Thursday, October 13, 2011

Guest Post: National Book Festival

My friend Valinda, who wrote about her trip to Houston here, is back to talk about her recent trip to the National Book Festival. She was also one of my travel companions to the National Book Club Conference. Make sure you also check out her blog, especially those on Team Kindle!

I left Charleston early Friday morning, September 23. I heard it was going to rain, so I thought I'll get a good jump. God had other plans. It rained from SC to DC and I mean it rained. Can you imagine what my little car (I have a Nissan Cube) and yes, it looks like one of those cars in London (a place I love). But the main reason I own one is that my Durango, which I had for years, finally gave out and too much work had to be done to it and it started to costs too much money. So, I traded it in and got the Cube. Don’t laugh, that sucker gets 31 miles per gallon and I can fill it up with $25.00 and drive a week and a half.

So, you now know what my car looks like if you were looking at it from an aerial view. An ant (cube) between six fat ass rats (18 wheeler trucks) closing in. Oh, I kept up with those drivers. They were doing 100 miles a hour and I kept right on rolling with them. Not to get to my destination in a hurry, but because I was scared as hell and it was raining cats and dog (my dog was with me and he was asleep in the back, smart dog!). Finally got a break in the rain and I pulled off onto a rest stop and prayed. Man, it was raining like a hurricane.

Got to DC and it stop raining but was cloudy and I was beginning to think the book festival was going to be rained out. Made it to Maryland and got me a drink at a friend's house and went to bed. Me and the dog was dead tired. The next morning I drove to Penn Avenue to Union Station with my daughter, and we walked from there to the Mall. Was no use in driving any further. There were festivals all throughout DC, MD and VA. National Book Festival, Latino Festival, Southwest DC Arts Festival, Nickelodeon’s 2011 Worldwide Day of Play and many, many more. I never saw so many kids on the subway in one day, but they were having fun and I was going to the Mall to have my own fun.

The National Mall was packed. The last number I saw was over 200,000 people and I believe it. There were tents for Fiction & Mystery - the authors spoke at their assigned time, which if you did not get a seat, you were standing inside and outside of the tent: Toni Morrison, Jennifer Egan, Gregory, Steve Berry, Laura Lippman was on Saturday and on Sunday - Terry McMillian, Margaret George and others. The Poetry & Prose tent had Rita Dove (There was a party the night before in the Great Hall of the Library of Congress with her as well as Toni Morrison and others), Michael Cunningham, Jonathan Yardley, Dave Eggers, Terrance Hayes and Yusef Komunyakaa. The History & Biography tent had Isabel WIlkerson, Carla L. Peterson and Eugene Robinson. For children, Teens and storytelling , their tent had Wally Amos, Cedella Marley, Kadir Nelson, Angela Farris Watkins and Rita Williams-Garcia. This year another day was added (and I can understand why) to add the Cutting Edge tent with Eric Jerome Dickey, Kia Dupree, and Kimberla Lawson Roby; Graphic Novels tent with Rachel Renee Russell and Eric Wight; and State Poets Laureates Dolores Kendrick, Wesley McNair and Carol Muske-Dukes. The Contemporary Life tent had Hoda Kotb, Jessica B. Harris and of course, Barnes & Noble had a huge tent, selling all of the authors' books. It was crowded with people and their strollers, kids, dogs, grandma and grandpa. There was long lines and I mean long lines at the book signing tents if you wanted to get your book autographed.

I was in line for 45 minutes, but it was worth it to see Isabel Wilkerson, author of The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration.

I did also hear a little, but could not see too close Siddharththa Mukherjee, the author of The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer and Eric Foner, the author of The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery. Both of these books I brought because I heard so much about them.

The honorary co-chairs were President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama with the theme, “Celebrating the Joys of Reading Aloud.”

In the Hall of States tent, every state was there to give out bookmarks and such on their library or reading programs. My daughter got a prize, so did so many other children, when she completed her map of visiting every table to get a stamp and I got on C-Span with Barbara Jones, Director of The Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association, celebrating Banned Book Week.

CNN was there also interviewing various authors and PBS was there entertaining children. There was so much to do and so many authors, books, story telling and a place for you to read to your kid. What more can a book lover want! I wanted more. I did get on CNN with another book lover and we discussed our favorites authors at the fair. She was just as funny as me and we had a great time doing it.

Can you believe it, Toni Morrison has an iPad and she loves it, but still loves books. I got both a Kindle and iPad and I still love hardcover books. This year did not start out right with me being broke and a little lonely without my kid, but after I got on track with my budget, continue to volunteer at the library and save enough to get to the National Black Book Festival in Houston, Texas (I'm still high from Earth, Wind and Fire, God I’m still high from seeing them!!!!), then to Atlanta for the National Book Club Conference and now my trip to DC, I finally found “me” and I cannot believe how blessed and happy I am to hang out with so many authors and read so many of their books. God, I’m happy. Now to save big moola for “That Big Book Sale” with the Friends of the Charleston County Library and the Miami Book Festival. I will try not to take so many pictures of men in their swim suits in Miami, (Yeah, right!! me not take pictures of that!!).

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Starting Over

Several months ago, I read Janet Jackson's autobiography/advice book, True You. Now we hear from her big sister LaToya in Starting Over.

Seeing the cover, you would think that this book was totally about Michael. But it's not. The book is pretty much divided into three parts: her marriage and being taken away from her family, leaving her marriage and putting her life back together, and Michael's passing and her theories about his untimely death.

LaToya first met her future husband, Jack Gordon, in the mid-80s. At that time, Latoya was still being managed by her father. Somehow, Jack schmoozed his way into her life (and pretty much conned Joseph in the process) and became her manager. Then her decade of hell began.

LaToya was in a very abusive relationship with Jack and was beat constantly. All those things that she did during that time period (Playboy, Psychic Friends, the Paris shows, accusing Michael of messing with children) was all Jack. And if she didn't comply and/or protest, he beat her (she still got beat up when she did comply).

In 1996, LaToya finally got the nerve to finally leave Jack by escaping with brother Randy and a cousin. She used the next 13 years to repair the relationships in her family, start a business partnership with a new friend (who co-wrote the book), rebuild her career, and getting over the abuse from Jack.

Then June 25, 2009 happened.

LaToya is the first sibling that arrives at the hospital and finds out about Michael's death from her mother. She also the family member that escorts Michael's children to the hospital room where they say goodbye to their father.

She also feels that Michael was killed and that Dr. Murray is the fall guy (her father has said this too). She found it ironic that many people who Michael had fired (and were with him during the height of his career) returned in time for his comeback concerts. She also questions why none of the family members oversee his estate and questions AEG's motives (the company who sponsored This Is It).

Do I think Michael's death is as complicated as LaToya thinks it is? I don't know. But I do believe that Michael probably did have a horrible case of insomnia and he was way beyond Nytol, which contributed to his death.

The book was easy to read and enjoyable. Love the pictures of her and her family. The hardest part for me was going through LaToya's account of her brother's passing (especially now with the trial going on). But the first part of the book should be a testament surviving domestic abuse.

I chose this video for obvious reasons (but I always found it yucky that LaToya was Michael's love interest). She did drop some "trivia" throughout the book. For example, Michael fell in love with the location where the video was made. So much that he bought it and it became Neverland. RIP Michael and Linda.