The Black Bookshelf

The Reviews, Essays & Articles of a Black Bibliophile

3. The Love Laws

“Equally it could be argued that it actually began thousands of years ago. Long before the Marxists came. Before the British took Malabar, before the Dutch Ascendency, before Vasco da Gama arrived, before the Zamorin’s conquest of Calicut. Before three purple-robed Syrian Bishops murdered by the Portuguese were found floating in the sea, with coiled sea serpents riding on their chests and oysters knotted in their tangled beards. It could be argued that it began long before Christianity arrived in a boat and seeped into Kerala like tea from a teabag.

“That it really began in the days when the Love Laws were made. The laws that lay down who should be loved, and how.

“And how much.”
Love Laws. The universal division between the darker and lighter. The laws which encouraged apartheid, supported chattle slavery, patronized eugenics and divided India. The laws which divide the Nubians from the Egyptians, the Hazara from the Pashtun, the descendents of “Dalit” from the descendents of “forward” castes, the “abd” from other Iraqi. The laws which are imbedded in the worlds dominate languages and major religions seeping into cultural norms on each continent of our world. Love Laws. The standards set for us regarding who should be loved and how much.

Arundhati Roy constructed a timeless display of the biases of modern (and less modern) societies and the possibility of antaganism between the peronal lives we lead and the social expectations we were born into. The God of Small Things is a precious work because it can be lifted out of it’s Indian context and placed in many other societies because the conflicts that were revealed, from the innocent priveledge of the Maureen Peel-esq Sophie Mol character to the inevitable fate of Velutha, are a reflection of global issues to be dealt with community by community, person by person.

Carrying the novel around New York, I began to understand how many lives Roy has reached. From my fellow Deutsch-speaking UM friend Ian who recommended The God of Small Things, to the uninhibited shreik from Jayanthi when I revealed the novel that I was currently reading. I was approached on various subways and Starbucks by various people with the same look of nostalgia and intrigue. The God of Small Things is indeed a must read for everyone.


February 3, 2007 Posted by | Must Read, Reality of Fiction | Comments Off on 3. The Love Laws

2. Journal of Dreams & Nightmares


Each writer reaches the point in their career, where they must determine why they write. (Thus, nearly every famed writer has completed an essay entitled, “Why I Write.”) Yet, more (often) than screenwriters & playwrites, more than novelists & critics, more than essayists & journalists the poet must face this internal question with every word.

Black Wings & Blind Angels is a collection of trauma & survival, dreams & reality. Sapphire appears to be writing for every person who ever asked, “Why did God make me __?” Why did God make me Black? Why did God make me a Woman? Why did God make me a victim? Why did God make me? The internal battles of fate verses will of childhood, and the confusion that results from not having the language to release the anguish or describe the conflict are released in Black Wings & Blind Angels.

Black Wings & Blind Angels is a journal of dreams and nightmares. As a recommendation, I must admit that Black Wings & Blind Angels is a collection that you may want to Read on Someone Else’s Dime (rosed). I would definitely recommend Sapphire’s novel PUSH, as a must read for everyone. Push captures every emotion described in BWBA with greater depth, more clarity and undeniable urgency.

If I were to meet Sapphire, I would ask her who she writes for. Many poems give the impression that she’s writing for the child who stays late after school to avoid their father’s hands & home awaiting. Yet, other poems seem to be written to release childhood demons of hers and those she loves. Reading Black Wings & Blind Angels will help you address your own demons.

How many time have you been a blind angel? Why are you still choosing to be blind?

from False Memory Syndrome
(or, In the Dream)

In the dream my father
is a mean man
who is fucking with me up to the
time I am grown
He puts his big finger between
my legs and pushes pushes hard
in the dream my body is good
to me and doesn’t let his horrible
finger in
In the dream I pass thru
the bedroom and pick up a pen
I want to write on the sheets
I get the letter “I”
then the pen
runs out of ink
In the dream I’m young
in the dream I don’t think
in the dream there are no roaches
and I’m not all alone…

by Sapphire

January 29, 2007 Posted by | For the Poet in You, Rosed | Leave a comment

1. The Top Ten

MUST READ for Bibliophiles
I admit it. I’m a fan of lists. (Perhaps, a fool for lists…) Top 100 Science Stories of 2006 (Discover), top 100 Black Businesses (Black Enterprise), Best-selling Books (New York Times) etc. To my pleasure and suprised, I discovered the bibliophile’s ultimate book of lists during my semi-weekly rumblings through Borders Books.

J. Peder Zane compiled 125 lists of top ten greatest books from British and American authors. Each author, from Sherman Alexie to Jennifer Weiner, ranked their 10 masterpieces in order. Each work received 10 points when ranked number 1 and thus 1 point when ranked number 10. The five works which received the greatest number of points are, (1) Anna Karenina, (2) Madame Bovary, (3) War and Peace, (4) Lolita, (5) The adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Madame Bovary actually appeared on more lists (26) than Anna Karenina (25) but Tolstoy’s work was ranked higher on its lists 11 more points than Flaubert’s.

The top five works by living authors are, (1) One Hundred Years of Solitude, (2) To Kill a Mockingbird, (3) Beloved, (4) The Catcher and the Rye and (5) Rabbit Angstrom. And there were a few authors who submitted lists who were fortunate to have their works mentioned on the top ten list of another artist. Michael Cunningham submitted his lists of favorites from Shakespeare’s King Lear to the stories of Flannery O’Connor. Anita Shreve, author of The Pilot’s Wife, placed Cunningham’s The Hours in the number four spot. Stephen King includes Lord of the Flies and 1984 on his list, while David Foster Wallace and Jennifer Weiner both place King’s The Stand as their second greatest book.

