What I am reading now—Fifty Shades of Grey

Last week, I borrowed and read the book Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James.  This is her first book of three in the series.  This week, I’m reading Fifty Shades Darker, the second book in the series.   I already have the third book, Fifty Shades Freed.

I borrowed all 3 books from the library at the same time.   However, I paid to see all three movies (my control-freak side) on the big screen.  I needed closure to see how their sado-masochistic (S&M) adventure worked out.    I have to find the review I wrote of the first movie and I will be writing a review of the book trilogy as a whole.

I read someone’s comment before I saw the first movie that her books couldn’t possibly be bestsellers because they are so poorly written.  That commenter was a liar.   E. L. James’ books are well-written from pretty sex-novice character Anastasia Steele’s point of view in her turbulent affair with handsome rich young man, Christian Grey.

Another commenter asked why Christian Grey had to be rich.   Being poor is not something I want to fantasize about.  Fantasy is how we escape a condition we don’t want to be in.   Been there–lived that!

“Laters, baby!”

Written by Rosa L. Griffin

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m still writing a review of Jodi Picoult’s book, Small Great Things.   The review is coming soon.

 

Another comment was that

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Libraries are still FUN!

Since the first group of cave dwellers, there have been story tellers.  A great deal of human history was passed on by librarian-types, those who wanted to share survival tactics, knowledge, and history.

In recent years, some people have said that libraries are no longer necessary because we have technology at our fingertips with our “smart phones”—iPhone, Android, etc., with which we can do research, but nothing can take the place of the enthusiasm of a great librarian.

Years ago, I went into the library and never looked back.    My first job ever was a page (a job which entails shelving and retrieving library materials and even circulating materials) in my local branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in East Baltimore.   I shelved books and magazines daily and gladly while in high school.   I fell in love with reading.   With a book or magazine, my imagination was able to travel warp-speed to other people’s lives, investigate dangerous places and situations, and fantasize safely.

I worked in a library for the next 30 years from the time before Baltimore Junior College became Baltimore City Community College—from student worker to secretary to circulation technician.  I loaned books, magazines, rooms for meetings, and computers to our college population.   Even some community members were provided limited library services as well.

After that, I worked at the Johns Hopkins University Press as a Permissions/Office Assistant for a short time where I had the pleasure of handling and reading books and professional journals, as well as copyrighting the same.   I also got a chance to work with authors which was a thrill!

Now, I’m an author (see my website at https://nervikularose.com).   In the past year, I joined a book club, Woodlawn Page Turners, for which I have read a book a month.   We are reading Jodie Picoult’s book Small Great Things for June, but we will be off-site discussing it over great food.   I will be writing a review of that book for my blog (https://nervikularose.wordpress.com).

To this day, I am more likely to have a book or journal in my hands rather than using my phone or laptop to read a book.   I use an audio book only when the physical book is not available or when I’ll be doing a lot of driving.  It was great hearing Ta-Nehisi Coates, a former Woodlawn High School graduate, reading his own audio book, Between the World and Me, to me.   It would make a great book assignment for high school students as it was written to his teenage son.

And, let’s not forget the TNT television show, The Librarians, in which an ensemble of librarians live out the adventures we can only imagine.

Libraries today are staying in the thick of things, providing computers for typing papers and game play, conducting classes and workshops, having speakers, providing musical entertainment for all ages, etc.    Visit your local library especially if you’ve never been to one in your life and not just for the computer games!

Written by Rosa L. Griffin

Review of book, Had I Listened: The Things You Do Before You Know, by Hines Early

If you’ve lived in Baltimore, Maryland, from the 1950’s on, you will certainly be able to relate to Hines Early’s first non-fiction book, Had I Listened.  He vividly describes the hustles that were available to African-Americans to keep their heads above water back in the day.

Hines Early started out smart.  At the age of 9, he schooled his young mother about a colored television she bought on time, meaning $5 per week until it was paid for.  Hines figured out that the used television that she bought from a door-to-door salesman would end up costing three times what it was worth.  She sent it back and they eventually bought their own outright.

Hines had jobs like cleaning out A-rabbers’ horse stables that his grandmother used for manure in her plants.  A-rabbers were the entrepreneurs of their day, bringing fresh fruit, vegetables, and fresh fish daily to our doors via horse and wagon, a rare sight these days.  Hines has been everything from show promoter to clothing salesmen to mail business owner.  Can you imagine seeing Jackie Wilson, soul singer extraordinaire, live at the Royal Theater in Baltimore, Maryland?

