PageTurners: In With the Old and In With the New

PageTurners: In With the Old and In With the New

Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick; Saving Savannah; The Conjure-Man Dies
Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick; Saving Savannah; The Conjure-Man Dies
Image: HarperCollins, Bloomsbury YA, HarperCollins

Today has been really emotional. My own moods swung from pure delight to pure anxiety as I woke up this morning and realized that #45 had left the White House as President for the last time—then pessimistically waited for something bad to happen during the Inauguration—but then tearing up the moment Vice-President Kamala Harris was sworn into cheesin’ so hard when Amanda Gorman read.

Suffice to say, the day is over, we made it through the last four years (barely), and now we can take a collective breath before we get back to work.

This past week some amazing new books have been released, but even more than that, there have been some reprints of books I hold dear to my heart. For instance, Octavia Butler’s Fledgling was the book that made me fall in love with Afrofuturism; what came after was a down-the-rabbit-hole experience of all of her work which was not only mind-blowing but life-changing.

Today has been a lot. The last year—hell, the last four years—have been a lot. But now we are in a new era, giving me just a little bit of hope that I’ll be able to relax enough to cross all of these books off of my TBR (“To Be Read”).

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Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick: Stories from the Harlem Renaissance – Zora Neale Hurston (Historical Fiction)

Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick: Stories from the Harlem Renaissance – Zora Neale Hurston (Historical Fiction)

Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick, Zora Neale Hurston
Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick, Zora Neale Hurston
Image: HarperCollins

In 1925, Zora Neale Hurston was the only Black student at Barnard College, living in New York City and desperately trying to grab hold of something that would propel her forward. Nearly a century later, Hurston is known for her poignant storytelling in novels such as Their Eyes Were Watching God, Dust Tracks on a Road, Mules and Men and more.

Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick is a collection of eight stories found from forgotten archives that explore racism, sexism, gender, class, migration and love from the perspective of Black folklore. Published as a hardcover last January, these stories are now brought together in a paperback volume, giving readers a new format for Hurston’s writing, humor and life as a Black woman during the Harlem Renaissance.

Paperback release, January 5, 2021, HarperCollins (Amistad)

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Kindred, Fledgling, Collected Stories – Octavia E. Butler, Gerry Canavan (Edited by), Nisi Shawl (Edited by) (Science Fiction)

Kindred, Fledgling, Collected Stories – Octavia E. Butler, Gerry Canavan (Edited by), Nisi Shawl (Edited by) (Science Fiction)

Kindred, Fledgling, Collected Stories, Octavia E. Butler, Gerry Canavan (Edited by), Nisi Shawl (Edited by)
Kindred, Fledgling, Collected Stories, Octavia E. Butler, Gerry Canavan (Edited by), Nisi Shawl (Edited by)
Image: Penguin Random House

Octavia Butler is widely regarded as one of the most prolific and prescient writers of science fiction. The late author’s work looks at the dangerous roles race and racism have played in shaping America through the lens of Afrofuturism. Butler’s novels are known to have complex female protagonists; it has been stated she wrote herself into the canon.

This collection of stories includes Kindred, Fledgling, eight short stories and five essays—two of which have never been printed. The collection opens with Kindred, a story of a woman living between two eras: the present and pre-Civil War past where she is enslaved on a plantation and must fight to preserve the life of a white ancestor in order to save her own. Following Kindred is Fledgling, a story of a woman who wakes and discovers she has become a vampire capable of walking in the sunlight due to her brown skin. In addition to the two books and collection of short writing, scholar Gerry Canavan includes a new chronology of Butler’s life and career, while editor and friend of Butler Nisi Shawl provides the introduction.

January 19, 2021, Penguin Random House

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Maafa – Harmony Holiday (Poetry)

Maafa – Harmony Holiday (Poetry)

Maafa, Harmony Holiday
Maafa, Harmony Holiday
Image: Fence Books

In Swahili, Maafa means “catastrophe or holocaust.” Maafa explores the erasure of trauma and Black feminity that existed within Harmony Holiday, author of Negro League Baseball, Go Find Your Father/ A Famous Blues and Hollywood Forever.

This book of poetry sets out to retell the story of Odysseus through the eyes of an untold Black female epic hero (who could be imagined as singer-songwriter Sade Adu, judging by the cover). Maafa loosely follows the traditional canon of the original story but pulls influence from ancient Egyptian folklore and other events from Holiday’s past, looks at how feminism exists in patriarchy and how both feminine and cultural consciousness can be worked through and reborn.

January 19, 2021, Fence Books

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Remote Control – Nnedi Okorafor (Science Fiction)

Remote Control – Nnedi Okorafor (Science Fiction)

Remote Control – Nnedi Okorafor (Science Fiction)
Remote Control – Nnedi Okorafor (Science Fiction)
Image: Macmillan Publishers

Set in an imagined version of a futuristic society in Africa, Remote Control follows Fatima, a young girl adopted by the Angel of Death, as she searches for the lost artifact that created her new identity. With the ability to throw a glance and destroy a whole town, she is feared by all who cross her path.

With this new identity came a new name, “Sankofa”, which held meaning only to her and was the last link tying her to her family and their past. Sankofa travels through communities alone, accompanied by her fox companion and Death, who will remain a new constant unless she is able to break free.


