While exploring the hidden conversation on race unfolding in America in the wake of President Barack Obama’s election, Michele Norris discovered that there were painful secrets within her own family that had been willfully withheld. These revelations — from her father’s shooting by a Birmingham police officer to her maternal grandmother’s job as an itinerant Aunt Jemima in the Midwest — inspired a bracing journey into her family’s past, from her childhood home in Minneapolis to her ancestral roots in the Deep South. “The Grace of Silence: A Memoir” (Vintage, $14.95), is an exploration in self discovery as the acclaimed reporter examines her own racial legacy and what it means to be an American.
Norris began to write, through original reporting, a book about “the hidden conversation” on race that is unfolding nationwide. She would, she thought, base her book on the frank disclosures of others on the subject, but soon she was forced to confront the fact that “the conversation” in her own family had not been forthright.
“For me it should say ‘an accidental memoir’ because this isn’t the book I set out to write,” explained Norris. “I wanted to listen to people around the country as I traveled around and listened to the way people talk about race — an issue that people talk about in the public sphere, but in private sometimes we're afraid to talk about it. They’re afraid that they might step on a landmine or that they might say something that would lead people to think that they were insensitive. I felt that if I listened to the hidden conversation, the way people talked about it in private spaces, I could put together a book of essays that would reveal something about how we talk and think about race. The problem was when I tried to tune in the frequency and pick up this conversation I started to pick up on things in my own family. I realized that there was a hidden conversation about race among the people who raised me — the people I loved — the people I thought I knew so well.”
As a media veteran, Norris has received scores of accolades and was chosen in 2009 as Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists. Norris’ informed curiosity is on display daily in her role as a popular host of NPR’s “All Things Considered.” Her role on the flagship afternoon radio program subtly reveals to the breadth of her award-winning new career: ABC News correspondent; contributor to The Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, and the Los Angeles Times and guest commentator on “Meet the Press,” “The Chris Matthews Show” and “Charlie Rose.”
In her exploration of the “things left unsaid” by her father and mother when she was growing up, “The Grace of Silence” discloses a reporter's discovery of how her character was forged by both revelation and silence.
Heavenly music, breathtaking dances, enchanting landscapes and timeless legends are hallmarks of Shen Yun Performing Arts. Based in upstate New York, the company is a nonprofit organization dedicated to restoring the Chinese classical performing arts to the level of artistry and dignity it had achieved before the communist takeover of mainland China. As part of the company’s unique approach, the dances and scores lend an artistic treatment to legendary tales and ancient themes, as well as important social issues in contemporary China.
Since its inception more than five years ago, Shen Yun Performing Arts has done more to promote traditional Chinese culture than any other performance company in the world. Classical Chinese dance, which is Shen Yun’s trademark, is one of the most expressive — and most demanding — art forms in the world. Every year Shen Yun creates a whole new production with original dances and costumes and music. By adding the distinctive melodies of ancient Chinese instruments over Western orchestration Shen Yun brings together two of the greatest musical traditions the world has ever known. The intricate costumes and headpieces offer a glimpse into the richness and diversity of China’s past. Skilled designers create large scale digital backdrops that whisk the audience off to faraway lands. After countless hours of training and rehearsal, and after each piece has been crafted down to the minutest detail, Shen Yun is ready to embark on a world tour.
“We want to provide our audiences with an experience of consummate beauty and goodness,” said Timothy Wu, a principal dancer from North Wales, Pennsylvania. “We want to bring out what is timeless and most precious from the culture.”
The year 2012 will be off to a dazzling start locally, as this season’s all-new program will showcase ancient legends, new ethnic and folk dance selections and other stories depicted through exuberant and technically superlative Chinese dance ensemble work, accompanied by the Shen Yun orchestra, which blends Eastern and Western instruments through original scores. Featured virtuoso vocal and instrumental soloists will also perform new and original works. Since the company’s public debut in 2007, this year marks Shen Yun’s sixth consecutive appearance in Philadelphia.