Along the way, he had a few good advisors like his grandpa Steve.  But, Hines was no different than we are.  He chose the things he wanted to assimilate into his life from his advisors, but mostly went by his own instincts, making mistakes along the way, experimenting with various vices like gambling and drugs.

Hines can proudly say that he and his wife raised their own children and a few others with college aspirations.  He came out of it all, giving back to the community.  In his first book, he imparts the things he learned along the way, even after he knew.  You will laugh with him and cry with him. His story was more than “interesting enough to read about”.  His book was later produced as a play.

Publisher:  Graphic Imaging, Inc.  © Hines 2007.

Written by Rosa L. Griffin

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review of Book, Once Upon a Wedding, by A.N. Hopps

This book, Once Upon A Wedding, is an emotion-packed ride from beginning to end.   A.N. Hopps makes you laugh, cry and lust after her characters in her first novel.  But, the most burdensome emotion is the constant frustration of not being able to strangle Norma Jean.

The author’s voice is natural and plain-speaking, the way real people talk.  I like the way she doesn’t over-detail the descriptions of her characters, leaving us to use our own imaginations to envision them.  You can feel the pauses, embarrassments, tension, and need to murder.  I certainly used my imagination.

Everyone has known someone like Norma Jean, the “friend” who tries to control you and constantly puts you down.  Edith, the “side-kick” who bowed to the “queen’s” wishes most of her school years.  Although Edith eventually became her own woman, she was still haunted by Norma Jean’s influence over her.

I hated to put the book down between readings to carry on my daily commitments.  A.N. Hopps has written a true romance in every sense of the word.  And, the author has done it in such a way that anyone could put themselves into the story, whether as one of the male or female characters.  I plan on reading it again.

Publisher:  Xlibris Corporation.  © A.N. Hopps 2009.

Review written by Rosa L. Griffin

 

 

 

Review of Odessa Rose’s BOOK Water in a Broken Glass

Tonya Mimms, an up-and-coming young sculptor, meets Malcolm, the man of her dreams, after a series of bedding and discarding other young men to avoid her attraction to women that she discovered in high school.  Tonya and Malcolm begin a sexual relationship.

Then, blink!  Tonya’s head is turned just like that by a beautiful, sensual woman with some of the same attributes as Malcolm.  Malcolm and Satin’s voices, scents, and complexions assault Tonya upon meeting them. Each potential lover has their own business, is physically fit and attractive, owns their own home, drives a great car, and would be devoted to Tonya if Tonya would allow it.

Tonya is like a kid in a candy store whose been told that she can have whatever she wants.  She splits her affections between the two rather than switches them to Malcolm or Satin exclusively. Is it possible to be in love-at-first-sight with two different people, even two different genders, in the same month?  Who will Tonya choose?

What if you are the one who is so afraid to be different that you will verbally abuse or beat up anyone who threatens others’ perceptions of your “normalcy”?  There are also families involved in each relationship. “People don’t like it when you’re not who they need you to be.”  Ms. Rose’s novel explores the confusion of adolescence and sexual identity—a theme that is artfully interspersed throughout the book.

Ms. Rose has written a powerful novel rivaling James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room in the intensity of issues that it brings before the reader.  Like Baldwin’s David, Tonya is insensitive to the people that she is hurting while finding herself.  However, Tonya is also tortured by her own selfishness, unlike David.

I fell in love with Ms. Rose’s lyrical rhythm of writing and intelligence of expression.  Her book is one you won’t want to put down while reading and won’t want to end when you have finished it.

Written by Rosa L. Griffin

Published on Amazon 2/6/11

 

Review of book Same Kind of Different as Me, by Ron Hall, Denver Moore, with Lynn Vincent

This is the eye-opening true story of Ron Hall, a white Plantation owner’s son, and Denver Moore, a black present-day slave who are brought together by Ron’s wife.   Both sides were told in this story–each man has their own alternating chapters.

Denver was raised in Red Parrish, Louisiana.   His grandmother, who raised him, died in a fire when he was a little boy.   Denver was also dragged with a rope by 3 white boys when, as a teenager, he stopped to help a white woman change her tire.   She did nothing to stop the attack except to stand still and look pretty.

