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Get Your Read On
Published:
2/13/2014 1:02:41 PM

By Hakim Abdul-Ali


It’s that time of the year when the impact of Black History Month hits a relevant point of memorable consciousness for many aware soul brothers and sisters in this country.

Are you one of these dedicated individuals?

This time of reflection serves for a period of introspection where increased reading and philosophical thoughts gain an upper hand in making use of precious moments during this august and “our-storical” occasion. For many in the hinterland of self-pride and self-enhancement, it’s literally “the” time to “Get Your Read On.”

As a book reviewer and cultural critic for “The Chronicle,” many books, etc., are brought to my immediate attention at varying times of the year to examine and report on. Some of these items and topics hit the mark with me and others do not.

For today’s Black History Month article I thought that I’d offer a few first-rate comments about some of the items that have come across my review desk for your reading consideration and possible purchase. They are varied in terms of subject matter and topical interests, and they are thought provoking in their presentations.

I chosed them because they covered a range of controversial topics that I thought would challenge and stimulate your reading mind-sets and palates with intensity and renewed wonder. They are as follows:

• “Furious Cool” by David Henry and Joe Henry (Algonquin)

-This book about Richard Pryor by brothers screenwriter David and songwriter Joe Henry hit the bookstores last November 2013. In 297 pages, they attempt to break down their feelings about Mr. Pryor as a “kinship” relationship whether than a racial one. These Ohio born and bred brothers were fans of the iconic comic and cover issues with Mr. Pryor’s life ranginging from his rough childhood in Periora, Illinois, to his early attempt to imitate the somewhat friendly comedic delivery style of Bill Cosby. The book delves into Mr. Pryor’s sorted treatment of the women in his life and his explosive and brutally honest stage presentations to his sad decline. It’s a good piece to read if you really are interested in the brilliance and the tragedy of Richard Pryor’s talent.

• “The Wars of Reconstruction” by Douglas R. Edgerton (Bloomsbury Press)

-This illustrated 438 page book by Mr. Edgerton, a professor of history at Le Moyne College, is about his views on the Reconstruction Period. It’s a book for the academically and scholarly inclined as Mr. Edgerton looks at the real value of this era in terms of whether it was a mistake to look at it the way certain older historians viewed the period. He argues that the opinions of some past scholars of this era were a failure because he felt in many ways the era was one of progressiveness. I can’t say that I agree or share his views on many issues in this book, especially those about Denmark Vesey. It’s still a good read.

• “Respect Yourself” by Robert Gordon (Bloomsbury Press)

-This exploratory book about Stax Records and its vibrant affect upon the soul music scene is a well-written book about the musical giant that began in 1957. It describes all the now-famous folks from Rufus and Carla Thomas, Booker T. Jones of Booker T. and the MG’s to David Porter and Issac Hayes and others, who made Stax great. “Respect Yourself” details the difficulties that would eventually destroy the Memphis based musical giant from within. It’s a sweet soul music chart topping 463 page delightful read.

• “Duke” A Life of Duke Ellington by Terry Teachout (Gotham Books)

-I’m a fan of Duke Ellington no matter who writes anything about the great jazz composer and musician. I’ll make it short and simple, Mr. Teachout does a creditable job in documenting the heralded synthesis of jazz’ most stylistic musical pacesetter of all time. (I have to include Miles Davis in that category also, but in a different vein.) There will never be another Duke Ellington. “Duke,” the book, tells you about the many inner highs and lows and the deeper ups and downs in this legend’s life in becoming who he was and what he had to do to establish himself where he wanted to be and where he needed to go with his artistry.

A brilliant tactician, along with a genius musical aura, Duke Ellington again rises to the contemporary zenith of any modern day reader’s understanding with this cleverly written gem. This book’s an uncomplicated read, and it’s a must have for your collection. It has 483 pages.

• “Without Mercy” by David Beasley (St. Martin’s Press).

-This well-documented 276 pages true story of race, crime and culture in the deep South uncovers the 1938 execution of six African-Americans and the rise to power of Georgia’s Klu Klux Klan under the watch of then-Governor E. D. Rivers. This is a gripping read for anyone of consciousness especially people of color. Again, this is a must read. (Remember Trayvon Martin.)

• “A Different Point of View” by Horace Lee Mungin

-This is the latest poetic gem from one of South Carolina’s great African-American poets, who lived in New York City for decades. In the book, which is endorsed by the late celebrated poet Amiri Baraka, Mr. Mungin brings to life his vast experiences in this volume of his unearthed poetic masterpieces that were written over a forty-seven year period. Illustrated by talented artist Hampton R. Olfus, Jr., “A Different Point of View” speaks to the unspoken dimensions of every ebony soul’s yearning for expression about Black life and reality over an “our-storically” relevant period of time. You’ll love this book. It can be purchased at: www.Hmunginbooks.com or 843.437.7567

• “The Untold Story” by L. Dean Crosby (www.PublishAmerica.com)

-Originally from Oklahoma, but raised in Kansas and now living in the Lowcountry, L. Dean Crosby, a retired U. S. Navy veteran and a reporter and editor of a Navy newspaper, “The Bow Hook,” has written a long awaited novel about slave plantation life. It’s an investigative and searing book about life on the plantation and the intimacies involved in “just” being a slave. Mr. Crosby is a very vivid writer and his novel leaves one to really think what the war between the states really was all about.

In 275 pages, “The Untold Story” is more than a casual read but rather, I believe, a more candid look at the institution of slavery including a look at all of its not-so-hidden-sexual interracial overtones. It’s has a dramatic ending that will make you think about whether much has changed even to this very day. Reading this novel makes me think of the movie “12 Years A Slave” in glaring parallels. It’s an intriguing read.

So there! Go “Get Your Read On.” Remember that reading stimulates learning, and it increases positive interactions among thinkers and students of all ages and cultures.

Happy Black History Month For today and always, that’s, “As I See It.”

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