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 Weekly Words about New Books in
Independent Bookstores

February 9, 2020

Two Elucidating and Inspiring Contributions to African-American Writings Now in Paperback
 
Barracoon: The Story of the Last "Black Cargo" by Zora Neale Hurston. Written in 1931 but never published until 2018, this is a startling true story of one of the last-known survivors of the Atlantic slave trade - abducted from Africa on the last "Black Cargo" ship to arrive in the United States. Hurston, best known for her classic book Their Eyes Were Watching God, was an anthropologist who also wrote folklore and essays. In 1927, she first met and interviewed 86-year-old Cudjo Lewis. Of the millions of men, women, and children transported from Africa to America as slaves, Cudjo was one of the few who remained to tell the story of this integral part of the nation's history.
  
In 1931, Hurston went to Plateau, Alabama, the African-centric community founded by Cudjo and other former slaves from his ship. Spending more than three months there, she talked in depth with Cudjo, coaxing out memories of his childhood in Africa; the attack by female warriors who slaughtered his townspeople; the horrors of being captured and held in the barracoons of Ouidah for selection by American traders; the harrowing ordeal of the Middle Passage aboard the Clotilda as "cargo" with more than one hundred other souls; the years he spent in slavery until the end of the Civil War; and finally his role in the founding of Africatown. Told in his own distinctive vernacular, Barracoon does not follow a conventional narrative flow, but the reward for sticking with it is an insightful look at slavery, race, and freedom.
 
 
The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations by Toni Morrison. This rich gathering of the late Morrison's most important essays and speeches spans four decades. Included is her prayer for the dead of 9/11, her Nobel lecture on the power of language, her searching meditation on Martin Luther King Jr., her heart-wrenching eulogy for James Baldwin, and much more. She also turns a critical eye to her own work (The Bluest Eye, Sula, Tar Baby, Jazz, Beloved, Paradise) and that of others. This can be rightly viewed as an essential collection from an essential writer and a treat for fans of her fiction that have not been exposed to her nonfiction.   
 
Jesse McCarthy underscored that point with his review in The Nation, when he wrote: "Although we focus, for good reason, on Morrison's novels, which will endure far into the future as great works of art, her essays opened up new worlds as well. As is seen from the range and depth of moral insight collected in her last book, The Source of Self-Regard, her essays bequeathed to us a mandate to see and speak clearly, in particular about the ways in which otherness persists in almost every facet of life - a responsibility we need to acknowledge more than ever in the present.
Seventies Music Scene  is Setting for Story of Fictional Rock Band 
 
Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid. The #1 pick by independent booksellers in March 2019, written as an oral history of a hard-living rock & roll band, is now in paperback. If you came of age in the 60s or 70s, or you just like the music of those times, there's plenty of fun to be had in reading this one. Here's the Indie Next bookseller review; it tells you all you need to know:
 
"Oh man, what a ride! I guess I'm the right demographic for this book: I love rock and I grew up in the '70s, so I wanted to like it...instead, I loved it! Yes, it's sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll, but it's also got wonderfully complex characters that I cared about even if I didn't like how they acted. It's a peek into the formation of a band, how the music is made, the struggles of addiction and clashing personalities, and, ultimately, love. The story is compiled of pieces of interviews with the band and those connected to them - a very effective technique that made the novel's pages turn even faster. Taylor Jenkins Reid's Daisy Jones & the Six is one of my favorite books of 2019 so far!"
   
- Serena Wyckoff, Copperfish Books,  
Punta Gorda, FL   
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WHY THE COLUMN?
Hi, I'm Hut Landon, and I work as a bookseller in an independent bookstore in BerkeIey, California.

My goal with this newsletter is to keep readers up to date about new books hitting the shelves, share what indie booksellers are recommending in their stores, and pass on occasional news about the book world.

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