Book Review: Colored People-A Memoir By Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Book Review_ Colored People -A Memoir By Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

 

One Sunday I met with my cousin for lunch at D’Bronx Pizza down on 39th Street in Kansas City, Missouri. After we said our goodbyes, I was anxious to get across the street to one of my favorite bookstores in the city, Prosperos. I think my husband and I discovered this little spot, oh probably when we were dating about 12 or years ago. It’s a quaint little bookstore with a variety of books and a basement with books as well (side note: they have Plexiglass on the first level where you can see the basement through the floor. I’m not sure why that’s cool, but I like it).

Anyways, I decided to venture into the basement where I discovered a section for Autobiographies. I personally love reading about other peoples lives, so this is a section I usually frequent in the library or bookstore. Plus, I had just finished Michelle Obama’s book, “Becoming” the month before and was still in the mode of learning about others.

While browsing this book stuck out, “Colored People”. I thought to myself, what an odd title. ‘Cause in 2019, we wouldn’t dare use that term to describe ourselves. As long as I’ve been alive we have referred to ourselves as “Black” or “African-American”, maybe even
“People of Color”. Any Black or other wouldn’t dare use that term, unless they were looking to get knocked out, right? Then I saw who it was by and I got it. Immediately, I decided that was my read for the month.

I have watched many episode of “Finding Your Roots” hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. on PBS. It is show that actually prompted me to do some of my own research on my mother’s mom’s side of the family, which I didn’t know too much about (side note: this is my grandma Alice, who if you read this blog you know I talk about her quite often and I named one of my vintage shops after).

It’s quite interesting to find out where your family comes from and your heritage. In addition to that, I enjoy reading about, as well as, learning about black history and how things were “back in the day”. I guess that may have something to do with what I do for a living with vintage stuff. It’s just intriguing!

The book is a memoir about Mr. Gates’ life, a vivid walk down memory lane and a brief telling of how blacks have went from being called the N-word, to “Colored”, to “African-American”, to “Black”. It’s also a tale of how racism existed even in this small town and how color-ism existed in his own family with the Coleman’s (his mom’s side of the family) and the Gates’ (his dad’s side).

Mr. Gates grew up in the mill town of Piedmont, West Virginia during the 50’s and 60’s. Obviously a time of segregation. He recounts a relationship with a white girl he had liked since elementary school and how dangerous it was to be seen together when they started dating even in the early 70’s. His tales of his mother pressing hair,  and the double meaning of what the “kitchen” is for black folks. For me the way that Gates, Jr. tells these stories I would liken to the way my Dad tells stories.

His descriptions of different uncles and aunts, local neighbors and town people are so vivid you can almost see the person. Descriptions of Family Reunions, Sunday Dinners, how to make an old school du-rag out of pantyhose, faith and (“gaw-duh”) as well as, learning about taboo subjects like sex from your Barber were some of the highlight of his upbringing.

I give this book 5 out of 5 stars. It made me laugh and think. It was a good description of small town fun and how black families were and still are in many aspects. It was definitely relate-able for me.

Great read.

To check out what I’m currently reading, follow me @nicolealicia on Good Reads!

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Nicole Alicia’s Top 10 Black “Time-Period” Movies

Nicole Alicia's Top 10 Black _Time-Period_ Movies

I love black history!

It’s not just a month for me…

I’ve always been interested in my family history on both sides. When we had to do family trees in school as a project, I got very excited to share and learn about my heritage.

I am African-American and our culture is rich and used to be built on legacy and heritage.

I’m am trying to keep that tradition with my son and pass on to him the love of learning about our history as a people and what was passed on to me from my great-grandparents, grandparents and my parents.

I just realized that I am a huge fan of what I call “time-period” movies.

Currently, I am writing a historical fiction novel based in the 1940’s. As I am delving deeper into my research, I started questioning the reason of why I am so interested in black history and certain time periods.

So I thought I’d share with you my top 10 list of Black “time-period” movies that I love to watch any time of the year, but especially since it’s Black History Month this is a timely kind of post, don’t ‘cha think?

So here we go…

  1. Crooklyn– Another Spike Lee Joint…as you know from previous posts I am a Spike Lee fan. I loved this from the first time I saw it though. Being an only child not only did it give me an active imagination of what it would be like to have brothers, but I related to Troy’s character in a certain way as a small girl as well. It was based in the late 60’s, early 70’s which is a time period that my mom and dad were fond of since they were in their teens and 20’s during this era. I still love to hear the stories of what took place back then.
  2. Dead Presidents– Ladies, I’ve always had a thing for Larenz Tate…he’s is too handsome. This one though I loved the plot, not so much the ending but the again how they based it around what was historically happening and the very real after affects of the Vietnam War, and then tying a great fictional story-line to it. Plus, it was the start of so many actors careers, like cry-baby Terrance Howard and Chris Tucker.
  3. The Inkwell-Again…Larenz Tate. I think this one may have resonated with me because he was spending a summer in an unfamiliar place…I too used to do that as well as a kid.
  4. American Gangster-It just amazes me I think also, what you could do back in the ’60’s and 70’s that people were getting away with. I’m a big fan of mob and criminal movies or movies based on a true stories I should say. This is another one I watch, over and over.
  5. Hoodlum-Closely related to the whole Frank Lucas story since it’s about Bumpy Johnson, Frank Lucas’s mentor. I mean you really can’t go wrong with a movie that has Cecily Tyson in it, can you?
  6. Harlem Nights-Do I even need to explain the greatness of this one? Classic! R.I.P. Charley Murphy
  7. Cooley High-This is somewhat of a comedy, but totally has a #squadgoals appeal to it, if you know what I mean. This is back when dudes, really had each other’s back. Another movie based in the 60’s…I have no idea what my fascination about this decade is? LOL!
  8. Corina, Corina-I think I may have watched this one so much as a little kid, I messed the VHS up! I think it’s one of the best acting roles Whoopi has ever played in. It’s a touching story about color lines also and my first real visualization of what segregation was back then. Again, the costume design on this one is so neat!
  9. Glory– I still watch this one just to see that one tear role down Denzel’s face. Classic!
  10. The Five Heartbeats/Dream Girls– Look I can’t leave these off over here, I just can’t! I know ALLL the songs to both movies and can’t decide which I like best.

 

I hope you like my list…leave comments below…let me know which is your favorite!!!

Until next time…

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