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BIBR's best of 2005: a roundup of the year's best books from a bumper crop of new novels by seasoned African American talents, as well as noteworthy debuts.

Eye-Catchers The Best Fine Art and Coffee-table Books

Basquiat Edited by Marc Mayer With essays by Fred Hoffman, Kellie Jones Marc Mayer and Franklin Sirmans Merrell Publishers/Brooklyn Museum, March 2005 $45, ISBN 1-858-94287-X

A retrospective of the works by the brash young artist who captivated the art world in the 1980s with his graffiti and creative paintings that reflected his outsider sensibilities.

Arts of Africa: 700 Years of African Art and Arts of Africa: The Contemporary Collection of Jean Pigozzi by Ezio Basseni, Omotoso Eluyemi, Helene Leloup, Jean-Louis Paudrat and Andre Magnin Skira/Grimaldi Forum Monaco, July 2005 $65, ISBN 8-876-24283-X

Arts of Africa: The Jean Pigozzi Contemporary Collection Edited by Andre Magnin Skira/Grimaldi Forum Monaco, July 2005 $75, ISBN 8-876-24296-1

Two amazing catalogues that accompanied a groundbreaking exhibit in Monaco this past summer. Together, the books cover more than 6,000 years of history of African art. The contemporary works will be on display at the Smithsonian Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C., from November 16, 2005, to February 26, 2006.

Best Heroic Character Brought to the Page

Hannibal Barca in Pride of Carthage by David Anthony Durham Doubleday, January 2005, $26.95, ISBN 0-385-50603-1

A fictional account of the fearless and complex North African military leader who built a multiracial and multilingual army to fight against the Roman Empire in third-century B.C.

Best History Books

African American Fraternities and Sororities: The Legacy and the Vision Edited by Tamara L. Brown, Gregory S. Parks and Clarinda M. Philips University Press of Kentucky, March 2005 $39.95, ISBN 0-813-12344-5

Essays that explore the challenges and triumphs of black, Greek-letter organizations and the men and women who struggled for recognition and respect from white society within the halls of academia.

Forbidden Fruit: Love Stories From the Underground Railroad and Beyond by Betty De Remus, Atria Books, February 2005 $25, ISBN 0-743-48263-8

The author draws from true stories from the descendants of runaway couples, unpublished memoirs and Civil War records to tell of lovers who faced great risks to stay together.

African Voices of the Atlantic Slave Trade: Beyond the Silence and the Shame by Anne C. Bailey Beacon Press, February 2005 $26, ISBN 0-807-05512-3

Historian Bailey focuses on an area in Ghana once called the Old Slave Coast, where she interviewed more than 40 chiefs and other elders, who shared oral histories about the slave trade, acknowledging that black Africans themselves were traders as well as victims.

Best Novel

72 Hour Hold by Bebe Moore Campbell Knopf, July 2005, $24.95,ISBN 1-400-04074-4

What could pulverize a mother's heart more completely than a serious mental illness afflicting a beloved child, complicating all her relationships and clouding her promising future? 72-Hour Hold indelibly marks readers' hearts with an incantatory tale about a stranglehold woven from the stigma of mental illness and the stigma of race.

"Kinda Makes You Think" Award

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell Little, Brown and Company, January 2005 $26.95, ISBN 0-316-34662-4

In this brilliant follow-up from the best-selling author of The Tipping Point, readers are again challenged to look at old ideas and situations in different ways.

Invasion of the Afro-Anglicans

Diana Evans (26A, William Morrow, September 2005, $23.95, ISBN 0-060-82091-8), Andrea Levy (Small Island, Picador USA, April 2005, $14, ISBN 0-312-42467-1), Helen Oyeyemi (The Icarus Girl, Nan A. Talese /Doubleday, June 2005, $23.95, ISBN 0-385-51383-6) and Zadie Smith (On Beauty, Penguin Press, September 2005, $25.95, ISBN 1-594-20063-7) are the latest crop of British writers who have either won awards, been nominated for them, or simply generated a buzz for their books in the U.K., and now their titles have made their way to the U.S.

Power in the Word: Best Faith Book

Your Inner Eve: Discovering God's Woman Within by The Reverend Dr. Susan Newman One World/Ballantine Books, January 2005, $13.95, ISBN 0-345-45080-9

Newman uses the biblical figure Eve to inspire women to reclaim the "Goddess within" and to return to the original women they were created to be--before they experienced abuse, racism and sexism.

Christian Novelist to Watch

Xenia Ruiz, author of Choose Me (Walk Worthy Press, June 2005 $23.95, ISBN 0-446-57670-0)

A love story whose main characters, Adam and Eva, rediscover faith and love upon an African American/Latino cultural backdrop.

