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    Brown Girls Reading: A Promised Land by Barack Obama A Joint Book Review with Charnaie Gordon & Nicole Blades

    One of the joys of blogging is meeting other like-minded book lovers who share the same taste in books as you do. From the time I met author Nicole Blades, she and I clicked since with both have an affinity for great literature. Bonus points for us living in the same state and only a few miles apart from one another. She was the perfect person to read President Barack Obama’s memoir, A Promised Land with.

    In case you haven’t read it yet, check out the synopsis below from the publisher.

    Synopsis
    In the stirring, highly anticipated first volume of his presidential memoirs, Barack Obama tells the story of his improbable odyssey from young man searching for his identity to leader of the free world, describing in strikingly personal detail both his political education and the landmark moments of the first term of his historic presidency—a time of dramatic transformation and turmoil.

    Obama takes readers on a compelling journey from his earliest political aspirations to the pivotal Iowa caucus victory that demonstrated the power of grassroots activism to the watershed night of November 4, 2008, when he was elected 44th president of the United States, becoming the first African American to hold the nation’s highest office.

    Reflecting on the presidency, he offers a unique and thoughtful exploration of both the awesome reach and the limits of presidential power, as well as singular insights into the dynamics of U.S. partisan politics and international diplomacy. Obama brings readers inside the Oval Office and the White House Situation Room, and to Moscow, Cairo, Beijing, and points beyond. We are privy to his thoughts as he assembles his cabinet, wrestles with a global financial crisis, takes the measure of Vladimir Putin, overcomes seemingly insurmountable odds to secure passage of the Affordable Care Act, clashes with generals about U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, tackles Wall Street reform, responds to the devastating Deepwater Horizon blowout, and authorizes Operation Neptune’s Spear, which leads to the death of Osama bin Laden.

    Nicole’s Review

    It was kind of fitting that the first book I finished in 2021 was Barack Obama’s instant bestselling memoir, A Promised Land. Mind, I started the book just after Thanksgiving 2020… but, listen, as you know, this thing is more than 700 pages long! For someone who typically shies away from books over 500 pages (375-ish is kind of the sweet spot), the fact that I read it cover to cover is a triumph. 

    A Promised Land is good. Really good. So good that I’m ready for volume two of his memoir. (That thing better not be 900 pages, though, B! *long stare*) Obama is naturally smart, charming, and funny, and it all comes through on the page. He feels like a real person with humor and humanity. (He even drops a few F-bombs, which made me giggle a little.)

    The book is beautifully written—candid and revealing while also being interesting and filled with warmth. The man knows how to tell a riveting story. And the details! He describes people places, rooms, even “The Beast”—the armored limo that is the presidential state car—with such precision, paying attention to even the smallest note. For example, he mentions a nun with a face as “grooved as a peach pit”…I mean, you can totally see the face, right? There are plenty of moments like that, where his words paint a clear picture. It’s not an easy task to do as a writer. It is a remarkable skill, fueled by an honest interest and curiosity in people, their lives, and your shared moments with them.

    Early in the book, the essential question is posed: Why you, Barack? Why do you need to be president? His answer, in part, is one of my favorite quotes from the book:

    “…Here’s one thing I know for sure, though. I know that the day I raise my right hand and take the oath to be president of the United States, the world will start looking at America differently. I know that kids around this country—Black kids, Hispanic kids, kids who don’t fit in—they’ll see themselves differently, too, their horizons lifted, their possibilities expanded. And that alone… that would be worth it.”

    Listen. When I read that passage, I read it again, slowly. Then I got my Oprah on and highlighted the quote, and marked it with one of those sticky note flag strips. I wanted to remember it. I wanted to remember how it made me feel: Inspired. 

    Charnaie’s Review

    A Promised Land. What can I say? I expected this book to be a winner and it did not disappoint! Although it was long, I savored every page of this book like a fine wine. I will admit, it’s hefty 700+ page count was daunting in the beginning, but since Barack Obama is such an enjoyable and natural storyteller that definitely helped make it feel less daunting. And since I had the homie, Nicole Blades, holding me accountable to finish our “assigned” chapters, that definitely helped too.

