Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

The Stacks received Friday Black from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. For more information click here.

In his debut book, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah has crafted an ambitious and exciting short story collection with, Friday Black. The stories meet at the intersection of race, politics, and capitalism. And just like the range of topics and ideas Adjei-Brenyah addresses with these stories, the genre is likewise ranging and evolving as the collection goes on. The stories of Friday Black are genre-bending and contain elements of surrealism, science fiction, satire, and afrofuturism. Nothing about this collection is easy to define, which of course, is part of the magic.

We discussed Friday Black for The Stacks Book Club with Wade Allain-Marcus, and the conversation is as ranging as the book itself, so please go give it a listen. You can also hear author Adjei-Brenyah as a guest on The Short Stacks talk about how the book came into the world. I found that both of these conversations helped me to form my opinions on this book.

The use of race and violence in this book is genius. We are asked to confront what happens to our society if White capitalist patriarchy is our guiding value. If Black life continues to be made expendable, and if we continue to think that our goodness is tied up in the things we own, where does that path take us?. Friday Black forces us to look at one set of answers to these questions. It is bleak and grotesque in all together terrifying.

The stories that landed most with me were “The Finkelstein 5”, “Zimmerland”, and “Friday Black”. Each one was shocking and smart and violent and thought provoking. They engaged with politics and race as well as engaging with genres and imagery. They felt like anchors for me on my journey through Friday Black.

Friday Black is the kind of story collection that keeps you thinking and working to decipher the many hidden gems and references. I can’t tell you that I “got” all the stories. Some things made little sense to me in the moment, and still remain unclear. However some of the stories have come more into focus as I have time away from the book, and have talked to others about their understandings. The stories feel a little ahead of their time and I wonder how I might feel about Friday Black in 10 or 15 years. I hold out hope that the stories I didn’t quite understand (“The Hospital Where”) will become more clear and more resonant with time.

Adjei-Brenyah uses a lot of satire in this book, and that can often be challenging to decipher, especially in the written word. If you miss the subtleties in the stories, you might just miss the whole point. That rings especially true in the story “Lark Street”, where a young man comes face to face with the twin fetuses that his girlfriend has recently terminated through the use of a morning after pill. If you look at this story out of context, it can feel like a pro-life fable about the autonomy of any form of life. However, in conversation with the other stories, we see a cautionary tale that mocks the idea of embryos being anything other than a collection of cells. That is how these stories work together as a true collection. The topics may vary wildly, but the through line is the tone and the controversial nature of the topics. They all play to the same themes but engage with them on many fronts.

While not every story in the book landed for me, the overall ambition and scope of the project is thrilling. Adjei-Brenyah is debut author with a lot to say, and after reading Friday Black I look forward to whatever is next for him. I hope this project will get produced, as I would love to see the world of Friday Black on the screen.

We have so much more on Friday Blackon the podcast, listen to the episodes below.

  • Paperback: 208
  • PublisherMariner Books; First Edition edition (October 23, 2018)
  • 4/5 stars
  • Buy on Friday Black Amazon

To contribute to The Stacks, join The Stacks Pack, and get exclusive perks, check out our Patreon page (https://www.patreon.com/thestacks). We are beyond grateful for anything you’re able to give to support the production of The Stacks.

The Stacks participates in affiliate programs in which we receive a small commission when products are purchased through some links on this website. This does not effect opinions on books and products. For more information click here.

Ep. 48 Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah — The Stacks Book Club (Wade Allain-Marcus)

Friday Black is a genre-bending collection of short stories by debut author, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah. It tackles the Black experience in America, consumerism, mental health and many other pressing issues of our day. Today on The Stacks, Wade Allain-Marcus (Insecure, French Dirty, Snowfall) and Traci attempt to break down the major themes and ideas from these stories for The Stacks Book Club. There are spoilers on today’s episode, but if you haven’t read the book yet, check out our conversation with author Adjei-Brenyah on The Short Stacks instead.

Everything we talk about on today’s episode can be found below in the show notes. The Stacks participates in affiliate programs, and shopping through the links below (mostly Amazon) helps support the show, at no cost to you.

Connect with Wade: Wade’s Instagram | Wade’s Twitter | Wade’s Website

Connect with The Stacks: Instagram | The Stacks Website | Facebook | Twitter | Subscribe | Patreon | Goodreads | Traci’s Instagram

To contribute to The Stacks, join The Stacks Pack, and get exclusive perks, check out our Patreon page. We are beyond grateful for anything you’re able to give to support the production of this show. If you prefer to do a one time contribution go to paypal.me/thestackspod.

Sponsors

Audible– to get your FREE audiobook download and FREE 30 day trial go to audibletrial.com/thestacks.My Mentor Book Club – for 50% off your first month of new nonfiction from My Mentor Book Club go to mymentorbookclub.com/thestacks


The Stacks participates in affiliate programs. We receive a small commission when products are purchased through links on this website, and this comes at no cost to you. Shopping through these links helps support the show, but does not effect opinions on books and products. For more information click here.

The Stacks received Friday Black from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. For more information click here.

The Short Stacks 7: Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah//Friday Black

Today on The Short Stacks we’re honored to welcome author of this week’s The Stacks Book Club pick, Friday Black, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah. We talk about his genre-bending short story collection, how the title and cover came to be, and what its like being part of this current moment of exciting and diverse fiction writing. There are no spoilers today.

Everything we talk about on today’s episode can be found below in the show notes. The Stacks participates in affiliate programs, and shopping through the links below (mostly Amazon) helps support the show, at no cost to you.

Connect with Nana: Nana’s Website | Nana’s Twitter | Nana’s Instagram

Connect with The Stacks: Instagram | The Stacks Website | Facebook | Twitter | Subscribe | Patreon | Goodreads | Traci’s Instagram

To contribute to The Stacks, join The Stacks Pack, and get exclusive perks, check out our Patreon page. We are beyond grateful for anything you’re able to give to support the production of this show. If you prefer to do a one time contribution go to paypal.me/thestackspod.

Sponsors

Audible– to get your FREE audiobook download and FREE 30 day trial go to audibletrial.com/thestacks.

My Mentor Book Club – for 50% off your first month of new nonfiction from My Mentor Book Club go to mymentorbookclub.com/thestacks


The Stacks received Friday Black from the publisher. For more information click here.

The Stacks participates in affiliate programs. We receive a small commission when products are purchased through links on this website, and this comes at no cost to you. Shopping through these links helps support the show, but does not effect opinions on books and products. For more information click here.

Ep. 35 Prodigies, Time Machines, and Beautiful Writing with Aja Gabel

cropped-TheStacks_logo_final.jpgThis week on The Stacks our guest is author Aja Gabel. Aja’s debut novel, The Ensemble, came out in 2018, and she talks with us about writing her book, cover design, which writers inspire her, and why she got a PhD in creative writing. We also talk music prodigies and time machines, which is to say, we talk about a little of everything.

You can find everything we talk about this week in the show notes below. By shopping through the links you help support The Stacks, at no cost to you. Shop on Amazon and iTunes.

BOOKS

EVERYTHING ELSE

Connect with Aja: Aja’s Website|Aja’s Instagram|Aja’s Twitter

Connect with The Stacks: Instagram|The Stacks Website|Facebook|Twitter|Subscribe|Patreon|Goodreads|Traci’s Instagram

To contribute to The Stacks, join The Stacks Pack, and get exclusive perks, check out our Patreon page. We are beyond grateful for anything you’re able to give to support the production of this show. If you prefer to do a one time contribution go to paypal.me/thestackspod.

Sponsors

Audible– to get your FREE audiobook download and FREE 30 day trial go to audibletrial.com/thestacks.

My Mentor Book Club – for 50% off your first month of new nonfiction from My Mentor Book Club go to mymentorbookclub.com/thestacks


The Stacks participates in affiliate programs. We receive a small commission when products are purchased through links on this website, and this comes at no cost to you. Shopping through these links helps support the show, but does not effect my opinions on books and products. For more information click here.

Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore

0A544274-291F-4462-980B-D964D85B5239This week on The Stacks podcast, Lauren Fanella and I discussed Reincarnation Blues as part of The Stacks Book Club. You can listen to our full conversation about the book, its themes, and who we think should star in the TV series of our minds, right here. There are spoilers on the episode (there are none in this review), so I suggest you read the book before you listen.

If you’re not familiar with Reincarnation Blues by Micahel Poore, check out a little bit about the book here

First we live. Then we die. And then . . . we get another try? 

Ten thousand tries, to be exact. Ten thousand lives to “get it right.” Answer all the Big Questions. Achieve Wisdom. And Become One with Everything.
    
Milo has had 9,995 chances so far and has just five more lives to earn a place in the cosmic soul. If he doesn’t make the cut, oblivion awaits. But all Milo really wants is to fall forever into the arms of Death. Or Suzie, as he calls her.

But Reincarnation Blues is more than a great love story: Every journey from cradle to grave offers Milo more pieces of the great cosmic puzzle—if only he can piece them together in time to finally understand what it means to be part of something bigger than infinity. As darkly enchanting as the works of Neil Gaiman and as wisely hilarious as Kurt Vonnegut’s, Michael Poore’s Reincarnation Blues is the story of everything that makes life profound, beautiful, absurd, and heartbreaking.

My feelings about this book changed wildly as I read it. When I first started I was all in. I was 50 pages in telling my sister-in-law this is a must read. Then at about page 150 I was wanted to quit (and only held out because I’d heard good things, and had committed to covering it on the podcast). Then I got to the last 100 pages and was back in again.

I loved Michael Poore as an author. He is smart, and unsentimental, and witty, and flip, and emotional, and wise, and direct, and all the things that make a book like this resonate. He is fluid in his writing and his ideas are strong. He is never passive. He has a clear point of view on the important things in life. He has a strong moral compass when it comes to social justice and compassion, and that is what drives Milo and the entirety of Reincarnation Blues. He guides us as the readers through the universe as he sees it. I loved Poore so much, I even read the acknowledgements and swooned a little.

Its worth noting here, that Poore has opinions on prison, and rape culture, and soulmates, and the criminal justice system, and punishment, and meditation, and global warming, and the role of wealthy people in the economy, and so much more. He uses different lives to explore this major issues. In the discussion of these topics I was head over heels for this book. I’d never read a fiction book that was so direct in discussing these things, without being a fiction book about these things.

Of course, I also had parts of this book I wasn’t so into. I couldn’t quiet get into the story. The book felt more like a grouping of short stories, than a novel. I could never quiet get in a groove. And with each life being a different place and world and lifetime and era, I would fall in love with something or someone and then it would be gone. There were, of course, references to things in past (or future) lives, which I loved, but for the most part, I had to learn to enjoy the good moments and then let them go. Which I guess is a metaphor for life, or another one of Poore’s strong opinions on the way things should be.

The book is a little sci-fi, a little magical realism, and little bit of an adventure story, and then also a love story, and then once again its a story of humanity and one’s duty to society, its a genre-bending social commentary. Its unlike anything I’ve read. In a good way. While, I only gave it three stars, because it didn’t fully click with me, I could see this being a favorite book for a lot of people. It has all the potential to be a beloved book. It just wasn’t quiet for me. It is kind of a funny book like that. It could never really be the type of book that achieved consensus. Also, I don’t think I understood the ending. This happens to me more often than I’d like to admit.

If this review excites you, you should read this book. If you’re at all interested in a book about many lives and many characters and the big picture ideas of life, you should read this book. I don’t know how you’ll feel about it. I hope you’ll like it, you might not. I think either way, its worth a read. I’m certainly glad I read it. I now know I love Michael Poore.

Don’t forget to listen to Lauren and I discuss Reincarnation Blues further on the podcast.

  • Hard Cover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Del Rey; First Edition edition (August 22, 2017)
  • 3/5 stars
  • Buy Reincarnation Blues on Amazon

To contribute to The Stacks, join The Stacks Pack, and get exclusive perks, check out our Patreon page (https://www.patreon.com/thestacks). We are beyond grateful for anything you’re able to give to support the production of The Stacks.

The Stacks participates in affiliate programs in which we receive a small commission when products are purchased through some links on this website. This does not effect my opinions on books and products. For more information click here.

Ep. 16 Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore — The Stacks Book Club (Lauren Fanella)

cropped-TheStacks_logo_final.jpgThis week Lauren Fanella is here for The Stacks Book Club. We’re talking about Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore. In the book, Milo, a human who has been reincarnated almost 10,000 times, is on a quest for perfection and everlasting life. The book touches on a lot of social justice issues, Love, and of course Death. We talk about these themes, who we would cast in the TV show, and more.

There are spoilers this week, if you plan on reading this book, wait to listen to the episode until you’ve finished.

