The Cultural Impact of Kanye West, edited by Julius Bailey (Palgrave Macmillan, $95), packs 14 chapters of essays by writers on topics like “Artistic Gifts/Human Complexities,” “Unpacking Hetero-Normativity and Complicating Race and Gender” and “Theorizing  the Aesthetic, the Political and the Existential.” So it’s not light reading or easy reading but critical study plus a textbook. With Kanye and Kim on the cover of Vogue, many may be reading this one with sober attentiveness. As Bailey notes in her foreward, this book is, “a study of the artist within a philosophical framework that intersects with his brand.” Enjoy.

Stokely: A Life (Basic, $29.99) is a thorough biography by Peniel E. Joseph. The bio begins after Trinidadian-American Black activist Stokely Carmichael’s name change to Kwame Ture, after the assassination of his mentor and friend Martin Luther King Jr. Then highlights Ture’s staunch anti-Vietnam war stance, and includes much more than the two words most associated with this man (“Black power”). Trinidad born and raised until 10-years-old, migrating to the U.S. and graduating Howard University to work in the deep South against segregation, Stokely Carmichael’s life and work is a must read for anyone who wants to understand the political and social climate of America in the 1960s.


The Fall of Saints (Atria, $24) by Wanjiku wa Ngugi is making some fictional waves. Intrigue, mystery and international politics transform a housewife into a super sleuth answering the big questions about her man and their adopted son. Think The Americans or Homeland meets The Bourne Identity movies. A Kenyan expatriate lives the American dream until she uncovers her husband’s secrets, which take her back to the country she left.

The Black Body in Ecstasy: Reading Race, Reading Pornography (Duke University Press, cloth $84.95, paperback $23.95) by Jennifer C. Nash is not a summary of Black women in porn. To quote the abstract from her dissertation: “I argue that an analytical approach to racialized pornography will enable Black feminists and racial progressives to ask previously unarticulated questions about Black visual pleasures, Black spectatorship, Black sexual economies, and Black pleasures in blackness.”

Red Now and Laters (Atria, $24) by Marcus J.  Guillory, his debut novel, is set in South Park of Houston, Texas in the 1980s, and centers around a Creole family, specifically a boy named Ti’ John. The father is there, mother too, plus a litany of extended relatives (alive and ghost) who pull the boy to both the good and bad of life. Which will the youth ultimately choose? You have to read through this rich work to find out.

Every Day Is for the Thief by Teju Cole (Random House, $23) is the second United States fictional release by this author. His first release, Open City, took our scene by storm, earning him a Pen/Hemmingway Award. The protagonist’s tales explore one man’s perspective bouncing from the U.S. to Nigeria with all the people and all the extortions you can meet along the way. Originally published in 2007 in Nigeria, if you liked Open City, you’ll like this.

The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon by Willie Perdomo (Penguin, $18) is the third book of poetry from this award-winning poet. This book is all about a musician and a salsa band… or is it about the last day of a musician’s life and his final thoughts? Maybe it’s about both, but the musicality and rhythms don’t disappoint, as Perdomo beats the iambic pentameter to the sound of a ’70s descarga band. If this is your start to Perdomo, the pleasure’s all yours.

Brook Stephenson