Mamas Love Your Daughters: My Review of Halsey Street

“Penelope Grand has scrapped her failed career as an artist in Pittsburgh and moved back to Brooklyn to keep an eye on her ailing father. She’s accepted that her future won’t be what she’d dreamed, but now, as gentrification has completely reshaped her old neighborhood, even her past is unrecognizable. Old haunts have been razed, and wealthy white strangers have replaced every familiar face in Bed-Stuy. Even her mother, Mirella, has abandoned the family to reclaim her roots in the Dominican Republic. That took courage. It’s also unforgivable.”

This book had me in my emotions the entire time. Probably because I’m really sensitive to the relationship between mothers and daughters. I hate the notion that bringing a child into the world and giving them food, clothing, and a safe place to sleep is something that should be lauded and praised. Children require care. They require mothering. And Penelope Grand’s mother is not a loving mother. Or at least that’s how Penelope feels.

Mirella feels like she is a provider. She wants so much for her daughter. So much that she couldn’t have for herself. Her daughter could be anything that she wants, a doctor, a lawyer anything if she would just stop playing around with her art. “It might be that only artists want their children to become artists.” 

Unsure of how to connect with her child Mirella provides. She dreams for, she tries to guide but she can’t connect with her daughter. Maybe, this is because she had a difficult childhood and her own young mother didn’t properly bond with her. Maybe, this is because her father died when she was so young. Maybe, it’s because she is a Dominican Immigrant married to an African American man living in Brooklyn and she doesn’t understand or agree with most of their American customs.

Mirella and Penelope’s disconnect causes Penelope to leave home and move to Pittsburgh where she lives an isolated life until her father gets hurt causing her to return to Brooklyn. Nothing about Brooklyn is the same, Mirella is gone, her family’s store is gone, her father has declined physically and the Gentrifying Landlord family that she rents a room from may seem to have it all together but they have a whole heap of issues of their own.

Back in Brooklyn Penelope is forced to deal with the change that comes along with the changing landscape of her neighborhood, her aging father, and the hurt that she’s been carrying from her childhood and her relationship with her mother.

As Penelope navigates her new life and faces her path we realize how much hurt can be passed down from generation to generation and what happens when the cycle isn’t stopped. Back in her home country of the Dominican Republic Mirella tries to find a way to connect with her daughter.  Now that she has built home of her own she realizes that all that is missing of her life is a connection with her daughter.

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Naima Coster Author of Halsey Street

I really enjoyed this book and give it 5 stars. I really disliked Penelope and her mother Mirella for most of the story but my reason for disliking them is because I know people like them. People who carry old slights around and ignore the love that is given to them because it’s not the love that they want. People who use these feelings and emotions to excuse their reckless behaviors and avoid true growth. In the end Penelope begins to acknowledge these things and begins to grow.

As a writer when you take your  readers through so many upsetting emotions they should be given some sort of reward and Penelope’s growth at the end was reward enough for me. I also appreciated how the writer subtly showed the effects of gentrification on the native Brooklynites. It wasn’t pushy or preachy just stating what was so and I loved that.

Images from Author’s website: naimacoster.com

ProTip: I simultaneously read this book on Audiobook and Kindle. I tend to do this whenever possible so that I can listen to the book while driving and such and physically read the book when I can.

If You Must Be Creative With Our Stories How About You Be Creative

So it happened, I woke up opened my book and began to read as I do almost every single day. Reading is what I do. I consider myself more than anything to be a connoisseur of books. Sometime during the trips of my eyes from left to right across the page of my current read I got that feeling. The one I get where I know that I won’t be able to continue reading the book without doing a little research.

I tell myself not to. To at least wait until I’ve completed the book and have a true opinion about the story before I go internet diving for clues. But I don’t. 7.5 minutes later I’m looking into the face of a white appearing woman or man, standing next to their white appearing spouse, with their white appearing children in their suburban or gentrified ass white appearing neighborhood.

I know as you read those words you’re probably coming to conclusions so I should say here, I am not angry. If I am anything I’m bored.

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I’m not angry that a white appearing person has written yet another bestselling YA novel about yet another African American teenager. Nor, that they have taken liberties with this teenagers life and given them the crackhead parent, the absent parent, the problems in school, the job that they HAVE to work in order to contribute to their family because of the crackhead or absent parent.

But, as I continue to do research on this person: looking up their parents, researching their childhoods, the cities they were born in, thinking maybe just maybe their best friend was black, looking for stories in which they describe where they got the idea for this story, looking for anything to help me feel better about the fact that yet another of our stories is being told by other people while we’re still not given the equal opportunities to tell our own; I do get a little annoyed.

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See, as a writer I know that we have the creative license to write whatever we want about whatever we want however we want and that we don’t just have to tell the stories that we know. But, as I look at how stereotypes are developed and perpetuated and have been perpetuated for years and years I can’t help but wonder why a person who took ALL of the creative license with a story would continue to write these lazy stereotype ladden stories.

