Dads read too. Check out some gift ideas for the fathers in your life.
Here's a list of dad-related titles, either written by fathers, about fatherhood, or that speak to the importance of fathers in the lives of their children. They can be great gifts and worthy additions to your ever growing list of must-reads.
Brain Surgeon: A Doctor's Inspiring Encounters with Mortality and Miracles
By Keith Black, MD with Arnold Mann
Renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Black brings readers into his surgical world. He offers insight into his high-risk career and provides testimony to the determined spirit of his patients.
The Greatest Gift I Could Offer: Quotations from Barack Obama on Parenting and Family
Edited by Olivia M. Cloud
Although he didn't know his dad very well, the president and father of two offers thoughts and wisdom about the one job you can't train for: parenting.
God Gave Me Some Bad Advice
By Byron Harmon
The Army veteran turned television producer tells his story of growing up in Louisiana, following in his father's footsteps and joining the military, going to war, losing his father, rekindling his faith, and embarking on a successful journalism career.
Also check out:
-Melvin Van Peebles, father of actor Mario Van Peebles, talks about his upcoming graphic novel project.
-More reading suggestions from Books on the Root.
With Father's Day rapidly approaching, what are some other great reads to give the dads in your life?
Black public intellectuals are clashing. New book shows that Harlem radical Hubert Harrison had been there and done that.
Debates have been circling lately regarding black leadership and public intellectualism. Princeton professor Melissa Harris-Lacewell recently wrote a piece for CNN that slams Tavis Smiley's inadequate critiques of Obama's treatment of race. She also gets at Smiley's "soul patrol"-which includes Cornel West, Michael Eric Dyson, and Dick Gregory-for their roles in his documentary "Stand." She feels Smiley and friends appropriate Martin Luther King's legacy and "implicitly claim that they, not Obama, are the authentic representatives of the political interests of African-Americans."
Spelman professor William Jelani Cobb, chimed in on what he called the "Obama Wars" among intellectuals. He wrote on his blog, "Conflict produces progress. Or, more specifically, the competitive market of ideas forces everyone to step up their thought game."
All this talk aligns with a growing interest in Hubert Harrison, a figure not typically studied in school or talked about in contemporary discourse. A new biography, "Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918" (the first of two volumes) by Jeffrey B. Perry, a self-described "working class scholar," intends to rekindle the work, life, and politics of a forgotten thinker.
During the early twentieth century, the Caribbean-born Harrison was an outspoken, complex intellectual. He was a union organizer and former postal worker. He was also a prolific writer well-versed in international affairs. He didn't go to college, yet made learning a life-long journey.
A gifted orator, who was known to leave audiences spellbound, Harrison sought to get African Americans to cultivate race consciousness. Regularly, he found himself at odds with the perspectives of the black leaders of the time and would openly criticize them. Case in point, Harrison advocated education of the masses, versus Du Bois' Talented Tenth theory. He urged black leadership to "come down from the Sinais and give it [education] to the common people." Harrison's criticisms of the black church and what he considered "Negro conservatism" didn't add to his popularity.
These oppositions didn't undermine his personal commitment to fighting white supremacy and tackling race and class struggles. After being forced out of the Socialist Party--he was also anti-capitalism--Harrison helped to develop the New Negro Movement, an influencer to the Garvey movement, and he served as editor of the "New Negro" newspaper.
Equally compelling was his unabashed love for books and reading. He felt that people needed to "get the reading habit." His efforts to get people to "Read!" were reinforced by his work as an editor of a book review section in a black newspaper, a position he's considered to have been the first to hold. He also helped to revitalize what is now Harlem's Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. He was adamant that "Negroes must take to reading, study and development of intelligence as we have never done before." He thought learning should take place, "not only in school and in college, but in books and newspapers, in market-places, institutions, and movements."
Naturally, Harrison wasn't without his own issues, which Perry points out. Harrison's reliance on science and rationality to explain and possibly solve social problems during a time when the sciences asserted racist beliefs made him seen contradictory.
Also Perry notes, "His views on women and gender oppression were, at times, as Bill Fletcher, Jr. of the Black Radical Congress suggests, not up to the level of ‘his otherwise radical approach to life and politics.'"
But, with this current evaluation of black public intellectuals and leaders, Harrison's life, which ended in 1927, can offer unique insight. Where he would stand today among the ranks of black leadership and public intellectualism is unknown. Perhaps he wouldn't necessarily care about status, as long as the ideas and the people continued to grow?
By examining the mind, talent, varied interests, achievements, challenges, contradictions, and complexities of a voice that's been overshadowed, "Hubert Harrison" shines light on a notable figure in American history.
