Monday, August 19, 2013

The GQ Candidate + Government Girl

The GQ Candidate by Keli Goff, 2011
Atria Books/Simon & Schuster

Rating: 3/5

IQ "Well, there's not much left to say except that I'm really glad I wore my Manolos today, because if I'm going to insert my foot this far in my mouth I at least want to be wearing nice shoes", Mimi pg. 349
Luke Cooper started out as a state senator and was then recruited to run on the Michigan governor's ticket as lieutenant governor, they won but due to a sex scandal Luke became Michigan's first Black (and Jewish by adoption) governor and one of the youngest governor. His ratings are soaring and due to some remarkably good luck concerning acts of goodwill (such as defending a white nationalist from injury while a group of white nationalists were protesting his policies) that involved social media the rest of the country has a vague inkling of who he is. Some of his friends and mentors advise him to run for president and he throws his hat into the ring for the Democratic presidential nomination. With the help of a loyal, talented group of friends Luke feels confident with his decision to enter the race but it will affect those he loves far more than he could have ever imagined.

It felt like the author was sick of upper class/upper middle class Black people not being portrayed in fiction so she peppered her novel with them. I understand and appreciate her intention but the delivery left a lot to be desired. Luke's family was cheesy in its perfection, even its quarrels felt forced and ridiculous. Everyone had these great personal backgrounds from the oldest characters being Freedom Riders to the youngest being successful and powerful in their respective careers. Not all characters were perfect but it was hard to focus on their flaws when I could barely keep them straight. The narration plodded on and I think the author should have instead focused on Luke and his immediate family instead of Luke's family, friends and his friends of friends. The book was very long in order to accommodate all these characters and the gazillion plot lines (or so it seemed) which was frustrating when the book reached the end and a rather dramatic moment was rushed through. Furthermore the book ends with Luke making a crucial decision and although I can guess what he chooses, I think that since this book was all about politics (in a way) it should have ended with him actually making a political decision.

This book is about a presidential campaign but politics do not enter the equation which keeps it from being a polarizing read due to controversial issues. While Luke is a Democratic, a variety of political affiliations are mentioned but since the issues are not delved into its inconsequential. Instead the book focuses on how political campaigns are run, the people behind the scenes of the candidate, the media's relationship to a campaign and networking and fundraising. It was nice to read a book with such a dream cast, I just wish the author had either taken the presidential campaign storyline out of it (and instead focused on a group of highly educated Black friends post-college living life) or narrowed down the cast of characters. The book was a slow read but Luke and his friends are a highly entertaining bunch, try to ignore the lack of plot and while you will most likely get frustrated at the ending The GQ Candidate is still a good read.


PS Fact: I bought this book at my Borders as it was closing. So this book will always be associated with that, I even still have the receipt that says 'final sale'. Sadness

PPS: I know everyone else read this as Barack Obama-like but I actually related Luke Cooper more so to Cory Booker. Anyway just a thought


Government Girl: Young and Female in the White House by Stacy Parker Aab 2010
Ecco/HarperCollins

Rating: 2.5/5

IQ "If I have one wish for America, it is my hope that when our leaders stumble, as they will, when they hurt others and themselves, which is inevitable, that we will be as compassionate to them as we sense they would be with us if the faults were our own. Our leaders are not gods, and they are not our fathers. But they can be our best hope for peace among nations", pgs. 291-292

Stacy Parker Aab's memoir details the life of a young, biracial White House staffer. She was born (1974) and raised in Detroit and attended George Washington University where she became an intern at the White House, working in George Stephanopolous' office. Eventually she began working for Paul Begala as his special assistant.

My summary is brief because unlike the back of the book I'm not trying to claim that this memoir provides "a searing look at the dynamics between smart young women and the influential older men who often hold the keys to their dreams". It didn't reveal much about gender relations in the Clinton White House but it did provide a look at the daily atmosphere. However the stories shared are not that interesting, while I didn't want scandalous tidbits (indeed it took me awhile to recover from the story of Vernon Jordan sexually harassing her because I admire that man immensely) I did hope this memoir would provide some interesting anecdotes. Instead since Aab was never that high up this book is more of a day-by-day look at the work of young staffers, people who are important to the functioning of our government but who don't interact with that many people of name-recognition. I also thought that the author spent a lot of time bragging about herself, making sure we knew how loved she was in Stephanopoulous' and Begala's office. Furthermore she was determined to gloss over any issues that might have made her more interesting, instead she focused on portraying herself as the perfect staffer (there was about 2 sentences about drug use that held up her security clearance but she doesn't go into further detail). It just rubbed me the wrong way which I grant is a matter of personal taste. I also wish she had went into more detail about her life post-White House, especially meeting her husband, since she goes on and on about wanting a boyfriend but then rarely talks about her relationships (which she doesn't have to do but then why talk about how important having a boyfriend was to her?). Finally, the end part about the Obamas fit oddly into the book and seemed more like her way of sharing her thoughts about their presidency rather than connecting the dots to her time in the White House (except for mentioning that they hired some veteran Clinton staff).

