“Musical Echoes: South African Women Thinking in Jazz” (Refiguring American Music) (Duke University Press, paperback $24.95) tells the life story of the South African jazz vocalist Sathima Bea Benjamin.
Born in Cape Town in the 1930s, Benjamin came to know American jazz and popular music through the radio, movies, records and live stage and dance band performances. This fascinating biography is written in tandem with both the subject and South African musicologist Carol Ann Muller, a professor of music at the University of Pennsylvania.
Benjamin was especially moved by the voice of Billie Holiday. In 1962, she and (future husband) Dollar Brand/Abdullah Ibrahim left South Africa together for Europe, where they met and recorded with Duke Ellington. Benjamin and Ibrahim spent their lives on the move between Europe, the United States, and South Africa until 1977, when they left Africa for New York City and declared their support for the African National Congress. In New York, Benjamin established her own record company and recorded her music independently from Ibrahim.
“‘Musical Echoes’ not only introduces a very important vocalist, Sathima Bea Benjamin, to audiences who may not know of her,” said Billie Holiday biographer Farah Jasmine Griffin. “It also makes a great contribution to scholarship on jazz, world music, cultural theory and the African diaspora. It challenges us to reconsider and revise the nationalist narratives that characterize much writing on jazz, and it provides a new framework for discussing the production, circulation and transformation of musical cultures.”
“Musical Echoes” reflects 20 years of archival research and conversation between this extraordinary jazz singer and the professor. “The larger story told in this book of how American jazz traveled to South Africa in the 20th century and was imaginatively incorporated into the lives of many South Africans in the post-Second World War era,” writes Muller. “The story is told from the perspective of one woman, Sathima Bea Benjamin, and her musical peers — all men — inside South Africa, but also as she has traveled from South Africa to Europe, Brazil, Mozambique, Australia and the United States over the past 50 years. Sathima is a woman who felt called to jazz, a music claimed as America’s classical music, though she has never thought herself as American.”
Benjamin is the founder of Ekapa Records and a Grammy-nominated musician who has released a dozen recordings, including “Dedications,” “Cape Town Love” and “Musical Echoes.” In 2004, South Africa’s president, Thabo Mbeki, honored her with the Order of Ikhamanga Silver Award in recognition of her musical artistry and anti-apartheid activism.
“If you are a reader who has only ever thought of jazz as American music and of race as drawing no distinction between coloreds and Negroes, this is a story that will require you to rethink prior assumptions about the given-ness and certainly social categories and of 20th century music making,” said Muller. “This story fundamentally challenges the contours of ownership, categorization and place, indeed, of just what music scholars mean when we talk about American music, popular music or jazz as specifically American music. In this book we are proposing a sense of American music different from the more conventional, place-based familiarity of sound, style and community characteristic of the jazz canon, and indeed in much contemporary scholarship on allegedly American music. In this book, America’s music has traveled the world over. As it has traveled it has been translated into local music histories and scenes, giving rise to new musical communities and histories. Such travel suggests that the time is right for us to devise mechanisms for broadening the perspective beyond the United States in a more direct conversation with those inside its borders to constitute a worldwide comparative, and more equitable representations of jazz historiography. We hope this book will gently persuade readers to move into these new ways of thinking.”
Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot is enthralled by exits: long farewells, quick goodbyes, sudden endings, the ordinary and the extraordinary. There’s a relationship, she attests, between small goodbyes and our ability “to master and mark the larger farewells.” In “Exit: The Endings That Set Us Free” (Sarah Crichton Books, $26.00), her tenth book, she explores the ways we leave one thing and move on to the next; how we anticipate, define and reflect on our departures; our epiphanies that something is over and done with.
Lawrence-Lightfoot, a sociologist and a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, has interviewed more than a dozen women and men in states of major change, and she paints their portraits with sympathy and insight: a gay man who finds home and wholeness after coming out; a 16-year-old boy forced to leave Iran in the midst of the violent civil war; a Catholic priest who leaves the church he has always been devoted to, the life he has loved, and the work that has been deeply fulfilling; an anthropologist who carefully stages her departure from the “field” after four years of research and many more.