Shen Yun Performing Arts returns to Philadelphia on Friday, Jan. 6 at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 7 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, Jan. 8 at 2 p.m. at the Merriam Theater, 250 S. Broad Street. Ticket prices start at $90. For more information, visit Shen Yun Performing Arts at www.ShenYun2012.com. For ticket orders, call (215) 893-1999 or visit www.kimmelcenter.org.
What if you woke up one morning to discover that you were royalty and your destiny had changed overnight?
“King Peggy: An American Secretary, Her Royal Destiny, and the Inspiring Story of How She Changed an African Village (Doubleday, $25.95)” chronicles the astonishing journey of Peggielene Bartels, who suddenly finds herself king of a town of 7,000 souls on Ghana’s central coast, half a world away. Upon arriving for her crowning ceremony in beautiful Otuam, she discovers the dire reality: There’s no running water, no doctor, no high school, and many of the village elders are stealing the town’s funds. To make matters worse, her uncle (the late king) sits in a morgue awaiting a proper funeral in the royal palace, which is in ruins. The longer she waits to bury him, the more she risks incurring the wrath of her ancestors. Bartels’ first two years as king of Otuam unfold in a way that is stranger than fiction.
Now known as “Nana” (a title reserved for royalty), the new king embarks on a new life mission: She sets up a bank account for the town; empowers local women by creating a new borehole for village water; buys a new ambulance and creates a new library. In essence, this is a true-life modern-day Cinderella story. Bartels was born in Ghana in 1953 and moved to Washington, D.C. in her early twenties to work at Ghana’s embassy. Her initial intention was to stay in America for a year or two and then return to Ghana. Instead, she married and became an American citizen in 1997. In 2008, when she was chosen to be king of Otuam, a Ghanaian village of 7,000 people on the west coast of Africa, she decided to become a commuter king. Today, Bartels lives in Silver Spring, Md., still works at the embassy, and spends several weeks each year in Ghana.
In the end, a deeply traditional African town has been uplifted by the ambitions of its headstrong, decidedly modern female king. And in changing Otuam, Bartels is herself transformed, from an ordinary secretary to the heart and hope of her community.
“King Peggy: An American Secretary, Her Royal Destiny, and the Inspiring Story of How She Changed an African Village” is available at major bookstores and online at Amazon.com.
While traveling is fun, it can have it’s challenges. Even the most savvy traveler can become confounded when encountering unfamiliar languages, currencies or the ever-changing maze of TSA regulations. With the holiday season approaching, Pathfinders Travel Magazine publisher PJ Thomas offers timely and practical travel advice.
“In 14 years of publishing Pathfinders Travel Magazine, we have heard all of the horror stories-and we don’t mean the scary ones told this time of the year,” noted Thomas. “We’re talking about the man who had to stay on board the cruise ship because he had left his passport at home while the other wedding guests went ashore to see his son get married. Or, how about the confused traveler who got off the train at Newark Union Penn Station rather than New York Penn Station where a group of friends awaited her arrival.”
In past years, Pathfinders Travel Magazine hosted three-day reunion conferences in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Hilton Head. In light of today’s challenging economic times, the conference has been condensed into an instructive, one-day workshop for the novice, volunteer planner responsible for family, girlfriend, or high school reunions or group getaways.
Thomas suggests that in addition to researching your trip online, also include the services of a travel expert. “If you’re going from point A to point B, that’s pretty easy to do by yourself. But if you’ve got an itinerary that’s intricate, that’s when you want to rely on the services of a professional. For instance, everything is beautiful on the Internet — the water is beautiful, the hotel room is clean, and all the furniture is new — yet when you show up it can be a completely different story. A professional can be the person that goes to bat for you. Their job is to work for you and to make sure you have an excellent travel experience. For some reason, people think if they go to a travel agent they’re going to spend more money, but oftentimes the travel agent can save them money — and not to mention often save you a lot of grief and a lot of time.”
Pathfinders Travel Magazine, in partnership with Amtrak, will present the Reunion Planners Workshop, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Nov. 19, at the New Covenant Conference Center, located at 7500 Germantown Avenue. Travel experts will be on hand with exhibits to help attendees navigate through topics such as, “Choosing the Right Accommodations,” “How to get Free Advice from Tourist Bureaus,” and “Twenty First Century Planning” and other tips for hosting a successful getaway for their group. For more information, visit www.pathfinderstravel.com.
