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Tag Archives: review

Historian Michael Twitty Sets “A Place At The Table,” Serves Up A Hearty Helping Of Culinary Justice

“Call soul food what it is: the edible scripture of the Black aesthetic, the culinary answer to jazz, memory food of a people.”That’s a tweet from Michael Twitty, a culinary historian from Maryland, who sees Cleveland as “the deep north.” To stay warm, he kept on his light grey jacket as he addressed the audience at the Cleveland Natural History Museum gathered for his December talk, “A Place at the Table.”He begins with a question: “What if the enslaved could tell their story through food?” The story of American history, he argues, lies within the story of the foods people in bondage ate and the meals they cooked for others. It grieves him that so many hadn’t been properly acknowledged or recorded.Via his food blog, AfroCulinaria.com, Twitty seeks culinary... Read More →

An Overlooked Classic, “Nervous Conditions” Is A Book That Deserves A Second Life In The Mainstream

 by Gail Arnoff“I was not sorry when my brother died.”  So begins Tsi Tsi Dangarembga's semi-autobiographical novel Nervous Conditions, the story of Tambudzai, a teenage girl in (the former Rhodesia now Zimbabwe) who lives in two worlds: that of her parents, poor farmers who earn a meager living, and that of her aunt and uncle, whom the British colonists have chosen to receive an education in England and eventually to run the missionary school.  I fell in love with Tambu in the first few pages, and as I introduce her to more readers, I have discovered that they take her to their hearts as well. This includes participants in a Books@Work group, women who are thirty to sixty-five, and college students in a “Questions of Identity” seminar. Until I requested it, the Cleveland... Read More →

“Black-ish” Deftly Mixes Hope and Reality in Police Brutality Episode

In its second season, ABC's "Black-ish" has hit its stride. Now comes the best evidence of its ability to create a television classic: the February 24 episode called “Hope.” The story, and the series, centers on the upper middle-class Johnsons. For this installment, the parents disagree on how to talk to their four children about police brutality. The episode is confined entirely within the Johnsons' living room/kitchen as the broadcast news of no indictment of the police officer spills in—a cinematic choice that ratchets tension. Viewers must pick a side: Agree with Dre Johnson (played well by Anthony Anderson), the realist who wants to arm his children with the truth, which will extinguish their innocence? Or side with Dr. Rainbow Johnson (vividly embodied by actress Tracee... Read More →

REVIEW: “A Ballerina’s Tale: The Incredible Rise Of Misty Copeland”

"A Ballerina's Tale" is a delightfully intimate portrait of Misty Copeland—full of close-ups, uncomfortable silence, and peeks behind the curtain of one of the nation's most prominent dancers. Documentary-maker Nelson George spent three years filming. Balletomanes already know much of the biography: As one of six children raised by a single mother in San Pedro, California, Misty found refuge from a sometimes unstable home at the local Boys & Girls Club, where she first took a ballet class at 13. In the 20 years since, she has become the face of modern dance, appearing everywhere from The Late Show With Stephen Colbert to Prince's Welcome to America tour. But that fame didn't happen overnight. When she was 17, Misty moved from California to New York to join the American Ballet... Read More →

Toni Morrison Returns With “God Help The Child,” Remains Wickedly Entertaining

At 84, Toni Morrison is full of reflection on her successes and incidents where she might request a do-over.    "It's not profound regret," she told NPR's Terry Gross. "It's just a wiping up of tiny little messes that you didn't recognize as mess when they were going on." Morrison's press tour for her eleventh novel, God Help the Child, has been full of little fascinating admissions like this. (My favorite parts of the recent lengthy New York Times profile are the quick revelations that Morrison has never once worn jeans and that she considers sleeping on ironed sheets one of life's greatest luxuries.)   Her vulnerability is heightened during the NPR interview as she riffs on the pains and shifts that accompany older adulthood. As she has aged, her circle has become smaller; as a... Read More →