I did find it fascinating to read about the inner-workings of the staff (for a time and then it got old) such as "RON"s (remain overnight), people who were in charge of paving the way for the president at whatever hotel or celebrity home he stayed at on his travel. Those are roles that we definitely don't think about and I was also appreciative at the glimpses of humanity displayed in the Secret Service men she talked about since they seem like daunting, mysterious figures (which is their job to do but still). Overall Government Girl left me disappointed because I had expected it to be more exciting, at the very least, I wish the protagonist had focused more on being genuine and less on presenting a perfect good girl image. It does a good job though of giving people an idea of daily life for the young men and women who are so helpful to the 'big names' and really keep our government running, I am grateful to them.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Girl Meets Boy

Girl Meets Boy: Because There Are Two Sides to Every Story; edited by Kelly Milner Halls, featuring stories by Chris Crutcher, Kelly Milner Halls, Jospeh Bruchac, Cynthia Leitich Smith, James Howe, Ellen Wittlinger, Rita Williams-Garcoa. Terry Trueman, Terry Davis, Rebecca Fjelland Davis, Sara Ryan & Randy Powell (ARC version) 2012
Chronicle Books

Rating: 2.5/5

IQ "I know this shouldn't be anything, shouldn't matter, but for some reason it does matter to me; Raffina is black, and I'm white. Of course, she's not really black any more than I'm really white. She's kind of dark brown, no, kind of medium brownish. I'm definitely sort of beige or something, light beige, tinted pink or red depending on how much time I spend in the sun (I don't tan, I just burn). Maybe a better way to put this is that Raffina's ancestors came from Africa, and my ancestors came from....I don't know....not Africa. Someplace like England or Germany or Canada or something." Sean + Raffina, Sean pg. 117 (Trueman)

Twelve authors, 6 stories, straight and gay relationships. One author tells the story from the guy's point of view, the other tells the story from the girl's point of view. I picked the quote I did because it made me laugh in its simplicity and truth.

 The back of the book describes this as a "collection of he said/she said stories" but I was disappointed in that regard. Instead these are stories about the differences between guys and girls ways of thinking but I was expecting each story to be about one situation/conflict told from the perspective of the guy and girl. Those sort of stories would have been more appealing in my opinion. The stories also did not seem to mesh well with the other half of the story, let alone the stories included in the overall collection and since they ended up not all being about romantic relationships I found it a bit confusing. I know short stories have to be short but these seemed to be too quick, the main character was developed but the other characters introduced sort of floundered. Furthermore found most of the characters to be rather forgettable and I was not particularly invested in the outcome of the so-called relationship. I also never thought I would say this but..the stories needed more romance. They just seemed bland.

 I did really enjoy the story 'Love or Something Like It' (its Chris Crutcher, who I love) and its complementary story, 'Some Things Never Change' (Halls) because they really took stereotypes and turned them on its head with the jock and the 'slut'. I felt Cynthia Leitich Smith and Joseph Bruchac did a good job of actually linking up their stories in  'Falling Down to see the Moon' (Bruchac) and 'Mooning Over Broken Stars' (Smith). And 'Launchpad to Neptune' (Sara Ryan & Randy Powell) is absolutely fascinating, it actually had a plot twist that I did not see coming and had well developed characters besides the main ones. There are points in each story that are relatable and while each story has one major issue and its all rather straightforward, they are stories that need to be told especially for those who need to get over their own prejudices. Books like these might help gently prod them to rethink their antipathy to dating someone outside their race, or to disapprove of those who are gay or lesbian or to judge people based on the number of people they may or may not have slept with.