Leading nutritionist David Grotto reveals a wealth of power foods, from apples to yogurt, and explains why in his latest book, “The Best Things You Can Eat: For Everything from Aches to Zzzz, the Definitive Guide to the Nutrition-Packed Foods that Energize, Heal, and Help You Look Great” (DaCapo, $15.99).
What foods help control blood pressure? Are raspberries or hazelnuts a better source of manganese? Which is the best variety of nuts to eat and why? Getting adequate nutrition just through food can help people reduce the number of supplements they need to take, but getting accurate, clear and practical information can be hard, even from sources like the USDA. In this book, Grotto takes the guesswork out of balanced eating. Drawing on the latest food and nutritional research, Grotto lists and describes foods and their benefits, cross referencing their categories for more complete insight to the impact food has on the body. The author also calls out “shocker foods” — foods that are unexpected sources of nutrients — like French fries, which actually have the same amount of potassium as lentils do.
“My hopes are that this book will inspire you to eat better,” writes Grotto. “Not only because you'll discover that a particular food is a superior source of the nutrients that you feel you need more of, but also will cause the science supporting the health benefit of eating that food is so compelling that it becomes part of your dietary arsenal. So don't feel bad if you don't like the food that may be ranked first — more important, don't get so caught up in the numbers that it interferes with you eating other healthy options.”
Grotto divides his lists into three sections. First, the vital nutrients: this provides the top on fortified food sources for each vitamin, fat and fiber and describes the benefits of each. Second, is “Best Foods for Whatever Ails You,” which covers many common ailments — from high blood pressure and cholesterol to aging and gum disease — and lists of foods that counter them. Third, the “Best in Show” highlights the most nutritional options in each food group, including dairy, grains and vegetables, in addition to the best foods for pre-and post-workout routines, inducing sleep, and improving memory.
When it comes to food, nature provides a wealth of delicious choices. Whether readers are looking for something to settle an upset stomach, the best way to control blood sugar or the easiest source of vitamin day, “The Best Things You Can Eat” provides useful, accessible answers for healthy living.
In 2004, David Millar longed for a fast-forward button that would catapault him away from his reality. He was a professional cyclist, an Olympic athlete, a Tour de France star, a world champion — and a drug cheat. After being arrested and questioned for 48 hours by French police, he was ultimately sentenced to a two-year ban from racing for his use of illegal performance-enhancing drugs. He was certain in that dark time that he would never race again and had lost the respect of his family, fans and the cycling community forever. He was wrong on all counts.
Filled with descriptions of the world’s most spectacular courses, Millar’s memoir — “Racing Through the Dark” (Touchstone, $26) — captures the pure joy of cycling and includes some of the most vivid accounts of the sport ever written by a true insider.
By his 18th birthday Millar was living and racing in France, sleeping in rented rooms and tipped to be the next English-speaking Tour winner. A year later he’d realized the dream and signed a professional contract with the Cofidis team, which had one Lance Armstrong on its books. He perhaps lived the high life a little too enthusiastically — high on a roof after too much drink, he broke his heel in a fall, and before long the pressure to succeed had tipped over into doping. Here, in a full and frank autobiography, Millar recounts the story: He doped because “cycling's drug culture was like white noise,” and because of peer pressure.
“I doped for money and glory in order to guarantee the continuation of my status,” he explains. Five years on from his arrest, Millar is clean and reflective, and holds nothing back in this account of his dark years.
As a young Scottish expat living in Hong Kong with his father after his parents’ divorce, Millar showed early promise in mountain biking and BMX (stunt riding). Two wise local cyclists took him under their wings, encouraging him to concentrate on road racing. Millar proved a ready convert. “Racing Through the Dark” offers the winning account of his climb through the ranks—first as an amateur and then as a pro, riding for the French team Cofidis. Among his early triumphs were several stage wins in the Tour de France.