    It was refreshing to hear Obama admit to his mistakes, doubt himself on different occasions, climb out of credit card debt, get more insight into his relationship with Michelle, learn about his mom and have the ability to re-live the 2008 election, which I personally refer to as the “Yes We Can” era.

    I found myself laughing out loud in some parts, shedding tears, and nodding in full agreement during other parts of the book. Oh, how I miss the Obama family dearly! Lucky for us, we get to enjoy his words here in A Promised Land and then again in Volume 2 once it’s released. Oh, and let’s not forget about Michelle’s book Becoming and both of their podcasts on Spotify!

    I am in awe of the Obama family and have total admiration for them and their service. It’s a delight to hear a politician speak so candidly and eloquently with honesty and dignity. The one word that kept running through my mind while reading this book was: hope. Hope for a better future for my children and this world.

    Here are two of my favorite quotes from the book:

    “there are people in the world who think only about themselves. They don’t care what happens to other people so long as they get what they want. They put other people down to make themselves feel important. “Then there are people who do the opposite, who are able to imagine how others must feel, and make sure that they don’t do things that hurt people. “So,” she said, looking me squarely in the eye. “Which kind of person do you want to be?”
    ― Barack Obama, A Promised Land

    “But you don’t choose the time. The time chooses you. Either you seize what may turn out to be the only chance you have, or you decide you’re willing to live with the knowledge that the chance has passed you by.”
    ― Barack Obama, A Promised Land

    About Nicole

    Author Nicole Blades

    Nicole Blades is a novelist, speaker, and journalist who has been putting her stories on paper since the third grade. Born and raised in Montreal, Quebec, by Caribbean parents, Nicole moved to New York City and launched her journalism career working at Essence magazine. She later co-founded the online magazine SheNetworks, and worked as an editor at ESPN and Women’s Health.

    As a freelance journalist, Nicole’s articles and essays have appeared in The New York Times, Runner’s World, Women’s Health, Good Housekeeping, Health, MarieClaire.com, WashingtonPost.com, and more. Her latest book, HAVE YOU MET NORA?, along with her previous novels, THE THUNDER BENEATH US and EARTH’S WATERS, are available wherever books are sold.

    Nicole is a proud member of the Tall Poppy Writers, a professional group of women writers committed to supporting and promoting its members’ work and connecting authors with readers. And she is also a National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer.

    She has been a presenter and guest speaker at conferences such as Massachusetts Conference for Women; The Muse & the Marketplace; Mom 2.0 Summit; Well-Read Black Girl Festival; Writer’s Digest Conference; the Women’s Fiction Writers Association Retreat, and the Surrey International Writers’ Conference.

    Nicole lives in New England with her husband and their son. You may find her on social media at: Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook

    About Charnaie

    Author Charnaie Gordon

    Charnaie loves connecting people with diverse and inclusive books, kid-friendly products and family experiences they will love. She has been reading aloud with both of her children daily since they were born.

    Charnaie is a wife, mom and a former Computer Programmer by education. She have over 15 years of experience in the Information Technology field and has both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Computer Science/Information Technology. She is now an author, podcast host, speaker, Digital Creator/Influencer and the founder of her children’s soon-to-be non-profit organization 50 States 50 Books where they collect and donate diverse children’s books to deserving kids in each of the 50 U.S. states.

    Her blog Here Wee Read, is where she expresses her creativity and passion for reading, diverse literature, and literacy. More than anything else, she cares about connecting people with great books that they love because she believe that books are an absolute necessity . Her passion for diversity and inclusion is driven by a desire for everyone to have his or her own voice, whether it be through books, television, or other media. Charnaie believes it’s important that people of all races, and all ethnicities, are able to see themselves represented and included.

    Charnaie lives in New England with her husband and their daughter and son. You may find her on social media at: Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook

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    Always Eat After 7pm: Week 4 Update Conclusion & Final Thoughts

    Disclaimer: This post is brought to you by our sponsor, “Always Eat After 7 PM”. As always, the opinions expressed below are my own.

