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Photo of the Week: Author and Poet, Gillian Alex

Our Photo of the Week is a photo of author and poet, Gillian Alex, at the Harlem Book Fair on July 15, 2017.

On the left, Gillian is standing beside her signage for her latest spoken word project, Put Some Respect on Our Name.

In the photo on the right, Gillian is holding a copy of her book, Tuesday at Three.

Author Selma Jackson Wins Phillis Wheatley Book Award

A First-Time and Self-Published Author, Selma Jackson, Wins Phillis Wheatley Book Award in Young Readers Category

 

Each year, the Harlem Book Fair launches with its signature event, the Phillis Wheatley Book Awards. This year brings special validation to self-published authors, and should give many would-be authors inspiration because Selma Jackson, a first-time and self-published author took home the Phillis Wheatley Book Award for her beautifully written book, Granny's Helper. At What's The 411, we are especially proud of the recognition of Ms. Jackson's work because weeks before the Wheatley Book Awards, I had the opportunity to sit down with Selma Jackson for an exclusive interview.

In Granny's Helper, a book written for ages 7-11-year-olds, little Selma is unaware of the barriers her parents face because of discrimination against African-Americans, the precautions they are forced to take, and the creative strategies they devise to subvert the discrimination against themselves and their children. These bittersweet memories, of course, are held by the author, who recalls them as such only now, as she looks back through adult eyes at her childhood.

Granny's Helper tells Jackson's story of growing up in the 1950s by focusing on her grandmother's visits from the South every summer to stay with her family in New York City. This, of course, is the reverse of most summer visits in African-American families. It is during these visits that Little Selma learns many life lessons from her blind grandmother about helping others; how to read, write, and ask questions; and overcoming adversity.

THE LAST KING: A Battle Between God and the Edenites

What happens when you eat from the Tree of Life and gain immortality?

Well, God gets very, very angry with you!

And, that's just the beginning of the battle between God and the Edenites in a new book, THE LAST KING, by first-time novelist, A. Yamina Collins.

WATCH VIDEO: Interview with THE LAST KING author, A. Yamina Collins

Caught between God and the Edenites is Emmy, a 6-foot tall African American woman and unsuspecting mortal, living in -- of all places -- Lake George, New York. Then, there's Gilead, an Edenite --standing 6'7' and gorgeous by anyone's definition. He's a doctor, lives in a mansion, plays polo, and has a panther as a pet. Another thing: he's lived for at least three centuries. And, his brother Markus is white. The two men, however, happen to share the same height and profession. Well, sort of.

Emmy, Gilead, and Markus – along with a few dozen other characters – make up the world created by author A. Yamina Collins.

Yamina Collins recently stopped by What's The 411's studio home, BRIC Arts Media House, to chat with me about her new sci-fi romance novel, THE LAST KING, an e-book, being released in monthly episodes/volumes. Ms. Collins not only imagines a uniquely populated world in upstate New York of unaware mortals co-existing with exotic animals and sword-wielding immortals who ride in chariots, but she also has imagined who these characters might be – if they came to life in our world -- in the "real" world.

She shared with me that she imagines "Emmy" as Lupita Nyong'o, the Academy Award-winning actress who starred in 12 Years a Slave. Instead of Ms. Nyong'o's signature close-crop natural, as "Emmy," the actress sports jazz musician and vocalist Esperanza Spalding's trademark looser-curl natural.

"Gilead" in her view might be played by two-time Academy Award-winner, actor, producer, and director Denzel Washington, but about 30 years ago, when he starred in the TV hit drama St. Elsewhere (1982-1988).

"Markus," the brother of "Gilead," could be Chris Hemsworth, the Australian actor we cheered for in blockbuster movies like Thor and The Avengers.

SPOILER ALERT: Ms. Collins also let me know that she will introduce many other characters in upcoming episodes of THE LAST KING, and that, in addition to Markus, Gilead has 19 other family members! She reveals a few other spoilers in our interview. So, LAST KING fans, watch and listen!

THE LAST KING is in top-100 Amazon best-sellers list in Fantasy, Sci Fi, Women's Fiction Literature, and Christian Women's Literature. More than 15,000 monthly visitors stop by Yamina's blog, yaminatoday.com, to check in on the latest episode/volume of THE LAST KING. You can also find her on Twitter @yaminatoday.

A graduate of New York University, Ms. Collins resides in New York City and is the author of THE BLUEBERRY MILLER FILES, a quirky collection of short stories.

P.S. After the interview, Ms. Collins and I, along with What's The 411 producer, Ruth J. Morrison, celebrated the author's 8/23 birthday. Reaching in the large birthday bag, filled with objects based on themes in THE LAST KING, Ms. Collins immediately placed the fur-trimmed sparkling pink tiara on her head. She then pulled out the plastic sword, brandishing it in true swashbuckling style. I think Emmy and Gilead would've been proud!

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From Left to Right: A. Yamina Collins, Author, THE LAST KING; Ruth J. Morrison, CEO, What's The 411 Networks; Luvon Roberson, Book Editor, What's The 411

 

  • Published in Authors

Maya Angelou; Legendary Poet, Author, and Civil Rights Activist Dies at Age 86

What's The 411TV is deeply saddened by the passing of DR. MAYA ANGELOU, a legendary poet, author, and civil rights activist. She died today at 86 years old.

Dr. Angelou was the 2013 winner of the National Book Foundation's Literarian Award. She accepted the award on November 20, 2013, at the National Book Awards in New York City.

Nobel Laureate, and her longtime friend, TONI MORRISON presented Dr. Angelou with the award at the National Book Awards ceremony. Ms. Morrison spoke warmly of her friendship with Dr. Angelou and praised her talent and kindness.

The phenomenal woman herself was all smiles when she took the stage to a standing ovation from the crowd. What's The 411TV correspondent Kizzy Cox had the distinct privilege of interviewing Dr. Angelou at the National Book Awards, you can view Dr. Angelou's poetic interview here.

For nearly fifty years, Dr. Maya Angelou has moved us with her lyrical poetry and dynamic prose. Works like PHENOMENAL WOMAN and I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS have become literary classics. Her poem, On The Pulse of Morning, written for President BILL CLINTON'S 1993 inauguration, garnered her the first of three Grammys (even more impressive because she was the first African-American and woman to recite an inaugural poem). Dr. Angelou also received a NAACP Image Award, a Presidential Medal of Freedom, and she topped What's The 411TV's List of 25 MOST INTERESTING PEOPLE OF 2013, among other awards.

As Charlayne Haynes, producer of the upcoming documentary, DIRT AND DEEDS IN MISSISSIPPI, so eloquently stated: "This bold poet lived fully. So long, Maya!"

So long, indeed, until we meet again.

  • Published in Authors

Bravo’s Blood Sweat and Heels Star Daisy Lewellyn is Making it Happen

Stylist, author, and Bravo TV's Blood Sweat and Heels reality star, Daisy Lewellyn, could hardly contain her excitement as she reflected on her life accomplishments. She was previously on the cover of NV Magazine, she has written a book and is currently starring on a highly successful reality TV show.

Daisy believes there is so much more to accomplish and she is up for the challenge!

Check out this video interview of Daisy Lewellyn

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