Quote for the Day: March 25th, 2022

Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls: A Memoir by T Kira Madden

I can do things like that when I write—pluck any thread of want and weave a whole world.

T Kira Madden, Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls: A Memoir

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Quote for the Day: January 18th, 2022

On My Own by Diane Rehm

I don’t believe in closure. What does it really mean? Does it mean the closing of a door, the locking up of memories, the refusal to allow a flow of consciousness that may involve some measure of grief?

Diane Rehm, On My Own

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Quote for the Day: January 12th, 2022

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

Science has taught me that everything is more complicated than we first assume, and that being able to derive happiness from discovery is a recipe for a beautiful life.

Hope Jahren, Lab Girl

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Quote for the Day: January 10th, 2022

Sissy: A Coming-of-Gender Story by Jacob Tobia

When you start to love yourself for the first time, when you start to truly embrace who you are—flaws and all—your scars start to look a lot more like beauty marks.

Jacob Tobia, Sissy: A Coming-of-Gender Story

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Picture Book Review: Nina: A Story of Nina Simone by Traci N. Todd (Words) and Christian Robinson (Pictures)

Nina: A Story of Nina Simone by Traci N. Todd (Words) and Christian Robinson (Pictures)

Stars when you shine

You know how I feel

“Feeling Good” by Nina Simone

The first thing that caught my eye when I picked up Nina was the familiar art style on the cover. I wracked my brain trying to remember where I’d seen it before, and all of a sudden it came to me: Christian Robinson had also done the artwork for Josephine, Patricia Hruby Powell’s pictorial biography of Josephine Baker, another Black woman performer who spat in the faces of her detractors and will forever be remembered as an iconoclast. Then I did some research and discovered that I’ve read and enjoyed several books featuring Robinson’s illustrations in addition to Nina and Josephine: You Matter, Antoinette, School’s First Day of School, Leo: A Ghost Story, Last Stop on Market Street, and Gaston.

One thing that holds true throughout history is that white supremacist racists can’t stand Black excellence.

One thing that holds true throughout history is that white supremacist racists can’t stand Black excellence. It cows them and forces them to confront their own inadequacies. Nina Simone is a quintessential example of that.

Nina Simone at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol in March 1969. Made available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.

Eunice Kathleen Waymon, the little girl who would grow up to become Nina Simone, was born the sixth of eight children on February 21st, 1933. Her mother was a Methodist minister and housekeeper. Her father was a handyman who at one time owned a dry-cleaning business and who unfortunately suffered from bouts of ill health. Little Eunice showed signs of genius at an early age, displaying a seemingly preternatural talent for music that far exceeded what anyone could possibly have expected from such a small child. The music seemed to come from somewhere deep inside her, flowing from a secret river only she could access.

The music seemed to come from somewhere deep inside her, flowing from a secret river only she could access.

Eunice’s mother only allowed her to play hymns and other church music, but her father surreptitiously introduced her to the wonders of jazz. Her personal favorite composer grew to be Johann Sebastian Bach, whose compositions started off soft and crescendoed into a passionate fervor, which reminded Eunice of the rhythms of her mother’s preaching.

Since preaching didn’t pay all the bills, Eunice’s mother also worked as a housekeeper. One of the white women whose house Eunice’s mother cleaned learned of Eunice’s gift on the piano, and along with Eunice’s mother, endeavored to do anything in her power to help the little girl receive the best training possible and reach a wider audience with her music.

Because of the kind of music heard in these establishments and the predilections of the clientele, Eunice had to adopt a nom de plume to keep her family from learning of her moonlighting gigs. Thus Nina Simone was born.

Their efforts more than paid off when Eunice was accepted into the Juilliard School of Music. Afterwards, she also applied for a scholarship to the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. She was denied admission and started playing in jazz bars in Atlantic City to earn money. She mostly did this so she could continue studying with private tutors and further her classical education. No matter what she did, Eunice kept her eyes focused on improving her craft, which in my opinion is one of the main hallmarks of a true artist.

Because of the kind of music heard in these establishments and the predilections of the clientele, Eunice had to adopt a nom de plume to keep her family from learning of her moonlighting gigs. Thus Nina Simone was born.

From @theartoffun (Christian Robinson) on Instagram

The proprietors of the establishments Ms. Simone played in insisted she sing as well as play. Nina had never before thought of herself as a singer, being trained as a classical pianist from the time her legs were too short to touch the floor as she played. But if they wanted her to sing, then sing she would.

However, following the assassination of civil rights activist Medgar Evers in Jackson, Mississippi in June 1963 and the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church which killed four young Black girls in Birmingham, Alabama that September, Nina had finally had enough.

