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Book Reviews by Jackie

African American Heiress


Angela Demola-Marcano

Book Review #1



            This story is about a naive young woman who was raised in an upper- middle- class household in California, during the seventies. Her father was the owner of a bank that his father founded, named Hamilton Savings and Loan, and he continued the tradition. At the beginning of the story, the main character, Courtney Hamilton, turned eighteen years old and was given a lavish birthday party. She meets the love of her life, a waiter, named Richard Thurston, who is not good enough for her, according to her mother. They begin to secretly date, then openly, but Courtney’s mother, Danielle tries to end the relationship before college begins in the fall, but to no avail.

            To please her parents, Courtney majored in finance to follow in her father’s footsteps, but she was not interested in the topic. She was more interested in film making, and after serious thought changed her major. This book explores Courtney’s life from the age of eighteen through her twenty-ninth year.  It will educate the reader about California’s history and African Americans who got rich during the gold rush and much more!    It is a great read!

Publisher: Authorhouse.

Release date: April 21, 2015.

Genre: Romance/Contemporary.


The Parable of the Sower


Octavia E. Butler

Book Review #2



          This novel had me at the first page. The main character, Lauren Olamina, is a young adult at the age of fifteen, growing up after the apocalypse in the year 2024. She and her family are part of a walled community of families who are surviving regardless of the dystopian reality that they are living in America. Lauren is also afflicted with a disorder called Hyper-empathy which in laymen’s terms means that she shares another person’s pain and pleasure.  

          She fears that her community will someday be overridden by scavengers, drug addicts and thieves, so she is planning for her future by packing an emergency backpack of items she can use to survive beyond their walls. Her community has been attacked several times in the past and each time it gets worse. Transportation is in the form of bicycles and foot-traffic, since fuel is virtually non-existent. Due to inconsistent climate activity, it may not rain for years, so food is scarce due to the lack of natural irrigation, and water for drinking, cleansing and other basic needs is limited. Police protection is not available to all, but based on a fee. States are now free to cut off outsiders at their borders, so the citizens’ options are limited. Lauren has been writing her feelings, expressions and notes from books that she has read on survival in the form of what she titled, “Earthseed: The Books of the Living”.  Tragedy struck her community numerous times, and because of the final strike which left the neighborhood scrambling, she must test what she has learned from her family and the many books that she has read about survival beyond the walls.

                    The author, Octavia E. Butler, is the madam of science fiction. She has written numerous science fiction novels and have won several science fiction awards such as the Nebula and the Hugo awards.  I am not going to spoil this masterpiece for the reader. This is a must read for science fiction fans and readers who love a good drama.

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing.

Release Date: January 28, 2007.

Copyright Date: 1993.

Genre: Science Fiction/Dystopian.


Volunteer Slavery: My Authentic Negro Experience


Jill Nelson

Book Review #3



          The author and subject of this autobiography, Jill Nelson, who’s from New York, writes a candid and true account of her affluent childhood, and her relationships with her siblings and parents. She also described her family’s lifestyle which included private schools, a vacation home at Martha’s Vineyard and her upper middleclass parents. Her father was a successful dentist and her mother a successful businesswoman and librarian.

          The focus of this autobiography is about Ms. Nelson’s career as a journalist. She was a successful freelancer who wrote magazine articles for various publications. She did not profit from her talent working for herself, but she was happy. When she was recruited by Jay Lovinger, the editor of the new Washington Post’s Sunday magazine in 1986, to be one of the first black and female writers on the new Sunday magazine staff, she reluctantly took the job. Her salary increased about three times what she was making as a freelance writer, and she wanted to provide more financial stability in raising her then thirteen year- old daughter. She packed up and moved to Washington, D.C.

          The four years that she was employed at the Washington Post were described in detail throughout most of the two hundred- and forty-one-page novel. She thought that the job would be an opportunity to write articles about interesting subjects and topics, but she did not accomplish her goals because she felt that the white corporate climate at the Washington Post did not respect her as a journalist, but just as a token black to fulfill some quota and her story ideas that she was passionate about writing were usually denied. She became disheartened with her employment there and thought about quitting. A few other incidents occurred which led to a final decision about her future with the Washington Post.

