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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.

Upcoming Book Events: AAMBC Literary Awards; the Harlem Book Fair

VIDEO: The Black literary world preparing to convene in Atlanta for African-Americans on the Move Book Club's literary award show; Harlem Book Fair next up

In this video, we're talking about the African-Americans on the Move Book Club's upcoming Urban Book Bash, a literary award ceremony, and the Harlem Book Fair 2017, which will be held on Saturday, July 15, 2017.

Troy Johnson, CEO, and webmaster, AALBC.com, is up for an AAMBC Award in the Literary Activist of the Year category. Other nominees in the category include Malaika Adero, who was vice president and senior editor at Atria Books/Simon and Schuster and is now a publishing consultant, and Curtis Bunn, author, and founder of the National Book Club Conference.

UPDATE: The AAMBC Literary Awards was held on June 10, 2017, and congratulations to Troy Johnson for winning AAMBC’s Literary Activist Award.

 

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IMAGES Harlem Book Fair 2015

Phillis Wheatley Book Awards & Invitational Author Brunch

Too often, I fail to see the fuller reality of books and their co-creators. I invite you to join me as I look back at images of this year's Phillis Wheatley Awards and Invitational Authors Brunch, held during the Harlem Book Fair.

Books need us co-creators: From the people behind-the-scenes who hand out tickets and brochures... to those nearly hidden by books piled high on tables... to the many fashion-conscious book lovers who talk passionately about a favorite author or a must-read book – all the while animated by and through books!

Harlem Book Fair Images Phillis Wheatley Awards Ladies at Registration Table 2015Book lovers at the Phillis Wheatley Awards registration table. Photo Credit: Luvon Roberson

Harlem Book Fair Images Book Lovers in rapt attentionBook lovers rapt in attention. Photo Credit: Luvon Roberson

Harlem Book Fair Images Invitational Authors Brunch 2015Book lovers and authors at the Invitational Authors Brunch. Photo Credit: Luvon Roberson

Images show us how books come alive in and through us, their many co-creators.

Perhaps we can be guided by Max Rodriquez, founder of QBR Harlem Book Fair, who introduced the Invitational Author Brunch by saying: "We're more than writers. We're more than readers. We have intention, human intention."

Or, maybe we can heed acclaimed children's book illustrator Jerry Pinkney's remarks, made as he accepted this year's Phillis Wheatley Legacy Award: "Even after hundreds of books, I still find magic in the turning of the page."

Harlem Book Fair Images Phillis Wheatley Awards 2015 Award RecipientPoet Afaa Michael, accepting the Phillis Wheatley Award for Poetry. Photo Credit: Luvon Roberson

How is it that books not only offer us a private, individual experience; but also create in us a powerful community, even communal experience?

Books are magical. What does that make us, their co-creators?

 

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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.

Author Sightings: Harlem Book Fair's 2015 Phillis Wheatley Book Awards

 

For book lovers, the Harlem Book Fair offers that rarest of treats: A full range of diverse entry points into the world of books and their creators. In the past, I've attended workshops and author panels at the Schomburg Center, Countee Cullen Library, Harlem YMCA, Thurgood Marshall Academy, and Columbia University Law School. I've always made certain to stroll along 135th Street, between Malcolm X and Adam Clayton Powell Boulevards, with the crowd of 30,000 other bibliophiles, sampling some of the thousands of books on display and talking with many of their authors. I usually end up at the Main Stage, directly across from the Schomburg, where the live, on-stage literary, musical, spoken word performances electrify hundreds, turning that area of the Harlem Book Fair (HBF) into a huge block party, with people moving to the beat or shouting "Tell it! Preach!"

This year, I chose a more intimate experience with books and authors: I attended the Phillis Wheatley Book Awards, which kicked off the HBF and was held at Columbia University's Miller Theatre. And, on Sunday morning, instead of my usual church appearance, I opted to head to the Hotel Beacon for the Invitational Author Brunch, which concluded this year's HBF. These two events might be seen as framing or perhaps serving as bookends for my HBF experience this year. More than ever before, social media – especially Facebook and Twitter --were also keys to how I chose to participate in and share about #HBF 2015.

Another highlight: Long before I knew they were even nominees, I interviewed two of the seven winners of this year's Phillis Wheatley Awards for What's The 411TV. First-time author Selma Jackson's GRANNY'S HELPER won in the Young Readers category; and Tiphanie Yanique's LAND OF FEAR AND DROWNING (Penguin/Riverhead, 2014) won for Fiction.

