kids. As violent protests engulf LA and the city burns, Ashley tries to continue on as if life were normal. Even as her self-destructive sister gets dangerously involved in the riots. Even as the model black family façade her wealthy and prominent parents have built starts to crumble. Even as her best friends help spread a rumor that could completely derail the future of her classmate and fellow black kid, LaShawn Johnson. With her world splintering around her, Ashley, along with the rest of LA, is left to question who is the us? And who is the them? 


  “Should be required reading in every classroom.” —Nic Stone, #1 New York Times bestselling author of DEAR MARTIN

    “A brilliantly poetic take on one of the most defining moments in Black American history.” —Tiffany D. Jackson, author of GROWN AND MONDAY'S NOT COMING.


  1. A PROMISED LAND by Barack Obama

A riveting, deeply personal account of history in the making—from the president who inspired us to believe in the power of democracy.


     NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The Washington Post • Jennifer Szalai, The New York Times • NPR • The GuardianMarie Claire


      In the stirring, highly anticipated first volume of his presidential memoirs, Barack Obama tells the story of his improbable odyssey from young man searching for his identity to leader of the free world, describing in strikingly personal detail both his political education and the landmark moments of the first term of his historic presidency—a time of dramatic transformation and turmoil.

Reflecting on the presidency, he offers a unique and thoughtful exploration of both the awesome reach and the limits of presidential power, as well as singular insights into the dynamics of U.S. partisan politics and international diplomacy. Obama brings readers inside the Oval Office and the White House Situation Room, and to Moscow, Cairo, Beijing, and points beyond. We are privy to his thoughts as he assembles his cabinet, wrestles with a global financial crisis, takes the measure of Vladimir Putin, overcomes seemingly insurmountable odds to secure passage of the Affordable Care Act,

     A Promised Land is extraordinarily intimate and introspective—the story of one man’s bet with history, the faith of a community organizer tested on the world stage. Obama is candid about the balancing act of running for office as a Black American, bearing the expectations of a generation buoyed by messages of “hope and change,” and meeting the moral challenges of high-stakes decision-making. He is frank about the forces that opposed him at home and abroad, open about how living in the White House affected his wife and daughters, and unafraid to reveal self-doubt and disappointment. Yet he never wavers from his belief that inside the great, ongoing American experiment, progress is always possible.


  1. YEAR OF YES BY Shonda Rhimes

In the interest of New Year's renewal and because January 13th is her birthday, I selected  YEAR OF YES by the fabulously talented Shonda Rhimes, Creator of GREY'S ANATOMY, SCANDAL, HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER, & Netflix's newest hit, BRIDGERTON, she shares something many busy people have in common: fear and guilt from neglecting yourself and your family.  And admitting that you're really an introvert! Check it out!


     With three children at home and three hit television shows, it was easy for Shonda to say she was simply too busy. But in truth, she was also afraid. And then, over Thanksgiving dinner, her sister muttered something that was both a wake up and a call to arms: You never say yes to anything. Shonda knew she had to embrace the challenge: for one year, she would say YES to everything that scared her.


 This poignant, intimate, and hilarious memoir explores Shonda’s life before her Year of Yes—from her nerdy, book-loving childhood to her devotion to creating television characters who reflected the world she saw around her. The book chronicles her life after her Year of Yes had begun—when Shonda forced herself out of the house and onto the stage; when she learned to explore, empower, applaud, and love her truest self. Yes.


    “Honest, raw, and revelatory” (The Washington Post), this wildly candid and compulsively readable book reveals how the mega-talented Shonda Rhimes finally achieved badassery worthy of a Shondaland character. Best of all, she “can help motivate even the most determined homebody to get out and try something new” (Chicago Tribune).






7 TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL MARRIAGE is a contemporary relationship guide to marital conflict. The unique approach to the "opposites attract" theory offers both insight and humor in the best of the " Mars. . . and Venus" tradition. The importance of choices, communication, and compromise is a recurrent theme throughout the book. It's a "must have" for newlyweds and a " wish I'd known" for veterans who not only want to survive as a couple, but want to achieve marriage success.

From the introduction:

     My husband Art and I have been married thirty-six years. The day before our wedding, one of his friends bet him fifty dollars that we wouldn't last past five years. We were too different. And we were. We're still different in more ways than I can count, but it's the differences that keep our marriage alive and interesting. But while working out those differences has been a challenge, it has also made for a glorious journey. It's those basic differences between men and women that attracted us to each other in the first place. I have come to believe that when couples have too much in common, they get bored with each other. Then they look for "interesting" outside the home. Differences force you to hone your skills: to communicate and compromise with a practiced flair. The one thing we do have in common is that we (and our love) are of utmost importance to both of us, and saving us takes top priority.

   So with that in mind, I'm sharing some of our secrets to a successful marriage. I've provided seven tips. It's a manageable number. You can even focus on one every day of the week. A lot of this is common-sense advice, something we can no longer just take for granted, because everybody doesn't have common sense. Some of us let our "book learning" get in the way. We often look all over for solutions to our problems when they're really staring us in the face if we just open our eyes. Anyway, this is my advice on how to stay in the sixty percent that stay married, and avoid the forty percent who don't.

     At our 30th anniversary party, my husband's friend paid up on the bet.  Eleven years later, I became a widow.  I am grateful for the time we had. I still have advice to share.

    "Her straight talk and spot-on humor, and research into what makes us want love and then desperately search to make it last, paints a picture of what's possible after the sweetness of the wedding cake is replaced by bitter feelings."  --Tamron Hall, Talk Show Host