“Exit” explores the ideas of home and voice, freedom and yearning, wounds and grace — and the concept of developing the habit of small goodbyes and everyday transitions. Too often, Lawrence-Lightfoot believes, we exalt new beginnings at the expense of learning from our goodbyes. “Exit” finds wisdom and perspective in the possibility of moving on and marks the start of a new conversation, to help readers discover how to make exits with purpose and dignity. In this way, “Exit” moves the idea of endings from the shadows to the light, “witnessing the ways in which exits can become moments for listening, storytelling, imagining and creating choices that were unimaginable before.”
Poetry is an ideal artistic medium for expressing the fear, sorrow and triumph of revolutionary times. “Words of Protest, Words of Freedom: Poetry of the American Civil Rights Movement and Era (Duke University, $24.95)” is the first comprehensive collection of poems written during and in response to the American civil rights struggle of 1955–75. Edited by Jeffrey Lamar Coleman, “Words” features some of the most celebrated writers of the twentieth century — including Maya Angelou, Amiri Baraka, Gwendolyn Brooks, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Lowell and Derek Walcott — alongside lesser-known poets, activists and ordinary citizens, this anthology presents a varied and vibrant set of voices, highlighting the tremendous symbolic reach of the Civil Rights Movement within and beyond the United States. Coleman is an associate professor of English at St. Mary’s College of Maryland and is the author of “Spirits Distilled: Poems.”
“Searching for, and finding, pertinent poems from the movement years soon became a hobby I indulged in as often as possible,” explained Coleman. “This approach led to the discovery of a few poems initially and then to an American studies dissertation on the Civil Rights Movement poetry of Amiri Baraka, Gwendolyn Brooks, Michael S. Harper and Alice Walker at the University of New Mexico in the late 1990s. Curiosity and excitement of discovery propelled me to keep searching, until I found hundreds of poems that could easily be classified as poems from and and about the movement, enough poems to begin to think about placing them in a single volume.”
Some of the poems address crucial movement-related events — such as the integration of the Little Rock schools, the murders of Emmett Till and Medgar Evers, the emergence of the Black Panther party, and the race riots of the late 1960s — and key figures, including Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and John and Robert Kennedy. Other poems speak more broadly to the social and political climate of the times. Along with Coleman’s headnotes, the poems recall the heartbreaking and jubilant moments of a tumultuous era. Altogether, more than 150 poems by approximately 100 poets showcase the breadth of the genre of civil rights poetry.
“America’s ongoing civil rights movement reflects the triumphs and travails of struggles for citizenship, equality and social justice,” said Peniel E. Joseph, author of “Dark Days, Bright Nights: From Black Power to Barack Obama.” “Jeffrey Lamar Coleman’s insightful and illuminating work re-directs our gaze toward the power of poetry in transforming the nation’s post-war civil rights landscape. An essential book for students and scholars of the civil rights struggle.”
“Words of Protest, Words of Freedom: Poetry of the American Civil Rights Movement and Era” will be available in major bookstores and online during Black History Month in February 2012.
Lorna Goodison is one of the Caribbean’s most distinguished contemporary poets, yet one of writing’s least heralded. With the highly praised collection of short fiction “By Love Possessed: Stories” (Amistad, $14.99), the writer’s writer is waiting to be discovered. These tales demonstrate why she may be one of literature’s best kept secrets.
In the Pushcart Prize-winning title story, humble Dottie thinks her luck has turned when she meets Frenchie, the best-looking, if not most reliable, man in the whole of Jamaica.
In “The Helpweight,” an accomplished woman must bear the burden of an old flame’s renewed affections when he returns from a life abroad with his Irish bride in tow.
