Category Archives: 2021 Book Reviews

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 80: Planting Stories (The Life of Librarian & Storyteller Pura Belpre) by Anika Aldamuy Denise & Paola Escobar

The joy I get in reading with my daughter Norah is you learn about someone that you have never heard of before.  This is the case with the book, Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpre by Anika Aldamuy Denise and Paola Escobar.

Pura Belpre was the first librarian of Puerto Rican descent in the New York City Public Library.  Planting Stories told a quick overview of her journey into becoming a librarian and storyteller that served the brown and black communities of New York City. She came to America in 1921 and started as a bilingual assistant. Her popular retellings of Puerto Rican folklore and puppetering made everyone feel welcomed at the library.

She was one of the first librarians to championed bilingual literature and expanded the range of the city’s librarian collection. Pura was an author and wrote one of the first Puerto Rican folktales published in English titled Juan Bobo and the Queen’s Necklace: A Puerto Rican Folk Tale. It was published in 1962.

I enjoyed reading Planting Stories and learning about Mrs. Belpre.  Also, the artwork by Paola Escobar was excellent, and I told Norah several times while reading the book how much I loved the illustration. I recommended Planting Stories for readers between the ages of 4-8. However, this book was good enough for a late 40s father to want to have for his own personal library. Pura Belpre was someone that deserves to be known to the wider reading public and the American culture at large.  Her contribution to literature was important and must be recognized as such.

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 79: Respect-The Life of Aretha Franklin by David Ritz

Sometimes after reading one book will make you want another book with a similar topic. My previous review was a fictional music documentary in a novel titled The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton. Opal Jewel was one half of a groundbreaking punk rock duo from the early 1970s that nearly made… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 78: The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton

“The easiest thing in the world is to be yourself. The hardest thing in the world is to be yourself.” Those two sentences were appropriate for one of the two major characters, Opal Jewel, in Dawnie Walton’s excellent debut novel, The Final Revival of Opal & Nev. Walton told the story of the early 1970s… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 77: Joplin’s Ghost by Tananarive Due

As a reader, you notice what kinds of books that you keep gravitating towards. Even though I’m an eclectic reader, I keep gravitating recently towards novels that are about the creative process (books, art, food, or music).  Human creativity has always been fascinating to me, because it showcases the power of imagination in interesting and… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 76: Mama Day by Gloria Naylor

I have always been more of a backlist reader than a new release reader.  There are so many books published, and it is impossible to keep up as a reader.  However, on social media and throughout the publishing world, the new release books especially in fiction are celebrated and promoted.  I totally get it.  There… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 75: Invisible Men by Ken Quattro

Black History Month is in full swing and I have seen many social media posts recognizing the achievements of African Americans throughout the nation’s history.  However, I have always wanted to find out something that does not get much recognition or overlooked during this annual celebration in February. Invisible Men: The Trailblazing Black Artists of… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 74: Playing in the Dark by Toni Morrison

I still consider realistic fiction the standard for American Literature.  However, imaginative fiction has made significant strides in the past two decades to create its own place in American Literature. As one who prefers imaginative fiction over realistic fiction, this is a much-needed development for the survival of literature as an art form. As a… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 73: The Dark Fantastic by Ebony Elizabeth Thomas

“The principles of the dark fantastic are so ingrained in our collective consciousness that when the expected pattern is subverted, most audiences cannot suspend disbelief. Readers and viewers complain that dark heroic protagonists are not likable. Critics observe that the characters, settings, circumstances, and resolutions are unbelievable. Agents regret that they just cannot connect with… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 72: An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

  If your spouse was wrongly accused of rape and went to prison for five years but gets released, would you remain married? That was the question An American Marriage by Tayari Jones attempted to answer in her popular novel.  An American Marriage was selected for Oprah’s Book Club in 2018 and has been a… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 71: Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

I have a question. Has there been a well-regarded or lauded author you keep trying out as a reader but have never connected with their books? Toni Morrison is my answer to that question.  I have attempted several of her books (Jazz, Paradise, and Love) over the years but have never truly connected with them. … Continue Reading