Category Archives: Reviews

M.G. Reviews: Kiini Ibura Salaam’s “When the World Wounds”– Breaking Open the Boundaries of Self


 

9780991336159-frontcoverWho we think we are is a fluid concept. We might have a stable image of ourselves but in reality we are constantly in flux as we come into contact and collide with others. And it’s not just other bodies but other possibilities of your self that disrupts who you are at this moment. The realization that we can be something else we don’t recognize or can’t control can be transcendent and can be frightening.

Kiini Ibura Salaam explores those ideas in her latest speculative short story collection, When the World Wounds, where the outside forces of the world can break open spaces that lead to the displacement and reconstructing of the body, of the self, of identity and place. Salaam’s main grounding tool in that exploration is that of the concept of desire. Through her sensual and erotic descriptive language, as a reader you are opened up as much as the characters in her stories to the point of an ecstatic experience.

Continue reading M.G. Reviews: Kiini Ibura Salaam’s “When the World Wounds”– Breaking Open the Boundaries of Self

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M.G. Reviews: Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad and The Traveling Theater of History


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Happy Black Speculative Fiction Month. This month I will post reviews and lists of black speculative works that I’ve read recently. By the way, please support my Go Fund Me as I raise money to get a new laptop and continue building my writing career. Here is my review of The Underground Railroad:

It is 2016 and although times have changed, sometimes it feels like deja vu when I see one after another incidents of state-sanctioned violence and injustice done towards black people. Sometimes I wonder if things are for certain changing or just changing costume and name, that time is just changing its face and the past and present are collapsing in on each other. Our concept of freedom shapeshifts as much as the injustice and violence; with every change in environment; it is another way we have to adapt and strategize on how to fight back.

Continue reading M.G. Reviews: Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad and The Traveling Theater of History

M.G. Reviews: “Yabo” and The Possibilities of Black Love


yabo_cover_lores_large1Happy Black Speculative Fiction Month. This month I will post reviews and lists of black speculative works that I’ve read recently. By the way, please support my Go Fund Me as I raise money to get a new laptop and continue building my writing career. Here is my review of Yabo:

A few months ago, I read Jacqueline Johnson’s poetry collection, A Woman’s Season, and one of my favorite poems from the book was “Revival at the Black Erotic Church” and two of the lines I cherish is “We welcome our imaginations/back into our souls.” Those lines are how I felt reading Alexis De Veaux’s book, Yabo. If the Black Erotic Church existed as an institution, this should be one of its religious texts.

Continue reading M.G. Reviews: “Yabo” and The Possibilities of Black Love

M.G. Recap: The Legacy of Octavia Butler


51svc6qifblAs a speculative fiction author, Octavia Butler broke new grounds in the genre, going beyond the patriarchal Eurocentric and white supremacist framework of a lot of early speculative fiction. In her novels, she explored underrepresented topics like the continuing impact of American slavery and racism on black bodies and minds and larger society, and the seeds of late capitalism leading to dystopia. She also gave us stories from the perspective of black people, specifically black women (herself being a black woman writer), something that was rare in these genres.

Last Sunday, I attended Brooklyn Book Festival and the panel, “The Legacy of Octavia Butler,” featuring author Ytasha Womack (Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-fi and Fantasy), author Daniel Jose Older (Shadowshaper), artist John Jennings (Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation) and author Ben Winters (Underground Airlines). Each panelist talked about the mega influence of Butler on their work and what was possible to write about and focus on in speculative fiction. Like me, all the panelists wished they found out about her work earlier because her work validated them and the truths of our histories and realities in ways other novels in the same genre did not. As Jennings expressed, Butler’s skill was destabilizing the stereotypes and categories that we place on ourselves and others; she was centered on exploring the liminal spaces and identities. Butler herself didn’t fit the stereotypes of a typical black woman — she was reclusive and reserved, and she was willing to go into and engage with spaces that others did not dare.

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“Space:Queens”: Timeless at The Black Spectrum Theatre


12243144_10153701781658695_4582097461109313103_nLast Friday, I was privileged with a ticket to attend Black Spectrum Theatre’s play Timeless: The Mystery of Dark Water, written by the theater’s founder, Carl Clay. This was my first time seeing a play at the theater in recent memory and if I had to sum up the play with four M’s, it would be Mind Research, Memories, Mystery and Murder!

For those who are not aware of it and its history, The Black Spectrum Theatre was founded in 1970 in Roy Wilkins Park in Jamaica, Queens, and its mission has been to bring African-American cultural expression and the American contemporary theater and film to the local community.