And in “Henry,” a young boy turned out of his house to make way for his mother’s lover sells roses on the street to survive. On a whim, he bites off a bloom, which he can feel burning inside his mouth like a red pepper light, hoping it will take root and beautify his own life.
Poetically rendered, these and over a dozen other evocative stories create a world in which pride can nourish a soul or be its ruin and where people are in turn uplifted and undone by love.
Goodison’s powerfully moving stories in explore the pain, the struggle, and the triumph of Jamaicans — particularly women — those still living on their Caribbean island and those who have emigrated elsewhere. Making dazzling use of the Creole patois of Jamaica, Goodison outlines the beauty and despair of the human condition and explores the unique power of love to both uplift and destroy.
The internationally recognized poet has published nearly a dozen books of poetry, two collections of short stories and the accalimed “From Harvey River: A Memoir of My Mother and Her Island.” In 1999, she received the Musgrave Gold Medal from Jamaica, and her work has been widely translated and anthologized in major collections of contemporary poetry. Born in Jamaica, Goodison now teaches at the University of Michigan and divides her time between Ann Arbor, Michigan and Toronto, Canada. “By Love Possessed” is a beautiful gift from an extraordinary writer.
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.
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.
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.
Most every woman has found herself with a closet full of too many clothes or surrounded by brand-new items that somehow never get worn. Instead she gets stuck wearing the same few familiar pieces from a wardrobe that just doesn’t feel right. In the new self-help guide, “You Are What You Wear: What Your Clothes Reveal About You” (Lifelong Books, $16), Dr. Jennifer Baumgartner argues that all those things are actually manifestations of deeper life issues.
What if you could understand your appearance as a representation of your inner, unresolved conflicts and then assemble a wardrobe to match the way you wish to be perceived? Baumgartner explains how our appearance — and specifically, our wardrobe — reflects our inner struggles, fears, desires and dreams. The book is divided into nine chapters and diagnoses nine distinct shopping complaints and wardrobe mistakes, including everything from “over shopping” and stagnant closets, to baring too much skin and failing to dress your age, to living in “mom jeans” and being a slave to labels.
Not only does Baumgartner give an analysis of the problem from a stylistic and psychological perspective, she offers a treatment plan and fashion remedies. Her psychological fixes run the gamut: from examining the message your clothing sends to others, to determining (and then accentuating) the attribute you love most about yourself, to learning the importance of deflecting would-be fashion critics.
In this fashion guide that is like no other, readers begin to recognize their own fashion ruts and errors — and make positive changes in all areas of life with a true inside-out makeover.
You don’t need to be a genius; you just need to be yourself — that’s the message from Austin Kleon, a young writer and artist who knows that creativity is everywhere and is for everyone. A manifesto for the digital age, “Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative” (Workman, $10.95), is a guide whose positive message, graphic look and illustrations, exercises and examples will put readers directly in touch with their artistic side.
When Kleon was asked to address college students in upstate New York, he shaped his speech around the 10 things he wished someone had told him when he was starting out. The talk went viral, and its author dug deeper into his own ideas to create “Steal Like an Artist,” the book.
“When it was clear that the talk should become a book, I took my own advice from point three — ‘write the book you want to read’ — and just tried to write a book that I could stick in a time machine and send back to a younger version of myself,” recalled Kleon.
The result is inspiring, hip, original, practical and entertaining. The book is filled with new truths about creativity: Nothing is original, so embrace influence, collect ideas, and remix and re-imagine, to discover your own path. Follow your interests wherever they take you. Stay smart, stay out of debt, and risk being boring — the
creative you will need to make room to be wild and daring in your imagination.
“The biggest response I get from people is something like relief — they thank me for assuring them that they don’t have to live this insane artistic life in order to be creative. They realize that the way we portray ‘the creative genius’ in our culture is a myth — you don’t have to starve for your passions, but rather, can live for them. You can take care of yourself, you can have a good day job, have a nice family and still do the kind of work you want to do. You just surround yourself with the right influences, work hard and play nice.”
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.