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





What I’m Reading Now–Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

I’m reading Jodi Picoult’s book, Small Great Things.    Jodi describes how a person becomes a racist.  She also describes how diverse people feel from their treatment by racists and non-racists.   Although the book is 469 pages long (including author notes), it is an easy but intense read.

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:


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

Review of Purple Hibiscus–A book by author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


Ms. Adichie’s book, Purple Hibiscus, was painful for me because I feel for those who are abused in any way.   However, I found the look into Nigerian culture extremely enlightening.   This book centers on the use of religion to “civilize” a people, in this case a Nigerian people.   The important themes are love, sin, perfection, money/wealth, appearance, tribal ways/culture, poverty, purple hibiscus, and religion.


“Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs.”  (I Corinthians 13:4-5)

Love is not a word I use for inanimate objects, but toward human beings and even pets.    But, if 15-year-old Kambili’s father believed in love, he could not have treated his wife and children the way he did.   Nigerian culture allowed a husband to go out and get a younger wife since Kambili’s mother only produced two children for him.  But, why would a man pound his recently pregnant wife against a door in the children’s hearing 19 times until she was unconscious and miscarried?    This made no sense since the mother had been trying to have a third child for six years.


Should a priest have burned the hands of a young male ward (the father) with scalding water when he was caught masturbating?  Where were the forgiveness and the love?   Where was the priest’s punishment for not showing patience with his young ward?  The New Testament Bible says that “all have sinned and come short of the Glory of God” (Romans 3:23-24).  Either the Catholic religion in her book is based on Jesus Christ’s example of love or the Old Testament “eye for an eye”.   Which is it?


Who is perfect and who is the judge of perfection?   When 15-year-old Kambili didn’t make number one among the students in her class this year as she did the year before, she expected to be physically punished.    Her brother when younger had his pinky finger mangled by his father for the same sin.   But, her father, I believe, took it out this time on her mother, who was constantly being mentally and physically abused because she wasn’t perfect in her husband’s eyes.    Some might say that the father was frustrated and fearful about his publication being threatened or the coming overthrow of the government, but that was recent.   So, his wife was supposed to be grateful and just keep accepting the abusive situation so that she and her children would not put out on the street by a second wife.

Jesus Christ said to his disciples that “you will do even greater things than I have done” (John 14:12-14).   He didn’t suggest that they do worse things.   The father in the novel decided what made anyone he met perfect.   Even the children’s finger nails were cut to a chafing shortness.


The father had two businesses—a political newspaper and a factory that made consumable products like juice, wafers, etc.—which made him wealthy.   He had company cars and his personal cars.   So, he gave money away just to show how Christian he was.    He took care of the community of people at his vacation retreat every Christmas, gave money to groups of vendors without buying anything, to some beggars, and rescued his workers from political retribution.   What he refused to do was to help anyone who did not worship as a Catholic as he did.


Kambili’s father was dark like her paternal grandfather, but there’s where the resemblance ended economically, spiritually, etc.     Kambili had long hair but her cousin and aunt had close-cut hair.    Skin coloring, hair length and texture, body size and shape also made a difference in her culture just as it does in most cultures.

Tribal ways

Should the father have nearly kicked his daughter Kambili to death because she wanted to keep a home-made picture of her tribal paternal grandfather who she was only allowed to meet twice before her grandfather’s death?    Although Kambili’s father was raised tribally, he ran away to the Catholic Church as soon as he could as a child and hated tribal language that her grandfather spoke.   Kambili’s father spoke as if he were British at her school.

Generally, Catholic priests disdained Nigerian ways.   However, a young Nigerian priest was adept at combining Catholic beliefs like Jesus Christ’s love with his singing of tribal songs which Kambili’s father said was the young priest’s confusion.   Kambili wanted to leave with the young Nigerian priest when he was leaving to get his first post in another country, but she was too young for him and he left without her.

Those who still worshipped in the tribal ways were excluded from her father’s philanthropy, including his own paternal father and another elder who grew up with his father.    Kambili’s father regarded his wife’s father as if he “walked on water” because he looked nearly white and also worshipped as a Catholic before his death.


The local college where Kambili’s aunt worked was not kept up and the students rioted several times in protest which didn’t help much.   The community of people who were under Kambili’s father’s care were poor for the most part, and heavily depended on him for the gifts of charity he brought to those who worshipped as Catholic.   When he was elected as community leader, he demanded that all pagan undertones be removed from his title-taking ceremony.   Along the way to their vacation two weeks per year, there were half-naked mad men near the rubbish dumps, some of whom urinated at corners.

Purple Hibiscus

Beautiful red hibiscus plants grew everywhere including in Kambili’s garden outside of her father’s house.   However, one of her aunt’s college co-worker/friends created a hybrid purple hibiscus.   Her aunt gave her a cutting from the purple hibiscus to take home.   The hibiscus was considered a malaria cure.


Kambili and her family had to recite rosaries and other church traditions while at home and when traveling.   But, her cousins had freedom in their family to have an opinion, to watch television, to play outdoors, to not be number one at everything, etc., and they turned out to be mature, respectful and fun.

When Jesus left the earth by death for us sinners, he gave the remaining disciples the task of “doing even greater things in the world than I have done”.   I don’t believe He meant for them to do worse things than his example.  (John 14:12-14)

Other resources:


Written by Rosa L. Griffin











Woodlawn Page Turners Book Club

I recently joined the Woodlawn Page Turners’ Book Club at the Woodlawn branch of the Baltimore County library.    For the annual Maryland Humanities One Maryland One Book program, the book Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, was selected for the October 2017 state reading.   Because of that, a free copy of the book was hard to find.   I had to wait a few weeks for a copy to become available.   Although I haven’t finished reading the book, it was well worth the wait.    I’ve stopped watching television so I can finish the book.

I will participate in a discussion of the book at the Woodlawn branch on the third Thursday night, October 19, 2017 at 7 p.m.    If you’ve read the book, why not come and participate in the discussion?   All are welcome to participate.  There will be light refreshments.

Baltimore County Library Woodlawn; 1811 Woodlawn Drive; Woodlawn, MD  21207; 410-887-1336

Written by Rosa L. Griffin