2020 WAS LIT

In the most difficult year in recent memory, our Black literati provided much-needed escapes in the form of the written word—from memoirs that made us feel seen to a best-selling romantic novel that reminds us love is never a wasted emotion. Here are our favorite books of 2020.

  1. Before his death in 2019, Elijah Cummings detailed how he became a man deeply committed to community in We’re Better Than This (Harper, $28.99).
  2. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson investigates America’s entrenched, race-based caste system in her deeply researched book, Caste (Random House, $32).
  3. Hugo Award recipient N.K. Jemisin kicks off a new fantasy trilogy with The City We Became (Orbit, $28), set in New York City as it braces to face an attack by an alien force.
  4. In James McBride’s latest work, Deacon King Kong (Riverhead, $28), an ornery old deacon ends up with a target on his back after he shoots a drug dealer.
  5. A woman on the verge of turning 68 is dealt a life-changing blow, and must lean on her sister circle to pull through, in Terry McMillan’s It’s Not All Downhill From Here (Ballantine, $28).
  6. After twin sisters run away from their Southern childhood home at 16, they assume two different racial identities in Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half (Riverhead , $27).
  7. For her sophomore effort, Transcendent Kingdom (Knopf, $27.95), Yaa Gyasi zeroes in on a neuroscience scholar who seeks to understand her family as she studies addiction and depression.
  8. What happens when you notice your Black neighbors disappearing and you don’t think the cause is gentrification? Find out in Alyssa Cole’s thriller When No One Is Watching (William Morrow, $16.99).
  9. Fresh off her Royal Holiday, Jasmine Guillory’s Party of Two (Berkley, $26) follows a Black lawyer about to start her own firm when she meets a handsome junior senator, who just so happens to be White.
  10. U.S. poet laureate Natasha Trethewey recounts the heartbreaking 1985 murder of her mother by her ex-husband in Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir (Ecco, $27.99).
  11. The Death of Vivek Oji (Riverhead, $27), by Akwaeke Emezi, explores the life and death of a young Nigerian man who secretly identified as a girl during childhood.
  12. Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick (Amistad, $25.99), a collection of writings (some previously unpublished) by Zora Neale Hurston, centers mostly on characters in her hometown of Eatonville, Florida.

The Untold Story of Supreme Style Mary Wilson, a founding member of the rock trio, is ready for her fashion close-up.

Sean Spicer, the former White House press secretary, is not the only contestant on the new season of “Dancing With the Stars” with a special kind of celebrity wattage.

Mary Wilson, a founding member of the Supremes, is also a competitor — at age 75. Viewers should get ready for liberal lashings of old-school dazzle and a sense of déjà vu. There is barely a black female pop act — Destiny’s Child, Janet Jackson, Janelle Monáe, Solange Knowles — (let alone a white one) that hasn’t taken a page from the Supremes look book.

“Millennials love our style,” Ms. Wilson said during a recent interview in London. For anyone wondering why this younger generation has joined older fans of the group’s look, a new book, “Supreme Glamour,” out just in time for the show, makes it all clear. The volume chronicles how the Supremes in their original incarnation (Diana Ross, Ms. Wilson and Florence Ballard) and in their later form as Diana Ross and the Supremes (or DRATS) became agents of cultural change in the 1960s, breaking the race ceiling by weaponizing fashion and defining the way many women — black women, white women — wanted to look. It has photographs of mannequins in 13 of their designs, plus dozens of concert snaps, promotional portraits and album and magazine covers. It is replete with seed pearls and mushroom pleats.

Before the Supremes, as Harold Kramer, the former curatorial director of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, notes in the book, no black act “had ever set out to utilize visual signifiers that made them palatable to a white audience.”

Ms. Wilson agreed. “Our glamour changed things,” she said. She was wearing all black — leggings and a stretch top with cold-shoulder cutouts — and one of her many wigs, a dead-straight chestnut number with full bangs. “We were role models,” she continued. “What we wore mattered.”

Her claim is that she and her partners knew exactly what they were doing from the beginning.

Ms. Wilson said that when she, Ms. Ross and Ms. Ballard were signed to Motown Records in 1961, they already had style. “They had a lot to work with,” she said. “As Maxime Powell, who ran the label’s famous finishing school, used to say: ‘You girls are diamonds in the rough. We are just here to polish you.’”

Ms. Wilson remembered that one of the earliest Supremes dresses, with a fitted bodice and stiff balloon skirt, “Diana and I sewed from Butterick patterns.”

When the Supremes broke in 1964, black singers like Lena Horne and Eartha Kitt performed in deliberately seductive evening dresses, but they were older, solo artists. Ms. Wilson and her colleagues were barely out of their teens and wielded the visual power of three, often in grown-up second-skin gowns freighted with beads and sequins.