Clay’s Timeless follows a New York insurance employee, Kyle, who is under interrogation by police after his girlfriend, Mya, a psychotherapist, is found murdered. What comes after is a story that explores memory, past lives, reincarnation, and connections between people across time and space.

Inspired by his own life experiences in April 1994 and works like that of psychotherapist Brian L. Weiss, who does hypnosis and past life regression, Clay manages to explore this psycho-spiritual concept without any heavy-handedness and turning audiences off from engaging with it. Using the plot of a romance/murder mystery with a bit of humor, the play was down-to-earth and captivating with enough suspense and clever manipulation of lighting, film screen and sound effects to pull us in as audience into its web.

The character Kyle (played by the charming actor with a commanding presence Reginald L. Barnes) meets “by chance” Mya (played by Claudia Rodriguez, who provides an strong foil for Kyle, especially towards the end in the more emotional scenes) at the bar Josie’s. Through meeting Mya and undergoing her hypnosis/dream therapy sessions, Kyle discovers knowledge about himself beyond the daily life he lives currently. Those in his life from Mya to his best friend Mel to the detectives in the investigation to even the bartenders at the bar are all connected to his life in the present and in his distant pasts.

Over the course of the play, we see Kyle gathering fragments from previous lives, including being a soldier on a war submarine, a farmer who leaves his marriage to find aIMG_0422 new life in the city and other lives further back in time. Mya and him are brought closer as they find out that they have met before in another life and clues and events in their lives have crossed time and space. One in particular is an ex-husband who wants revenge for the cheating wife who leaves him, even if its means getting it in the next life. With a criminal mystery crossing through time, the detective work is much more complex and left us all guessing who the vengeful murderer was until the last moment because with reincarnation that person could be anyone.

The twist and turns of this murder mystery resembles well the twist and turns of the
mystery of life and past lives. The unresolved nature of the story and the unresolved, unending nature of life and the soul allows the story to possibly continue into the future (and I wouldn’t mind a sequel). It gives the play a Borges-like feel to it, much like in his short story collection Labyrinths, which includes stories, like “Death and the Compass;” both have themes of a deeper search for meaning in life, the metaphysical interconnection of all things and spaces through all time, and murder and detective work.

In Timeless, death becomes a revealer of life’s lessons and truth and that in this universe all live and stories are interwoven across time and space in a mystical round, a perpetual motion of creation. Like spiritual detectives, we are forced to lift the veil of separation between us and between the past, present and future to go deeper to new dimensions. It is as Mya says, a future exploration by journeying through the inner space to a higher consciousness.

Go see Timeless, showing for the next two weekends: Friday-Saturday 8pm and Sunday 4pm!

And here’s a treat from the small museum inside the theater – a poster from an earlier Carl Clay play!

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Modern Griots Recap: Poetic Fragments from the Afrofuturism Conference at The New School Part 2


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Several months ago I attended the Afrofuturism Conference at The New School. While due to my other work I didn’t get a chance to do a recap of the event right after, it had a profound effect on me. I took all the notes I had from it and wrote a series of poems inspired by the different panels and workshops I attended.

This is my holiday present for you! I posted Part 1 yesterday and I will leave the poems up for a few weeks. Then I will probably make a small e-book chapbook out of the poems for you to buy!

Enjoy! See you in the New Year!

 

Day Two

What is black love?

Continue reading Modern Griots Recap: Poetic Fragments from the Afrofuturism Conference at The New School Part 2

Modern Griots Reviews: Nichol Bradford’s The Sisterhood


“Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds…” – Marcus Garvey/Bob Marley

71maqobuaklEveryone wants to be free, but most people don’t know how to be free. Either we are physically enslaved and imprisoned, or we are mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and financially in bondage. The latter are mostly invisible chains; it is harder to be conscious of their existence and how to escape them. It is hard to be conscious of the ways in which we who have been oppressed internalize and repeat the oppression that has been placed upon us.

Inspired by the women she met in her life, like her late mother and other women leaders she met in the AKA, African-American MBA Association and business school, Nichol Bradford set out to write a mission-driven story that explores those very ideas. Through the genre of political action thriller, Bradford sets a world where black women are the main leaders and heroes, and are taking back their freedom. After a decade of writing and then publishing the book, The Sisterhood has inspired many women with the tools they need to go after their true purpose in life.

Instead of creating simply a self-help or motivational book, Bradford instead wrote a riveting novel of what can be called “applied fiction.” Because sometimes the best way to teach is through a story and Bradford shows it!

Continue reading Modern Griots Reviews: Nichol Bradford’s The Sisterhood