New book, "Renegade," talks about strains in the Obamas' marriage. So what?
Media is buzzing about the new book “Renegade: The Making of a President” by MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe. Here’s an excerpt from the book’s synopsis:
Renegade provides not only an account of Obama’s triumphs, but also examines his many personal and political trials. We see Obama wrestling with race and politics, as well as his former pastor Reverend Jeremiah Wright. We see him struggling with life as a presidential candidate, a campaign that falters for most of its first year, and his reaction to a surprise defeat in the New Hampshire primary. And we see him relying on his personal experience, as well as meticulous polling, to pass the presidential test in foreign and economic affairs.
That actually sounds pretty interesting, marketing copy aside. So why are some running with passages from the book that discuss the Obamas’ marital strains in failed attempts at uncovering drama?
Here are excerpts from an AP article on MSNBC:
Wolffe writes that Michelle Obama "hated the failed race for Congress in 2000, and their marriage was strained by the time their youngest daughter, Sasha, was born a year later."
When Obama ran for the Senate in 2004, his wife still had mixed feelings about her husband's love of politics, and played no part in the campaign, the book says.
But “Renegade” also states:
"We're going to be fine," the book quotes her as saying. "We just have to make sure the girls are fine. We're strong enough to take anything on and be OK at the end.
The First Lady has spoken, so what’s the issue? Maybe I’m just a little more realistic about the institution of marriage, because I thought many relationships suffer from ups and downs, rough patches, and good times. That’s natural, which makes the Obamas even more human. Even if the sweet pictures we saw of the two of them gazing into each other’s eyes were merely political and I don’t think they were, they were the most genuine-looking public displays of affection I’ve ever seen between a presidential candidate and his wife. That alone was a breath of fresh air. Now as President and First Lady, how can they not be together for the long haul?
There are other mentions of “Renegade” circulating. Huffington Post did run this. But there’s also been a lot of attention paid to an excerpt from the book that discusses a “secret” meeting between Obama and Reverend Jeremiah Wright during the campaign. The Root’s Dayo Olopade handled that one.
I haven’t read the book yet, which dropped this week, but I’m guessing there are much more worthy stories in “Renegade” that Wolffe captured during the campaign trail. After all, his former position at “Newsweek” gave him serious access and it was Obama’s idea that Wolffe write the book. Finding those types of gems in the media has proven difficult. No surprise here though.
The writer and filmmaker talks about his new graphic novel and film project, Confessions of a Ex-Doofus-Itchyfooted Mutha.
Known for works like his films "Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song," and "Watermelon Man," and his musical "Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death," Melvin Van Peebles is an artist who's unafraid to cross boundaries, disciplines, and traditions in his work. His forthcoming project is no exception. The seventy-six-year-old is gearing up for the release of a graphic novel called "Confessions of a Ex-Doofus-Itchyfooted Mutha" (illustrated by Caktuz Tree).
The story is an amusing coming-of-age tale about a young man who suffers from a bad case of wanderlust that's partly prompted by travel books, the blues, and the death of his father. The itchyfooted fourteen-year-old, depicted by Van Peebles, leaves his home with a stash from his "Saturday matinee triple-feature-show-fare-money" and along the way, as he grows into adulthood, he encounters mobsters, love, and Harlem. Replete with song lyrics, poetic verses, and catchy wordplay, in the end, the book carries a simple lesson: "F.Y.I....Making your own bed ain't a guarantee it's gonna be comfortable."
"Confessions" drops September 1, but Akashic, the publisher behind the project, is printing a limited run of 100 hardcover copies that will feature an original drawing by Van Peebles. Each copy will also be signed and numbered.
The novel also inspired a movie of the same name that stars Van Peebles, who, beard and all, plays the character as a youngster and grown man. Check for film screenings around the country in late August.
In an entertaining chat with Books on the Root, Van Peebles talked (he also sang some blues) about innovation, perseverance and the future of graphic novels.
Books on the Root: How did this project come about?
Melvin Van Peebles: It came about the old-fashion way, by living it. Years ago, when I was a kid, I worked with the merchant marine. I ran into a number of characters aboard the ship and I carried that memory all through these years. It was almost second nature to do a story about the guys on the ship. I was thinking of it as a novel, but when a new form of novel came out, the graphic novel, I said, "Wow, this is interesting." I began life as a painter, so this was right up my alley. One thing led to another and then someone said, "You know, this would be a great movie." I would love to say that I studied the situation and I decided to go in this direction, but really the idea fell on my head.
BOTR: The graphic novel format worked well with the story. It seemed like a freer medium.