DRATS maximized the look with increasingly baroque confections, some with improbable wings and trompe l’oeil jewelry, like paste crystals sewn into the neckline. Anyone who saw them live will recall the frisson produced by such young women in such sophisticated designs. Then, just when you thought you had them figured out, they turned up on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in 1969 in fantastical, swishing ponchos and pants seemingly made of dégradé tinsel.

For Whoopi Goldberg, writing in the foreword of Ms. Wilson’s book, the Supremes “were three of the most beautiful women I had ever seen. These were brown women as they had never, ever been seen before on national television.”

Ms. Goldberg said she was encouraged to think that “I too could be

well-spoken, tall, majestic, an emissary of black folks” who, like the Supremes, “came from the projects.”

Oprah Winfrey had similar memories, as recounted in “Diana Ross: A Biography” by J. Randy Taraborrelli. “You never saw anything like it in the 1960s — three women of color who were totally empowered, creative, imaginative,” she is quoted as saying. As a 10-year-old black girl “to see the Supremes and know that it was possible to be like them, that black people could do THAT …”

READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/18/style/mary-wilson-supreme-glamour.html?action=click&module=Features&pgtype=Homepage

Kevin Hart Tells All in New Memoir: 5 Bombshells About Sex, Drugs and Succeeding in Hollywood

There’s so much you don’t know about Kevin Hart. Sure, he’s a Hollywood star that can create a box office hit over night. And the funny man can also laugh your butt off thanks to his comedic chops and wicked timing. But in his new memoir titled I Can’t Make This Up: Life Lessons, the actor opens up about a variety of topics he doesn’t always talk about. As the book hits stores today, we decided to take a look inside the new memoir. From finding success and rejection in Hollywood to his childhood life, you may be surprised at Kevin’s candid confessions. Losing His Virginity: In the chapter titled “Life Lessons from School,” Kevin recounted the time he lost his virginity twice. “Her name was Angie. We didn’t go to the same school, but she lived in the neighborhood,” he wrote. “The first time, I couldn’t tell whether we did it or not. This time, I was certain we did it. So I double lost my virginity. I had to lose it twice, just to make sure.” Kevin later admitted that it took him awhile to comprehend that “even though I wasn’t tall or good-looking, women were still attracted to me.” Greatest Pilot Never Seen: At one point in his career, Judd Apatow wanted the actor to be in one of his pilots alongside the one and only Amy Poehler and Jason Segel. “At the time, the most famous actor doing the pilot was Judge Reinhold, who had starred in Beverly Hills Cop with Eddie Murphy. The rest of the cast I’d never heard of before – a funny little improve comic named Amy Poehler and a big, goofy twenty-one-year-old named Jason Segel,” he wrote. “Though they’re household names now, and they had more experience than I did back then, they were relatively unknown at the time.” Sadly, the pilot never got to air.

Illustrated Version Of ’12 Years A Slave’ Issued To Honor 160th Anniversary Of Northup’s Freedom


I’m sure everyone knows that the upcoming Steve McQueen film, Twelve Years A Slave, starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, is based on a book of the same name, co-written by Solomon Northup, detailing his 12 years in captivity.  I don’t think I’m spoiling the story by saying that Northup was eventually a free man again, which officially happened on January 4, 1853160 years ago, almost exactly. Today is the 12th of January, so we missed this by 8 days. But close enough. And to commemorate that glorious day in the man’s life, an illustrated version of the book (with illustrations by Randy DeCuir) has been released. It was actually released just 2 days ago, January 10, and you can pick up a copy on Amazon.com for $10.

The 232-page illustrated book is said to contain countless real photographs during Northup’s day, portraits and illustrations, all of which give readers a visualization of the names, places and events that Northup describes throughout his novel.  I’d like to think that McQueen and company are probably aware that this month marks the 160th anniversary of Northup’s freedom, so wouldn’t it be fitting if they released the first trailer for the film sometime soon – at least before the end of January?

To buy a copy of the illustrated version of Twelve Years A Slave, click HERE.

10 Best Music Books of 2012

121211-the-oneJames Brown’s life was as deep and mythic as his celebrated groove. In the magisterial, rollicking biography The One: The Life and Music of James Brown, former SPIN staff writer RJ Smith goes further than anyone ever has in getting to the formidable, often contradictory essence of the Godfather of Soul. Rich with novelistic detail and revealing reporting, the book also serves as a history-text-in-disguise, using Brown’s story as a prism through which to view race, politics, Southern identity, and the music business. Like the man himself, The One encompasses multitudes, and it is SPIN’s pick for Best Music Book of 2012. Read on for our conversation with Smith, as well as the rest of our choices for the year’s top music books.

