I’ve made up my mind that 2012 is going to be a very good year. 2011 went out on a great high note. It seems like acting jobs always come my way towards the end of the year and in 2011 they came in spades.
In December, I received two great books for review that I want to share with you. The first is called “Harlem” by Jonathan Gill, more than 500 pages of the 400-year history from Dutch Village to the Capital of Black America. This book will open your eyes about Harlem and the important figures whose lives began or were transformed by Harlem, including early resident Alexander Hamilton (and his eventual killer, Aaron Burr). George Gershwin wrote his first hit, “Swanee,” in the family tenement on W. 144th Street. As a child, Norman Rockwell lived on St. Nicholas Avenue. Groucho Marx, Tito Puente and Milton Berle were all born in Harlem.
Although Harlem is known for its large African-American population, this gem of New York has been multicultural and home to numerous waves of immigrants, including the Irish, Germans, Jews, Italians, Puerto Ricans, West Indians and West Africans.
The book delves into Harlem’s impact on the arts in American Culture, from the Harlem Renaissance, which gave the world brilliant works from Langston Hughes, Zora Neal Hurston, and others, to the Apollo Theater, which has helped launch the careers of countless performers, including Ella Fitzgerald, the Jackson 5 and Stevie Wonder.
We can’t forget Harlem’s role in national politics. Harlem played a key role in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s: The March on Washington for jobs and Freedom, where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous speech, was organized Uptown, the work of Bayard Rustin and A. Phillip Randolph, two of the most important activists of the era. Harlem has also sent important leaders to Washington, D.C., including Adam Clayton Powell Jr., the most powerful elected Black leader of the 60s; Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall; and Charles B. Rangel. This is a book you will want to add to your home library.
Now to the fun book, can you believe that bestselling authors Victoria Christopher Murray and ReShonda Tate Billingsley have teamed up and brought their favorite heroines together in a page turning novel titled, “Sinners and Saints?” Jasmine Larson Bush and Rachel Jackson Adams are not your typical first ladies. But they have overcome their scandalous and drama filled pasts to stand firmly by their husbands’ sides. When a coveted position opens up—president of the American Baptist Coalition—both women think their husbands are perfect for the job. And winning the position may require both women to get down and dirty and revert back to their old tricks. Just when Jasmine and Rachel think they’re going to have to fight to the finish, the current first lady of the coalition steps in. This sista is bigger, badder and more devious than either of them.
So settle in and get to reading, don’t buy anything you don’t need, save some money, go somewhere you have never been and tell yourself this is going to be your best year ever.
(E-mail the columnist at firstname.lastname@example.org.)