In the 1960’s, Denver was a Louisiana sharecropper who owned only one set of clothes—the ones on his back—and had been working unpaid for 20 years since he was a child.  All food, clothing, animals, equipment, seeds, etc. were bought on credit—enough to get you through a year–so a black sharecropper would owe the plantation owner for the rest of his life.

“That ain’t no bad life if the labor is for your own land,” Denver said.  He couldn’t read, had no radio, car, telephone, plumbing, nor electricity.   Sharecroppers lived in corrugated shacks with no windows.   Holes in the floors were covered with boards and tin can lids.  Women made their own dresses out of flour sacks.  Denver wasn’t even aware that there had been a World War II, the Korean War, or the Vietnam War.

Denver was not paid except for maybe a few coins and a lunch meat sandwich at the end of the day, but the white sharecroppers were paid and fed at the plantation owners’ table.   Denver received a few dollars maybe 5-6 times per year and two hogs.   With progress and inventions, plantation owners didn’t need as many workers, so they put some of the blacks off the lands they had been working all their lives.   He wasn’t told that he had the right to attend colored schools, learn a trade, join the army, own money, or respect.   Denver was in that class of people who were never given civil rights.   Denver finally got free of the system by hopping a train bound for California and lived by any means necessary.

Ron Hall was basically raised by his grandfather because his father was a drunk.   Ron was a white plantation owner’s son who went to college (where he met his wife) and worked in investment banking.  Then, he discovered art dealing which made him rich.   His wife, Debbie, feared missing the calling of God, so she convinced her husband to start going to missions to feed the homeless in Fort Worth, Texas—where they met and eventually became friends with Denver and many other homeless people.

If not for this book, I would never have known what a Louisiana sharecropper in recent decades went through.  It reminds me of the movie, Sounder, where black poverty abounded in a similar situation.

Same Kind of Different as Me: A Modern-Day Slave, an International Art Dealer, and the Unlikely Woman Who Bound Them Together, co-written by Ron Hall and Denver Moore, with Lynn Vincent, published by Thomas Nelson, 2006.  Was made into a film in 2017 by Michael Carney.

Other sources:

7/17/07 histclo.com/cwa/rcon/rec-share

Sharecropping—Slavery by Another Name—Bento—PBS

Written by Rosa Griffin

Review of book Yellow Crocus by Laila Ibrahim

Although it is fiction, Ms. Ibrahim has written a bittersweet slave narrative of the relationship between a black slave, Mattie, and the white child, Lisbeth, that she raised from birth.    It is a heart-rending story of people in dire circumstances who learn to survive.   The story could easily be true.

The story takes place a few years before the U.S. Civil War.    Mattie was a field slave who recently gave birth to her own baby, Samuel, but was forced to give Samuel’s breast milk to Lisbeth and give her son over for months at a time to Rebecca, a fellow field hand, who nursed Mattie’s baby, and her “grandfather” Poppy who carried the baby to Rebecca each day.   She only got to see her own son for a short time on Sunday afternoons and only got to see her “husband” Emmanuelle once per month when he came from another plantation.  Of course, Mattie is an unpaid, involuntary caregiver to Lisbeth.

Before being sent to the big house, Mattie slept on a palette on a dirt floor.   In the big house, Mattie slept on a small bed and wore a simple dress given to her by the housekeeper.   Mattie felt glass at a window and looked in a mirror for the first time in her life.  Slaves told time by the sun so Mattie couldn’t tell time by the clocks in the big house.  The yellow crocus is the first sign of spring and was one of the many signs by which slaves recognized the seasons.

The author digs more into the emotional and psychological consequences of this kind of “life”.    She only gives a hint of some of the horrors faced by slaves.   Mattie gets whipped by another plantation owner when her son who was sold to him and her husband run away to make a better life for Mattie and her new baby girl Jordan.  A black child touching a white child could get him killed.  Learning to read or teaching another black person to read could get a black person killed.

The author also gives a view of the white family’s plight.   They wanted to marry off their daughters to the most wealthy plantation owners that they could.  Lisbeth’s mother is one such daughter.    She is supposed to “sit still and look pretty”, have sex with her husband just enough to have children, put up with her husband’s need to have sex with young unwilling slave girls like Lisbeth’s maid, etc.

I enjoyed Ms. Ibrahim’s writing style which was warm and compassionate to all of her characters.   However, slavery will always be an uncomfortable subject.