Did you set out to assert or correct any specific notions about James Brown with The One?
I went in with a pretty clear knowledge that he intimidated lots of writers into either not going in certain directions or only telling part of what they saw, and I wanted to give a fuller picture and put in what Brown was good at keeping out. But I didn’t have a fleshed-out agenda of things I wanted to say.

Given that Brown was so strong-willed about controlling his image, was it hard to get those close to him to share information with you?
That was an ongoing thing. With his family, the problem is that it’s somewhat divided; different children and relatives are not all on the same page about what’s happening with the estate and who’s getting different amounts of money. More or less, there’s one spokesperson for the children, his daughter Deanna, and the rest of the kids defer to her. But Tomi Rae, his last wife, was definitely helpful and very talkative and a very important person for me to speak to. It’s funny: My assumption was that there would be racial issues, because he’s such an icon and a powerful embodiment of blackness. I thought that would be an issue approaching people who didn’t know me. But by far the biggest issue was the Southern thing, which wasn’t about being black or white. It was about going to Augusta, Georgia, or towns in South Carolina, and people who didn’t know me, white or black, not being inclined to speak. I had to go back a few times, and every time I’d go back to a town, people would be a little more likely to talk, and finally they’d sit down, and the third time we’d talk they really started saying interesting stuff. It was a “You’re not from around here” vibe that took time to overcome.

We think of Brown as this almost archetypal American figure. Were you surprised by how central his specifically Southern background was to his identity?
Here’s a guy who was born and died within a half-hour drive of the same spot. He lived a lot of his life within 45 minutes or an hour of the place he was born [in Barnwell, South Carolina]. So the region meant a huge amount to him, and I really had to go there and read a hell of a lot to even begin to understand what it meant to him and means to people there now. I had no idea of the tradition of a very particular kind of violence in South Carolina and Georgia that touched him and touched other people from that region — like Strom Thurmond. There’s a number of really amazing, interesting books and essays and crazy renegade accounts of eye-gougings and street-corner wrestling brawls and duels. Violence touched the lives of anybody who grew up in Brown’s area. CONTINUE READING ARTICLE

Sunday News Headlines 10.21.12

Rapid expansion of U.S.-trained Afghan security force comes at a cost
Soldiers, policemen far from ready to take over country, casting doubt on Pentagon’s focus on numbers.
( by Rajiv Chandrasekaran , The Washington Post)
Meningitis outbreak puts researchers in unexplored territory
New form of the disease is without precedent.
( by David Brown , The Washington Post)
More National: Breaking National News & Headlines – Washington Post

Problems thwart replacement of overpass in Md.
Crews had to halt plans to remove an old section of an overpass for the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.
( by Martin Weil , The Washington Post)
Land-use decisions haunt Alexandria City Council election
Development drives questions in Alexandria’s City Council race
( by Patricia Sullivan , The Washington Post)

Kaine, Allen hunt for votes
Senate candidates spent Saturday making in-person appeals.
( by Ben Pershing and Laura Vozzella , The Washington Post)
Opponents of Virginia power line plan say it zaps James River’s history
Utility wants to build transmission line, towers across river, navigated by the first Colonial settlers in 1607.
(, The Washington Post)
Students hope for ‘Dream’
Montgomery College already gives qualified undocumented students a break on tuition.
( by Nick Anderson , The Washington Post)
More Post Local: Washington, DC Area News, Traffic, Weather, Sports & More – The Washington Post

Land-use decisions haunt Alexandria City Council election
Development drives questions in Alexandria’s City Council race
( by Patricia Sullivan , The Washington Post)
Kaine, Allen hunt for votes
Senate candidates spent Saturday making in-person appeals.
( by Ben Pershing and Laura Vozzella , The Washington Post)
Obama and Romney hit final stretch
As a close presidential campaign reaches its last two weeks, candidates make final arguments.
( by Karen Tumulty , The Washington Post)
Maryland gambling issue has netted $56 million from companies for ads
The money is being shelled out at a rate of $6 million a week and exceeds what the candidates spent in Maryland’s last two gubernatorial races combined.
( by John Wagner , The Washington Post)
Obama outspent Romney in September
The president is pressing his financial advantage over his Republican challenger, spending more than twice as much money in September, according to new federal disclosure documents.
( by T.W. Farnam , The Washington Post)
More Post Politics: Breaking Politics News, Political Analysis & More – The Washington Post

Friend the one venting and shoot the messenger
A sister-in-law vents about her difficult life and a mutual friend betrays the confidence. Don’t dismiss the message just because the messenger botched the job.
(, The Washington Post)
More Style: Culture, Arts, Ideas & More – The Washington Post

TechBits: Paper
With easy social media sharing and a nifty “rewind” feature, Paper makes for a good free notebook app for iPad, though it could use more color.
(, The Washington Post)

