African American Authors, Books, Historical Fiction

The Underground Railroad

Author: Colson Whitehead

My Take:

Let’s just put it out there – slavery is never an easy topic to read about.  It just ends up making me angry and results in me giving white people the side eye. With Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad  you’re confronted with the realities of slavery through many different angles. From life on the plantation to life on the run and the lengths slave owners would go to get their property (runaway slaves) back.

The author creates an actual railroad working to help slaves make their way to freedom. I love this idea because it allows you to imagine more fully the networks, connections and dangers that were present while working with the actual underground railroad.

At the heart of the story is Cora, a runaway slave who escapes the plantation. She’s not alone though, she’s with another runaway, Caesar and their master is not one to give up on finding the two. He enlists notorious slave catcher, Ridgeway to get them back. Your heart will be pumping and breaking simultaneously, your stomach will be in knots as you follow them through all of the obstacles they encounter.

Once Cora and Caesar make it to a city that holds some sense of freedom, we encounter other newly freed characters but there’s still that nagging feeling in the back of your mind that it won’t last. You feel their anxieties throughout their journey.

And just when Cora and Caesar think they can breath easier, it all gets turned upside down.

Poignant is one word I’d use to describe this book for the emotions it evoked in me – hope, sadness, fear.  I found myself fully invested in Cora and Caesar hoping they would find the freedom they were so desperately seeking. While the story itself is fiction, the circumstances it describes are very real.

I encourage everyone to grab a copy of this book.

If you’ve already read the book, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it and whether it touched you the same way it touched me.

African American Authors, Books

Year of Yes

Author: Shonda Rhimes

My Take:

I can relate to the shy, introverted socially awkward version of Shonda Rhimes. I can’t yet relate to the wildly successful version of Shonda, but I pray that part of me will show itself soon.

“Happiness comes from living as you need to, as you want to. As your inner voice tells you to. Happiness comes from being who you actually are instead of who you think you are supposed to be.”

This is a lesson I’m trying to incorporate into my daily life. Sometimes you just have to be open to new experiences and allow yourself to be vulnerable, and I think that’s the message Rhimes was trying to get across in this book.

We can’t let insecurities and unfounded fears hold us back. Life is not easy – that’s a given. We all have, or had something keeping us from achieving our best life. It’s time to let it go and live! Rhimes’ commitment to saying “Yes” was her doing just that.

Try new things, celebrate yourself and move out of your comfort zone. Year of Yes shows us that sometimes you have to get rid of those people and things that no longer serve our better good. The stories shared in this book are candid and funny, and absolutely relatable. Rhimes shares her experiences with us because it helped her and hopefully it can help us live our best lives too.


The Twelve Tribes of Hattie

20170211_183318Author: Ayana Mathis

My Take:

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie takes us through the lives of Hattie, her husband, their 11 children and later on, her granddaughter. Hattie is a woman of few words. She is strong-willed and “mean as the dickens”, as her children would say. She’s strong because she has no other choice. Of course, she loves her children but tenderness and affection wasn’t something she dished out often, if ever.  Hattie has 11 children-two of which she had to bury when she was a young mother and that’s a pain that never left her.

Hattie’s own mother brought them to the north to move away from certain troubles plaguing the south, only to find that life in the north didn’t always mean a trouble-free existence.

Although Hattie is a cold woman, you can’t help but feel sad for her. She is deeply unhappy with the life she leads and spends her days doing her best to keep her nine living children dressed, fed, and with a roof over their heads. Her husband contributes to her unhappiness so much that she refers to him as her “ruin”.  Every character in the book is fighting their own demons and you see them struggle to make sense of what their lives have become. Author Ayana Mathis does a phenomenal job of developing each of these characters individually so that you’re drawn into their separate worlds.

I think a lot of readers will be able to relate to Hattie having to put on a brave front even if she’s falling apart on the inside. She’s so hard on her children and husband, especially, because she wants more for their lives and she wants her husband to want that too, or at least not hinder her from making that happen. The resentment that grows between them can definitely be felt.

At the end of the book you’re left hoping that everyone ends up finding their way. The story and the writing, in my opinion, were thoughtfully crafted and I hope you get a chance to read it.

If you have already read it, I’d love to hear what you thought of it. Share in the comments.