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book Always Eat After 7pm and appreciated the conversational, irreverent tone by author and fitness expert Joel Marion.

    The biggest lessons I learned from the book are – you can totally eat after 7pm AND you can’t ignore your diet. Eating right and getting in regular exercise really does make a huge difference in your overall well being if your goal is to remain fit and in shape.

    The essential idea of this book is to re-learn how to eat whatever you want whenever you’re hungry (in moderation), without imposing rules or guilt on yourself about it. The chapters take you through a step-by-step process for this, with the idea being to work through them over time.

    There’s so much useful information in it that contradicts lots of completely baseless assumptions and myths I’d picked up over the years.  Always Eat After 7 PM really helped me to challenge leftover diet culture ways of thinking, good/bad perspectives on food, un-evidenced fears about health, and the compulsion to not trust my body and instead feel the need to control it.

    I plan to maintain my body by following a modified version of this diet while ensuring I continue to work out on a regular basis and drink plenty of water. My hope is that I can commit to maintaining this lifestyle for as long as I can with the understanding that if I “fall off the wagon” I give myself enough grace and get back on again.

    I’d highly recommend this book for people like me who want to tone up their bodies or people who want to lose weight and learn to maintain it afterwards. If you read it and decide to give it a try I’d love to know your thoughts and if you had success with it.

    Check out my previous posts below to read about my weekly progression.

    Week 1 Update
    Week 2 Update
    Week 3 Update

    Always Eat After 7 PM: The Revolutionary Rule-Breaking Diet That Lets You Enjoy Huge Dinners, Desserts, and Indulgent Snacks—While Burning Fat Overnight by Joel Marion is now available to purchase.

    About the Author

    Joel Marion is a six-time bestselling author, host of the top-ranked inspirational podcast Born to Impact, and the co-founder of BioTrust Nutrition (the largest eCommerce supplement company in the United States). Additionally, his work has been featured in the pages of more than 20 popular national newsstand magazines including Men’s Fitness, Woman’s Day, Men’s Health, Oxygen, Men’s Journal, and Clean Eating. He resides with his wife, Lisa, and two daughters in Clearwater Beach, Florida.

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    Always Eat After 7pm: Goal Setting + An Update

    Disclaimer: This post is brought to you by our sponsor, “Always Eat After 7 PM”. As always, the opinions expressed below are my own.

    I recently finished reading the book Always Eat After 7pm written by Joel Marion.  It was certainly an informative and engaging read that taught me so much about healthy eating.  By following Joel’s straightforward approach, I was able to press the reset button on my entire diet and get serious about toning up my body. One of the best things was trying out some of the recipes from the book like the no-bake salted caramel bars, fruit tarts and the chili loaded baked potatoes…yum!

     In case you’re unfamiliar with the book and what it’s all about, here is a brief explanation and direct quote taken from the book:

    Always Eat After 7 PM is a three-phase program that teaches you how to lose big by strategically eating big when you are naturally hungriest—in the evening. This may sound too good to be true, but let me assure you it is no gimmick. It’s all about making strategic and smart food swaps, and you can still eat your favorite foods.”

    I’m happy to report I lost a total of four pounds since beginning my fitness journey.  At the start of this program I told you my goal was to tone up certain areas of my body.  What I didn’t expect was to lose a few pounds along the way which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Although I feel and look relatively the same since the start of this program, I do notice I have slightly more energy in the mornings which lasts throughout my day until bedtime.

    Here are a few additional highlights from the book I’d like to share:

    • Protein is the most fat-loss-friendly food because it burns more calories while being digested than any other macronutrient.
    • The biggest challenge people face when following any type of diet is getting adequate amounts from whole foods each day to reap these benefits. This is when protein powder comes in handy and can help you further accelerate your fat loss.
    • Probiotics are friendly, living microbes in the gut that help us stay healthy.  You carry about four pounds of microbes (bacteria, yeasts, fungi, and so forth) in your gut—that’s about 100 trillion microbes.