          The author’s novel concentrates on a time during the eighties when big newspapers were profitable and employed a large staff, because today there are less big newspapers and more news sources visible online. There isn’t as much of a need for physical interaction and permission to pursue which ever angle a journalist chooses. A writer can write from home, email their articles to the editor and then after it is approved upload it onto the newspaper’s website. A writer can also blog about topics which interest them, this eliminates the impediment of an editor who denies one’s story ideas. If Ms. Nelson was starting her career in today’s journalistic environment, she would probably have written a blog.

           This novel is recommended for adults only, due to the author’s remarks about drugs, and sexual encounters. It is a great read, not to give any content away. We adults have all worked at jobs which tested our integrity, but it is up to each of us to either volunteer as a slave or emancipate ourselves.

          It takes a lot of courage to write an autobiography and expose oneself to criticism and scrutiny, but if someone feels that he or she has a story to tell, then one must tell it. It may help others or others who will relate to it and know that they are not alone.

Publisher:  Penguin Books.

Copyright Date: 1993.

Genre: Autobiography.




The Mis-Education of The Negro


Carter G. Woodson

Book Review #4



          The Mis-Education of The Negro,  written by Dr. Carter G. Woodson was first published in 1933. It is a compilation of philosophies that he expressed about the state of black America during the early twentieth century. Among his suggestions within the eighteen fascinating chapters including the Appendix were that black professionals should focus less on buying material things and more on meeting the needs of the community. He discusses the various professions in detail that black people dominated back then such as educators and ministers as well as entrepreneurs, doctors, dentists and lawyers. He stated in his novel that black people who enter these fields should possess a “calling” not just a desire for financial gain and that these professionals should be genuinely concerned about the masses. He also narrated the obstacles that some professionals encountered such as the law profession when laws or policies prevented black attorneys from sitting for the “Bar Exam”.  But, regardless of these barriers, lawyers who have sat and passed the “Bar Exam” in their states, must serve the community, instead of concerning themselves about working at a law firm that the masses could not afford.

          Dr. Woodson also debated the actions of black people who assisted white politicians in getting elected by settling for a few jobs set aside for black laborers and/or ministers who used their ministries to influence their congregations to vote for a specific candidate.

          The main concentration of his work was to propose the teaching of black history and how the knowledge of knowing one’s past helps black adults and children to navigate their future. Teaching black history allows black children and other children to learn about the past before and after slavery as well as the achievements of black people. He went on to say that the teaching of history was present back then in HBCUs, but about other races. He proposed that there should be a course available which teaches history about black people before and after slavery and their achievements. Learning only about other races doesn’t increase the self-esteem of black people, just the other races. He also advocated that black people should be taught skills which they can transfer to earning a living wage.

          In addition, he asserted that he encountered some blacks who possessed self-hatred due to the lack of knowledge about their greatness. The mis-educated are not only the uneducated blacks, but also the educated blacks, if they are not educated about their own history and achievements. He described the behavior of the mis-educated in this quote:

Woodson (1933/2000)

When you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions. You do not have to tell him not to stand here or go yonder. He will find his “proper place” and will stay in it. You do not need to send him to the back door. He will go without being told. In fact, if there is no back door, he will cut one for his special benefit. His education makes it necessary. (Back Cover)

          Dr. Carter G. Woodson earned a Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1912 and in 1926 he founded “Black History Week” which later was extended to a month.

This novel is timely, it's as if one is describing the atmosphere in the year, 2019.  This is a good read and it must be read like a textbook, not like a                        newspaper article. I highlighted text throughout.

Publisher: African American Images.

Copyright Date (s): 1933, 2000.

Genre: Education/Black Studies.














