Michael Jackson Inc. (Atria $26) by Zack O’Malley Greenburg offers a perspective fans around the world may have never seen; Michael Jackson the businessman. From deals he pursued and Berry Gordy’s impressions of him taking to the business of music (not just the stage and the stardom), this book offers a new lens. Did Michael Jackson master the music game? He owns the catalogs of Sly Stone and Beatles, pushed the “music video as short films” concept, and bought his own masters back. How? With a team: a lawyer, a label president, lots of money, and well, because was Michael Jackson. The book’s most concrete comments show Michael Jackson’s rarely seen mature adult perspective. You feel like you’re getting to know the man he was, not the timid persona the world knew. Read it. And if you’re a singer and/or songwriter or remotely involved in music, you truly should, just to understand how a master of the game played it to win.
Beer in the Snooker Club (Vintage $15) by Waguih Ghali is not about African-Americans, it’s about Egyptians in Cairo. Mainly Egyptians discussing the politics of their country in the midst of a regime change where the new power is trying to level the socio-economic playing field. They do a lot of this while drinking. But does it sound like Egypt today? Yes. Ghali’s 1964 fictional Egypt rang true for then and now, in terms of the various topics and points of views shared over a round or three of Beer in the Snooker Club.
Return to my Native Land (Archipelago Books $16) by Aimé Césaire—translated from French by John Berger and Anna Bostock—is amazing. Context: the famed Martinican poet began writing this epic poem when he was in Europe, away from all he loved and found familiar. The narrator thinks of home. This level of sophistication is partly why Césaire became a world citizen, mayor, and Martinique’s ambassador to the French Parliament. These lines about an island town illustrate the point: “[I]t is good to be inside, to eat well and drink with warmth, blood sausage two fingers thin like a twisty stalk, or blood sausage broad and thick, the mild sort tasting of wild thyme, the hot kind blazing with spice, scalding coffee sweet aniseed cordial milk punch, rums of liquid sun, and good things to eat which brand your mucous membranes or distill them to delight or weave fragrances across them, when somebody laughs, when another sings, and the refrain spreads like coconut palms as far as you can see…”
Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History (Crossed Genres Publications $19.95), edited by Rose Fox and Daniel José Older, contains 27 stories by speculative fiction writers you should know (Tannarive Due, Victor Lavalle, Nnedi Okonorafor), but includes other African diaspora writers (Kemba Banton, Troy Wiggins, Shanae Brown). What should you expect? Captivating narratives that may make you see the world you’re in differently after reading. Enjoy.