Here are all the things we mentioned this week on the show

Connect with The Stacks: Instagram|Facebook|Twitter|Goodreads|Traci’s Instagram|iTunes|The Stacks Website|Patreon

Connect with Lauren: Instagram|Goodreads

To contribute to The Stacks, join The Stacks Pack, and get exclusive perks, check out our Patreon page. We are beyond grateful for anything you’re able to give to support the production of this show. If you prefer to do a one time contribution go to paypal.me/thestackspod.

Sponsors

Audible- to get your FREE audiobook download and FREE 30 day trial go to audibletrial.com/thestacks.

Hidrate Spark – for 10% your purchase at hidratespark.com use code TRACI10 (valid through 7/31).

The Stacks participates in affiliate programs in which we receive a small commission when products are purchased through some links on this website. This does not effect my opinions on books and products. For more information click here

 

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

B8907752-52E3-464B-9511-5AE9C5DB5DDAWould you believe me if I told you I never read A Wrinkle in Time as a child? Most people freak out and act as if I told them I’ve never had a sip of water. I don’t know. I guess it just never made its way into my hands. If you’re like me and have never read this book, and don’t know the story here is the gist of this classic children’s novel.

It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger. 

“Wild nights are my glory,” the unearthly stranger told them. “I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me be on my way. Speaking of way, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract”.

Meg’s father had been experimenting with this fifth dimension of time travel when he mysteriously disappeared. Now the time has come for Meg, her friend Calvin, and Charles Wallace to rescue him. But can they outwit the forces of evil they will encounter on their heart-stopping journey through space?

I have to be honest. The only reason I picked this book ups was because of the Ava DuVernay movie adaptation. This movie has a star studded cast, including Oprah. I just felt like I should read the book and then go see the movie.

I read the book. It was a book. There was so little that felt special or exciting to me about this story. The one thing I appreciated was the permission that was given to Meg, the young protagonist, to be her full self. She was encouraged to lean into her vices and trust her instincts. Empowering a young girl to be as moody, angry, and impatient as she wants is wonderful. We need more of that in the world. We should all give ourselves the freedom to feel our feelings fully, and to be where we are. There is no virtue without vice.

The rest I found to be mediocre at best. I didn’t really follow the science fiction parts. Ideas we just thrown out, but not worked through. The book builds toward a climatic ending, and then resolves itself in a about eight pages. There is a romance that is totally superfluous, especially in a children’s book.

The part of the book that I found to be the most off putting was the presence of a very pro-christian outlook. I know L’Engle was a Christian, and her believes of course informed her work. In this story, its seemed unnecessary. It didn’t add value or complexity, it just felt like an opportunity for proselytizing.

It is worth noting that the most powerful part of this book is its place in its own historical context. A sci-fi children’s book with a female protagonist and a woman author written in the 1960’s is so rare it is important by virtue of existing. That so many people, male and female, connected with it over the course of decades speaks to its power. That so many people found this profound in their own lives is meaningful. It is an important step for literature, a huge step in the “representation matters” movement. I do not want my personal opinion of the book to take anything away from what the book is, and what the books means.

I wonder if I had read this book as a child how I would connect to it. I wonder this often about books, not just children’s books. After reading a New York Times op-ed on the best ages to read certain books, I couldn’t agree more. We grow and we change and we develop, and so does our understanding of the world. It makes sense that I might not be able to suspend my disbelief in the same way a ten year old can. And that is okay.

If you are ten, or you have a child, especially a moody little girl, this book seems like it would be a hit! Its a classic for a reason, even if its not for me.

  • Hardcover : 216 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (January 1, 1962)
  • 2/5 stars
  • Buy A Wrinkle in Time on Amazon

The Stacks participates in affiliate programs in which we receive a small commission when products are purchased through some links on this website. This does not effect my opinions on books and products. For more information click here

 

Ep. 3 Talking Books with Sarah Fong

cropped-TheStacks_logo_final.jpgOn this week of The Stacks we are joined by Sarah Fong, a PhD Candidate in American Studies. Sarah is currently writing her dissertation on U.S. practices of social welfare, particularly as they relate to histories of slavery and colonization. This week we talk about the writing process, reading for work vs. reading for pleasure, and the power of books to teach us new things, and allow us to make changes in the world.