Girl Meets Boy contains a collection of short and sweet stories from some of the best talents in the YA world and while I think these stories might have been more memorable if they were longer/a book of their own, better to have a little of the story than none at all. The stories can be heavy-handed at times and the supporting characters fell flat (and the cover's weird) but they are interesting. I also loved the last bit at the end where each of the authors (except Rita Williams Garcia, who I really wanted to hear from) shared their inspiration for their respective story. This book is a quick read that will pass the time but it most likely won't stay with you, read it at the beach or in a park.

Disclosure: This is embarrassing but I don't remember.....I think I got it from the publisher. Whoever it was, thank you!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Irises

Irises by Francisco X. Stork, 2012
Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic

Rating: 3/5

IQ "Mary smiled. She always smiled when people said living family. It meant that people didn't stop being family when they died; they just turned into your dead family" pg. 144

18 year old Kate wants to be a doctor, 16 year old Mary wants to be an artist. Both girls must put their dreams on hold when their strict father dies, leaving Kate as Mary's legal guardian since their mother is in a permanent vegetative state. Her father told Kate that family always comes first, even if that means Kate needs to hold off on Stanford. Further complicating the matter is that Simon, Kate's boyfriend, has asked her to marry him in order to provide for both her and Mary. Meanwhile Mary is drawn to Marcos, a boy with artistic talent but a violent past. The girls are struggling over the death of their father, accepting their different personalities but what may be the final wedge between them is the decision regarding their mother. They can no longer afford to pay the medical bills keeping her in her vegetative state but she is their mother....

 I love Francisco Stork's books. Long time readers of this blog know that, I adored Marcelo in the Real World and was quite fond of The Last Summer of the Death Warriors. Unfortunately I found Irises to be my last favorite Stork book thus far. Granted, this was bound to happen but the summary was so good that my hopes were quite high. All this being said, it was difficult for me to put my finger on why I did not like this book. It just didn't work for me. Part of the issue was that Stork raises juggles so many balls in the air, in a way that I did not find effective. I wish he had stuck to two or three issues (such as the issue of whether or not to pull the plug and how to cope with their new-found independence) and focused on really fleshing out the secondary characters (such as Simon and even Mary). I found the issue of life support inadequately explored, even though I had thought that was at the whole heart of the book. I did find it interesting that the girls (especially Mary since she was younger) did not go crazy or at least engage in more normal teenage acts that their father had previously forbidden. Of course most people don't immediately go party after the death of a parent, but I was surprised that very little mention was made about bigger temptations of Mary and Kate (such as going to the mall, an act their father did not allow).

 Both girls seem to be losing their way where their Christian faith is concerned and I felt that Mr. Stork did a good job of subtly addressing the questions that arise when one has a crisis of faith and whether or not you can return to your faith. I also found it really interesting that the author made the girls Protestant. This was a note of interest to me because the girls are Latino and I'm Latino, and I have grown up around mostly Catholic Latinos so I found this new world of Protestant Latinos quite intriguing (of course not all experiences are the same but the book gave me a basic idea). I thought the idea of marriage-as-an-escape was an issue well-explored, even if its a concept many people do not realize is prevalent. Kate was also a great multidimensional character as was the pastor, Andy Soto. I found their interweaving storyline to be the best in the book (it is mostly Kate's story) and very believable.

 Ultimately Irises left me indifferent, I certainly don't hate it but I did not love it or even enjoy the book all that much. However the writing is mostly strong, with a few secondary characters left underdeveloped. The book mostly suffers from having too many plots and setbacks occurring. Its strength lies in the simple, effective writing and the realistic dialogue. The issue of faith was portrayed in a respectful, non-preachy manner which made the book more compelling. What did everyone else think?

Disclosure: Mr. Stork kindly sent it to me (a whole year ago I'm ashamed to say). Thank you so very much!

Cover image from Francisco Stork's website

Friday, January 11, 2013

Chain Reaction

Chain Reaction by Simone Elkeles 2011 (Perfect Chemistry trilogy #3)
Walker & Company/Bloomsbury Publishing

Rating: 2/5

IQ "If I touch him, I could lose my nerve and let him explain away" Nikki, pg. 225

This is the final book in the Perfect Chemistryy trilogy and my review is spoiler-free (not just for this book but also for the previous 2 books in the series). Luis is the youngest of the 3 Fuentes brothers and unlike Alex and Carlos he has lived a relatively gang-free life. Until he moves back to Fairfield, Illinois the suburb rife with Latino Blood gang members who want him to join and be a leader like his brother Alex used to be. Nikki Cruz is the girl who has captivated Luis, mostly because she won't talk to him or allow him to get close to her. She's suspicious of his Latino Blood associations, she refuses to date LB gang members. Luis doesn't know if he wants to join the LB or no and Nikki doesn't know what will happen if she allows Luis to get close to her

 I picked the quote I did not because its majorly inspiring but because I think it captures a key moment in relationships, when you know that the person you're with messed up but that you will forgive them as soon as they 'say the right things' and touch you or hold you a certain way. When really that person needs to forget about 'the right words' and be honest.