    The recipes, the meal plan, and lots of scientific backup in this book make it easy to follow along and enjoy.  Joel also provides you with of motivation to keep going after you complete the program so you can maintain your weight.

    I’ll post my final update soon, so stay tuned!

    In the meantime, check out my two previous posts from the first two weeks here:

    Week 1 Update
    Week 2 Update

    Always Eat After 7 PM: The Revolutionary Rule-Breaking Diet That Lets You Enjoy Huge Dinners, Desserts, and Indulgent Snacks—While Burning Fat Overnight by Joel Marion is now available to purchase here.

    About the Author
    Joel Marion is a six-time bestselling author, host of the top-ranked inspirational podcast Born to Impact, and the cofounder of BioTrust Nutrition (the largest eCommerce supplement company in the United States). Additionally, his work has been featured in the pages of more than 20 popular national newsstand magazines including Men’s Fitness, Woman’s Day, Men’s Health, Oxygen, Men’s Journal, and Clean Eating. He resides with his wife, Lisa, and two daughters in Clearwater Beach, Florida.

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    Always Eat After 7PM: Meet Author Joel Marion + An Update

    Disclaimer: This post is brought to you by our sponsor, “Always Eat After 7 PM”. As always, the opinions expressed below are my own.

    A few days ago, I introduced you to the book Always Eat After 7pm written by Joel Marion.  You can refer back to my first update post here.

    Today, I’m updating you on my first week progress since starting the 14-day Acceleration Phase of Joel’s program.

    Before I get into my update, let me fill you in on some of my favorite things I learned in the first part of the book:

    • Regular nut consumption has been shown to boost metabolism by as much as 11 percent and increase fat burning by up to 50 percent.
    • Almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios and walnuts are great late-night snacks fat burning snacks.
    • Other foods like cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, hard boiled eggs, grapefruit, blueberries and cherries are also recommended for late-night snacking
    • The simple 3-minute fat burning morning ritual recommended by Joel – this is my new favorite thing to do in the mornings!

    At the start of the second part of the book, Joel lets readers know what to expect during the first phase of his program:

    “During this phase, you get to eat a variety of protein choices and many different kinds of veggies. You’ll be limiting your calories and carb intake a bit so that your body shifts quickly into fat-burning mode; this is the only phase in which you won’t eat Super Carbs. You do get to enjoy berries, cherries, and dark chocolate, though, along with friendly fats, all of which supply energy and help you feel satisfied.”

    The goal is to focus on getting a certain ratio of macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates, and fat to ensure you’re getting enough for fat burning and overall well-being.  Other traditional diets recommend staying under a set calorie threshold each day.

    Once you figure out how many grams of each macro you want to aim for you can plan your meals accordingly.  Joel also recommends utilizing the help of apps like My FitnessPal and My Macros+ to help you easily track your macros daily.  It may sound overly complicated, but it’s not once you get the hang of it.

    I appreciate that there are daily menu and guides with serving sizes listed for both men and women shown in the book.  I found this to be super helpful and made the process feel less intimidating.  I’m also thrilled that many of the foods listed in the daily menus are foods I regularly eat like: grilled chicken breast, grilled lamb chops, and baked salmon.  Win-win!

    Since this is was week one of the program, I was allowed to have a breakfast snack, but the goal was to wean myself off of it through the week which I did for three days.

    Overall, my body feels wonderful, energized and more alert.  I also managed to lose two pounds even though weight loss is not my ultimate goal.  So far, eating at 7pm seems to be working!

    I’ll post another update soon, so stay tuned.

    In the meantime, get up close and personal with Joel Marion by reading a few interview questions below. Also, you can find my Week 1 update by clicking here.

    Q: What inspired you to write the book?

    A: After authoring 6 best selling books it was glaringly obvious there were 2 huge misconceptions about dieting that needed to be exposed. The first is that you can’t eat late at night or before bed, which science now shows is NOT true. And second, you can’t eat large portions that satisfy your natural instinct. This book solves both these problems by providing an evidence-based, enjoyable approach to dieting that can be used by any person to quickly achieve their weight loss goals.

    Q: You’re a six-time best selling author, what is different about this book compared to your others?

    A: Although many of the concepts are similar, the biggest difference is that you don’t have to deprive yourself of your favorite foods. You don’t have to deal with the burden of eating every few hours. And you don’t have to skip the carbs at dinnertime or avoid eating before bed.

     Q: How difficult is the Always Eat After 7 PM plan to follow?

    A: It’s not. And that’s exactly why I wrote the book. While any diet is never truly easy, it can be more enjoyable and much easier to adhere to when you understand how Always Eat After 7pm works because it caters to our bodies natural instincts.

    Always Eat After 7 PM: The Revolutionary Rule-Breaking Diet That Lets You Enjoy Huge Dinners, Desserts, and Indulgent Snacks—While Burning Fat Overnight by Joel Marion is now available to purchase.

    About the Author

    Joel Marion is a six-time bestselling author, host of the top-ranked inspirational podcast Born to Impact, and the co-founder of BioTrust Nutrition (the largest eCommerce supplement company in the United States). Additionally, his work has been featured in the pages of more than 20 popular national newsstand magazines including Men’s Fitness, Woman’s Day, Men’s Health, Oxygen, Men’s Journal, and Clean Eating. He resides with his wife, Lisa, and two daughters in Clearwater Beach, Florida.

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    Dieting Rules Were Made to Be Broken: Always Eat After 7pm Week #1 by Joel Marion

    Disclaimer: This post is brought to you by our sponsor, “Always Eat After 7 PM”. As always, the opinions expressed below are my own.

    Throughout my life, I’ve been blessed to have a healthy and stable metabolism which helps keep my body in shape. I also work out regularly at least three to four times per week and eat a well-balanced diet. Although I don’t have a goal to shed any excess weight, I would like to tone up my arms, thighs and stomach. That’s why when the offer to receive an advanced copy of the book Always Eat After 7 PM by Joel Marion came up, I was so excited! Over the next month, I’ll be sharing my experience of the book and program.

    The book is divided up into three parts: The Foundation, Burn Fat in Three Easy Phases and Hit the Kitchen. Joel explains his easy-to-follow program which consists of a 14-day Acceleration Phase that helps kick start the program so you can see rapid results in the first 14 days. Next, is the Main Phase that advises you of which nutritional foods to eat followed by the Lifestyle Phase that teaches you how to say goodbye to your shed pounds for good.

    Although I never followed any before diets in the past, I do recall hearing about the many fitness myths like “You should never skip breakfast because it’s the most important meal of the day” and “Eating food after 7pm makes you fat.” I was pleased to hear Joel debunk four of popular myths many of us have been led to believe over the years within the first few pages of the book.

    “It’s probably been drilled into your head that eating late at night leads to obesity and excess belly fat. Myths like this one are strangely persistent, even though there’s little research to back them up.”

    In addition to toning up my body, I’m excited to read about the list of fat-burning sweet and salty pre-bedtime snacks and learn some new recipes in the easy-to-follow meals plans. I’ll post an update soon, so stay tuned!

    In the meantime, check out Joe’s go-to snacks and recipes here. Learn more about the book and how to purchase here.

    About the Author
    Joel Marion is a six-time bestselling author, host of the top-ranked inspirational podcast Born to Impact, and the co-founder of BioTrust Nutrition (the largest eCommerce supplement company in the United States). Additionally, his work has been featured in the pages of more than 20 popular national newsstand magazines including Men’s Fitness, Woman’s Day, Men’s Health, Oxygen, Men’s Journal, and Clean Eating. He resides with his wife, Lisa, and two daughters in Clearwater Beach, Florida.

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    How We Organize Our Books at Home + Where to Find Free or Discounted Books

    How We Organize Our Books at Home

    To organize or not to organize, that is the question bibliophiles around the world sometimes discuss both in person and online. Believe it or not, people often get into heated debates about this topic – yes, there are people who take take their books and organization (or lack thereof) VERY seriously.