When I read a story about these issues that do in fact exist for some black people written by a black person I know that most likely they have experienced these issues or that the issues are at the very least in their orbit. But, when these stories are written by white appearing people I can’t help but question why if they felt the need to write about black people, why they didn’t use their creative license to write about magical black girls or as Danez Smif requests black boys playing with dinosaurs in the hood. 

Social Media airways, news and media outlets for once in our history are being flooded with Magical Black Girls and Black Boy Joy and  Black Super Heroes and yet television, movies, and books are still full of the same stereotypical stories about food stamp dependent, thugged out, drug abusing black people.

There will always be these stories to be told like their will always be a new movie about slavery. So, I’m not asking white people to not write stories about black people. I’m asking them to give us the whole stories. Like they do for white people. I’ve yet to read a story about a white crackhead teenager without being informed that she was a jock who broke her leg, had surgery, was placed on oxycodone, and became addicted. They’re humanized. So can we be humanized in these stereotypical redundant ass stories? I’m just asking  if you must be creative with our stories then how about you be creative or at the very least, tell the whole story.

 

This Is How You Lose Readers

In the wake of the #MeToo movement it seems like on a weekly basis we are being informed that another beloved person is a predator. Some have had rumors about their behaviors floating around for years like Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby, who although they’ve only recently had to answer for their crimes,  knowledge of their abusive ways have been widely known for many many years.

Unlike them, others like Kevin Spacey, have rocked the world and shocked their fans. Today, I log on to the internet and I see that there are some internet drama surrounding Junot Díaz. Firstly, I wasn’t going to read up on it I’m literally in the middle of rereading The Brief  Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Secondly, Junot Díaz is one of the first writers who made me; a dark skinned black woman, feel both seen and beautiful.

But, like with most train wrecks no matter how much you want to avert your gaze you have to look. It’s almost as if you have no control over the way your neck moves. So with that same trepidation I typed *Junot Díaz Sex Scandal* into my search bar and was rewarded (this is not a reward) with the following article: Junot Diaz Sex Scandal.

I refuse to look into this any further and I’m officially throwing Oscar Wao out of the window. I know that there are questions about whether we continue to throw people away for bad behavior or not, but unlike people who question those sorts of things *insert fierce side eye* I have an iron clad no predator clause on my entertainment intake calendar. All that I can do now is seriously pray that Stephen King has kept his paws to himself. And no I’m not googling it. I don’t want to know until I have to.

 

Innanet Friends

Tell your new boyfriend/husband/girlfriend/ baby mama

Dat,

You got an innanet friend who low-key got they shit together

be sliding in your DMS saying shit like:

Yasss,

You  Betta,

You got this,

You matter,

Yo I aint seen you on the internet in a few, you good?

Where can I cop?

That ya’ll aint probably never ever met irl but if you ask she’ll likely slide you 20 til payday/pay your electric bill on her credit card unless she saving up to help somebody else

That she be sharing your shit, commenting, tagging folks to see your art work

All out of some weird sense of community

Expecting nothing in return

Cept for you to be good, keep your problematic levels to a low, and win.

Tell your new boyfriend/husband/girlfriend/ baby mama

Dat,

You got an innanet friend who only wanna see everybody win.

 

 

High Quality Problems

Feels like,
I can’t find an employee to save my life
Like they all lying
won’t tell you the last place let them go cause they got a problem
that sometimes those problems show up in the middle of the day for no good god damned reason
Like they all wanna be paid $2,673, 412.18 just to show up
mostly on time
won’t look you in the eye when you ask simple questions
you just own the place
just can’t relate
just never had to work from paycheck to paycheck
got no clue how to make a dollar stretch
like yo back don’t ache
like you don’t sometime when it’s cold pay them, cash yo check and put it right back in to cover theirs
like what’s a weekend
the time you spend scouring the internet looking for qualified employees
who only gon’ look down on you
you young/black/girl
can’t possibly know shit
also, who gave you this place: your daddy. your husband. you had to sleep with somebody
Like, you ain’t had enough problems
couldn’t figure out your place in this world
decided to make your own
decided to depend on the honest and talented hands of men who got more problems than a little bit
Like, can’t talk to nobody
who gon understand
who ain’t listening to you thinking you are lucky they showed up
who aint judging you for discussing yo high quality problems
Feels like,
I can’t find an employee to save my life
wouldn’t trade it for the world
wouldn’t wish my high quality problems on no body
specially if they needed it to save theirs
2/30

What Is Us Gon Do?

The fact that things can royally suck and you just have to deal with them is mind boggling. Like Spectrum sucks. They literally lose your payments, interrupt your service then ask you to drive to a location to show them proof that you paid and even when your services DO work they don’t work as they’re supposed to. Like you literally have no wifi in half your house, but, *WIFI is an imperfect science and isn’t guaranteed to work throughout your whole home. *
Anything could interrupt the flow including the owning of small land animals and the drinking of La Croix sparkling waters. 
But, your ass is stuck dealing with them because Frontier also sucks royally and those are your two choices. Period.
So you can have no internet with which to do work or you can have sucky service with which to do your work and those are LITERALLY your options.
And we accept that. We accept sucky ass government officials who have no one’s best interests at heart.
We accept sucky ass companies who sell your data and manipulate your lives.
We accept it all.
And that my friends is mind boggling as fuck.
What is us gon do?
Me, I’m going to pack my shit, take my dogs to the dog park, and work from there because I’m already working from home of off my phones internet hotspot. Which, don’t let me get started on that because I’m always over my data because my wifi doesn’t work in the back of my house. Image-1.jpg

Travel Chronicles: Dudes Gonna Dude

Dude on train *asks me how to get to Penn Station*

I respond that I don’t know.

