Glow (Atria $26) by Rick James is an autobiography written mostly while James was in prison. Co-author David Ritz keeps James’s voice true, having met the singer while simultaneously writing his celebrated biography of Marvin Gaye. If all you know of Rick James is “Super Freak” and the “Rick James, bitch!” catchphrase from Chappelle’s Show, then you’re not ready for how honestly good this book is.
What do you know about the draft dodger who hightailed it to Canada only to form a soul/R&B band with Neil Young and hang out talking jazz all night long with Joni Mitchell? What do you know about the young teenager from Buffalo who snuck to New York City to witness performances by John Coltrane, only to return home to beatings by his single mom?
What you think you know about Rick James is nothing compared to what you’ll learn in this riveting, conversation-toned tale of one brother’s journey to take that “glow” inside him and share it with others. And the drugs are there; James admits to it all and the part they played in his life. The music path and inspiration is there. But what’s really there is the man he became based on the boy he was, complete with successes foreshadowed with mistakes.
The Land of Love and Drowning ($27.95 Riverhead) by Tiphanie Yanique is a breakthrough novel, Yanique’s second work. This narrative covers three generations of one Caribbean family in the Virgin Islands. Complete with sprinkles of magical realism, this novel will keep you coming back until the last page. It’s an engrossing novel of family pride and shame; culture clashes of Americans, Caribbeans, African-Americans, World War II, lust, secrets, curses, and lore.
What makes it work? Simply the voices of the characters—an older daughter schooled in British stodginess; a younger sister whose island patois is a welcome lure; male suitors that win and lose these women; and all the other people whose lives were interrupted when their Virgin Islands became part of the United States.
Land of Shadows (Forge $24.99) by Rachel Howzell Hall is a contemporary mystery thriller. The protagonist detective in this murder mystery, set in Los Angeles, is a sister who runs a tight ship, practices martial arts, and is desperately trying to figure out who killed a young Black girl dressed in a cheerleader outfit and hung her in a closet at a construction site. If this sounds like an episode of NCIS: Los Angeles, then you’re right. It’s just different, especially when most of the characters are actually African-American. Think Walter Mosley.
The Sound of Silk at Midnight (SWH press $19.95) by SékouWrites is a collection of erotic stories. Some have been seen before in other publications under other names, but most are new. Here, SékouWrites brings the sensual side of things to the table of adult content. Lots of inner monologues play out as the main characters figure out what’s happening, decide how they feel about it, and finally, sure, get down to doing something they probably shouldn’t.