The Prisoner’s Wife, a memoir


Asha Bandele

Book Review #5



          This novel is about the author’s relationship with an inmate housed at the Eastern State Facility, which was located outside of Brooklyn where she resided.  She met Rashid during a poetry reading performance for a Black History Month program. Her former professor invited her to attend, along with other former students who enrolled in his class which was focused on African Americans and the criminal justice system.

          Throughout the novel she described her background, her former marriage and her former relationships with men she lived with in the past. These events may have led to her attachment to a convicted murderer. Her self-esteem may have been affected by past relationships with men. She also described the humiliation of each visit, the long van rides, physical searches, the conjugal visits, etc. The financial costs were also discussed such as the telephone bills, since Rashid had to call collect. She recounted conversations with other women who visited their loved ones.

          In the end, she asserted that this novel was about her marriage to an inmate and Muslim, named Rashid and that it was a love story. She depicted his love letters as their courtship which led to a prison wedding. {Yes, they got married in prison!] At the beginning, throughout the middle and at the end of this novel, it was about a love story between a woman and a man.

          How did I discover this novel? I was watching a television special, a few years ago, about women who marry inmates and the author was featured in the show. Her book was promoted, so I purchased it and read it. It was fascinating, sad, and scandalous. How many women would actively date and marry an inmate, knowing that he may never be released from prison? Why would an intelligent, educated woman, such as the author, be attracted to any inmate and invest time and money in a doomed relationship?

          I recommend this novel to adults only.  It’s a fascinating true account of the author’s relationship and marriage to an inmate; it is also a first- hand account through the eyes of the author, of a loved one’s experience as an eyewitness encountering the prison system.

Publisher: Scribner.

Copyright Date (s): 1999, 2004.

Genre: Romance/Prisoner’s Spouse/Autobiography.

















When I Was the Greatest


Jason Reynolds

Book Review #6



          This Young Adult Novel is a Coretta Scott – King award winning novel about a fifteen-year old African American male teen, named, Allen Brooks, but everyone calls him “Ali”.  Ali resides with his sister Jazz and his mother Doris in Bronx, New York. It traces his blooming friendship with a new neighbor, another teen named, Roland, but everyone calls him “Noodles”, who has moved into the apartment building next door. Roland also has a brother, named Ricky, but everyone calls him “Needles” who possesses a disability diagnosed as Tourette’s syndrome.

          Throughout the story, the main character, Ali, describes his various escapades with his best friend, Noodles, and how on several occasions he has had to bail him out of awkward situations. Finally, their friendship is tested after a violent encounter with strangers, in a strange place.

          This novel is narrated in first-person by the main character, Ali. His family’s situation is not dysfunctional, but its close. His family is not perfect, but it isn’t imperfect. Ali’s mother works two jobs, so she is hardly home but when she is home she is present and involved in her children’s lives, and his father, John,  is a “booster”, who has spent time in jail. He still commits crimes to support himself, and he does not reside with the family. But the author has given his character redeeming qualities to, balance his felonious ways with benevolent acts.

          This novel is very entertaining, and it is a good read for young adults ages 12 and up. The author has used the English language in a way to capture the interest of his target audience.

Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Copyright Date: 2014.

Genre: Young Adult/ Drama.

















My Reputation

Written by Rodney Bankhead Williams

Edited by S. Shawn

Book Review #7



          This urban tale traces the life of the main character, a young man named Anwar Ramadhan, beginning at the age of fifteen years old in 1993, until the age of twenty-four years old, in the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He is from a good home with both a mother named Denise and a father named Paul who are living a middle-class lifestyle, working normal jobs. But, for some reason Anwar is lured into a life of crime. The author doesn’t quite describe through his characterization why he was enticed by this lifestyle, but he plunged right in with no hesitation.