Shakespeare has the greatest number of works on the lists (11), yet Tolstoy collects the most points (327) off of 2 great works. Of the 125 lists there are 544 separate titles, 23 of which appeared as the greatest work on one authors list alone, not making any other list. The range of authors selected to submit top ten lists is varied and diverse including the late Bebe Moore Campbell, Sandra Cisneros, Pearle Cleage, Edwidge Danticat, Arthur Goldin, John Irving, Ha Jin, Sue Monk Kidd, Wally Lamb, Joyce Carol Oats, Ann Patchett and Robert Pinsky. While this survey of fiction does include a small sample of non-fiction and poetry, the central focus is the novel. All of the poets & non-fiction writers who were surveyed, have also published fiction works.

This book is a great guide for bloggers, who like myself, are searching for 100 great books to read this year.

January 27, 2007 Posted by | Must Read for..., Talent is Common... | 1 Comment

Book Recommendations & Classifications

For clarity, I am reading 100 books. Perhaps not 100 novels… but 100 bound full-legnth and completed texts.

This January has begun on a serious note:

1. Black Wings & Blind Angels (poems) by Saphire
2. The God of the Small Things (novel) by Arundhati Roy
3. Debt-free by 30 by Jason Anthony & Karl Cluck
4. Little Gold Book of Yes! Attitude by Jeffrey Gitomer
5. Getting to Yes by Robert Fisher and William Ury

For those who have not realized I am a hybrid of all sorts. Bear with me.

I am working on a classification & recommendation system for The Blackbookshelf. All of the books I read will fall under the categories: Reality of Fiction, For the Poet in You, Suit & Tie, String Theory Pondering, Props & Propaganda, On Miracles, Talent is Common.

1. Reality of Fiction
Novels, Novellas & Short Story Collections

2. For the Poet in You
Poetry Collections & Anthologies

3. Talent is Common (Discipline is not…)
Books on Art, Writing & Creativity

4. On Miracles
Books on Spirituality & Religion

5. String Theory Pondering
Books on Science

6. Props & Propaganda
Books on Politics & Society

7. Suit & Tie
Books on Buisiness, Wealth & Professionalism

Honestly, I am not comfortable enough as a reviewer, critic even, to rate books (5 thumbs up, 7 thumbs down). So, in leiu of rankings I’ll offer my referrals: Soon to be Classic, Must Read, Must Read for ( ?), Read on Someone Else’s Dime, Reader Beware.

1. Soon to be Classic
The Iriquois believed that each action should be done with the consideration of the Seventh Generation in mind. Some artist create with the seven generation at heart.

2. Must Read

3. Must Read for (Community)
Some must-reads aren’t for everyone

4. Read on Someone Else’s Dime
You may want to borrow from the library before purchasing

5. Reader beware
You may like it, especially if your taste differs from mine

And there it is.
2007, The Year of Completion.

January 24, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

2007 Reading Goal

I have been engrossed by an intimate discussion (with myself) for the past 6 days. It is settled. I will read & complete at least 100 books in 2007. This hundred will include works of fiction, nonfiction and poetry. Indeed, the difficult part will not be reading 100 hundred books, but blogging about them.

So far I have found 31 books that I must complete this year. It is a pity that so many books have been resting on my shelves unread, or at least, incompleted.

I have not forgotten last years suggestion. Each of those will be added to the 2007 reading list. And of course, I am always open to your input.

Any suggestions?

Books to Be Read

1. Tar Baby – Morrison
2. Beloved – Morrison
3. Dambahlah – John Edgar Wideman
4. Another Country – Baldwin
5. If Beale Street Could Talk – Baldwin
6. Lolita – Nabokov
7. Maud Martha – Gwendolyn Brooks
8. Long Train to the Redeeming Sin – Kola Boof
9. What Craziness Looks Like on An Ordinary Day –
10. What You Owe Me –
11. The Cotillion – John Oliver Killens
12. One Hundred Years of Solitude –
13. The Things They Carried -O’Brien
14. The Virgin Suicides – Eugenides
15. Some Soul to Keep – J. California Cooper
16. Third Girl From the Left – Martha Southgate
17. Emma – Austin
18. Pride & Prejudice – Austin

19. War Against the Weak – Edwin Black
20. Pedagogy of the Oppressed –
21. Sugar Blues –
21. How Europe Underdeveloped Africa – Rodney
23. What White Looks Like –
24. Angela Davis, An Autobiography
25. White Like Me – Tim Wise
26. The Future of the Race – Gates & West
27. Head Negro In Charge Syndrome –
28. Why Should White Guys Have All the Fun
27. The End of Faith
28. In this Life Together – Ossie & Ruby
29. Faith of Our Fathers – Abu Jamal
30. The Evidence of Things Not Seen –
31. Roll, Jordan, Roll – Genovese

January 6, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Year of Completion

2007 must be the year of completion. 2007 must be the year of setting goals and working ridiculously to acheive them.

2006 was the year of change. For me, this year was the year of big talk, big dreams accompanied by a paralyzing fear. A wise woman told me that the difference between writers and aspiring writers is the ability to set (and thus, reach) deadlines.

2007 Goals & Deadlines

Freewriting every morning
Subway reading
Evening typing

Open Mic
BlackBookshelf Entry
LheaJLove Entry

Book signing (1x)
Lecture/Public Reading (1x)
Movies (2x)
Writers Workshop (2x)

Professional/Career Workshop (1x)
Plays (2x)

Writers Conference
Writers Retreat
Book Convention

2007 will be the year of the First Agreement.

December 30, 2006 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment