Tag Archives: African American Literature

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 punk rock duo of Opal Jewel and Nev Charles.  Opal was an unconventional, outspoken black woman from Detroit and Nev was a white singer/songwriter from Birmingham, England. Nev discovered Opal in a bar on amateur night and the two began a journey into near rock-n-roll fame and infamy.

Years later, Opal was considering having a reunion with Nev and music journalist S. Sunny Shelton wrote a book about the duo. Sunny thought knew most of the stories about the duo’s musical journey, but learned that Nev’s outspoken and frank nature caused an incident that derailed their chance at stardom.

The story is told from Sunny’s perspective as she interviews everyone involved with Opal and Nev at that time. Also, she learns her father’s connection to Opal and his tragic end at the incident that nearly destroyed the duo’s career.

The Final Revival of Opal and Nev read like a music documentary film in book form.  Opal reminded me of Grace Jones and Nev Charles brought to mind George Harrison. The story revealed how the racism and sexism of the time wanted to keep a woman like Opal in a prescribed box for the white audience. This quote from Sunny’s father brought home the issue with labels:

“The music itself don’t have a color. It’s a continuum that starts with the drum & branches out from there. The industry and the money, that’s what can mess everything up. See, this is what I say about America–we always gotta be assigning shit, always labeling it and stuffing it in a box. Always dictating who’s allowed to own what. But end of the day, that don’t have nothing to do with the music, you dig? The music is fire and passion and soul, and however you express it is how you express it.”

That rant might be crude but there’s wisdom in those words and when you are a trailblazer, you will always resist being labelled and packaged for easy entertaining consumption. Opal learns that the hard way while Nev has a successful solo career and reap the benefits of his privilege.

The Final Revival of Opal and New was honest, raw, and profound. I rarely jump on new books, but I’m glad I trusted my reading instincts and read this novel.  It is my favorite read of 2021 so far and I highly recommend it.  Bravo Dawnie Walton!!!

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

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

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