          He committed his first crime at the age of fifteen years old along with two other teens, named Cam and Hakim. It was a murder and robbery of a street hustler selling contraband on the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Later, he began to sell contraband and was successful at it; unfortunately, his life of crime had consequences. He was given an ultimatum by his parents to either attend school and conduct himself better or leave their household, so he chose to leave. His parents later regretted their decisions about their son and due to his life of crime, his mother suffered from substance abuse and his father did not acknowledge him when he visited them.

          Anwar’s life of crime resulted in him serving time in jail, and losing close friends and relatives, but these losses did not deter his fascination with crime.

          The author is a very good storyteller. Some of his characters were more developed than others, including the main character, Anwar. Also, the novel would have been more meaningful, if the author would have introduced ongoing positive role models such as a normal hardworking family whose parents were law-abiding including their children. Writers have a responsibility to portray positive as well as negative characterizations and those characters should be intertwined within the storyline. As a reader, I was overwhelmed with the number of criminals glamorized throughout this novel.

          Finally, the editing. This novel possesses numerous spelling and grammatical errors. Sure, some of the top publishers of fiction and non-fiction literature publish books with some spelling and grammatical errors which a reader can count on one hand. But, this novel has too many spelling and grammatical errors. According to the title page of the novel, an editor was listed. Perhaps he or she didn’t use Microsoft Word software, save his or her corrections or he or she just didn’t reread the manuscript after making his or her corrections. Whatever the reason for the error prone novel; it was unacceptable. Per the author’s comments at the end of this novel, part two is forthcoming. Hopefully, the author has found a new editor.

          Due to the graphic sexual encounters, drug use and profanity, this novel is for adults only.


Publisher: Angel Eyes Publications.

Copyright Date: 2018.

Genre: Urban Fiction/Crime Drama.
















William Kowalski

Book Review #8


          This fictional novel is written for low – literate readers and it is included in the Rapid Reads Series at Orca Book Publishers. Per the article, “Assessment and Instruction of Oral Reading Fluency Among Adults with Low Literacy, “ninety-three million adults (43%) in the United States read at or below a basic level and “…one third of these individuals lack even the most simple, concrete literacy skills.” (Mellard, Woods, & Fall, 2011)

           The main character is named, Rasheed and he is only sixteen-years old. The author, William Kowalski, wrote this novel in first person and he uses the main character’s voice to narrate his emotions, his feelings about his living environment and his dreams for his future.

          Rasheed is a young man who lives in a dysfunctional family. His mother is a drug addict and his sister, Daneeka,  who is now nineteen years old is disabled due to a gunshot wound, which happened ten years ago. The author does not explain the characterization of Rasheed in detail, because the reader does not know why he does not attend school, why he does not call child protective services on his mother like other kids do or why he commits petty crimes to eat.

          Rasheed never attends school, instead he visits a local university where he feels safe, and observes the students, fantasizing that the grass is greener on the other side. He never met his father, so he does not know whether he is dead or alive. According to the leader of a local gang, the Locals, named Boss, his father used to be a member.   

           In Rasheed’s world you must belong somewhere such as a gang to be protected or just to earn money to survive. He is constantly being recruited by the Locals. The author didn’t introduce any positive role models of color to show a balance such as other teenagers who attend their local high school, have friendships and achieve and parents  who are there for their children emotionally and physically, are gainfully employed and encourage their children to be the best that they can be. Instead, the author used stereotypes about black people such as gang membership, theft, drug addiction, etc. The only positive characters inserted into this novel were whites such as the female college student who comes to his rescue when he is harassed by a university police officer and that same male university police officer who later shows some interest in Rasheed.

          The reason that this novel is not written authentically is because the author is white and he is attempting to write our story, but he failed to include positive role models. When an author writes about another culture, he or she must be careful when developing the characterization, plot and overall images that are being portrayed.