Jackson, who self-published her first book, tackles racial discrimination, physical disability, gender privilege, family tragedies, and more, with such gentle, sure-handed confidence that children from ages 8 to 11 will fall in love with the title characters -- Young Selma and her blind granny.

Harlem-Book-Fair Phillis-Wheatley-Awards Luvon-Roberson-with-author-Selma-Jackson-and-illustrator-Ansel-Pitcairn-in-lobby-of-Miller-Theatre-at-Columbia-University 600x611What's The 411's Book Editor Luvon Roberson; Selma Jackson, author of Granny's Helper; and Ansel Pitcairn, Illustrator, Granny's Helper; Photo Credit: Luvon Roberson

Yanique's compelling novel, which took her 11 years to complete, is a powerful homage to what it means to be "African American," as viewed through the three-way lens of her three narrators. Her powerful storytelling opens a way for me to recognize Virgin Islanders as "African-Americans" as my enslaved forebears on the US Mainland and to re-envision spaces and places we each call "home."

Harlem-Book-Fair Phillis-Wheatley-Awards Luvon-Roberson-with-author-Tiphanie-Yanique-in-lobby-of-Miller-Theatre-at-Columbia-University 600x698What's The 411 Book Editor Luvon Roberson and award-winning author, Tiphanie Yanique. Photo Credit: Luvon Roberson

 Read about how I first learned of Yanique's work in 2014, at the Harlem Book Fair

Harlem Book Fair founder Max Rodriquez offered a moving introduction to the Awards event and Columbia University's Associate Dean, Office of Community Outreach, School of the Arts Marcia Sells opened with a warm welcome to the 200+ people filling the theatre. Hosted by WBGO host Sheila E. Anderson, the Wheatley Book Awards also honored acclaimed poet-activist Nikki Giovanni and renowned illustrator Jerry Pinkney with Legacy Awards. Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney delivered a memorable tribute to Jerry Pinkney – in the form of a children's story about "Daddy Lion."

Ancestral music performed by Atiba Wilson and the Befo' Quotet, vocalist Imani Uzuri's call and response selection, and the moving choreopoem enacted by Sherri Pullman, Chantal Maurice, and Vesta Walker made for the evening's festive, entertaining flow. Behind-the-scenes, writer and media director Pittershawn Palmer was in constant motion, helping to ensure the success of this must-attend annual literary event.

Harlem-Book-Fair Phillis-Wheatley-Awards Choreopoem-Performers Chantal-Maurice Sherri-Pullum-and-Vesta-Walker-in-the-lobby-of-Miller-Theatre-at-Columbia-University 600x689Choreopoem (L to R) Chantal Maurice; Sherri Pullum; and Vesta Walker. Photo Credit: Luvon Roberson

 CLOSING LINES... 2015 Phillis Wheatley Awards

"I love being touched by a book." – Max Rodriquez, founder, QBR Harlem Book Fair

Harlem-Book-Fair Phillis-Wheatley-Awards Max-Rodrguez-and-Marcia-Sells-on-stage 600x619Max Rodriguez, Founder, QBR, the producer of the Wheatley Book Awards and the Harlem Book Fair on stage with Marcia Sells; Associate Vice President, Office of Community Outreach, Columbia University School of the Arts. Photo Credit: Luvon Roberson

The Phillis Wheatley Book Awards, named for the first published African-American female writer, is given for literary work and literary advocacy that transcends culture, boundary, and perception.

2015 Phillis Wheatley Awards 21 Finalists & 7 Winners

First Fiction
Adinkrahene: Fear of a Black Planet by Jeffery A. Faulkerson
Born at Dawn by Nigeria Lockley -- Winner
Shifting Allegiances: A Nigerian's Story of Nigeria, America & Culture by Amaka Lily

Fiction
Every Day Is for the Thief by Teju Cole
Glorious Sunset by Ava Bleu
Land of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique -- Winner

First Fiction
Daffodil: A Mother's Journey by Demetria Hayes
No Doubt: The Murder(s) of Oscar Grant by Thandisizwe Chimurenga
Regina Anderson, Harlem Renaissance Librarian by Ethelene Whitmire -- Winner

Nonfiction
A Light Shines in Harlem: New York's First Charter School and the Movement It Led by Mary C. Bounds -- Winner
Breaking Ground: My Life in Medicine by Dr. Louis W. Sullivan
Businessman First: Remembering Henry G. Parks, Jr., 1916-1989 Capturing the Life of A Businessman Who Was African American by Maurice W. Dorsey

Poetry
Brief Evidence of Heaven: Poems from the Life of Anna Murray Douglass by M. Nzadi Keita
City of Eternal Spring by Afaa Michael Weaver-- Winner
Tears For My Ancestors by Malik Canty

Young Readers
Granny's Helper by Selma Jackson -- Winner
Midnight and the Man Who Had No Tears by Tiffany Golden
Tate and His Historic Dream by Bernard C. Turner

Young Adult Readers
Dear Diary, The Bullying Won't Stop by Delicia B. Davis
The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis -- Winner
Willow by Tonya Cherie Hegamin

Legacy Award Winners
Nikki Giovanni
Jerry Pinkney

To learn more about Harlem Book Fair, visit www.Harlembookfair.com.

What's The 411 Episode 58: Future Throwing Shade at Ciara and Russell Wilson

Camille Cosby Opens Up; Viola Davis and Taraji P. Henson Get Emmy Noms for Lead Actresses in Drama Series and more

In What's The 411 Episode 58, the panel of What's The 411 hosts Glenn Gilliam and Kizzy Cox and correspondents Onika McLean and Essence Semaj are discussing the Eric Garner case, Bill Cosby, BB King; rapper/producer Timbaland; Bobbi Kristina; rapper Hussein Fatal, NASA scientist Claudia Alexander; the Emmy nominations; rapper Future's feud with singer Ciara over her new beau, NFL Super Bowl-winning quarterback Russell Wilson's involvement with their son; Amazon's selection of Spike Lee's film, Chiraq; President Obama's work ethic; the Harlem Book Fair's Wheatley Awards and author Selma Jackson's win of a Wheatley Award; Kizzy Cox calls Texas police On the Carpet for the death of Sandra Bland; and a Reality TV Recap focused on VH1's Twinning and Bishop TD Jakes' scolding of the Braxton sisters on the Braxton Family Values.

What's The 411TV Episode 58 Rundown

What's The 411 Quick Takes

A settlement was reached in the Eric Garner case. Garner was the Staten Island man who died after being placed in a chokehold by police in 2014. The Garner Family settled with the City of New York for $5.9 million dollars.

WBLS.COM and the New York Post are reporting the Camille Cosby believes that her husband's accusers 'consented' drugs and sex. More than 40 women have come forward accusing the disgraced actor and comedian, Bill Cosby, of rape. In the meantime, President Obama, when asked about the alleged allegations at a press conference, said: "if you give a woman -- or a man, for that matter -- without his or her knowledge a drug and then have sex with that person without consent, that's rape." recently, The New York Times has obtained a 10-year-old deposition in which Cosby spoke more of how he used fame, drugs, and fortune for sex. Comedian and talk show host, Whoopi Goldberg, after originally defending Cosby on the View, has now backtracked her support.

We have an update on the late blues man B.B. King. King's daughters said he was poisoned which led to his death. Now, according to a recent autopsy report, he died of Alzheimer's Disease and other complications.

THE GRIO.COM is reporting that NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt is number one newscast for three consecutive weeks.

And it doesn't get any better for rapper-producer Timbaland. His wife, Monique Mosley, has filed for divorce for the second time; Nick Gordon has been served with a $10 million dollar lawsuit on behalf of Bobby Kristina Brown. The documents state that Gordon misrepresented himself as Brown's husband to control and limit Brown's spending and interactions with others; and rapper DMX was sentenced to 6 months for not paying child support.

Speaking of Bobbi Kristina, movie mogul Tyler Perry recently visited her at the hospice in Atlanta. Perry later pleaded to the media: "It's heartbreaking to think that even in a time like this, this child is still not allowed any peace. I assure you, the family will issue an official statement if something changes. Until then, can we just pray for Krissi, and the Houston and Brown families?"

In an "Only in New York" story, singer and actress Brandy boarded a New York City subway train, in complete disguise, and sang on board a packed train. No one paid her any attention.