From the moment Millar turned pro in 1997, he began to see hints of the unethical measures that many — maybe most — of the other pros were taking in order to race at the very tops of their games, and beyond. At first, he felt he was immune to temptation, that he could win clean. But the ugly pervasiveness of performance-enhancing drugs and the seemingly universal attitude that condoned it began to corrode his willpower. “Racing Through the Dark” details his eventual capitulation, his subsequent arrest and two-year ban from cycling, and his remarkable comeback as a clean cyclist who is now doing his utmost to keep performance-enhancing drugs out of the sport he so loves.
In this masterwork, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Isabel Wilkerson chronicles one of the great untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of Black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities, in search of a better life. From 1915 to 1970, this exodus of almost six million people changed the face of America.
In her first book, “The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration” (Vintage, $16.95), Wilkerson compares this epic movement to the migrations of other peoples in history. She interviewed more than a thousand people, and gained access to new data and official records, to write this definitive and vividly dramatic account of how these American journeys unfolded, altering our cities, our country and ourselves.
With historical detail, Wilkerson tells this story through the lives of three unique individuals: Ida Mae Gladney, who in 1937 left sharecropping and prejudice in Mississippi for Chicago, where she achieved quiet blue-collar success and, in old age, voted for Barack Obama when he ran for an Illinois Senate seat; sharp and quick-tempered George Starling, who in 1945 fled Florida for Harlem, where he endangered his job fighting for civil rights, saw his family fall, and finally found peace in God; and Robert Foster, who left Louisiana in 1953 to pursue a medical career, the personal physician to Ray Charles as part of a glitteringly successful medical career, which allowed him to purchase a grand home where he often threw exuberant parties. Wilkerson brilliantly captures their first treacherous and exhausting cross-country trips by car and train and their new lives in colonies that grew into ghettos, as well as how they changed these cities with Southern food, faith, and culture and improved them with discipline, drive and hard work.
Wilkerson won the 1994 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing for her reporting as Chicago bureau chief of The New York Times. The award made her the first Black woman in the history of American journalism to win a Pulitzer Prize and the first African American to win for individual reporting. She won the George Polk Award for her coverage of the Midwest and a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship for her research into the Great Migration. She has lectured on narrative writing at the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University and has served as Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton University and as the James M. Cox Jr. Professor of Journalism at Emory University. She is currently Professor of Journalism and Director of Narrative Nonfiction at Boston University. During the Great Migration, her parents journeyed from Georgia and southern Virginia to Washington, D.C., where she was born and reared. Her debut book is scheudled for release in early October.
Both a riveting microcosm and a major assessment, “The Warmth of Other Suns” is a superb account of an “unrecognized immigration” within our own land.
Upon hip-hop artist T.I.’s latest released from jail he announced that he had a new lease on life and was preparing to write a book. “When I touch down, I’m going all the way back to square one, like I’m fresh in the game and never sold a record,” said the Atlanta-based artist. This month marks the release “Power & Beauty: A Love Story of Life on the Streets” (William Morrow, $23.99), a novel of a fictional tale about two childhood friends torn apart by dangerous dealings on the streets of Atlanta.
Clifford Joseph Harris Jr., better known by his stage name T.I. or T.I.P., co-wrote the book with acclaimed writer David Ritz. Ritz, who the New York Times named “the first-call celebrity collaborator,” has written about the lives of many celebrities including Marvin Gaye and Aretha Franklin. His teaming up with Harris reveals another side of each artist, as the rapper draws on his experiences as a young drug dealer to bring to life this interesting tale.
The Grammy-winning rapper sets his talents to the world of fiction with a gritty street-lit epic. The story chronicles the lives of Paul “Power” Clay and Tanya “Beauty” Long — two kids facing tough odds on the streets of Atlanta. Charlie “Slim” Simmons is the powerful gangster who threatens their relationship. Slim makes his intentions known to the couple by introducing Power to the glamor and danger of Atlanta’s dark side, while showering Beauty with lavish gifts to buy her affection. Eventually, their lives take different paths, yet neither can forget their love — or their powerful affection.
Harris knows the excitement, danger and pain of which he writes. As a teenager, he sold drugs and later served time on federal weapons charges. He and his wife (and fellow music artist), Tiny, are involved in a variety of charities, but their back story of life in the music business has served as the backdrop for several reality programs. Harris, who is internationally known for his work as a film producer, entrepreneur, recording artist and actor, is now reinventing himself as an author. “Power & Beauty” tests his ability to bridge social and generational gaps through art.