            Finally, this novel is written for low-literate readers who could improve their reading skills by reading this novel. The author is a good storyteller and he uses a writing style which defines complex words by breaking them down into suffixes and prefixes such as the word chronic, “chronic comes from the ancient Greek word chronos, meaning “time.” It means “long -lasting or permanent.” (Kowalski, 2017) In addition, this novel may interest a young adult who is a struggling reader, because he or she may identify with a character or a situation depicted. This would cause the reader to continue to read the novel improving his or her vocabulary, comprehension, and reading interest. This struggling reader may gain the confidence to read another novel in the Rapid Reads Series at a higher reading level. Low-literate readers should be participating in adult education programs to improve their reading skills, so that they can read to their children, fill out job applications, read instructions/ingredients on medicine and food labels, etc.

          The publisher, Orca Book Publishers, should be recruiting black writers to write low-literate meaningful stories, fiction and non-fiction, about African Americans. Black people are not homogeneous; they are included in various socioeconomic groups, educational levels, religions, family structures, etc. White authors should not be writing our stories, and getting paid for it, especially when they are portraying stereotypical images.

Publisher: Orca Book Publishers/Rapid Reads Series.

Copyright: 2017.

Genre: Adult Fiction, Low – Literate Reader/Reading Level: 2.8.


Mellard, D., Woods, K. & Fall, E. (2011). Assessment and instruction of

          Oral reading fluency among adults with low literacy. Adult Basic

          Education & Literacy, 5(1), 3-14.



















  Snow: A Love Story Birthed in the Streets (Book 1)


Jessica N. Watkins

Book Review #9



         The novel titled, Snow, begins positively about a young woman named Snow who resides in Chicago, IL, and graduates from high school. She and her two best friends Bae and Tristan were planning to attend college together, but a graduation party the three attended changed their lives forever. One of her best friends Bae stabbed a party attendee who was attempting to jump Snow. She was later convicted of murder and is currently residing in a prison. Snow’s mother, Dawn, was portrayed as a depressed woman who was recently diagnosed with AIDS, but she never revealed this information to anyone but the father of her children, Azu. They had three children together, Snow, Killion and Prince. Azu was a drug kingpin who was successful at it; he indulged his family with the finer things in life. So, the family was used to designer labels, luxury vehicles, and cold hard cash.

         Then tragedy strikes, when Snow’s father, Azu, a drug kingpin, is murdered by her mother, Dawn. Snow’s life slowly changes because she is too devastated to concentrate on her studies, then later she loses another loved one who was her other best friend named Tristan. These losses caused her to abandon her goal of a degree in Pharmacy and her new life as a college student in Florida. She returned home to take care of her two younger brothers. She picks up where her father left off dealing drugs, because in her mindset it is the only way to survive.

         The author reverses the role of the drug kingpin from a male to a female in this urban tale by inserting the character of the young woman named “Snow” as the drug kingpin. This is the only change in the plot in the usual “get money” bracket. The author did not depict any positive role models in the storyline to balance out the negative ones; every character including the main character, Snow, is described as a drug addict, a drug dealer, a convict, mentally ill or not capable of making rational decisions. None of the characters are normal hardworking people who own legitimate businesses or work legal jobs. The “hood” does not consist of only criminals, but hardworking men and women who work lawful jobs and instill their families with morals and values.

         Snow succeeds in the drug business and is assisted by an unlikely sidekick she befriends along the way. Book 1 ends in a drive-by shooting, so the readers are forced to buy book 2, if they want to know how the story ends. This novel is written for an adult audience due to the sex, drugs and overall context delineated by the characters.


Publisher: Jessica Watkins Presents.

Copyright: 2019.

Genre: African American Women’s Fiction/ African American Urban Fiction.

Kindle Format.