MVP: I wanted to do things a little differently. So I added a flip to the graphic novel. I brought in stills from the film, shots that you don't get to see. I predict this will be the next step in the evolution of the graphic novel, where you'll have photos, illustrations and stills from a movie. If you look at a graphic novel for something like Batman, you get drawings, but you never see photos or stills from the film. Fortunately, because I do all these various things, they fit together in my head. I don't have to think twice about it; I just do it.
BOTR: Is that how you explain your ability to be an innovative artist, but just doing it?
MVP: I guess innovative is the word. I just sense it.
BOTR: How would you describe the film?
MVP: The film is me as usual. It got all these big time accolades and I think it's going to do very well. But with all my stuff, people ask, "What the hell is that?" They say, "Oh you're Broadway shows are great," but they forget that before the shows opened, people said that they would never work. When "Sweetback" came out, only two theaters would show it. With ["Confessions"], I got no partners. No one would come in with me. What else is new? I've been down that road before.
BOTR: Tell us about this "doofus" character.
MVP: Doofus says it all. But he's an ex-doofus. He learned and he wrote down what he learned.
BOTR: Are you the ex-doofus?
MVP: I'm a little too modest to have an "ex" in front of the doofus. That's a very kind thought though.
BOTR: You've dabbled in many different artistic mediums--
MVP: Whoa, slow your roll. I didn't dabble in shit. I make my living this way!
BOTR: You're right, wrong word choice. You've worked with so many different artistic mediums over you're extensive career. What advice do you have for aspiring novelists, filmmakers, or visual artists trying to break through?
MVP: It's not how many times you get knocked down that counts, it's how many times you get up.
NeNe Leakes has a book deal, Kanye's a nonreading author, Oprah apologizes to James Frey and Halle joins the cast of "For Colored Girls."
Who Deserves a Book Deal?
NeNe Leakes, one of the real housewives of Atlanta recently sold a book called "Never Make the Same Mistake Twice: Straight Talk on Love and Life from a Real Housewife." It'll publish in July and will be written with Denene Millner, who coauthored Steve Harvey's "Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man." I have many questions about this. First up: why a book? I've seen the show a total of two times and I know that Leakes is meant to bring the drama. I get it. But does that mean that she has "straight talk" fascinating enough to span an entire book? Then I started revisiting a question that I ask often: who really deserves a book deal? Overly dramatic reality stars? The real reality is that even if publishers are right that "celebrity" books help to bring in money so that they can publish, say gifted novelists, the truth is, when you have limited resources, some have to lose. The question that remains: who will those somebodies be?
Is Kanye For Real?
The internet has been buzzing with the news that Kanye West's fifty-two page book, "Thank You and You're Welcome," which was first introduced in 2007, will hit stores in July. But what's been more newsworthy or interesting or funny or absurd, depending on how you look at it, is his recent interview. In it, he proudly proclaims to be a non-reading author with bountiful pockets of wisdom that he calls Kanye-isms. He also says:
"Sometimes people write novels and they just be so wordy and so self-absorbed. I am not a fan of books. I would never want a book's autograph."
So self-absorbed? Ain't that the pot calling the kettle black? More importantly, since when did books started giving autographs? But hey, if you're bored at work, go ahead and read a few pages. Maybe you'll be inspired...not to read?
Why Do Publishers Drop So Much Money on Certain Books?
Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan recently sold his memoir. Apparently, the book will be a "personal biography of global statecraft." Not sure what that means. But my real question deals with the advance, which was reported to be around $750,000. I understand that he's Kofi Annan and that he just might sell enough copies to cover the hefty price tag, but in this economy, is this memoir worth such a big advance?
Should Oprah Have Apologized?
Remember the Oprah vs. James Frey debacle ? He was the guy who wrote the memoir "A Million Little Pieces." Oprah had him on the show, selected the book for her club and basically made him famous. Turns out he "fabricated" parts of his story. Oprah was hot. Denounced him. So now, according to "Time" magazine, Oprah personally called Frey and said, "I feel I owe you apology." She thought she overreacted. Did she? The better question: do I even care?
I am really excited about the fact that Ntozake Shange's famous choreopoem, "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf," is hitting the big screen. It’s hard not to be thrilled about this news especially with the added bonus that it will be directed by a black woman, Nzingha Stewart. But I'm also a tad nervous. When I wrote about looking forward to seeing the film adaptation of Sapphire's "Push," which is called "Precious," I was reminded that often, books-to-film suck. There are a few exceptions, which for some reason I cannot name right now. Couple that truth with the announcement that Halle Berry has signed onto the project and I'm feeling some kind of way. She'll be starring alongside Angela Bassett (yeah) and Jill Scott (good stuff). I know that Berry has the celebrity, but does she have the acting chops?