    I am often asked how we organize our books at home since we are fortunate to have so many of them. Therefore, I finally decided to write a blog post hoping it will help others or spark ideas on different ways to organize books.

    ORGANIZATION METHOD #1: ORGANIZE BY COLOR

    I prefer to organize our books by rainbow color in our family room library. Since those are the main bookshelves in our home, I wanted them to be visually appealing and pleasing to the eye. Plus, I find organizing by color makes it easier for me and my kids to put books away once we’ve read them. This organization method works especially well for smaller kids as it encourages independence. Kids tend to be naturally good at sorting by color as it’s an easy system to follow.

    Side note: Another thing I’ve become really good at by organizing this way is memorizing the book and spine color of books. It’s bizarre to think about how many books I have memorized the colors for.

    ORGANIZATION METHOD #2: ORGANIZE BY THEME

    My kids both have their books organized by theme on the bookshelves in their rooms. More specifically, I’ve chosen to surround them with books where they can see themselves being represented within the pages and on the covers.

    As a parent, my goal is to present my children with a full spectrum of Black and Brown characters in a variety of books. I want their experiences of story and representations of the world to include people of color, people they can imagine being like — people like Oprah Winfrey, Barack Obama, Misty Copeland, Michelle Obama, and Michael Jordan — or fictional characters with whom they can identify.

    By placing these types of books in their rooms, I hope it reminds my kids daily that they are loved, seen, powerful and worthy of self-love and respect.

    ORGANIZATION METHOD #3: MONTHLY/WEEKLY RANDOM ROTATION

    For this method I use book bins to help keep books organized. The books that are placed in the bins vary from week to week, month to month or day to day. I generally rotate the kids’ book bins (which are placed in their rooms on the floor) once per week or once per month.

    Sometimes the book bins are filled with seasonal or holiday books, but most often these are the books my kids choose to read at bedtime or during story time throughout the week. Book bins also allow my kids to have more independence and select books to read on their own.

    Book bin courtesy of Fankang
    Book bin courtesy of Hunrung

    ORGANIZATION METHOD #4: ORGANIZE BY ROOM

    I’ll admit, we have books in almost every room in our home. For example, we place cookbooks in the kitchen area, personal growth and business/career related books in the office and holiday books are stored in the basement with holiday decorations.

    BEFORE YOU BEGIN ORGANIZING

    Before you begin putting your books in order, you may want to take an inventory of what’s currently in your collection. Decide which books you want to keep, ones you want to donate and ones you want to give away to others. Once per quarter I purge all of our books and decide which ones we’ll keep, donate or give away. I usually end up finding duplicate copies or books my kids have outgrown. Those books automatically fall into either the donate or give away piles.

    THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT

    Looking for an app to help keep your home library even more organized?

    A few weeks ago I started using a FREE app called Libib to catalog and keep track of all the books we own. I love it because it’s very user-friendly and the free version allows you to scan/enter up to 5,000 books, video games, movies and albums. Simply scan your books or other items by barcode or you can input them manually. Check it out!

    OTHER WAYS TO ORGANIZE

    Recently, I asked my audience on Instagram how they organize their books at home. Below find some of their suggestions that may help you too.

    • Organize alphabetically
    • Organize by genre, category, subject or theme
    • Separate paperback books from hard covers
    • Organize by size (tallest to shortest or shortest to tallest)
    • Organize books in a series together
    • Organize by author or illustrator last names
    • Organize by publishing company
    • Organize non-fiction books by the Dewey decimal system and fiction books separated by genre then alphabetically
    • Organize by type (chapter books, picture books, early readers, board books, holiday books, adult books)
    • Organize classic books in one area and Newberry/award winning books in another area
    • Random piles throughout the house – a free for all!
    • No organization – just go with the flow

    As you can see, there is no one size fits all when it comes to book organization. Ultimately, you’ll want to do what works best for you and your family. If you’d like to organize or re-organize books in your home, I hope this has given you a few tips to help get you started.

