#TwoForTuesday: Two Books Written by Women of Color

As is obvious from the title, today’s #TwoForTuesday blog post prompt is Two Books Written by Women of Color. Thank you, Rae of Rae’s Reads and Reviews blog for supplying the prompt.

I’ve chosen two books that have nothing in common except they’re both written by women of color.

Left to Tell:  Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust, by Immaculee Ilibagiza

Left to Tell, by Immaculee Ilibagiza

Of the nearly one million Rwandans who lost their lives in the 1994 genocide in that country, college student Immaculee Ilibagiza lost most of her relatives. This book is her telling of the story.  Indeed, she believes she was “left to tell.”

Ms. Ilibagiza and seven other women hid in the bathroom in a local pastor’s house for 91 days during the violence. During her ordeal she was able to come to understand the true meaning of forgiveness. Afterwards, she sought out and forgave her family’s killers.

This is an extraordinary story!

Jackie Tales:  The Magic of Creating Stories and the Art of Telling Them, by Jackie Torrence

Jackie Tales, by Jackie Torrence

Switching gears completely from Left to Tell, the other book I’m highlighting today is Jackie Tales:  The Magic of Creating Stories and the Art of Telling Them, by Jackie Torrence. Ms. Torrence was a reference librarian in High Point, North Carolina and a master storyteller.

This delightful book not only includes 16 folk tales but also has Ms. Torrence’s stage directions so the reader can learn many techniques of good storytelling.

With an introduction by Ossie Davis and a host of up-close photographs illustrating the wonderfully expressive face of Ms. Torrence, this book is a real gem for anyone aspiring to be a writer, a storyteller, or an entertaining reader to children.

Ms. Torrence had quite a gift and the storytelling world will never forget her. I found myself laughing out loud as I read each of the stories in this book. Bravo!

Until my next blog post

Keep reading!

Let’s continue the conversation

Have you read either of today’s books?

Have you ever considered honing your storytelling talent and sharing your gift with others?


Remembering Joyce & Jim Lavene

I am taking this opportunity to remember authors Joyce and Jim Lavene. This husband and wife team wrote novels together. I cannot imagine writing a novel with another person, but Joyce and Jim made it look easy. They shared a love and marriage that spanned decades. Writing as Joyce and Jim Lavene, J.J. Cook, and Ellie Grant, the duo produced about 50 novels. I have counted at least 47 on their website, but I maybe missed a few.

Joyce and Jim lived here in Cabarrus County, North Carolina. They quietly churned out books and two different years visited Rocky River Readers Book Club to regale us with stories about the characters they created and their writing habits. They could finish one another’s sentences when talking about their books, and I suspect they did that in “real life,” too.

Joyce died suddenly in October 2015 and Jim died just as unexpectedly last week. Their genuine smiles and interest in people will be missed, as will all the novels they would have written if things had been different.

If you get a chance, you might enjoy reading one of Joyce and Jim Lavene’s books. Most of them would be categorized as cozy mysteries. At least for now, their website is still up. The address is http://www.joyceandjimlavene.com/. Their books are listed on the website.

As a novelist wannabe, I appreciated the encouragement Joyce and Jim gave me.


To Kill a Mockingbird

The Rocky River Readers Book Club discussed both of Harper Lee’s novels — To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set A Watchman — earlier this week. Little did we know when planning the year’s reading that this discussion would come just three days after Ms. Lee’s death. Illness prevented my attending the meeting but, in light of Harper Lee’s recent death, I wanted to post a blog in tribute to her.

Rereading To Kill a Mockingbird is always a pleasure. One can read it just for the story. One can read it for the skillful writing. One can read it for the slice of American history on which it sheds light. One can even read it for the humor. I tend to forget Scout’s sense of humor between my readings of To Kill a Mockingbird. I love the Scout in that book.

The grown-up urbane Scout/Jean Louise of Go Set a Watchman is not as easy to love. The young adult Scout struggles — really struggles — to understand and accept Atticus. The child Scout put her father on an impossible pedestal. The adult Scout sees prejudices in him that don’t jive with the Atticus of her childhood who withstood public outcry when he represented a black man in court. She is conflicted. Throughout Go Set a Watchman I yearned for her to work through her concerns and not turn her back on Atticus.

Both of Ms. Lee’s novels give as much food for thought and fodder for discussion today as they did when they were hot off the press. Harper Lee set the bar high for great American literature. Her novels will, no doubt, be read in the United States and around the world for centuries to come.

