Kehinde Wiley: The World Stage Jamaica by Kehinde Wiley (D.A.P. / Stephen Friedman Gallery $40.00) with text by Ekow Eshun comes on the heels of a groundswell show of the same name that’s exhibited internationally. Definitely one of the foremost contemporary American artists, Wiley puts contemporary Jamaican youth in historic colonial poses to rewrite history. See images of this project here.
Everybody’s Got Something by Robin Roberts with Veronica Chambers (Grand Central Publishing $27.99) is an engaging memoir from a public figure covering her bout with breast cancer and bone marrow transplant surgery. Not a sad story in the least, the Good Morning America anchor brings hope and clarity to the mess she’s had to deal with.
Slaves in the Family by Edward Ball (Farrar, Straus and Giroux $ 20.00) is now out in paperback. If you haven’t read it yet, you may want to see how the other half of the American family reacts to the truth of America’s history. Edward Ball recounts, researches and reveals the story of the Ball family finding relatives on both sides of the color line, diving into the family secret of slavery and slaves descended from the pre-Civil War South to present. If you’ve ever wondered how “peculiar” the institution of slavery was (and is) in America, please read this account.
J Dilla Donuts by Jordan Ferguson (33⅓, $14.95) is possibly the best account of James “Jay Dee” Yancey and Detroit’s Generation X there is. While Ferguson begins with Detroit staples like the Electrifying Mojo and the Rhythm Kitchen (a hip-hop party night in midtown Detroit in the 1990s), it delves into Dilla’s last year of life, production and touring while noting the effect lupus had on him as he created this final record. Readers might be surprised to find references to Albert Camus and existentialism here. Yet what other concepts apply to an individual who fought the best fight possible to create a sonic work that Ferguson notes is an album about this individual dealing with death?
30 Americans by the Rubell Family Collection (D.A.P. $39.95) actually has 31 African-American artists representing the last three decades of contemporary work. Names you know (like Jean-Michel Basquiat and Kara Walker) are included, as well as names you may not (like Hank Willis Thomas). The exhibit has been touring since 2011 from the South to the Midwest. See https://rfc.museum/past-exhibitions/30-americans for more details.
Shining Star: Braving the Elements of Earth, Wind and Fire by Philip Bailey (Viking 27.95) is a memoir of a man, a band, and a vision. If you’ve ever been a fan of Earth, Wind and Fire (and who hasn’t?), buy this book! Bailey goes into the formation of the band, some public and private ups and downs, plus stories behind notable hits like “Shining Star” and “September.” What may impress the most is Bailey’s honesty in relating conflicts that eventually tore the band apart, as well as his own shortcomings.
’Til the Well Runs Dry by Lauren Francis-Sharma (Henry Holt $27.00) is a debut novel set in Trinidad that moves multi-generationally from the 1940s to the 1960s. It’s love, family hardship and a clashing of cultures. Francis-Sharma’s writing is engaging, easy, and (as love stories go) the protagonists couldn’t have more opposition than they do. He’s Indian. She’s Trinidadian. Neither family wants this union. So what do they do? The best they can.