Ibrahim, Laila, Yellow Crocus, Lake Union Publishing, 2014

Review written by Rosa L. Griffin

 

Review of book Behind Closed Doors by B. A. Paris

In the animal kingdom, a powerful predator sniffs, listens, observes, takes his/her stance, and pounces on the weakest animal in the herd.  So, it is with humans.  Predators watch for their opportunities to find the weakest among the human herd.

Grace is a woman who, out of love, has given half her life for the care of her younger sister, Millie, who has Downs Syndrome and will soon be graduating from her special school.  Grace’s parents wanted to institutionalize Millie, but Grace fought to work and provide solely for Millie’s education and other expenses.   Although Grace traveled out of the country for work, she still led a sheltered life because she allowed herself no social or love life other than to take care of her sister.  This denial of life made her a target.

People like Jack Angel can recognize a person who would be weak to his looks and money.  He watches Grace and Millie in public and decides they will be his next victims.   He does the dance isolating them from the rest of the herd and pounces.  Jack could tell that Grace craved physical contact and love, which he held out to her like a last meal.

Jack put tremendous pressure on Grace to marry him after 3 months.   But, what happens when you marry a predator?   The worst horror of all is when the person you love turns out to be a monster.   Especially when the monster comes wrapped in love, money, talent, and beauty—all the things you would want in a future spouse.  But, pull back the wrapping and you have Jack Angel, a predator.

It’s like watching an accident while driving, but you just can’t take your eyes away.  By page 80, I was nauseous because I could see and “hear” the clues and feel the tension when Grace couldn’t.   Nor did she follow her instincts when things weren’t right.  It was hard to put the book down, but I had to keep breaking away to save my own sanity.

B.A. Paris has written an exquisite horror story from which others would do well to read and learn.  I liked Ms. Paris’ writing style in the third person from Grace’s point of view.   I also liked the way she entitled each chapter either PAST or PRESENT so it was easy to keep up with flashbacks.  This was an intense read.

B.A. Paris, Behind Closed Doors, a novel, St. Martin’s Press, 2016

Written by Rosa L. Griffin

Review of Jenifer Lewis’ book The Mother of Black Hollywood: A Memoir

I always saw Jenifer Lewis as the strong, sexy black woman with the deep voice and the street smarts.   I never knew that she could sing and dance as well.  She has appeared in off-Broadway and Broadway stage, television, and movies.   Everyone has probably had a friend they would say is “so crazy”, but fun, until you’re around him or her long enough to see that something is not quite right about them.   Jenifer Lewis has shared her story identifying herself as that “friend”.  One who can turn you on or off in a heartbeat, lift you up or dismiss you.    But, you can’t put your finger on what’s wrong with that person.  They only half-realize themselves that something is wrong in their alone moments.

Through Jenifer’s fascinating show-business life, she hobnobbed with the famous and the infamous.   She fought causes like AIDS, civil rights, bipolar, etc.  She was in the front row when President Obama accepted the Democratic nomination.   She drops a lot of names in the book.  The question is:  Who does she not know?   Seems like she knew or has worked with everybody in the business.

As I read the book, I kept saying to myself as I’m sure people she knew also thought—when will she be satisfied with her accomplishments?  How far does she have to go to be content?   But, I found that no matter where and how much she was performing (throwing that leg up to the ceiling), she never felt that she had done enough to become a star.    When she was up during each performance, she had to come down with men and/or drink in order to get to sleep.  Jenifer found that she was addicted to sex and alcohol, and I would say also to performing.

Jenifer eventually found out that she was bipolar.    I have a friend who is bipolar, but my friend is opposite from Jenifer.   He is not outgoing and refuses to get involved with anyone.   He spends his time watching “reality relationship” TV shows (like Maury Povich and Jerry Springer) in which he says constantly that he will never date anyone because he doesn’t want to go through what those people went through.    I can see my friend in Jenifer otherwise.    Especially in his extreme mood swings— my friend is depressed about what he should be happy about and happy about little or nothing.

In the years dealing with the diagnosis, Jenifer was still up and down, but she had a goal to get well once she knew what the problem was.   I liked the book, especially in how she opened herself up to let you know the good and the bad that usually doesn’t come out until after the star has died.   Thank you, Ms. Lewis, for your honesty.

Jenifer Lewis, The Mother of Black Hollywood

Amistad, Imprint of  HarperCollinsPublishers, c 2017

Written by Rosa L. Griffin