Ten Interesting Black History Month Reads

I’ve been looking for books about uncommon figures in black history and gathered a good bunch.

1. The Black Russian by Vladimir Alexandrov

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The Black Russian by Vladimir Alexandrov (Amazon) (Goodreads)

Born in Mississippi in 1872, African-American Frederick Bruce Thomas travels to Moscow where he establishes new business foundations, gains Russian citizenship, and a new name: Fyodor Fyodorovich Tomas. Yep, true story!

2. Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga by Pamela Newkirk

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Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga by Pamela Newkirk (Amazon) (Goodreads)

Be prepared to be angry and flip a couple of tables. Author Pamela Newkirk uncovers the short, horrendous life of Ota Benga, a Mbuti Pygmy who was taken from his homeland to be presented as an exhibit for the St. Louis World’s Fair of 1904 and the Bronx Zoo.

3. Prince of Darkness by Shane White

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The Prince of Darkness by Shane White (Amazon) (Goodreads)

Jeremiah G. Hamilton, known as “The only black millionaire in New York” during his lifetime, started out trading counterfeit coins in Haiti (and hiding from authorities in a boat) to becoming an incredibly  successful New York wall street broker battling over property with America’s well-known businessman Cornelius Vanderbilt.

4. The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Oladuah Equiano or, Gustavus Vassa, The African  by Himself

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The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Oladuah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African by Himself (Amazon) (Goodreads)

Olaudah Equiano’s slavery memoir sparked influence to end African trade in Britain and its colonies with the Slave Trade Act of 1807.  After gaining his freedom, Equiano traveled extensively and worked actively as a slave abolitionist. He had indeed an interesting life. Unfortunately, the location of this gentleman’s grave is unknown.

What’s that all about?

5. Incidents in the Life of A Slave Girl by Harriet Ann Jacobs

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Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Ann Jacobs  (Amazon) (Goodreads)

Harriet Ann Jacobs describes in detail the obstacles she faced as a slave, a woman, and a mother trying to get her children away from a dreadful fate in chains.

6. King Peggy by Peggielene Bartels and Eleanor Herman

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King Peggy by Peggielen Bartels and Eleanor Herman (Amazon) (Goodreads)

D.C. secretary Peggielene Bartels discovers she is next in line to become king after the death of her royal uncle in Otuam, Ghana. Not only Peggy takes the crown, she fixes her village’s issues by opening up a city bank account and networking with sponsors to establish a school for the city youths.

7. Jazz Age Josephine by Jonah Winter

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Jazz Age Josephine by Jonah Winter (Amazon) (Goodreads)

Sorry, you won’t find anything about Josephine Baker’s role as a WWII spy in this children’s book. This book narrates the life of the jazz queen from her meager beginnings in Chicago to her rise in stardom in Paris. Josephine Baker is personally one of my favorite black women of all time!

8. Before There Was Mozart by Lesa-Cline Ransome and James E. Ransome

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Before There Was Mozart: The Story of Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-George by Lesa Cline-Ransome and James E. Ransome (Amazon) (Goodreads)

Did you know this black violinist influenced Mozart? Sadly, these virtuous musicians never collaborated. Joseph Boulogne Chevalier de Saint-George was born to a slave mother and a slave master father. His father introduced him to music and took him to France to sharpen his skills as a violinist. Boulogne became so famous that he performed for Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI. Antoinette kept him by her side as her music instructor.

9. Phillis’s Big Test by Catherine Clinton

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Phillis’s Big Test by Catherine Clinton (Amazon) (Goodreads)

At one point in time, people had the ridiculous mindset that slaves couldn’t write especially poetry. Phillis Wheatley had to take a test in front of group of educated white men to prove she was the author of a collection of poems she created.  Phillis wrote another poetry collection after she passed her examination but it was never published.

10. Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer by Carole Boston Weatherford

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Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer by Carole Boston Weatherford (Amazon) (Goodreads)

I picked up this book because she was one of the lesser-known African-American figures of the Civil Rights movement I’ve known. Like all of the other people who fought for racial equality, Fannie Lou Hamer was tired of the racial bs. This children’s book depicts Fannie’s life striving for justice after being threatened with her life trying to vote and beaten in jail for being in a” white” cafe. She led sit-ins, marched with Martin Luther King Jr., and helped form the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.

Have you read any interesting books for Black History Month?

Whom have you read about that mainstream African-American history tends to miss? 

 

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1,000 Manga Volumes Goal *updated from Dec 2015-Jan 2016*

Thank goodness for Goodreads or else I would have had a hard time trying to figure out which manga volumes I’ve read the past two months!

