Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison… a Review

Awesome read!

This book is a classic that I’ve known about for many years but am just getting around to reading. I’m glad I finally did. Ralph Ellison truly was a literary genius. So many metaphors that still ring true today (fortunately and unfortunately). In the search for identity and in striving for growth and progress, Black people in America have met conflict on every level of human existence. There is the inner turmoil of the individual to determine his or her path to living a good and productive life. There is the struggle of the neighborhood to determine the best way to project its identity and support life for its residents. Then there is the struggle of a people for the definition of who they should be; who they should become; and finally how they should get there.

Ellison artfully summarizes the modern reality of a people in the thoughts and daily experiences of a nameless young man who grapples with the state of his American existence as he strives for self-actualization.

I had the pleasure of reading the hard copy and consuming the audio version of “Invisible Man” narrated by Joe Morton. In a word, Morton’s performance is masterful. It is well worth the time.

I felt like this book was a creative vision into my own life. Though my own path has not been as wrought with that same outer conflict as that of Ellison’s invisible main character, I directly relate to his inner struggles for self identity. The challenges that a talented young man finds in defining his role within the Black community as he strives to improve himself in a society dominated by White people and their opinions (of the Black community) ring true.

As America is as racially polarized as its ever been in modern times, I believe books like this one can be a healing balm for the masses. It’s important that we move beyond the antiquated “color blind” approach to getting along. Color blindness implies that one only desires to see our similarities. That limits the potential of what we can be together as citizens and friends. We have to finally embrace the value of our differences as well as what we have in comon. In addition to seeing ourselves in the art we consume, we need to explore that which gives us real insight to the lives of people who are different from us. We need to actually know their struggles and acknowledge their contributions. “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison is a great start.

“Dear Life, Here I Am. Sincerely Andrea Lynn Samuels”… a Review

FULL DISCLOSURE… Andrea Lynn Samuels (Drea) is a friend of mine.  We go back to freshman year at South Carolina State University and remain in touch. Drea is a warm and engaging soul who is immediately on your side; as long as what you are doing is good for people. So it was no surprise to me when I learned that she was writing a book of poetry whereby she would share what’s likely her most trying experience. What’s more is she’s contributing a portion of the proceeds to benefit cancer research. Again, no surprise to me.

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Drea, me, and Lisa Walker. Atlanta, GA October 2013

On a personal note I can tell you that “Dear Life” came about much the same way that this blog has. It is a result of a “4.0 level” (meaning 40ish years old) individual finally pursuing and sharing a passion that was discovered fairly early in life; but for some reason was subordinate to other priorities… Until now.   For that I am ecstatically happy for my friend.

That said, my friends know me to be honest in (and happy to give) my opinions. I am usually tactful in my approach, but no matter what, they know I make my true thoughts known. I don’t sugar coat things with my friends… So know that I am sincere when I say “Dear Life” is open, warm, poignant, and beautiful. Drea gives the reader a real window into her life. We get to peek into her experiences in love, life lessons, relationships with friends, relationships with family, self discovery, and observations of the wonders of God’s works. Drea’s poetic voice lends emotion to the most mundane observations.  In ‘Welcome Home’ she observes an argument between strangers on 126th St during a visit to her native Harlem. It seems that loud words on a NY City street would be a pretty ordinary occurrence… but put her words to it and it becomes a bout with empathy for a complete stranger.  ‘Reassured’, an ‘Evening Stroll’, and ‘Masterpiece’ relate the potency of love and deep infatuation. All at the same time Drea goes on to relate the profound admiration that a daughter has for a father who has shared with her the gift of his own creativity in ‘Riverside Drive’.  This is just a taste. Trust me when I tell you that there is so much more.

Such a dynamic voice given to the extraordinary, the mundane, the pleasures and the vicissitudes of life comes, in this case, from a writer who has come to know triumph; despite profound loss and the struggles of her loved ones. In “Dear Life” Drea is real; and open; and honest about it all.  It’s inspiring. Drea has taken personal tragedy and made it a bridge to personal power. Oh… and she manages to help others out along the way.

After reading “Dear Life, Here I Am.”, I feel that I’ve gotten to know my friend and fellow Bulldog a site better and I’m better for it. I suggest you get to know her too.

You can get the book here.

Dear Life, Here I Am. Sincerely Andrea Lynn Samuels

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Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “Between The World and Me”… a Review

Will Beatty

These days the water fountain at the mall doubles as a mini water park offering a fun refreshing activity for kids who endure their parents’ shopping excursions. In the photo below you can see my son, Justice, and my nephew, Ethan, doing what kids do. The boys seem like bundles of sheer innocence and energy with all of the running, laughing and joyful screaming. Innocence… that’s the word. For boys like them innocence doesn’t last as long as it should. As a father and an uncle, I’ve had to infringe upon their innocence early in their lives by making them aware that some people will view them differently. For this reason we’ve been teaching them that they need to walk a certain way, talk a certain way, and behave a certain way.  Not because they’re special and we want them to stand out; but because they will be viewed as dangerous and expendable so we want others to feel safe enough to stand down. At some point, their lives will likely depend on it.  As far as I can tell this experience is unique to Black people in the United States.20150716_170041

In Between the World and Me Ta-Nehisi Coates artfully captures the angst that a Black father feels while delivering this survival training to our children; specifically our sons. We begin their lessons early and weave them into the very fabric of their lives from the time that they are toddlers. This instruction is peppered with our own experiences so, many of us struggle to balance the lessons. It’s an attempt to try not to transfer our own limitations to the boys. Coates’ approach is uncompromising at first yet he still achieves some balance. He clearly wants his son to be great; but most of all he wants him to live.  He eloquently and passionately articulates his message in the form of what could be characterized as a loving letter to his 15-year-old son.  I listened to the audio book which is narrated by Coates himself. It flows like poetry as he recalls the situations, people, and places that mark his life experience. Coates eloquently relates a conversation that all Black fathers should have with their sons. If you are already aware of this experience you will be validated. If you are not, then you will be changed. Everyone should read this book.

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You can get the book here.