 Anyway, I love this series and this is the book I was most looking forward to it but it doesn't compare to the first book. Or the second. Its my least favorite in the trilogy and there are a lot of elements about it that I really didn't like. I hated the ending. Not the epilogue, the LB violent ending (and no I didn't not like it because of the violence but because of who ended the violence). I also hated the family revelation. I thought it was a cheap way of shocking the reader and took away some of the appeal of the series. Granted the brothers handled it sweetly but still, it was a completely unnecessary family surprise. Also there wasn't much time spent with the beginning stages of Nikki & Luis' relationship. I totally understand lust-at-first-sight but it didn't stay that way and I wish the author had shown us how they grew to be so close.

 I did appreciate the fact that this book is so much different from its predecessors, in ways both good and bad. On the positive end, it was nice to see the girl portrayed realistically as always but also fairly un-Saintlike. The book did maintain its steamy, well-written romance scenes for teens, which are its strong suit. Along with the well-written characters ranging from Nikki & Luis to even minor characters such as Marco, Officer Cesar Reyes and the strong plot and setting of the story. Both Nikki & Luis are extremely headstrong and sometimes this stubbornness causes them to make foolish, prideful decisions. And then they have to deal with the fallout. It does all clean up tidily in the end, but its process and watching the characters try to pick themselves back up and make up for their poor decisions is rewarding and realistic and always refreshing to see.

Chain Reaction had almost all the right elements of being a good story but ultimately for me, two big plot twists ruined the rest of the book. While Chain Reaction bordered on the ridiculous at certain points, I was glad to read about the  youngest Fuentes brother and the people in his life, including the fiery-but-not-in-a-stereotypical-way Nikki. I loved that Nikki felt out of place amongst Mexicans even though she's Mexican American, she expressed feelings I definitely emphasized with and recognized. I would still highly recommend this series, the books are fun, hot, a great representation of teenage life (especially in Chicagoland suburbs) and there's never a dull moment.

Disclosure: Received from Lyn. Thank you so much!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Male Monday: What You Wish For

What You Wish For: Your favorite authors write to honor Darfur 2011
Edited by Stacey Barney, Foreword by Mia Farrow, stories & poems by Alexander McCall Smith, Meg Cabot, Jeanne DuPrau,  Cornelia Funke, Nikki Giovanni, John Green, Karen Hesse, Ann M. Martin, Marilyn Nelson, Naomi Shihab Nye, Joyce Carol Oates, Nate Powell, Sofia Quintero, R. L. Stine, Gary Soto, Francisco X. Stork, Cynthia Voight & Jane Yolen

Ratings: 3/5

IQ "Do you think wishes just happen?" she demanded. "Stars are busy. They can't sit around all day, making every single one of our wishes come true all by themselves. They need a little help from us. I know if I really want a pony, I need to be like you and go out and earn the money to buy one, like you did with your bike." Jenny to her brother, Dave pgs. 55-56

 This is an anthology of short stories about wishes, the proceeds go to the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR.

 I liked Jane Yolen's poem "Wishes" and the stories "Reasons" by John Green and "The Rules For Wishing" by Francisco Stork are the best. "Reasons" contains lists after lists and its about Micah, who happens to be in love with Aisha Hussain. Aisha lives in the disputed region of Kashmir, Micah's mother is sponsoring her through For the Children. Its a slightly amusing but really sweet story. There are also photographs throughout the book that may serve as an introduction to the lives of refugee children.

But none of these stories truly stuck with me, I read this anthology awhile ago sometime in the summer and remember few of the stories. I wish there had been a few stories about actual Darfur refugees and the people who work to assist the refugees. Most of the characters in the stories were two-dimensional and very plot-driven. Its perfectly fine for a book to be plot driven but only when the characters are strongly represented and I did not find that to be the case in all the stories.