Get to know Sarah this week, before next week’s The Stacks Book Club conversation on Jesmyn Ward’s  Men We Reaped.

Here is a list of all the books mentioned on this week’s podcast:

 

Here are some other things we talked about this week:

Connect with The Stacks: iTunes| WebsiteInstagramFacebook | TwitterGoodreads |Traci’s Instagram

Connect with Sarah: Instagram

To contribute to The Stacks, join The Stacks Pack, and get exclusive perks, check out our Patreon page. We are beyond grateful for anything you’re able to give to support the production of this show. If you prefer to do a one time contribution go to paypal.me/thestackspod.

The Stacks participates in affiliate programs in which we receive a small commission when products are purchased through some links on this website. This does not effect my opinions on books and products. For more information click here

#diversiFIVEbooks Round Up

70F30DF8-45D8-4F42-BEA5-255411607B13Its been one month since the start of the #diversiFIVEbooks challenge to bring a little more diversity to the online book community. You can read all about that here.

I wanted to give you all a round up of the books that were mentioned in the last month. This way you can add them to your physical or online to be read list, or just have them all in one place.

The list is organized by prompt. Which means if a book was listed in different categories it will show up twice. If a book was listed more than once in the same category, I will also note that as well. However once in the prompt they’re not organized at all.

If you’ve yet to participate, go join in the fun on your Instagram. And make sure you’re listening to The Stacks Podcast to hear how our guests answer their own #diversiFIVEboooks challenge.

Now on to the round up, be fair warned, its whole lot of books. Enjoy!

A book you loved before you joined Instagram/Bookstagram

A book you love by an author from a different ethnicity than you

A book you’re excited to read by or about people of color

A book you love that you rarely see on Instagram/Bookstagram

A book in a genre you don’t normally read that you ended up loving (and the genre it comes from)

I hope this insanely rich and diverse list inspires you when you need it most. I know I’m looking forward to reading many of these books. If you do pick any of these up let me know what you think.

The Stacks participates in affiliate programs in which we receive a small commission when products are purchased through some links on this website. This does not effect my opinions on books and products. For more information click here.

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

E685FB9E-B8BD-4102-8343-3F3BD1CA6661I went into this book with high expectations. I had seen it all over the internet and some friends were excited about it, too. I purposely did not read anything about the book, and only knew what I gathered from #bookstagram posts. I knew it was a sci-fi book. I knew it was “mind-blowing”. For those of you who aren’t super familiar with this book, here is a little more about it:

“Are you happy with your life?”

Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious.

Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits.

Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”

In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable. Something impossible.
Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.

If we’re being honest, even that blurb doesn’t tell you much about the book. The main thing this book has going for it, is suspense. For the majority of the book you have no clue where its going, and what is coming next. You root for Jason to find out whats going on, and you keep rooting for him as the book unfolds. Sure. The book moves fast enough that you don’t even really have time to decide if you care about Jason. Which, by the end I discovered, I didn’t. I did however want the book to be over, with about 75 pages left. I didn’t care how it ended, I just wanted to know how it ended.

I found this book to be cheap and easy. The writing style is so simple, Crouch barely forms complete sentences. I paused my reading a quarter of the way through to see if this book was Young Adult, because it lacked so much nuance (which I don’t mean as a dig at YA, since some YA books are amazing and subtle). Crouch shies away from developing any of the characters, aside from perhaps Jason. He fares the best, which is good for the reader, since we’re stuck with him the whole time.

Another let down in this book was that it just wasn’t original. Sure this exact story has never been told, but the idea that the choices we make could change our whole trajectory is as old as regret itself. Movies like Sliding Doors or Groundhog Day could fit into this genre. There was a lack of specificity in this book, so the characters and story fell flat. It seemed like a prototype of a genre, verses an actual novel.

I know that I am an outlier on this book and lots of people loved this one. So you might like it too. Its an easy read, and its clever in theory. If you enjoy a light suspenseful book, this could work for you. If you’ve read this one, I’d love to hear what you thought in the comments below.

  • Paperback: 406 pages
  • Publisher: Pan Books (August 24, 2017)
  • 2/5 stars
  • Buy Dark Matter on Amazon

The Stacks participates in affiliate programs in which we receive a small commission when products are purchased through some links on this website. This does not effect my opinions on books and products. For more information click here.