    TIPS TO SCORE FREE OR DISCOUNTED BOOKS TO BUILD YOUR HOME LIBRARY

    You may also want to check out my blog post (linked here) which provides you with resources to find free or discounted books for your home library. One of my favorite sources is Bookshop.org.

    Your turn: Sound off in the comments and let me know how you organize your books at home.

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    Author Interview: Up Close and Personal with Tonya Bolden + Saving Savannah

     

    Tonya Bolden is one of my favorite writers for historical fiction for both children and adults.  It was such a treat to have the opportunity to interview her to chat books.  Her forthcoming novel, Saving Savannah will be published January 14, 2020 and I’m so excited to read it since I thoroughly enjoyed Inventing Victoria

    Check out the publisher’s synopsis for Saving Savannah:

    Savannah Riddle is lucky. As a daughter of an upper class African American family in Washington D.C., she attends one of the most rigorous public schools in the nation–black or white–and has her pick among the young men in her set. But lately the structure of her society–the fancy parties, the Sunday teas, the pretentious men, and shallow young women–has started to suffocate her.  Then Savannah meets Lloyd, a young West Indian man from the working class who opens Savannah’s eyes to how the other half lives. Inspired to fight for change, Savannah starts attending suffragist lectures and socialist meetings, finding herself drawn more and more to Lloyd’s world.  Set against the backdrop of the press for women’s rights, the Red Summer, and anarchist bombings, Saving Savannah is the story of a girl and the risks she must take to be the change in a world on the brink of dramatic transformation.

    Author Interview

    How did you come up with the characters for Inventing Victoria and Saving Savannah?
    Characters come to me in shadow, in outline. Then I ask questions. What does she want? What are her fears? And so forth. With Crossing Ebenezer Creek and Saving Savannah I was very much driven/led by an antique photograph of a young black woman that said to me, “This is Mariah!” and another one that said to me, “This is Savannah!”

    Do you enjoy writing children’s books or adult books more?
    Don’t make a choose, please! (smile). Given that the majority of the forty-something books I’ve authored/co-authored/edited are for young people . . . Yes, my first love is writing for children. History is my passion and I believe that if we hook our young people on history—if we make history come alive for them—we really put them on the path of lifelong learning, critical thinking, curiosity, and making some sense of the world.  Without history you have no context for your life, for your present era.

    Besides your own, what were some of your favorite children’s picture, or chapter books you’ve read or come across within the past year?
    Yuyi Morales’s Dreamers. My “to-read” list includes Jennifer Swanson’s Spies, Lies, and Disguise: The Daring Tricks and Deeds that Won World War II and Nikki Grimes’s memoir Ordinary Hazards.

    What are some of your must-have children’s books for a home library?
    That’s a tough one!  I really believe that each home library should be tailor-made for a particular family’s interests and needs. The only must-have I can think of is range: books about the present and the  past, books about people familiar and not familiar. In this global village of a world of ours, to borrow from the eminent Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop, all our young people need mirrors, windows, and sliding doors.

    Do you have any literacy rituals that you practice in your family or practiced in the past?
    Not really. Growing up I was crazy about books. Couldn’t get enough of books! And I have my parents to thank for that. My mother, who only had a sixth grade education and my father who only had a ninth grade education, were avid readers. There is a lost picture of me, maybe I was about two or three. And there I was propped up in my parents’ bed. I had my mother’s glasses sprawled on my face. I had a book in my hands. Upside down. I was imitating my parents. There is also a photograph of the living room of our apartment in East Harlem. We had recently moved in. The furniture was the old furniture we had in Brooklyn. There was no carpeting on the floor (at a time when carpeting was pretty much de rigueur). Front and center in this photograph is our family’s bookcase.

    Besides reading, what are some other things parents can do to set their children up for literacy success?
    Engage them in critical thinking, early and often.  Encourage them to create stories of their own. And while you’re at it, tell your children family stories. 