A Tribute to Edith Wharton

Today’s post is a tribute to Edith Wharton on the 154th anniversary of her birth. She was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Literature. She won the award in 1921 for The Age of Innocence.

I believe her 1911 novel, Edith Frome, was the first novel I read. It made quite an impression on me.

Ironically, Ms. Wharton’s mother forbade her to read a novel until she was married!

Ms. Wharton was born into the upper-class in New York City during the American Civil War, and her family moved to Europe to avoid the toll the war was taking on the United States. She was more suited to life in Europe and died in France in 1937.

A Tribute to Harper Lee

My blog post today is a tribute to Harper Lee on the occasion of her 89th birthday. Born in Monroeville, Alabama on April 28, 1926, she finished writing To Kill a Mockingbird in 1959 at the age of 33. It was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and has been translated into approximately 40 languages.

What an iconic book of 20th century American literature! The book makes an indelible impression on just about everyone who reads it. The story shines a light on racism in a powerful way and, in so doing, reminds us that racism still exists today in every part of the United States. It is my hope that To Kill a Mockingbird will prompt everyone who reads it to strive to stamp out racism in his or her own life and community.

In honor of Harper Lee’s birthday today, I challenge you to read To Kill a Mockingbird again. Take it to heart. Put yourself in the place of each of the main characters. Get inside their skin and their hearts.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the racial unrest happening today in Baltimore, Maryland. Our country has come a long way, but there is much work to do. There are lessons for each of us to learn. I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes from Maya Angelou:

“I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”
― Maya Angelou

William Shakespeare’s Birthday

Yesterday would have been William Shakespeare’s 451st birthday. He died when he was only 52 years old. Imagine how many more plays he could have written if he had lived to a ripe old age. He could not imagine that people would still be reading and performing his plays in 2015.

Will people still be reading my writing 400 years from now? What form will books take in 2415? We can’t imagine that any more than William Shakespeare could imagine his plays being on the TV or movie screens or being read on an e-reader.

A Tribute to Janet Evanovich

Today’s post is a tribute to Janet Evanovich on the occasion of her birthday. I discovered her brilliantly funny Stephanie Plum series of novels several years ago and devoured each one in chronological order.

If you are looking for something light and hilarious to read, I recommend Ms. Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books. The first one is titled One for the Money. Seldom do I get to read a novel that makes me laugh out loud, but the antics of Stephanie Plum and her side-kick, Lula, never disappoint.

I will mark Janet Evanovich’s birthday today by eating chicken, since fried chicken always works its way into her story lines when Lula is involved. Sadly, mine won’t come from “Cluck in a Bucket.”

Thank you, Ms. Evanovich for the reading enjoyment you’ve provided your fans. Happy Birthday!

A Tribute to Toni Morrison

February 18, 2015, marks the 84th birthday of American novelist and professor, Toni Morrison. She made her way to the short list of top American authors in the 20th century when it was not easy for a person of color to break into the publishing industry.

I love this Toni Morrison quote: “If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”

Thank you, Mrs. Morrison, for blazing a trail for other writers of color and female writers of all colors!

John Grisham’s Birthday

Today is John Grisham’s birthday. I have enjoyed reading his books, and I got to hear him speak in Charlotte a few years ago. He is an entertaining speaker, just as he is an entertaining writer. I find hope in the story of how he couldn’t even give away copies of his first book. He traveled around The South with copies of the book in his trunk. The first bookstore that agreed to try to sell his book has the honor of being the site for his book launches. I love that!

I read that John Grisham has developed a beef allergy and has said that he would kill for a cheeseburger. I ate a cheeseburger and homemade potato chips at Jake’s Good Eats in Charlotte yesterday in homage to John Grisham.

Thank you, Mr. Grisham, for all the hours of enjoyment your books have given me. It must be gratifying to know that millions of people eagerly await the release of each of your books.

I aspire to be a published novelist. I take heart in knowing that even authors as successful as John Grisham had a bumpy road in the beginning.

A Tribute to James A. Michener

I meant to write a tribute to James A. Michener yesterday in honor of the 108th anniversary of his birth. One of his novels, Centennial, is one of my all-time favorite books. Since reading it in 1975, I have wished I could write such a book.

I loved the way the second chapter started by telling about the formation of the world, the way it talked about the Earth’s layers, how Colorado was formed, and how the fictional town of Centennial, Colorado fit into the grand scheme of things. It was a powerful visual. I loved the characters in the book and how it carried through from generation to generation. Mr. Michener managed to weave geography and history together in a way that resonated with me. What a gift!

Forty years later, I recall more details of Centennial than most of the books I’ve read in the last year.