Category Archives: Black History Month

Books I’ve Read During Black History Month

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 104: Angel On My Shoulder by Natalie Cole

“As you walk your own journey, keep your eyes open, listen well, and if you look real hard, you just might find an angel on your shoulder.”

Those words are from the last paragraph of the late Natalie Cole’s autobiography, Angel On My Shoulder published November 2000, fifteen years before her death in December 2015.  I do not read many celebrity autobiographies, but I have started research on my next novel and I read about one of my favorite singers.

For American R&B female singers, Natalie Cole does not get mentioned in the same vein as Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle, Gladys Knight, Whitney Houston, Anita Baker, or Mariah Carey. However, she deserves to be mentioned in the same conversation with those names.  Cole shares her life story growing up as the daughter of the great Nat King Cole.

Natalie shared her reluctance on becoming a singer, especially in the shadow of her father. She graduated from the University of Massachusetts with a degree in child psychology and had plans to pursue it as a career. She described her workman-like rise to stardom in the late 1970s, leading to her downfall with drugs. Natalie discussed her failed marriages and fractured mother-daughter relationship. Also, when she finally embraced her father’s legacy and recorded Unforgettable…With Love, Cole’s magnum opus. She always believed an angel was with her every step of the way on her tumultuous journey as a singer.

Most readers of celebrity biographies want to read them for the salacious stuff. There is plenty of that material in Cole’s autobiography.  However, these words from earlier section in the book describe how Natalie feels about her role as a singer:

“I’ve always felt that whenever I sing, I want it to be sincere. Everything would have to be in the voice. Do I sound sincere? Is there a smile in my voice? Is there a sadness in my voice? Can you feel it–not even can you hear it? Can you feel it? In the end, I focus on the feelings my voice expresses. That, to me, is where the heart is.”

Natalie provided gems like that throughout the book and I connected more with an artist’s creative process than their personal life.  I’m glad that Angel On My Shoulder had those kinds of musical insights that give the book a look beyond her dealing with being a famous musician.

I have been listening to her first four albums (Inseparable, Natalie, Unpredictable, & Thankful) along with Unforgettable since reading the autobiography.  Cole’s tone and versatility make her unique as a singer and songwriter.  Songs like Inseparable and I Can’t Say No sounds like the best of Aretha’s work. Songs like Something For Nothing and Sophisticated Lady(She’s A Different Lady) conjures up the best of 1970s funk.  And a song like Annie Mae shows off Cole’s songwriting chops and her ability to tell a story. Her biggest songs like This Will Be (An Everlasting Love) & Our Love have left an indelible mark on pop and R&B.  Natalie Cole was a true singing talent and I hope music aficionados and historians take a closer look at her oeuvre.

I’m glad that I read Angel On My Shoulder and Natalie Cole was a shining star that has earned her place in contemporary American music.   Rest in Love, Natalie!

Wisdom From Kammbia Story Review 4: L’Alchimista by N.K. Jemisin

I have read a lot more short stories in the past year.  I have always considered short stories the stepchildren of contemporary fiction.  Novels are the alpha and omega for most contemporary fiction (literary & genre) readers.  Novellas (short novels between 20k-50k words) have become popular in the social media age.  But the average reader… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 96: Black Titan by Carol Jenkins & Elizabeth Gardner Hines

  “Athletes and musicians who have made millions in their industries deserve our respect, but it is critical that blacks understand that our history, and our (often neglected) successes, run deeper than that. All children need to be made familiar with images and stories of blacks who have found success in the boardroom and the… Continue Reading

Icon #14

Rocket learns a valuable lesson with the responsibility she has as a superhero and being Icon’s partner. She asks Icon to attend a community event, but he cannot attend because his day job as a lawyer demands his attention.  Rocket is frustrated with his duties as a lawyer and they have an argument when Icon… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 92: Blacktop Wasteland by S.A. Cosby

Does a son have to repeat his father’s transgressions and life choices? It seemed like S.A. Cosby was trying to answer that question in his thrilling third novel, Blacktop Wasteland. I have seen this novel posted on my Instagram feed recently and several Goodreads friends posted about the book and I had to read it.… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 85: Where Do We Go From Here-Chaos or Community? by Martin Luther King Jr.

“We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation. This may well be mankind’s last chance to choose between chaos and community.” Martin Luther King’s last sentence from his last book, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community sums up his powerful and convincing argument for nonviolent coexistence for humanity. I… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 84: The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley

“Grace meets you exactly where you are and it doesn’t leave you.” I heard the author Anne Lamott say this quote on the Tim Ferriss podcast a couple of days ago and knew this would be the opening sentence to my latest book review.  Grace would be the proper view about Malcolm X’s life after… Continue Reading

Icon #2

The Mayor of Dakota, Thomasina Jefferson, is being held hostage at city hall.  The police commissioner calls in S.H.R.E.D, the city’s most elite police unit.  They hold Icon and Rocket at gunpoint. Icon wants to comply with the police officers and Rocket reminds him of his social status despite being able to defeat the entire… 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