Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Five Modern Memoirs for Black History Month

February is Black History Month! To close out the month here are five of Books and Sensibility's favorite memoirs about African-Americans who are making history today.


I Can't Date Jesus by Michael Arceneaux


Pop culture writer Michael Arceneaux often writes about the intersections of being Black and gay in America. In this debut essay collection, he offers something new to the pop culture essayist genre and I’m sure there will be many more books from him in the future.


We're Going To Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union


The memoir is set up as a  collection of the life stories the Hollywood actress tells after too many glasses of wine. Union's narration is full of charm and authenticity as she dishes about all the celebrity stuff you want; her career, marriages and sex life but also focuses on broad issues like colorism in Hollywood, police brutality and her rape at gunpoint as a teenager.


Hunger by Roxane Gay


Novelist and essayist Roxane Gay details her life story through the lens of her body, which at 6’3 and over 500 pounds is considered super-obese or as Gay calls it an “unruly body”. Gay intersperses essays of her personal experiences with essays about The Biggest Loser, Ina Garten, and the obesity epidemic.

Around The Way Girl by Taraji P Henson



 Around The Way Girl is an inspiring and insightful look into the making of some of Henson’s most memorable moments. Beginning with Henson’s childhood in Southeast DC during the crack epidemic, Henson shows the kind of hustle and hard work it took for her to get her Hollywood dream.




Marley Dias Gets It Done: And So Can You! by Marley Dias



This is a fun instructive book by the girl who lead the #1000BlackGirlBooks hashtag. Marley created a movement and in her book, she encourages teens to start their own movements. A must-read for teen book bloggers and budding social activist.





Saturday, February 23, 2019

The Disasters by M.K. England


Rating: ★★★ | 8 hrs. 33 min. | Science-Fiction | Harper Audio | Release Date: 12/18/2018

Nasir “Nax” Hall dream of becoming a pilot and moving to one of Earth’s space colonies is quickly dashed when he washes out of flight school on the first day and is sent packing with three other failed students. But instead of going back to Earth, this unlikely group of strangers find themselves in the middle of a conspiracy and on a high flying journey around the galaxy to save the universe.

I don’t always think you should give a book extra points just for diversity but I’m honestly not sure a book like this would have existed pre-WNDB. It’s a space adventure story with teens of color across the LGBTQ spectrum that is not a struggle narrative. I think this book is perfect for those looking for that representation. England creates a set of characters who we meet are at their lowest points and shows them growing into more than their "failed student"label. On a character level, this book is really interesting.

However, on a plot level The Disasters didn’t work for me. The front cover blurb is from Mackenzi Lee so I was ready for that same fun epic adventure feeling of Gentlemen’s Guide but it never came. I couldn’t buy into in the storyline and I kept blanking out while listening to this and I think a lot has to do with the stakes. The stakes in this story are literally the entire universe and it felt too broad for me to really invest. I  also think the story would have benefited from having POVs from characters besides Nax to open the world up a little more.

The audiobook narrator, James Fouhey, is one of my favorite narrators but this was not my favorite performance of his. I don’t think he quite captured the rhythm of the dialogue and banter England was creating. Also...there is a British character and the accent work is not great.


Thursday, February 21, 2019

Bad Blood by John Carreyrou



I don’t always read nonfiction, but when I do it’s for the hot tea.

On the surface, Bad Blood is the sensational story of  Elizabeth Holmes, a young ambitious college-dropout turned  CEO who used her access to wealth, power, privilege and influence to cause the downfall of Theranos, a billion dollar company.

As someone who has worked in a lot of offices and seen tons of office politics gone awry, there is something fascinating about hearing someone else’s workplace gossip, drama and scandals; all while knowing those in power are eventually held accountable. I mean it’s maddening some of the things the employees of Theranos had to live with in silence.

Elizabeth Holmes’ rise and fall from grace wasn’t that surprising to me. She had access to a world of wealth and privilege and while I appreciate Carreyrou not outright saying it--- and this probably isn’t fair to say ---it's not surprising that a conventionally attractive young woman who is undoubtedly smart and ambitious could easily pull in influencers. 

I’m not convinced Elizabeth Holmes set out to be a scammer. I think she got herself in too deep and tried to hide from the truth. She surrounded herself with people who refused to believe that she was over-promising because that would mean they sunk millions of dollars into false promises. I mean she was rubbing elbows with former secretary of states, Ex-CIA agents, tech millionaires and people who would later become aides in the Trump Administration.

It’s interesting that Carreyrou was put on the story by a mid-sized pathology blogger-- because pathology blogging is a thing. John Carreyrou makes a point to presents himself in the story as an enterprising investigative reporter who participates in clandestine meetings, goes toe-to-toe with lawyers and his editor to bring the truth to the surface.

Will Damron narrates the audiobook and I’ve been sort of so-so on some of the YA he has done, but his voice works for non-fiction, he has a very instructive quality and he went all in on the few moments that required a slightly cinematic touch.

I think her story of blind ambition, wealth and ego goes hand-in-hand with Billy McFarland from Fyre Festival, her face even appears in Fyre Fraud. Like seriously she and McFarland should do a TED Talk or appear on Celebrity Big Brother together or something . . .  when they get out of prison. Holmes hasn’t been convicted yet, but…come on.







Just as I finished this book ABC News released their podcast about Elizabeth Holes called The Dropout, I mean the podcast is okay, but they just scratch the surface of the story. It is interesting to hear the tapes from her deposition and you get to hear Elizabeth’s trademark voice. Carreyrou is in the podcast and I kind of feel like he should have been the entry point into the podcast since he broke the story.

Also, there is an HBO documentary which has an interesting visual style that I think will be interesting.

Based on how much Holmes reputation meant to her I bet she is fuming about all this.

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