I Wish I Had a Red Dress On (William Morrow, $24) is author/playwright Pearl Cleage's follow-up to her first novel, the best-seller What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day. This time, her focus is on Joyce, the older sister of Ava, the primary character of the first book. Joyce is one of the driving forces in the exclusively Black town of Idlewild, Mich., where her "Sewing Circus" community group functions as a social service agency and coffee klatch. But for all her good deeds, Joyce wonders if her group is really doing enough to salve the wounds of the community and if her work has left little room for romance in her life.
Dark (Broadway Books, $12.95) is the debut novel of 25-year-old journalist Kenji Jasper. Set in Washington, D.C., and Charlotte, N.C., it is the story of the coming-of-age of a promising 19-year-old who attempts to walk the thin line between a life of moral responsibility and the criminal activity of his closest friends. But jealousy leads him to murder, and he must flee his home and homies to find redemption and manhood and a path out of the darkness.
Satin Doll (Simon & Schuster, $21) is the re-issue of Karen Quinones Miller's self-published first novel under the banner of a major publishing house. The story follows Regina Harris, a former good-time girl and professional shoplifter, who, following a near-fatal experience, rises to become a successful freelance writer, but never fully escapes the shadow of her shady past.
Billed as a "double-album in verse," and a "jazz symphony," and a "hip-hop opera," To Repel Ghosts (Zoland Books, $26) is a big,, ambitious collection of poems that pays tribute to the life and art of '80s art world phenomenon Jean-Michel Basquiat and the era in which he flourished, by Kevin Young.
Fresh from his examination of the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., hip-hop scholar Michael Eric Dyson takes on a more contemporary icon in his latest book, Holler if You Hear Me: Searching for Tupac Shakur (Basic Books, $26). Drawing on interviews with scores of acquaintances of controversial rapper Tupac Shakur, who was gunned down in 1996 at age 25, Dyson tries to explain why Shakur remains a cult idol, worshipped by loyal followers who have immortalized him through letters, songs and tributes dispatched through cyberspace.
Jefferson's Pillow: The Founding Fathers and the Dilemma of Black Patriotism (Beacon Press, $23) asks whether African-Americans can fully embrace American patriotism given the nation's deep history of racial injustice and the fact that many of the founding fathers of the country were slave owners. Written by Roger Wilkins, an assistant attorney general during the Johnson administration and a Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial writer for the Washington Post, the book looks at the words and deeds of four prominent founding fathers--George Washington, George Mason, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson--and explores the hypocrisies and intellectual constructs upon which much of their thinking, and the socio-political underpinnings of the nation they created, were based.
What You Owe Me (G.P. Putnam's Sons, $26.95), the new novel by best-selling author Bebe Moore Campbell, cuts across 50 years of African-American history, tracing the rise of a cosmetics company built on the talent and determination of a Black woman, Hosanna Clark, who is betrayed by her White partner, and Hosanna's daughter, Matriece, who is hell-bent on exacting revenge.
Get That Cutie in Commercials, Television, Films and Videos: Breaking Your Talented Child into the Entertainment Industry (Amber Books, $16.95) is a comprehensive guide for parents seeking to navigate the difficult terrain on the path to launching their children in careers in show business, by Kandias Conda.
DEBRA MARTIN CHASE Motion picture and television producer whose credits include The Princess Diaries, Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella, The Preacher's Wife and Courage Under Fire
What I read: The Wind Done Gone by Alice Randall
What I thought: "This controversial, provocative and sexy novel is a literary gem. A parody of Gone With the Wind, this book speculates about the real African-American experiences and attitudes of that time in the South with wit and tremendous insight. It forced me to think about the lives of my own ancestors and how they influenced who I am today."