Anti-Racism Documentary “White Like Me” Now Streaming For Free

One consequence of Ferguson: viewers can now watch the documentary “White Like Me” cost-free. Tim Wise's anti-racism documentary will stream free online for a few weeks.  The Media Education Foundation, which produced the movie, chose the promo code "blacklivesmatter" for viewers to redeem. Wise, 46, raised more than $41,000 on Kickstarter for the movie, which adapts his 2005 memoir, “White Like Me: Reflections On Race From A Privileged Son.” The 2013 film features insights from Princeton University's Imani Perry; Michelle Alexander, author of 2012's “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness”; and Harvard law professor Charles Ogletree. A brisk 68 minutes, "White Like Me" is a forceful, persuasion piece, designed to explain the basics of white... Read More →

REVIEW: “Dear White People” Ushers In New Talent, Gives Unflinching Look At “Black Faces In White Spaces”

When I arrived as an undergraduate at Kent State University, I participated in Kupita, a week-long orientation for students of color in which faculty and seasoned students tried to prepare us for what lay ahead: four years as the rare black and brown faces on campus. Those lessons stung in spots, massaged in others, and left us exhausted – rather like the new film, "Dear White People."  Set at the fictitious Ivy League school Winchester University, the debut movie of Justin Simien follows four main characters as they figure out what blackness means to them. Not to mention managing all the expectations accompanying that identity.  Viewers meet Troy Fairbanks (Brandon P. Bell), the All-American legacy who squashes his own aspirations to please his father, the dean of students. His... Read More →

REVIEW: “Half Of A Yellow Sun” Adaptation Tackles A Violent History With A Emphasis On Humanity

A still shot from the film, Half of a Yellow Sun, starring Thandie Newton and Chiwetel Ejiofor Half of a Yellow Sun is now available on iTunes and other video streaming services.  by Lisa Nielson  The film adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel Half of a Yellow Sun is subtle and engrossing. Directed by Nigerian playwright Biyi Bandele, the film stars British actors Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton, supported by a strong ensemble cast of Nigerian and British actors. Half of a Yellow Sun received mixed reviews in the US and Europe, and was further overshadowed by Ejiofor’s critically acclaimed 12 Years a Slave. In an additional complication, the film was originally supposed to open in Nigeria shortly after its release in Europe and the US, however, the Nigerian Film... Read More →

REVIEW: Sonia Sotomayor Bares Her Soul In “My Beloved World”

One of my close friends, Shanelle Smith, shoved a thick book in my hands as we met for lunch. "You have to read this." It was upside down; I flipped it over. U.S. Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor beamed from the cover. "It's very good," Shanelle said, tapping the cover of My Beloved World  for emphasis. "It's my Lean In." Back in March, Shanelle and I had talked at length about Sheryl Sandberg's "call to action" for working women as part of our informal book club. The child of two auto factory workers, my friend was turned off by Sandberg's "middle class to riches" story, peeved that Sandberg had never met some of the barriers that low-income working mothers encounter. (Sandberg's "working mom confession " that her child had lice while on a private jet evoked zero sympathy.) Most... Read More →

Joyce Carol Oates’ Latest Novel, “The Accursed,” Has Fans Buzzing

  Cover photo courtesy HarperCollins Publishers Chances are, Joyce Carol Oates' latest work is unlike anything you've ever read before. "The Accursed" takes readers on a wild ride through Princeton, N.J., in the years 1905-1906, viewed through a host of characters who are all struggling with their own demons as the result of the Curse (always capitalized).   In the weeks leading up to the book's release, the Princeton University professor and Anisfield-Wolf jury member completed an interview with the Seattle Times in which she explored some of the themes in the book more in depth. Oates began writing the novel in the 80s and left it alone for more than 20 years while pursuing other projects. She came back to it a few years ago and emerged with a novel some are calling Oates... Read More →
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