AND IN MEMORIAM, WE REMEMBER:

MARLENE SANDERS, ONE OF THE FIRST WOMEN TO BREAK INTO TELEVISION NEWS, HAS PASSED AWAY. SHE WAS 84.
D'ARMY BAILEY, THE FOUNDER OF THE NATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM HAS PASSED AWAY AT AGE 73.
• RAPPER, HUSSEIN FATAL, WHO WAS A MEMBER OF TUPAC'S GROUP, OUTLAWZ, DIED IN AN AUTOMOBILE ACCIDENT. HE WAS 38.
MICHAEL MASSER, WHO WROTE SOME OF THE BIGGEST HITS FOR WHITNEY HOUSTON, HAS DIED AT 74
• NASA SCIENTIST CLAUDIA ALEXANDER, WHO HELPED DIRECT THE AGENCIES GALILEO MISSION TO JUPITER HAS PASSED AWAY FROM BREAST CANCER. ALEXANDER, WAS 56.

What's Poppin'

 

2015 Emmy Nominations

The 2015 Emmy nominations are in. Among the nominees are actresses Taraji P. Henson and Viola Davis, who are up for outstanding lead actress in a drama for their respective shows EMPIRE and How To Get Away With Murder; Uzo Aduba for outstanding supporting actress in a drama for Orange Is The New Black; Don Cheadle and Anthony Anderson for outstanding actor in a comedy for their shows House Of Lies and Black-Ish respectively; Queen Latifah and David Oyelowo are nominated for outstanding actress and actor in a TV movie for Bessie and Nightingale respectively; Khandi Alexander and Cicely Tyson are up for outstanding guest actress for Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder respectively; and Regina King, Angela Bassett, and Mo'nique are up for outstanding actress in a limited series or movie for their work in American Crime (King), American Horror Story: Freak Show (Bassett), and Bessie (Mo'nique). Congratulations!

Future-Ciara-Russell Wilson

It seems like rapper Future is having a little trouble with Ciara moving on with her life. When Future was asked about photos showing Ciara's new man, Russell Wilson pushing around in a stroller little Future, his son with Ciara, the rapper voiced his disapproval.

"You don't even bring a man around your son," he shared on the Breakfast Club. "You know this dude for a few months and you're bringing him around your kid? Who does that? Nobody does that."

Is Future right? Is it too soon for Ciara to expose her son to a new man in her life?

Amazon Selects Spike Lee

Amazon Studios says it has acquired Spike Lee's new film as its first amazon original movie. The film, with the working title Chi-raq, features a cast including Nick Cannon, Wesley Snipes, Jennifer Hudson, and Teyonah Parris, as well as D.B. Sweeney, Harry Lennix, Steve Harris and Angela Bassett, plus John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson.

Amazon studios' Ted Hope said, "It would be impossible to find a better filmmaker" than Lee to launch the studio with.

Under The Radar

The hardest working man in government is ... you guessed it, is President Obama. According to Americans Against the Tea Party, President Obama would need to take the rest of his candidacy on vacation to add up to the time former President George Bush took on vacation. If you recall, Roger Ailes, President and CEO of Fox, about two years ago:

"Obama's the one who's never worked a day in his life. He never earned a penny that wasn't public money. How many fundraisers does he attend every week? How often does he play basketball and golf? I wish I had that kind of time. He's lazy, but the media won't report that."

411 Book Party

Luvon Roberson, What's The 411's Book Editor, tells us about the Harlem Book Fair's Wheatley Awards and a recap of her interview with author Selma Jackson, one of the winners of The Wheatley Awards.

On The Carpet: Texas Police

Every week there's at least one person that gets called on the carpet. And this week we are calling on the carpet the Hempstead Police Department in Texas.

Stories like this are on rewind! Twenty-seven-year-old Sandra Bland was on her way to her new job when she was pulled over by state trooper Brian Encinia in Prairie View, Texas for failing to signal when changing lanes. The police then claimed that she was combative with the officer, which required him to slam her to the ground and another officer to hold her down as well. But there was a witness who recorded the incident and Bland doesn't appear combative but is heard yelling that they slammed her head into the ground so hard she couldn't hear! What's worse is that they threw her in jail and two days later she was dead. The county sheriff claims she died of suicide by asphyxiation...but this is the same sheriff who was fired from his post as Chief of Police in Hempstead, Texas in 2007 for racism and abuse against black people! Why was he allowed back into law enforcement at all?

This just keeps happening, the excessive force, the death of black people at the hands of law enforcement. It has to stop, just like white lives, Black lives matter.

Reality TV Recap

 

VH1's Twinning

According to perezhilton.com, Vh1 is ready to dip its feet back into the reality TV pool with the launch of its new show, Twinning on July 22nd. This show will feature twins in a survivor-like competition for a grand prize of $222,222.22. For 10 weeks, a dozen sets of twins will live apart from one another and compete in challenges to see which pair really has the closest bond.