 What You Wish For is worth buying because a few of the stories are excellent and the proceeds go to a worthy charity. Younger readers especially may enjoy these stories.

Another one of my favorite quotes comes from one of my favorites stories, "Reasons"
"I cannot be held responsible for the fact that Aisha Hussain has truly asserting eyes,, and it's important when sitting at my desk doing homework occasionally to be reminded that there are people for whom going to school is not an unbearable burden, but instead an exciting opportunity." Micah, pg. 115

Monday, November 19, 2012

ON HIATUS (INDEFINITELY) due to college

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Mini Reviews: This Side of the Sky, Passing Love & Paris Noire


This Side of the Sky by Elyse Singleton 2002     
Bluehen Books/Penguin

IQ "Old people used to say there comes a time when you remember fifty, sixty years ago as if it were last week, but damn if you can remember last week at all. They were right. Every generation thinks their time is the time and talks about the resent as if it's some stable territory they can occupy indefinitely. Yet when we say now, by the time we get to the w sound, the n is in the past."  Lilian, pg. 8

Lilian Mayfield and Myraleen Chadham grew up in Nadir, Mississippi and they've been friends since they were babies. Nadir soon grows too stifling for both of them, Lilian wants a great education which she can't receive in the segregated South and Myraleen wants an adventure. Circumstances soon arrive that make it prudent for them to leave town and they travel about from Philadelphia to joining the Army and serving in England and then settling down in post WWII Paris for awhile. They struggle financially, learn about love and suffer through some trying times and tough losses, but they always, always, have each other.

  This book took sooo long to get started. I was hoping the girls would run away soon but it felt like it took them forever to decide to leave Mississippi and even then it wasn't really of their own free will. I also felt that parts of the story were implausible and while I was happy that some things occured, other events happened that seemed too coincidental so overall I'm going to say the book could have been more realistic to life. Furthermore I would have liked to get the perspective of August or some other guy to balance out the trio of Lilian, Myraleen and Kellner (a German POW).

 I loved the character of Myraleen, she's a spitfire uttering statements like "once I hate a bastard, I hate him forever. I guess I'm just loyal that way" (pg. 68), who wouldn't love a character like that? I also really liked Lilian, her quiet strength spoke volumes louder than Myraleen's tough dialogue. They have a beautiful friendship from the very beginning and the core of the book, the best part-next to the characters of the cities they pass through-is their enduring friendship that goes through some bumps but always heals. I also loved Mudear, Lilian's mother. Tough as nails but super sweet as well and even though she didn't finish her high school education she's still whip-smart. It's funny, one exchange between Mudear and Lilian stands out for me because it holds truths that still apply today. "Mudear read aloud anything she saw about colored people. 'See there', she'd say. 'Negro Holds Up Store. That's why we can't get anywhere. We don't know how to act.;
'But, Mudear,' I said. 'plenty of white people stick up stores, rob banks. And you don't see a headline saying 'White Man Robs Bank'.
'Got a point. [...] See, that's why I sent you to school, so you could think. Not too many folks can think. A lot can only talk. Better if it was the other way around" (pg. 81).

 The historical details were intriguing as well, especially learning about German POWs. I didn't know German POWs were lent out to farms in America and I didn't know how bad the Russians treated them. This book provided a more humane look and reminds readers not all Germans were Nazi, something that should strike people as obvious and yet it still bears repeating.


  This Side of the Sky is not overpowered by the strong personalities of the places Myraleen and Lilian visit, instead the dominant aspect is the friendship of the girls. They have different dreams but they also want the best for each other and are willing to sacrifice themselves for the other to ge a chance at her dreams, at her own sense of happiness. An attitude like that can only end in good things. The historical details about the treatment of German POWs and the discrimination Black women faced in America and while serving their country in the UK (of course the discrimination was from our own Army, not the English people) during WWII are vividly portrayed. The book is very thourgh in all its description, no detail is too small to be touched upon and while I didn't appreciate that quality in the beginning of the book, my patience paid off.

PS Another favorite quote that lightly touches on Paris aging too "Paris is changing. Pavement replaced cobblestones after students used them to pelt police in the '60s riots. McDonald's arrived in the '70s. Right-wing machinations and Third World immigration have strained the racial climate. Yet the core city is much the same. It's a comfort to grow old in a place that's so much older ,where even the light posts appear to understand. It must be so hard to age in America. A city block can be unrecognizable from one decade to the next, because the cheap plaster and plastic keep getting replaced by new cheap plastic and plaster." pg. 323. Food for thought, I'm going to retire somewhere like the Paris she describes, it may even be Paris!