Best Poetry Books

Leadbelly: Poems by Tyehimba Jess Verse Press, October 2005 $14, ISBN 0-974-63533-2

The recipient of a National Poetry Series Award, Jess' debut rift chronicles the real-life drama of the now legendary bluesman with stunning, soul-wrenching persona poems and deft attention to detail.

The Maverick Room by Thomas Sayers Ellis Graywolf Press, January 2005 $14, ISBN 1-555-97414-7

Ellis opens his funk bag here, displaying his aesthetic resourcefulness and command of the here and now. From the go-go dance halls of D.C. to the halls of academia, Ellis's mind and pen are louder than a bomb.

Born to Slow Horses by Kamau Brathwaite Wesleyan Press, August 2005 $22.95, ISBN 0-819-56745-0

Brathwaite's latest meditation, in his signature "sycorax" style, is an experiment in rhythm, sound, and ritual in broad and fine brush strokes.

"This Land Is Your Land" Award

Planetwalker: How to Change Your World One Step at a Time by John Francis, Ph.D. Elephant Mountain Press, March 2005 $24.95, ISBN 0-976-01920-5

John Francis has walked--you hear us, walked--across America. His book, which contains poems and drawings, offers practical suggestions on how we all can become better caretakers of the environment.

Best Memoir

The Autobiography of Medgar Evers: A Hero's Life and Legacy Revealed Through His Writings, Letters and Speeches Edited by Mydie Evers-Williams and Manning Marable Basic Civitas Books, May 2005 $26, ISBN 0-465-02177-8

Evers was the first field secretary for the NAACP in Mississippi. In this tribute, his widow, Evers-Williams, and Marable, a well-known historian and scholar, have amassed personal letters, speeches and photographs that have not been seen until now, to offer a portrait of Evers's courage, determination and struggles.

The American Statesman Award

Mirror to America: The Autobiography of John Hope Franklin Farrar, Straus and Giroux, November 2005, $25, ISBN 0-374-29944-7

Having just turned 90, the eminent American scholar and historian comments on the current state of race relations, offering his thoughts in an intimate and revelatory manner.

Best Books Named for a Number

1996 by Gloria Naylor Third World Press, July 2005 $19.95, ISBN 0-883-78263-4 (See BIBR, September-October 2005, "Close Encounters," for an excerpt.)

47 by Walter Mosley Little, Brown and Company, May 2005 $16.99, ISBN 0-316-11035-3

Mosley's young adult tale revolves around the young 47--his name and number among the property on a Georgia plantation--and his encounter with Tall John, an extraterrestrial.

"I Love New York" Award

A Time Before Crack by Jamel Shabazz Powerhouse Books, June 2005 $35, ISBN 1-576-87213-0

In this coffee-table book about New York City during the mid-'70s and early '80s, roving cameraman Shabazz takes readers back to a time when Adidas ruled, hip-hop was new on the block and neighborhoods were alive with hope.

"Rediscover This Classic" Award

Let the Lion Eat Straw by Ellease Southerland Amistad/HarperCollins, June 2005 $12.95, ISBN 0-060-72421-8

Originally published in 1979, the story of one girl's Journey from the South, home of the midwife who helped bring her into the world, to Brooklyn, New York, where her mother cares for her as she begins a new fife.

The "It Makes You Wonder" Award

Is Bill Cosby Right? Or Has the Black Middle Class Lost its Mind? by Michael Eric Dyson Basic Civitas Books, April 2005 $23, ISBN 0-465-01719-3

Prepare for a lesson in "ghettocracy" alongside the "afrostocracy." Dyson takes us to the heart of what he feels are some of the core issues we as a people face in our lack of unity, based upon Bill Cosby's controversial speech to the NAACP last year.

The "We're Right at Home, Here" Award

Finding Martha's Vineyard: African Americans at Home on the island by Jill Nelson Doubleday, May 2005, $27.50, ISBN 0-385-50566-3

This part-story, part-picture book is all heart and all about the local characters of Oak Bluffs on Martha's Vineyard. Nelson gives an historical as well as a personal account of the life on the shore.

"Best Narrative About the Down Low" Award

Beyond the Down Low by Keith Boykin Carroll & Graf, February 2005, $25, ISBN 0-786-71434-4

Everyone has heard of the phenomenon on a surface level, but what about the people who live the lifestyle? Here are true-to-life accounts of the secret lives some men have.

Best Audiobook

Babylon Sisters by Pearl Cleage Read by the author BBC Audiobooks America Unabridged CD: $31.95, ISBN 1-572-70465-9

"Plain Brown Cover" Award (The "Yes, We Read It Too" Award)

Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karren Steffens Amistad/HarperCollins June 2005 $24.95, ISBN 0-060-84242-3

She spares no detail of her wild, fast life as a regular in popular artists' videos. A candid story about her life's ups and downs.
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2005, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Black Issues Book Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2005
Words:1497
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