Braxton Family Values

Bishop T.D. Jakes gave the bickering Braxton Sisters the scolding of their lives on Braxton Family Values. In short he said:

"You're spoiled. You're flat-out spoiled."

"To see you in these fancy shoes and these nice clothes, and act like this??? "How can we teach our children to respect black women, if black women don't respect black women? This has got to stop."

What's The 411TV host Glenn Gilliam, put a wrinkle in the commentary. Glenn suggested that Bishop Jakes needs to use his pulpit to comment on larger issues affecting the Black community.

COMMENTS

If you would like to call someone on the carpet, hit us up on Facebook or Twitter @whatsThe411TV with who you want called on the carpet and why. If we choose your story, we'll include it on the show.

A Conversation With Children’s Book Author Selma Jackson about Granny’s Helper

Selma Jackson, a 2015 Wheatley Book Awards Finalist, takes us on a much-needed journey

 

Do you have fond memories of heading South with your family as soon as the New York City school year ended every year? Memories of being surrounded by grandparents, cousins, extended family members? Of days filled with sunlight that seemed never to end? How about plump red tomatoes bursting with juice and seeds that you added a pinch of salt to, squeezed, and ate like apples? And, nights of catching June bugs, placing them in Mason jars, and watching them light up and dim, again and again, while huddling under your bed covers?

These are among the sweet childhood memories that Selma Jackson evokes in Granny's Helper, her debut book for children ages 8 to 11. But the book is filled with bittersweet memories, as well. Several unexpected twists and the harsh realities of racial discrimination are central to Granny's Helper.

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.

Granny also helps Selma learn that although "Only boys who are named after their fathers are juniors....My father named me and your father named you." Selma discovers that -- like the boys in her family -- she, too, can share a special bond with her father through naming. Then, there are the visits the family would take every spring.

"We drove south to my parents' birthplaces of Georgia and Virginia every year between 1953 and 1958."

Little Selma would visit Granny in Hickory, Virginia; and here is how she in counterpoint to Adult Selma, the author of her story, experienced those trips South:

"My parents did not tell us that we could not use the rest stops, eat in the restaurants, or stay in hotels once we were south of Washington, DC, because of racial discrimination. Instead, we were made to feel that we were having a roadside picnic on our trip. If we had to use the bathroom we went in the woods, and we even spent the night at the home of a family in North Carolina on our way to Georgia!"

Granny's Helper offers middle-school readers the story of Little Selma through whom they can see and appreciate the important role that older members of their own families play in their lives as well as to recognize the challenging and unjust realities of the world around them. Ansel Pitcairn's illustrations have the look and feel of watercolor paintings, which enhance the easy, fluid flow of Little Selma's evolving understanding of her grandmother's unhurried yet powerful effect on shaping her into the adult she was to become. The book includes a Questions/Comments section that beginning readers of the 22-page book will find helpful.

Granny's Helper, published by the author, is a 2015 finalist in children's fiction for the Wheatley Book Awards, which opens the Harlem Book Fair in July.

Such affirming recognition of Jackson's book comes at a time when the publishing industry is being challenged to offer writers of diverse backgrounds the opportunity to tell their stories and to open pathways for editors, staff, publishers, and others to enter the industry.

#WeNeedDiverseBooks is a vital call which authors like Jackson not only issue but also heed. Yet, even in the face of exclusion, in an industry which is overwhelmingly white and male, Jackson and many other writers continue to tell stories about children of color -- for all children to read. Our children can only grow more fully and become more informed citizens when diversity in storytelling is valued and becomes a reality. For a list of diverse books for the children in your life, visit www.weneeddiversebooks.org.

AUTHOR SIGHTING: Tiphanie Yanique

First Sighting at Harlem Book Fair; Second at NYU.

Tiphanie Yanique. I first met her at the Harlem Book Fair's Fiction Festival, held at Columbia University in July 2014. Yanique is on a panel called Coming from Far: Caribbean Writers on Home and Otherness. Her book, LAND OF LOVE AND DROWNING, published by Riverhead/ Penguin, is just hitting bookstores – and the world. Over the next hour and a half, she tells us secrets that too often authors keep hidden. Not only the secrets about her how her family influenced her book, but the secrets about how writers create:

Yanique disclosed that many in her Virgin Island family didn't want her to write her book as she initially envisioned it. It revealed too much, better kept inside the family.