Dude sarcastically : You don’t know where you’re going?

Me patiently, following Rule 62 of what to do when dudes be duding: I know exactly where I’m going I don’t know how to help you get to where you’re going.

5-6 random femmes of all ages and nationalities *jump in to help him, Whip out phones, point to diagrams.*

Dude: I can’t take y’all seriously y’all don’t sound secure.

All of us femmes except one *glance over phones, smirk, sigh, roll our eyes, make eye contact that says Gurl, return to our bubbles*

The remaining femme, the one who seems to be most over his shit *continues to help him figure out his directions*

Dude *continues to be super whack.* Thanks his helper in a manner fitting of being a dude on a train with a huge ass suitcase.

Of course I have six different stories on the reason why he’s on the train with this huge ass suitcase in the first place. At least 2 being that some femme got sick of his Dudely ways.

Faultlines: Whoops I Didn’t See That Coming

One moment in Jordan Cline’s life tears his entire family apart. He and his cousin Travis have been in a tragic accident. All three of the car’s occupants were terribly injured but what happened? Jordan may go to prison for thirty years because although he says that he was not driving all of the witnesses and all of the evidence point directly towards Jordy. And no one believes him except for his mother. Of course, mother’s never want to believe that their children are capable of terrible things.

Faultlines takes us along for the wild ride that Jordan and his mother’s life are on after the accident. Was Jordan drinking and driving?  If he wasn’t then why is the town hero Officer Huck out to destroy Jordan’s life? Barbara Taylor Sissal has written a mystery that keeps the reader guessing the entire time.

I loved Faultlines, the way that it unfolds kept me engaged and rooting for Jordy and Sandy. I kept wanting him to be innocent even when all of the signs pointed to his guilt. Oh and the climax… I DID NOT see THAT climax coming. I was literally sitting there staring at the book with my mouth wide open.

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Also, That small town attitude that the story describes is XACTLY why I love living in the city. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

I gave this story 4 stars and would gladly read another book from this author.

 

Corner Dweller- The Buried Book

I haven’t thrown a book in the corner for quite a while but The Buried Book by D.M. Pulley is going straight into the corner. I would also like them to repay me my time and make my brain stop hurting.

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The story isn’t bad per se… but the characters just got on my last nerve. Uhhhh I guess I should tell you what the story is about before I discuss characters so here goes:

 

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Jasper’s mom Althea drops him off at her brother’s farm to live. She  leaves him there with nothing but a suitcase and a bible. She doesn’t give anyone a real reason for her abandoning Jasper. She’s apparently left him in the past but never for this many days so Jasper begins to worry. He overhears the adults talking about her and figures that she must be in trouble so  Jasper goes on a hunt for his mother putting himself in frequent danger. The entire story is one boringly outlandish incident after another as Jasper, a nine year old boy, hunts for his mother alone

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While on this hunt Jasper finds her childhood journal which he uses for clues to where she may be. He finds himself on Indian Reservations, at bars, and strip clubs during his hunt. The story is outlandish and Jasper’s frequent crying and injuries just add to the outlandishness of the story. You set fire to the barn and burned a house down and didn’t get your ass whooped once from your terrifying christian farmer uncle?- I think not.

I struggle to give this story 2 stars but I managed to eek them out since I completed the book and cared enough about the characters to make it to the end. I do like D.M. Pulley so I’m going to consider this story a fluke…

EDIT: I lied up above where I said that I like D.M. Pulley. When I went to add this title to The Book Corner I see that the last book that I added to that list was The Dead Key by D.M. Pulley. My bad. I shall now avoid D.M. Pulley like I avoid people with unvaccinated children. *Kayne Shrug*

Grist Mill Road: A Wild Ass Ride

Christoper Yates’ Grist Mill Road is a weirdly entertaining wild ass ride. Every time you think to yourself, “this story can’t get any crazier” or “these people can’t get any weirder” Yates unveils another level of hurt, betrayal, misunderstanding, violence and resentment.

In 1982 a group of friends suffer a traumatic ordeal where one of them is seriously injured by another one. In 2008 we meet this fractured group of friends again living their own lives under the shadow of what happened all  of those years ago. Why did it happen? What actually happened? Who was really there? And what’s next?

The story jumps back and forth from 1982 to 2008 giving us background and telling us their version of the story in the three character’s, Patrick, Hannah, and Matthew, voices. Sometimes this method of story telling can be a little dizzying but Yates weaves the story together magically.

I felt like I was on a rollercoaster ride the entire time and give the story 4 Stars.

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*I was given an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*