It's in our nature by Jacqueline T Small

It's in Our Nature
Jacqueline T. Small
AuthorHouse (2021)
ISBN: 9781665516648
Reviewed by Tammy, Young Adult Review for Reader Views Kids (3-2021)
"It's in Our Nature," by Jacqueline T. Small, casts a spell that lures you into the world of witchcraft. The book opens with high school student Jane La Magie researching for a class paper, and then cuts to Agent Joe Stinton, a witchcraft investigator. Readers are then introduced to another agent, Nia Brown. Both are experienced FBI agents and enjoy their work looking into strange, unexplained phenomena such as cults, UFO's, cyberthreats, etc. If a suspected witch is found, a determination is made to isolate, study, prosecute, or terminate, all in the name of homeland security, of course.
Jack and Ann La Magie have suffered the loss of their son John by the hand of a witch's spell, and are now trying to raise their surviving children to shun witchcraft and get along in the world without it. They moved from Louisiana to Philadelphia, hoping to turn the page. Ann is a psychiatrist, and John is a history teacher, so between the two of them, you would think they would be a greater influence on their offspring, Jane, Belle, Guy, Fay, and Ray, but that isn't the case. Their children were born witches, so naturally they are irresistibly drawn to witchcraft, and see nothing wrong with it. Now Jane is about to be formally inducted as a witch by The Witch's Council. Since witch hunters-disguised-as-agents Stinton and Brown are to arrive in Philadelphia to look into strange events, where does that leave Jane and the others?
Small delivers a simple yet entertaining story about witchcraft, and you will feel the work she put into crafting this novella. Her style of writing is straightforward and lean, giving the essential details of the plot, backstories of the characters, and story arc. Readers will appreciate the explanations of the different kinds of witches, warlocks, spells, and traditions. You'll also become familiar with Abby, who is turned off by witchcraft and wants nothing to do with it. The author's details make it easy for readers to follow the story, and things start to spice up when the agents enter the picture and start interviewing witnesses about what they experienced. I think audiences looking for a quick read will be drawn to the story, but it may be a little too fast-paced for those expecting more elaboration or deeper insight. Themes of being treated differently because of who you are can be found in the story. The questions at the end are an interesting addition, just right for a classroom or book club discussion. "The X Files" fans will love "It's in Our Nature," by Jacqueline T. Small.

---- Reviewed by reader Views  kids 

The Spook Who Sat by the Door.jpg

The Spook Who Sat by the Door


Sam Greenlee

Book Review #10



First published in 1969, The Spook Who Sat by the Door, remains timely. This intellectually stimulating, action-packed and fully evolved plot is worth reading. The author, Sam Greenlee, slowly introduces the main character, Dan Freeman, a frustrated social worker. He is offered an opportunity to train along with several other black candidates for the chance to be a CIA officer. Due to allegations of discrimination against blacks the CIA aggressively recruited college educated blacks to train and compete to suppress those claims. The plan was to find reasons to eliminate every black candidate, but Dan was successful and was hired as the CIA’s first black officer.

To make a long story short, he was hired, but not as a CIA operative. The CIA never planned on integrating a black man into their organization to work as a CIA agent, his job was to be visible to the public as the “poster child” for integration. The CIA director reminded him on a regular basis of his inferiority, but ironically, he was trained and had learned everything that a CIA officer would need to know to perform his duties effectively. Freeman tired of his menial work duties of duplicating top-secret documents and being demeaned by the CIA director, so after several years he quits. He returns to his hometown of Chicago to resume his previous duties as a social worker, but with a twist.

Other supporting characters balance out the story; this is needed to insert characters who share various points of view about how to combat racism, poverty, unemployment, crime, police brutality and drug abuse.

I loved the way the author wove his tale of suspense, but the use of the “N” word so frequently was not needed. The plot would not have been less riveting.

This novel is recommended for adults due to the graphic sex, drug use and violence mentioned.


Publisher: Wayne State University Press

Copyright: 1969

Genre: realistic fiction, African American fiction

Paperback Format.

 ISBN-13: 978-0-8143-2246-8

The Spook Who Sat by the Door Video.jpg

In addition, the movie of the same name, The Spook Who Sat by the Door, is well acted and is visually appealing. It was released in 1973. It is also worth watching; it mimics the book to the end.

© 2012 Monarch Home Entertainment

Written and Produced by Melvin Clay and Sam Greenlee

Directed by Ivan Dixon

Running time: 102 minutes.

Rated PG.

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