Yanique talked about how she was caught in the tangle of love of family on the one hand, and the irrepressible need for her own voice to break free, on the other.

Ultimately, it took Yanique several years to at last find a way to tell her story, by accommodating her family's need for privacy and her desire for self-expression.

That time of flux must have been painful for her loved ones – and for her.

Next Sighting of Yanique...

Lillian-Vernon-Creative-Writers-House images CANDA8SDNow, several months later, I am listening to Yanique read from LAND OF LOVE AND DROWNING, the book that came out of her time of struggle. We are at New York University, in a lovely townhouse – the Lillian Vernon Creative Writers House. People file in, quickly filling up the chairs. I'm beneath the steep staircase, rising along a wall that's lined with framed photographic portraits of acclaimed writers who gaze out like orishas: Toni Morrison is among them.

Can Yanique see those writer-creators from where she stands at the podium, before the filled-to-capacity audience?

She begins by paying homage to NYU for providing space exclusively for writers, with its Lillian Vernon House, and by giving "gratitude" for her years in this space as a student. It's here when she reveals that it took her 11 years to write the book. I recall her revelations in July, as part of the Harlem Book Fair panel about her struggle to create the book. I did not know it took so long. Eleven years to write LAND OF LOVE AND DROWNING!

At the reading, she reveals that her grandmother, not her parents, raised her, and says "my aunts and cousin fed me." They threatened to "disown" her after reading the manuscript she sent them, nine years into writing the book. "I made the changes they needed me to make. I think I made a richer book because of it."

Yanique says the book, set between 1916 to late-1960s, parallels "what's going on in Ferguson" today. And, that this 50-year timeframe is "in my mind, when the Virgin Islands become Americanized. Along comes World War II and then the Civil Rights Movement. It gave Virgin Islands the opportunity to be 'American.'" I'm wondering: How does she tell this story, this complicated duality? Is it tied to her own?

Author Tiphanie-Yanique Taking-questions-from-audience NYU-Lillian-Vernon-Writers-House 09122014 ressized 700x494

Later after the reading, during the Q & A, Yanique says "my narrator is multiple. I have three other narrators, first-person narrators. The same event is seen in different ways: They actually see other things that another person doesn't see." She believes her book frames "What it means to be American – and to tell your story. To tell your narrative." These multiple narrators help us recognize, she says, "Virgin Islanders are African-American. There are more versions: Northern, Southern. There is a multiplicity of versions of understanding the African-American experience."

Luvon-Roberson-Smiling-with-Author-Tiphanie-Yanique NYU-Lillian-Vernon-Writers-House 09122014 resized 700x661

What's The 411TV Book Editor, Luvon Roberson (left) chatting with Tiphanie Yanique, author of LAND OF LOVE AND DROWNING, prior to her talk at NYU's Lillian Vernon Creative Writers House.

My Favorite Author Quips & Snippets

Here's a quick pick of my favorite comments made by Tiphanie Yanique at her book reading at New York University, on September 12, 2014.

"Magic is real."

"A parent's first magic is naming."

"I feel like a responsible human being. I do think of politics, race, social justice. Politics, race, gender, and the natural environment. I think of them as craft structures. I feel free by those forms. I know that I'm participating in that form."

"I have two kids now. If my daughter is sleeping, I try to write. It might be five minutes, it may be 10 minutes, and I'm grateful."

BIO: Tiphanie Yanique

Author Tiphanie-Yanique website Debbie-Grossman Author-Photo-for-Land-of-Love resized 200x250Tiphanie Yanique lives in Brooklyn and she is the author of the novel LAND OF LOVE AND DROWNING, (Riverhead/Penguin 2014), and the short story collection, How to Escape from a Leper Colony, published by Graywolf Press, 2010.

BookPage listed her as one of the 14 Women to Watch Out For in 2014. Her writing has won the 2011 BOCAS Prize for Caribbean Fiction, Boston Review Prize in Fiction, a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers Award, a Pushcart Prize, a Fulbright Scholarship, and an Academy of American Poet's Prize. Yanique has been listed by the Boston Globe as one of the 16 cultural figures to watch out for and by the National Book Foundation as one of the 5 Under 35. Her writing has been published in Best African American Fiction, The Wall Street Journal, American Short Fiction among others.

Tiphanie Yanique is Assistant Professor of Writing at The New School. For additional information about author Tiphanie Yanique, visit www.tiphanieyanique.com.

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