Passing Love by Jacqueline E. Luckett 2012
Grand Central Publishing/Hachette Book Group

IQ "But I will tell you this-adventure is only a word. Don't be so fixed on findng, live and in that the adventure will come." Ruby, pg. 296

Nicole-Marie Roxane Handy has a serious case of Francophilia but until the death of her dearest friend she hadn't had the courage to visit Paris on her own. The death of her beloved friend kicks her butt into gear and she heads to Paris, leaving behind her Alzheimers-ridden father, her mother who is now more of a caretaker than a wife, and the marriage proposal from a man who is married. While exploring Paris Nicole finds an old photo of her father, he never spoke about his time studying in Paris and he doesn't remember it anymore but the photo is inscribed to a beautiful young woman who is not Nicole's mother. Nicole grows determined to discover the identity of this young woman and her connection to Nicole's father.

   We learn that the young woman is Ruby and she alternates chapters with Nicole. Ruby lived in Paris in the 1950s and my-oh-my it was a glorious time. Jazz clubs were beginning to open and there was a solid community of Black Americans. Towards the end the book does drag a bit. But it's ok because I wasn't ready to leave Paris just yet anyway. It does start off slowly but again I was content to meander through Paris with Nicole, but I did get bored with all the Mississippi  parts (that's where Ruby was from. I feel like its always the same family issues with books set during the 1920s-40s about teenaged girls in small towns, they wanna go off and explore but their super-protective mothers stifle them until they runaway. Eh-yawn). Also while I loved Arnett, I didn't understand his relationship with Ruby. The author started off seeming like one way and then all of a sudden Ruby & Arnett were pledging eternal devotion to each other, it came out of the blue since I was convinced he was going to drop her any minute.

 I liked Ruby, I may be one of the few people who actually liked her. I didn't mind that she was selfish and at times downright unlikable, she had spirit and as Nicole observes "a flash of that young, willful woman who dared to change her destiny. Reality hadn't met Ruby's expectations; she took what she could and stayed with it" (pg. 286). I do not love Ruby due to her current lifestyle but I respect her attitude towards life and I admire her resilience, she was devoted to Paris and everything French. She learned the language and the mannerisms, she learned about the entire culture and that must have been very hard to do living on a shoestring budget and constantly having to work. Plus Ruby knew her flaws. She didn't try to change them but she didn't try to conceal them either, in her old age she is comfortable with who she is and she makes very few apologies. Ruby is quite a character and I would love to meet her. Her advice she gives that I included as my Incredible Quote is excellent and something that makes complete sense but I feel like many people don't know that little bit of wisdom. It's one of my favorite book quotes, hands down. Living life is an adventure, no need to go search one out (that's ok too but people shouldn't feel like failures if they haven't had some grand adventure as long as they still took risks). Nicole didn't have as much of a lasting impression on me as Ruby did but I didn't dislike Nicole. I found her a bit boring at first simply because I never understand why people are afraid to travel but I grew fond of her too. I thought it was a good choice for the author to make Nicole 56 and show that it's never too late to have romantic travel flings (or serious relationships ;) The details about Black people in Paris and life in Paris in general during the 1950s are exquisite.

  Passing Love features lovely romances with surprising twists and adds a fresh spin to the classic tale of discovering one's past. It becomes immediately clear that this is not the average coming-of-age-by-discovering-family-secrets story simply based on Nicole's age and the way she goes about her search. I loved the title, its deceptively simple. As the story develops so too does the title, taking on many different meanings. I firmly intend on buying this book as my own reminder to visit Paris, when I do I intend on visiting all the places mentioned, exploring Black Paris. A new favorite.


Paris Noire by Francine Thomas Howard 2009                       Amazon Encore

IQ "She lapsed into the patois that was Martinique because it allowed her to relax into herself. She could speak proper French if she took a mind to the task. It wasn't even difficult. After all, it was De Gaulle's French she spoke every time she left her apartment and strolled the winding streets of Montmarte. Even General LeClerc could speak no better French than she when she taught her sixth grade class. Not that those ruffians from Morocco, Senegal and Algiers would know the difference anyway. She sighed. Who was she to think such thoughts? Wasn't she born and bred in Martinique, herself?" Marie Therese pg. 2

It's the liberation of Paris! The year is 1944 and Marie-Therese Brillard and her children Collette and Christophe are swept up in its exciting aftermath. They each find romance but with very different people. Colette with a white Frenchman, Christophe with the married wife of a Free French fighter and Marie Therese with Monsieur Lieutenant, a Black American soldier. These romances will not all end in happily ever-after....