Soon after she started singing to accompany herself on piano in Atlantic City bars, she catapulted into the spotlight. From 1958-1974, Ms. Simone recorded more than 40 albums and captivated audiences in performances all over the world. She still felt the sting of anti-Black racism but for a long time chose not to use her platform for activism. However, following the assassination of civil rights activist Medgar Evers in Jackson, Mississippi in June 1963 and the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church which killed four young Black girls in Birmingham, Alabama that September, Nina had finally had enough.

Her first protest song was “Mississippi G*****” (I’m censoring the title for my mom, who reads this blog), which appeared on the album Nina Simone in Concert (pictured below).

Nina Simone in Concert (1964)

White Southern Evangelicals were incensed at the audacity of this Black woman who refused to smile and simper and coddle their fragile feelings.

White Southern Evangelicals were incensed at the audacity of this Black woman who refused to smile and simper and coddle their fragile feelings. So outraged were they in fact that promotional singles sent to some radio stations were returned broken neatly in half. And what a metaphor for the America of the 60s and now the 20s. It should be a matter of profound shame that we are still fighting for basic human dignity in the year 2021 with two large contingents of the population debating whose lives should and should not (or don’t and will never) matter.

I love seeing Black creators celebrated by other Black creators because representation matters and little Black children deserve to see people who look like them living lives they want to emulate.

All in all, Nina is a pictorial biography of the highest caliber. I wouldn’t be one smidgen surprised if it’s named one of the best books of 2021 written for children because in my opinion it already is. I love seeing Black creators celebrated by other Black creators because representation matters and little Black children deserve to see people who look like them living lives they want to emulate. They need that blueprint. The creators already exist; it’s up to us to amplify their art.

From Nina: A Story of Nina Simone: “Nina Simone sang the whole story of Black America for everyone to hear. Her voice resounded with the love, joy, and power of it all. And when she sang of Black children—you lovely, precious dreams—her voice sounded like hope.”

Nina: A Story of Nina Simone was released by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers on September 28th, 2021 and is now available to purchase wherever books are sold.

Bonus: My Favorite Recording by Nina Simone

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Quote for the Day: August 8th, 2021

This Will Only Hurt a Little by Busy Philipps

Do your best, Scott Bell. You were always a fucking cunt.

I AM SCREAMING!!!! Slay him, Busy, whoever he is.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please follow, like, comment, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at thevoraciousbibliophile@yahoo.com or catch me on Twitter @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Quote for the Day: August 6th, 2021

Born with Teeth: A Memoir by Kate Mulgrew

I’m going to cheat today. Normally, I only share one quote on these posts but being as how Born with Teeth is one of my favorite memoirs of all time, I am sharing three quotes from this amazing book.

It’s hard to know what’s in a person’s heart when she never says goodbye.

Find what you love and the rest will follow.

I set myself on a course and didn’t look back.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please follow, like, comment, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at thevoraciousbibliophile@yahoo.com or catch me on Twitter @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Quote for the Day: July 23rd, 2021

To survive trauma, one must be able to tell a story about it.

Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir by Natasha Trethewey was arguably the best book I read last year. Like so many of the books I seem to be gravitating toward recently, it explores loss; specifically, the loss of the author’s mother. Trethewey’s mother was murdered by her stepfather when she was only 19 years old, and Memorial Drive both grounds and mythologizes her mother’s story, likening her to Persephone of Greek mythology, who was kidnapped by Hades and made Queen of the Underworld.

I love the quote I chose from the book today because I have experienced its truth in my own life. There are some things I have experienced I’m unsure I would have survived had I not been able to create narratives around them; the stories of how I came so very close to the edge, could in fact hear the wind whistling in the canyon below, and how Something always pulled me back.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please follow, like, comment, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at thevoraciousbibliophile@yahoo.com or catch me on Twitter @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Book Review: Truth & Beauty: [A Friendship] by Ann Patchett (Audiobook)

Truth & Beauty is an exquisitely written and heartfelt evocation of a friendship. Reading it reminded me that most of the time we are incapable of saving anyone other than ourselves. We love, and that love may indeed be reciprocated, but we cannot pull someone back from the cliff of their own self-destruction by sheer force of will. Love is not a panacea. Losing someone we love is torture in its most essential form, distilled and pure. In the absence of someone we’ve loved more than our own lives, how do we reckon with what comes next in the aftermath? I don’t know that there’s an answer for this. Perhaps memory is the only thing that saves us. By committing to memory and the page everything that we hold dearest, we stave off our own oblivion, if only for the briefest of moments.

Perhaps memory is the only thing that saves us. By committing to memory and the page everything that we hold dearest, we stave off our own oblivion, if only for the briefest of moments.