You’re a good kid.
You are. You’re smart, decent, and loyal but every now and then — especially when you’re not asking for it — it seems like trouble jumps on your back for a ride and there ya go. You hate that because it’s times like those that just about ruin your life. Times like those make people think badly about you.
They’d learn different, though, if they’d just give you a break. It’s what everybody needs, but in the new book “On the Come Up” by Travis Hunter (Dafina Teen/$9.95), that break had better come soon.
That’s a high number, even higher when DeMarco Winslow considered it. That’s how many times he’d been locked in juvie before he promised himself that there wouldn’t be a number thirty-three.
Mr. P, a volunteer at the jail, knew that DeMarco could do better but Mr. P didn’t know what it was like to live with an alcoholic mother. Mr. P had no idea that sixteen-year-old DeMarco was the man of the house, or that he watched out for his twin sister, Jasmine, and their three-year-old brother, Devin. No, Mr. P rocked a fancy truck and he was livin’ large. He’d probably never been locked up.
Still, juvie looked pretty good compared to what awaited DeMarco back home.
Jasmine had changed in the seven months that DeMarco was away, and she was running with a girl gang. Sophia, DeMarco’s mother, had a boyfriend, and Otis’ eyes were on Jasmine. The only good thing was that the ’hood was upgrading, and Devin had made a friend of the white lady next door.
Then Jasmine disappeared just before Sophia was arrested for attempted murder, and the school board refused to let DeMarco back in class because of his record — a record he wanted to erase and forget — but the ’hood had other ideas: A cross-town gang was hoping to settle a score, and the gang’s women were claiming that Jasmine owed them serious money.
Yep, it would be hard to resist trouble, but DeMarco was not going back to jail.
Looking for a young adult book that doesn’t include profanity, blood-and-guts, sappy romance or magic and is totally without vampires? Then you want “On the Come Up” because it lacks all of the above and is written just for teen boys.
Author Travis Hunter knows young men because he’s a father of one and a mentor for others. He knows how they talk, how they dress and how they roll, so this book is filled with dialogue and language that isn’t stiff or fakey. What’s best, though, about Hunter’s characters is that they’re basically decent kids who struggle to find a way out of their circumstances. They’re inspiring, responsible, and they’re the kind of people you’d want as friends.
While there’s no reason a teen girl can’t love this book, “On the Come Up” is definitely recommended for boys ages 14–18, as well as adults who want a genuinely decent novel to read. If that’s you, then grab this book and take a break.
Many African Americans have heard the ditty: "If you're yellow, you mellow. If you're brown, hang around. If you're black, step back. If you're white, you're all right." In summary, that rhyme is about colorism, or the preference or prejudice showed to people of color depending on the lightness or darkness of their skin. Rooted in history, colorism exists worldwide and still causes prejudice based on skin tone. Processes like skin lightening in India, hair smoothing in Black America, eyelid reconstruction in China, and plastic surgery worldwide continue to rise in popularity for men and women facing discrimination from both within and outside of their own increasingly fluid ethnic groups.
In 1992, journalist Kathy Russell, along with academics Midge Wilson and Ronald Hall, took on the subject of intraracial color discrimination — a controversial subject for many African Americans. Their newly updated book, “The Color Complex: The Politics of Skin Color in a New Millennium” (Anchor Books, $16), measures the impact of recent pop culture events effecting race relations to determine whether colorism has gotten better or worse over time.
“We now turn to the United States to explore its history and the events that led to a significantly different societal structure based on skin color,” write the authors in the book’s intro. “In particular, we will examine how economic and social concerns resulted in the passage of certain laws that produced the seemingly intractable discrimination we still see to this day.”
The wealth of new information in “The Color Complex” is an exploration of how Western standards of beauty are influencing cultures across the globe and impacting personal, professional, romantic and familial relationships. It is a provocative continuation of the original task the authors set out to accomplish with the original edition: to raise awareness among Black and whites about the color complex as they continue to take steps to eradicate color prejudice in this culture.