Sunlight Through Bullet Holes (Moore Black Press $24.95) by Jessica Care Moore is a book of poetry you want and need in your collection. Hailing from Detroit, Moore mixes observation with passion and brevity. It’s black intelligence filtered through rhythm and blues, so her siren songs melt into you. But what is she saying? That Detroit is having hard times magnified by the wider economic drought (or is it doubt?) of the United States. That she wishes her son a better life than one where Trayvon Martin wasn’t just last year and what’s happening this year isn’t much better. That sometimes a woman needs time to be a woman with a man and their time may be fleeting and he may be Mr. Wrong during too much of it.
Moore explores that her son is a blessing. She laments the agents of change coming for her city, erasing old for new. Yet there are so many other poems here, and such beautifully poignant syntax, that it may be too easy to say “deep.” Get it.
Forty Acres (Atria $25) by Dwayne Alexander Smith is a ride into the surreal. First, it’s everything you can imagine: small-time kid hitting it in the big leagues. “Small time” is lawyer Martin Grey and “the big leagues” are the Black men at the top of Fortune 500 companies. They just whisked him into their inner circle. He’s been chosen, but for what? And what if he’s not down for the cause, whatever it may be? This is a thriller, because what happens once inside the gates of a remote resort changes everything. And everything is a 40-acre compound run by Blacks and slave-labored by Whites. For Martin Grey, it’s either the end or just the beginning.
Endangered (Amistad $24.99) by Jean Love Cush is another thriller, but this time with more social-political commentary, with the anticipation of a verdict in a trial. The protagonist is Malik, a boy accused of murder who’s arrested, jailed and on trial as an adult. There is his single mother who really shows a range of emotions, a White trial lawyer, a Black private attorney. and all the racial commentary you can muster. Everything you think can happen, does. Whatever defense you can come up with, they go for something else—a premise that makes all the wheels turn a little bit harder as sides are chosen and the suspense builds.
Dismantle: An Anthology of Writing from the VONA/Voices Writing Workshop (Thread Makes Blanket Press $19.95) is a collection of poetry, prose and nonfiction. It’s a thinking man’s sport of reflection, observation, mood and place. Writers you know (Mat Johnson, Junot Díaz, Maaza Mengiste, Justin Torres) have excerpts here, as well as the new writers with new names you don’t know yet. Seasoned writers sharpen emerging writers; maybe that’s why the narratives are good whatever the chosen format. Editor Marissa Johnson-Valenzuela said it best in her introduction: “We know that literature reflects reality… It is an insistence that the construction of identity is complex.” So if you crave more meat than fat, read on and find new stories to share and discuss in your book group, status updates and tweets.