    Do you have a favorite book that you have written?  If so, what is it and why?
    My favorite book of mine is always the one that is just about to come out or the one that has just come out. So right now Saving Savannah is dearest to my heart. But really it’s like a family with many children. Each is unique and you love them all equally (we hope) though each child has something in particular that endears you to her or him.  With Saving Savannah I think Savannah Riddle is the character most like me. I didn’t realize this at first. My sister pointed this out after she read part of an early draft. As  she gave me feedback, I shared with her that compared to Mariah in Crossing Ebenezer  Creek and Victoria in Inventing Victoria, I found Savannah the easier character to write. My sister snickered, then said something like, “That’s because Savannah is you!” 

    If you could give parents one piece of advice about reading with children, what would it be?
    Discussions of books is vital. What did the young reader learn? What puzzled her or him? Is there anything the reader misunderstood? And don’t stop reading aloud!  Whether your child is five or fifteen—or fifty—always make some time for gathering around a book and reading aloud. I don’t think we ever lose our love for being read to. I know it may be difficult to do read-alouds with teens, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try.

    Any advice for aspiring writers and authors?
    Don’t take yourself too seriously. Don’t be precious. Consider trying to get into the business as a writer for hire. That’s how I began. If you have a big hit out of the gate, save your money.  You never know. Some careers do nothing but skyrocket. Others have peaks and valleys.  Once you get your foot in the door consider diversifying. Being able to write for different ages, different genres can come in handy when there are shifts in the industry. On year picture books are hot! Two years later not so much. Have many arrows in your quiver—especially if you don’t have a day job.

    Hardcover, Paperback or e-book (when reading a book on your own)?
    I like e-books for research because when traveling I can take so much research with me and still travel light. 

    Fiction, non-fiction or some other genre (when reading a book on your own)?
    Nonfiction tops the list. But really as my fiction and nonfiction require so much research, books I pick up just for pure pleasure are few and far between.

    Name an adult book that:

    1. a) Inspired you Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, Paula Marshall’s Brown Girl, Brownstones, Gloria Naylor’s The Women of Brewster Place, Charles’s Johnson’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Oxherding Tale, Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories, Ivan Goncharov’s Oblomov, probably every Anton Chekhov short story I read, Eugene O’Neill’s plays, Carson McCullers’s The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Majorie Kinnan Rawlings’ The Yearling, W. Somerset Maugham’s Of Human Bondage, Toni Cade Bambara’s  Gorilla, My Love, Toni Morrison’s Sula.
    2. b) Made you laugh out loud  Several stories in Bambara’s Gorilla, My Love and in Naylor’s Brewster Place. 
    3. c) You recommend to others often
      To be honest, I don’t often have the occasion to recommend books to others.

    What books are on your nightstand or e-reader right now? Charles Johnson’s The Way of the Writer: Reflections on the Art and Craft of Storytelling.  

    Are you working on any special projects that you want to share with others?
    I’m brainstorming on the fourth linked novel that began with Crossing Ebenezer Creek. So next up after Saving Savannah is an as yet unnamed novel about the daughter of a character in Saving Savannah. I have the main character’s name (I think) and I have a photograph that says to me, “This is her!”

    How can people get in touch with you on social media or on your website?
    Please visit tonyaboldenbooks.com!

    Tonya Bolden is a critically acclaimed award-winning author/co-author/editor of more than two dozen books for young people. They include Inventing VictoriaCrossing Ebenezer Creek, which received five starred reviews; Finding Family, which received two starred reviews and was a Kirkus Reviews and Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year; Maritcha: A Nineteenth-Century American Girl, a Coretta Scott King honor book and James Madison Book Award winner; MLK: Journey of a King, winner of a National Council of Teachers of English Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children; Emancipation Proclamation: Lincoln and the Dawn of Liberty, an ALSC Notable Children’s Book, CBC/NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People, and winner of the NCSS Carter G. Woodson Middle Level Book Award.

    Tonya also received the Children’s Book Guild of Washington, DC’s Nonfiction Award. A Princeton University magna cum laude baccalaureate with a master’s degree from Columbia University, Tonya lives in New York City.

    Your turn: Have you ever read any of Tonya Bolden’s books?  Feel free to share some of your favorite Tonya Bolden books in the comments below.

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