January 19, 2021, Macmillan Publishers

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Saving Savannah – Tonya Bolden (Young Adult)

Saving Savannah – Tonya Bolden (Young Adult)

Saving Savannah, Tonya Bolden
Saving Savannah, Tonya Bolden
Image: Bloomsbury YA

Savannah Riddle, daughter of an upper-class Black family in Washington D.C., had it easy. She attended the most rigorous public school in the country and had her choice in any young man she wanted. However, the life of Sunday teas, fancy parties and other societal obligations were beginning close in on her.

Savannah’s eyes are opened when she meets Lloyd, a West Indian man from the working class who introduces her to how the other half lives. Inspired by his teachings, Savannah begins attending socialist meetings and suffragist lectures, as she allows herself to be pulled into Lloyd’s world.

January 14, 2021, Bloomsbury YA

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The African Lookbook: A Visual History of 100 Years of African Women – Catherine E. McKinley, Jacqueline Woodson (Foreword by), Edwidge Danticat (Foreword by) (Nonfiction)

The African Lookbook: A Visual History of 100 Years of African Women – Catherine E. McKinley, Jacqueline Woodson (Foreword by), Edwidge Danticat (Foreword by) (Nonfiction)

The African Lookbook: A Visual History of 100 Years of African Women, Catherine E. McKinley, Jacqueline Woodson (Foreword by), Edwidge Danticat (Foreword by)
The African Lookbook: A Visual History of 100 Years of African Women, Catherine E. McKinley, Jacqueline Woodson (Foreword by), Edwidge Danticat (Foreword by)
Image: Bloomsbury Publishing

Former Fulbright Scholar and critically acclaimed author and curator Catherine E. McKinley presents The African Lookbook: A Visual History of 100 Years of African Women. Drawing on images from the 1870s through the 1970s, McKinley shows her extensive collection of historical and contemporary photos of African women that span over a 100-year arc, demonstrating their beauty and influence outside of purely anthropological displays of exotica or “poverty-porn.” The images show a different story of African women and how deeply cosmopolitan and modern they are with their style.

The African Lookbook captures the dignity, grandeur, austerity and liveliness of African women across the century through images curated from celebrated African masters, studios and anonymous artists. McKinley also highlights certain photographs by Europeans of nude African women, outlining the dynamics between the white male gaze and Black women. Additionally, the book features an introduction by Edwidge Danticat and a foreword by Jacqueline Woodson.


January 19, 2021, Bloomsbury Publishing

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The Conjure-Man Dies – Rudolph Fisher, Stanley Ellin (Crime)

The Conjure-Man Dies – Rudolph Fisher, Stanley Ellin (Crime)

The Conjure-Man Dies, Rudolph Fisher, Stanley Ellin
The Conjure-Man Dies, Rudolph Fisher, Stanley Ellin
Image: HarperCollins

When N’Gana Frimbo, the African conjure-man’s body is found in his consultation room, Perry Dart, one of the only Black detectives in Harlem is called upon to investigate. Across the street from N’Gana Frimbo’s practice is Dr. Archer, a physician who is determined to help Dart solve the mystery, all while they deal with others whose mission it is to help solve the case while sticking to their own agendas and keeping themselves off of the suspect list.

The Conjure-Man Dies was written before Fisher’s death in 1934. It is the first detective novel written by a Black man as well as the first to be set in 1930s New York featuring all Black characters.

Stanley Ellin, a New York crime writer, introduces the book and includes Fisher’s last published story, John Archer’s Nose, in which Perry Dart and Dr. Archer return in hopes of solving the case of a young man found dead in his own bed.

January 19, 2021, HarperCollins

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The Rib King: A Novel – Ladee Hubbard (Historical Fiction)

The Rib King: A Novel – Ladee Hubbard (Historical Fiction)

The Rib King, Ladee Hubbard
The Rib King, Ladee Hubbard
Image: HarperCollins

August Sitwell worked for the Barclays, a wealthy white family, for fifteen years, ever since they had taken him away from an orphan asylum and given him a job. As the groundskeeper, he was part of the all-Black staff at their home, along with “Miss Mamie” the cook, Jennie Williams the maid, and three young kitchen apprentices.

Despite all of their past fortune, the Barclays’ money is gone; because of this, Mr. Barclay falls quickly under the spell of a businessman who buys and sells Miss Mamie’s rib sauce under the brand name “The Rib King”—using a wide-mouthed, wildly smiling caricature of August on the label. August’s anger, unable to be contained as the racist and unjust actions play out in front of him, explodes as it expands far beyond rage.

The Rib King picks apart America’s fascination with Black iconography that redefines African American stereotypes in literature.

January 19, 2021, HarperCollins

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The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives – Lola Shoneyin (Fiction)

The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives – Lola Shoneyin (Fiction)

The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives, Lola Shoneyin
The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives, Lola Shoneyin
Image: Serpent’s Tail

Bolanle, a young Nigerian woman, marries into a polygamous family despite all of her mother’s protests. Baba Segi, the rich patriarch, has three other wives when Bolanle arrives, and they all treat her with suspicion due to the respect she is given by their husband. Unbeknownst to Bonlale, the other, older wives are hiding a great secret from her and those in the house.

The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives follows Baba Segi and his four wives in a story of family, happy and unhappy, truthful and deceitful and how love and secrecy fit into their lives.

An adaptation is also coming soon to Netflix.

January 19, 2021, Serpent’s Tail

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