Category Archives: Books, literature

Daddy’s mementos

Rima_1966_ovalIt was in the summer of 1995, as I was recuperating from major surgery, that I got the call from Cousin Abbie. In true diplomat fashion, dad always went through intermediaries. “O is in Paris,” said Abbie. “He wants to visit with you in three days.” I explained I’d just had major surgery and wasn’t yet up to driving or caring for a guest. Could he perhaps give me a bit more time? “Not to worry, the embassy will provide a driver. You are able to make his coffee?” Continue reading Daddy’s mementos

A quote from the introduction to James Baldwin’s Nobody Knows My Name

Few writers speak to me so directly as does James Baldwin. The way he asks the fundamental questions “who am I and why am I here,” is precisely how I’ve always asked them of myself. I can only hope to achieve the kind of courageous self-examination he did. Continue reading A quote from the introduction to James Baldwin’s Nobody Knows My Name

Take this Hammer: James Baldwin in Oakland, 1963

When people think of James Baldwin, they think of Go Tell It On The Mountain, The Fire Next Time, or Giovanni’s Room.

They might think of his articles for The New Yorker. They wouldn’t readily think of him as a documentarian. He was that too! Continue reading Take this Hammer: James Baldwin in Oakland, 1963

Maya Angelou: “Because if You Were Black You Never Felt Really Safe” | BillMoyers

The racial divide that exists in communities like Ferguson, Missouri, and the effect it has on the lived experience of white and black people, reminded us of a conversation from last week’s show in which poet Maya Angelou remembers how, as a little girl, she hated going to the white neighborhood in her hometown of Stamps, Arkansas, because she felt unsafe and unprotected there.

Continue reading Maya Angelou: “Because if You Were Black You Never Felt Really Safe” | BillMoyers

Book Review: Inferno: An Anatomy of American Punishment by Robert Ferguson

By Richard A. Posner, The New Republic

Inferno: An Anatomy of American Punishment by Robert A. Ferguson (Harvard)

Robert Ferguson is a distinguished professor of law at Columbia University, with a deep interest in literature and in American culture. (He has a Ph.D. in the history of American civilization.) He has written an eloquent and learned book about the American criminal justice system today, with emphasis on imprisonment. He argues that prison sentences are too long and that prison conditions are abominable. And that is just the beginning.

Statistics confirm that a much higher fraction of Americans are prison inmates than was the case historically or is the case now in other civilized countries. As Ferguson notes, the per capita imprisonment rate is seven times greater in the United States than in Europe. Our inmates also are inmates for a longer period, because American prison sentences are longer than they used to be and longer than the sentences meted out in those other countries, although it is misleading to say as Ferguson does that “the United States imprisons more people than any other country in the world.” The United States is the third-most populous country in the world, and many countries do not publish accurate prison statistics (does anyone know the size of China’s prison population?). Many countries are unable or unwilling to punish most criminals, and in some countries crime is dealt with largely by extra-legal killing of criminals. Continue reading Book Review: Inferno: An Anatomy of American Punishment by Robert Ferguson

#Poetry: Two poems by @CharlieBraxton – Shout Out UK

Charlie R. Braxton is a poet, playwright and essayists from McComb Mississippi. He is the author of two volumes of verse, Ascension from the Ashes (Blackwood Press 1991) and Cinder’s Rekindled (Jawara Press 2013). His poetry has been published in various literary publications such as African American Review, The Minnesota Review, The Black Nation, Specter Magazine, Sepia Poetry Review and The San Fernando Poetry Journal Continue reading #Poetry: Two poems by @CharlieBraxton – Shout Out UK

Short Stories: The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant

NecklaceI read this short story the summer I was twelve. Of the many books and short stories I read in my childhood, this one left a lifelong impression for the values and life-lessons I drew from it.

Decades later, Guy de Maupassant remains one of my favorite writers, and this story remains freshly imprinted in my memory.


Guy de MaupassantShe was one of those pretty and charming girls born, as though fate had blundered over her, into a family of artisans. She had no marriage portion, no expectations, no means of getting known, understood, loved, and wedded by a man of wealth and distinction; and she let herself be married off to a little clerk in the Ministry of Education. Her tastes were simple because she had never been able to afford any other, but she was as unhappy as though she had married beneath her; for women have no caste or class, their beauty, grace, and charm serving them for birth or family, their natural delicacy, their instinctive elegance, their nimbleness of wit, are their only mark of rank, and put the slum girl on a level with the highest lady in the land. Continue reading Short Stories: The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant

Not Just a Book: “Legacies, a Guide for Young Black Women in Planning Their Future”

Myrdith Leon Mccormack @BrandMeBookMe

This past month proved to be the most thought provoking for me in more ways than one.

My mother turned 77 and we laughed and joked about how time flies and how it is my turn now to experience the challenges of motherhood and the blessings and rewards that come with it.

My mother was born in Haiti to Haitian parents, and I had always thought our roots were only that of African and French people. But through our conversation, I found out that Spaniard blood runs through our family bloodline as well.

This new knowledge led me to do further researcher and to contact my dear friend Dolly Turner, who gifted me a piece of literature I will cherish and pass onto my children, Legacies, A Guide For Young Black Women Planning Their Future.

The stories in this book are designed to educate and motivate our children of all colors (and even adults) on black heritage, roots and the entire black race. The book is a combination of stories told by sixteen African Queens and almost forty successful black women.

Continue reading Not Just a Book: “Legacies, a Guide for Young Black Women in Planning Their Future”

The Lost Art of the Unsent Angry Letter –


WHENEVER Abraham Lincoln felt the urge to tell someone off, he would compose what he called a “hot letter.” He’d pile all of his anger into a note, “put it aside until his emotions cooled down,” Doris Kearns Goodwin once explained on NPR, “and then write: ‘Never sent. Never signed.’ ” Which meant that Gen. George G. Meade, for one, would never hear from his commander in chief that Lincoln blamed him for letting Robert E. Lee escape after Gettysburg.

Lincoln was hardly unique. Among public figures who need to think twice about their choice of words, the unsent angry letter has a venerable tradition. Its purpose is twofold. It serves as a type of emotional catharsis, a way to let it all out without the repercussions of true engagement. And it acts as a strategic catharsis, an exercise in saying what you really think, which Mark Twain (himself a notable non-sender of correspondence) believed provided “unallowable frankness & freedom.”

Continue reading The Lost Art of the Unsent Angry Letter –