I chose that little paragraph as the Incredible Quote because its one of my favorite parts (obviously) because it provides some insight into the time period and Marie Therese's frame of mind without being direct. But it also illustrates a characteristic of this novel that I detested and that is "oversharing". The reader already knows based on the first sentence in that paragraph that Marie Therese has some connection to Martinique. There could have been a better way to make it clear that she was born and raised there then by having the speaker REMIND herself where she grew up. Something as simple as "Who was she to think such thoughts, she an immigrant herself?" And then obviously the reader would think 'huh since she speaks in the patois of MARTINIQUE than that's where she must be from'. Thus the awkward sentence that ends the paragraph in the IQ has been avoided. Sadly that happens a lot throughout this book, characters practically hurt themselves trying to show off their knowledge about WWII and the events occurring in their country. The problem is, they repeat things to other characters that they should have already known. I get extremely annoyed when authors use characters as history teachers, i.e. they spout off facts or ask dumb questions that HISTORICALLY they would have already known the answer to. Here's an example, "Collette. Maman. The sentries. The ones that always march by the boulangerie at least twice a night to make sure we're all inside the bakery and not sneaking out to help the Resistance. They...." (pg. 6). Why not just send at "The sentries"? Because Marie-Therese and Collette should already know what Christophe is talking about, the author should be able to find another way to explain what German sentries do in Paris than just carelessly insert it in Christophe's dialogue. 'Oversharing' (as I call it) like this happens throughout the duration of the book. Another issue I had with this book is Collette. I'm not sure why the author even included her. If you read the back cover. you would think the story is told in alternating points of view or that at least Collette gets some story time. Nope. She's simply a vehicle for the mother to wax on and on about the dangers of dating outside the race. BUT WE LEARN NOTHING ABOUT COLLETTE. This infuriated me because she was mentioned all the time but I finished this book unable to even tell you the name of her Frenchman. It would have been nice catch a glimpse of their romance. Especially since it was never clear to me if they would have faced prejudice, my guess is no but that's based on other books I've read about the French treatment of Black people (see above reviews) I wouldn't be able to back that guess up based on only reading this book.

 Even though the book did a terrible job of presenting historical information, I loved the scenes at Glovia Johnson's house. She's a beautiful, wealthy, glamours, seductive Black American woman living in France and she hosts salons at her homes, both Blacks and whites visit her legendary salons. They seemed like a lot of fun and Glovia Johnson was my favorite character because she was at least interesting. The rest of the characters were spineless, except for Marie-Therese who had some backbone but was drab. Glovia Johnson literally plays the field, as in she bed with German soldiers and influential French people depending on whose in power in order to keep up her luxe lifestyle. She has little shame but that's ok because she's very sweet and clever. I do not want to just complain about the IQ, I also chose it because it provides a glimpse at how people viewed Black immigrants which was a perspective I found fascinating since it is rarely discussed. Immigrants from the Caribbean looked down on Black Africans as did white French, but the white Frenchmen(and women) loved Black Americans. "Marie Therese struggled to hide her nervousness. Her French had to be correct even though this American spoke with the most atrocious accent. That is, when the chanteuse bothered to speak French at all. Still, she was one of them, and all Paris loved that accent coming out of the mouths of America's black emigres. If only it were so for the Africans and West Indians" (pg. 11), sentences such as those made me appreciate the book a little bit more.

 Paris Noire does a service to the world of historical fiction (and books as a whole) because it talks about a time period that most people are very familiar with but offers a perspective that has not been explored. The lives of Black people in France before, during and after WWI all the way to the 1950s has always intrigued me since they faced so little discrimination. But this book points out that French love for Black people only extended to Americans. The book was very disappointing but I had high hopes for this book and that was part of the problem. Perhaps if my hopes had not been so high I would have liked it better as fluffy-tragic romance novel. Instead I expected some intense, lightly romantic, in-depth historical fiction. The fact that the character of Collette was completely ignored bothered me immensely as did the tendency of the author to have her characters speak awkward dialogue simply to provide historical information. I wish it had been about Glovia Johnson instead. It was just ok.

Disclosure: Bought