I think that’s why Ann Patchett wrote Truth & Beauty. By writing about the love and friendship she shared with Lucy, everyone who reads it will know that there were once two friends named Ann and Lucy who loved each other with everything they had, and that death could not quell that love or erase its impact.

Favorite Quotes from the Book

We had invented time and could not kill it fast enough.

For the first time in my life I’ve found myself praying for actual things. Before I only prayed for stuff like wisdom and love and states of mind. These past few months, though, I’ve been much more materialistic. I want definite action on God’s part. Is this wrong? I worry that I’ll get punished somehow. I need to get out of this mess but I just don’t know how so I ask for his help.

From one of Lucy’s letters to Ann

She [Lucy] loved Christ for his suffering, for what they had in common. With all his strength, even Christ had asked if this burden could be lifted from him. The idea that pain was not a random thing, but a punishment of the evil upon the good, the powerful upon the weak, gave her something to rage against. After all, what is the point of being angry at nature when nature could care less? If you cried against barbarism, then at least you were standing up to a consciousness that could hypothetically be shaped. When Lucy believed that there were actually things in the world that were worse than what had happened to her, she could pull herself up on this knowledge like a rope. When she lost sight of it, she sank.

I used to think that once you really knew a thing, its truth would shine on forever. Now it’s pretty obvious to me that more often than not, the batteries fade, and sometimes what you knew even goes out with a bang when you try to call on it just like a light bulb cracking off when you throw the switch.

From one of Lucy’s letters to Ann

History is strangely incomprehensible when you’re standing in the middle of it.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please follow, like, comment, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at thevoraciousbibliophile@yahoo.com or catch me on Twitter @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

All Aboard the ARC: Lugosi: The Rise and Fall of Hollywood’s Dracula by Koren Shadmi

***Note: I received a free digital review copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.***

There’s the likeness and the icon itself. The myth and the man behind it. We owe our modern conception of Dracula to Bela Lugosi, who donned the cape of the infamous bloodthirsty count in Tod Browning’s production of Dracula, which premiered in 1931, before the pearl-clutchers would focus their prudish crosshairs on the film industry in the form of the Hays Code, which forced studios to either veil or completely eliminate references to anything the aforementioned pearl-clutchers would consider morally reprehensible. Horror films were a natural target of the Code, so it is to the benefit of the culture at-large and the horror industry in particular that Dracula was released in the pre-Code era.

Horror films were a natural target of the Code, so it is to the benefit of the culture at-large and the horror industry in particular that Dracula was released in the pre-Code era.

Bela Lugosi was a Hungarian émigré who first cut his teeth on the stage in the National Theatre of Hungary. After facing political persecution, he made his move to the promising shores of America. First starring in (as well as producing and directing) shoestring-budget theater productions with other Hungarian émigrés, young Bela soon found himself disheartened, feeling as if he was destined to die a penniless pauper.

His first big break came when he met Henry Barton, a theatrical manager who had been impressed with Lugosi’s performance in one of his Hungarian-language productions. The American impresario hadn’t understood a word of the dialogue, but had been captivated by Lugosi’s command of the stage. He told him he would be perfect in a new play he was producing called The Red Poppy if only his English were better. Never one to give up, Lugosi told Barton he was a quick learner and would be willing to have an English tutor hired with the tutor’s wages deducted from his own.

The Red Poppy’s run was short-lived, a commercial failure. Lugosi, however, was praised for his performance and afterwards he had consistent work in small-budget English-language theater and silent film productions. Once he secured the role of the titular character in Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston’s Broadway production of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, his fate was sealed. The rest, as they say, is history.

Koren Shadmi does an excellent job bringing Bela Lugosi to life. Penning a pictorial biography of one of the world’s most iconic actors is a daunting task, certainly not for the faint of heart, but Shadmi deftly illuminates the man behind the myth, waking him from his coffin for a whole new generation.

Penning a pictorial biography of one of the world’s most iconic actors is a daunting task, certainly not for the faint of heart, but Shadmi deftly illuminates the man behind the myth, waking him from his coffin for a whole new generation.

Shadmi’s book is just as perfect for the longtime Lugosi acolyte as it is for those who only know him through his image as Dracula. It is evocative and daring and sobering. I honestly can’t recommend it highly enough.

Shadmi’s book is just as perfect for the longtime Lugosi acolyte as it is for those who only know him through his image as Dracula.

Lugosi: The Rise and Fall of Hollywood’s Dracula by Koren Shadmi is due out on September 28th, 2021 and is available to preorder wherever books are sold.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please follow, like, comment, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at thevoraciousbibliophile@yahoo.com or catch me on Twitter @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.