TechBits: Pocket Planes
This oddly compelling mobile game aims to make you an airline tycoon one plane at a time.
(, The Washington Post)
Debt settlement rarely works
Only about one in 10 consumers participating in debt-settlement programs actually ends up debt-free in the promised period of time, according to a consumer alert.
(, The Washington Post)

U.S. jobs or more outsourcing?
This could be the question faced by one mortgage-servicing company.
( by Allan Sloan and Doris Burke Special to The Washington Post , The Washington Post)
BP’s pivotal, multi-billion-dollar moment
Oil giant must decide whether to sell stake in Russian oil venture and must settle with the Justice Department on the 2010 oil spill.
( by Steven Mufson , The Washington Post)
More Business News, Financial News, Business Headlines & Analysis – The Washington Post

TV and radio listings: Oct. 21
(, The Washington Post)
United clinches postseason berth
Lewis Neal scores in the closing moments as D.C. United secures its first playoff berth in five seasons in front of its largest home crowd of the season.
( by Steven Goff , The Washington Post)
Cavs lose sixth in a row, fall to Deacons
Chad Hedlund’s three field goals and Wake Forest’s improved defense help beat mistake-prone Virginia.
( by Hank Kurz Jr. , The Washington Post)
Midshipmen win third straight
Keenan Reynolds throws a four-yard touchdown pass to Matt Aiken with just over two minutes remaining as Navy rallies past visiting Indiana.
( by Gene Wang , The Washington Post)
E. Roosevelt rises up
Raiders Coach Tom Green changes up his personnel, and the result is a 39-0 win over previously unbeaten DuVal.
( by Steve Yanda , The Washington Post)
More Sports: Sports News, Scores, Analysis, Schedules & More – The Washington Post

Rapid expansion of U.S.-trained Afghan security force comes at a cost
Soldiers, policemen far from ready to take over country, casting doubt on Pentagon’s focus on numbers.
( by Rajiv Chandrasekaran , The Washington Post)
Lebanon’s government under pressure
Anti-Syrian opposition urges ouster of Hezbollah-led government after top official’s assassination.
( by Liz Sly , The Washington Post)

Golden Dawn rises in Greece
To fulfill its promise of a Greece for Greeks alone, the party appears willing to go to great lengths.
( by Anthony Faiola , The Washington Post)
In Japan, more fossil fuels, more greenhouse gas
With nuclear plants idled, Japan backs away from old emissions-cutting targets
( by Chico Harlan in TOKYO , The Washington Post)
Beirut killing raises fear of Syria effect
Maj. Gen. Wissam al-Hassan had been closely allied to Lebanon’s anti-Syrian factions.
( by Liz Sly and Ahmed Ramadan , The Washington Post)
More World: World News, International News, Foreign Reporting – The Washington Post

Investigating Jim Graham
A test for D.C.’s new ethics panel
(, The Washington Post)
Promises and Pell grants
The presidential candidates like federal tuition aid, but they won’t address a looming shortfall.
(, The Washington Post)
Mr. Romney’s leaky bucket
Capping deductions won’t raise enough to pay for his tax cut.
(, The Washington Post)
The path to cultural diversity
(, The Washington Post)
How Teddy won
(, The Washington Post)
More Opinions: Washington Post Opinion, Editorial, Op Ed, Politics Editorials – The Washington Post

Summer Reading List

The Big Fight: My Life In and Out of the Ring by Sugar Ray Leonard with Michael Arkush—For the first time, boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard gives an account of his life outside of the ring in this introspective biography. Leonard candidly shares his struggles with drug addiction, depression and rage as he fought his way to the top of the boxing world. Poignant and honest, it offers another interesting glimpse into the life of a legend.

The Maintenance Man II by Michael Baisden– Whoo boy, those of us who were swept away in the maelstrom that the Maintenance Man created have been patiently waiting for author turned radio host, Michael Baisden to release a follow up. This summer, he’s answered your request. After years of being out of the gigolo lifestyle, Malcom has to rebuild his list of contacts and clientele. But when he and one high-end client, Alex Nelson, the wife of a corrupt U.S. Senator are suspected of knowing too much about a billion-dollar business deal, Malcolm needs his military training and street smarts to get his life back. Shaft meets the Bourne Identity in this breezy beach read.

Disappearing Acts by Terry McMillan—A modern classic by one of the most distinctive voices of this generation, Terry McMillan’s make-up, break-up relationship novel Disappearing Act is one of her best, most definitive works to date. Focusing on Zora Banks and Franklin Swift and their love story, which is emotionally abusive at its worse and unconditionally loving at its best, the novel takes a peek into the real life dramas that surround and define relationships that are not always fairytale. You probably won’t be able to put this one down until you’re finished, so make sure you slather on the suntan lotion before heading to the beach for a “quick” read.

READ MORE: http://www.upscalemagazine.com/entertainment/books/item/177-summer-reading-list.html