I’ve updated my manga goal list with updated volumes and new ones from December 2015 to January 2016.

Updated Volumes

  • Comic by Ha SiHyun
  • The Demon Prince of Momochi House by Aya Shouoto
  • Library Wars by Hiro Arikawa
  • My Love Story by Kazune Kawahara
  • Naruto by Masashi Kishimoto 
  • One Piece by Eiichiro Oda

New Titles

  • Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakomoto by Sano Nami
  • Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan by Hiroshi Shiibashi
  • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney by Kenji Kuroda
  • School Rumble by Jin Kobayashi
  • Twin Star Exorcists by Yoshiaki Sukeno
  • Yukarism by Chika Shiomi

Missing from November 2015

Somehow I missed marking this series: Barefoot Gen by Keiji Nakazawa

 

BOOK REVIEW: “DMT-The Spirit Molecule” by Rick Strassman

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DMT: The Spirit Molecule by Rick Strassman (Amazon) (Goodreads)

 

Rick Strassman dives into an intriguing study of DMT (dimethyltryptamine) in his book: DMT: The Spirit Molecule. During the early to mid nineties, Strassman went through a lengthy process to legally test DMT on human volunteers for his research. DMT is a psychedelic compound found in certain plants, animals, and human beings. This chemical is responsible for the visions people have during birth, near-death experiences (NDEs), and highly accelerated meditations. It can be taken as a physical drug (smoked) and consumed as a beverage called ayahuasca, a special brew made by South American shamans for religious purposes.

I read this book mainly to discover what the research volunteers experienced after taken DMT. Many had good trips, but you can’t have the good without the bad. One volunteer dropped out of Strassman’s study after having visions of crocodiles assaulting him.

Yeah, not fun.

It’s funny DMT is illegal in the United States as a Schedule I drug but it’s an endogenous (meaning from within) chemical in every single human being. You don’t really have to travel to South America to sip some ayahuasca or lick some strange toad (please don’t) to gain the DMT’s effects.

I mean, we take it every night to dream.It’s responsible for that too.

I may have missed this from reading but Strassman did not answer the function of DMT. Why do we dream? Why do we see “the white light” during NDEs? Perhaps we have it as a reminder of where we really come from and the physical world we live in is merely an illusion.

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via Tumblr

But seriously, who knows? I’m sure we’ll figure it out eventually. DMT: The Spirit Molecule was a great, precise book.

Have you read this book?

What other books about DMT or psychedelics have you read? 

 

BOOK REVIEW: “What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding” by Kristin Newman

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What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding by Kristin Newman (Amazon) (Goodreads)
  • Title: What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding 
  • Author: Kristin Newman
  • Publication: Three Rivers Press/Crown Publishing (May 20, 2014)
  • Pages: 291
  • Genre: Non-Fiction, Travel
  • Format: Paperback
  • Source: Library
  • Rating: 2 1/2  out of 5 stars

Television writer Kristin Newman ended a shaky six-year relationship with an easily provoked environmentalist. After a breakup recovery trip around Europe, Newman decided to be single a little while longer. She has traveled to South America, Europe, and the Middle East.  Meanwhile, her friends around her were getting married and giving birth to screaming little humans.

Not only Newman has written about her travels, she was brave enough to write about the intimate affairs with the men she has met along the way. She warned her parents of the details if they ever picked up their own copies of her book.

I had mixed feelings with What Was I Doing While You Were Breeding. I was excited when I read the book’s summary until I actually read the book. It’s like when you watch an awesome movie trailer but the actual movie leaves you unexpectedly disappointed or heartbroken. I was on that rock bottom level and contemplated sending the book back to the library early.

The balance between her actual travel/cultural experiences and her casual sexual affairs were lopsided. I was more interested in her trips! I wasn’t expecting it to be so focused on her foreign relationships (and relationships in general). I began having gag reflexes every time Newman mentioned making out (and more) with some random sexy foreign guy she met ten seconds ago.

The honest reader inside me told me to give Newman’s memoir a second chance. I had a fair experience after finishing it. The relieving news: Newman has a happy ending.

Newman’s expeditions reminded me of Sex and the City.  It was the only way I could get through the book since I’ve enjoyed the show.  Out of all of affairs she had, I wished Newman lived happily ever after with “Father Juan”. He was cool (and extremely handsome) except for the whole–

Well, just read the book and find out.

P.S.-Be prepared for Kristin’s Brazilian story (omg).

Have you read this book?

What are your favorite travel stories you recommend?