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Citizens Creek by Lalita Tademy (2014)

citizenscreekThis book is arranged in two parts: first about Cow Tom, born a slave and sold to a Creek Indian chief before he was 10 and then about his granddaughter, Rose who was born free. Tom gained his name while tending the tribe’s cows under the direction of his mentor, Old Turtle. Tom wanted more than living on someone else’s land, doing another’s bidding; he wanted marriage, a son, and most of all freedom. Both Old Turtle and Chief Yargee recognize Tom’s special skills with language and the Chief allows Tom to apply part of his earnings as a translator towards his and his family’s freedom.

Rose dearly loved her grandfather and desperately wanted to find her place as a respected member of the family, the tribe, and break the family curse of only girl babies. These stories show family and tribal commitment from black slaves and freedmen at a time of conflict and removal of tribes from the southeast into Oklahoma Indian Territory. In Lalita Tademy’s Citizens Creek, the reader can easily become involved with the characters from their loyalty to one another and their conversations about their problems and struggle to reach their goals.

Sycamore Row by John Grisham (2013)

sycamorerowA very rich man (Seth) kills himself by hanging and leaves much of his estate to his black caregiver by a holographic will. Of course, Seth’s family challenges the will; a jury must determine whether Seth’s handwritten will is valid.

John Grisham’s masterful storytelling leads the reader through the trial, the families’ histories and a look at justice and redemption. This is one of Grisham’s best novels set in Clanton, Mississippi, with a street lawyer (Jake) from A Time to Kill as the principal character. Grisham teases the reader to find out why a deceased man would abandon his children and grandchildren in such a manner; how he accumulated such a fortune; and what became of his brother who is mentioned in the handwritten will. Amazing characters, afflicted with greed, stupidity, racism and drink color the story in Sycamore Row and entertain the reader as he navigates through this engaging tale. For more information, read this review in the New York Times.

Letter to My Daughter by Maya Angelou

Letter to My Daughter by Maya Angelou (2008)
Letter to My Daughter is a collection of 28 essays on life, faith, motherhood, kindness, and what it means to be human. The pieces are short but are wonderful words of wisdom and insight.

I am right with Angelou as she takes on popular culture and our acceptance of obscenity. She calls on us to improve our values to be a people of substance, and to require the same from our elected officials. I found this to be a very thought provoking read.

Read the reviews at Amazon.com, watch the author introduce her book, and visit the author's website.

Them by Nathan McCall

Them by Nathan McCall (2007)
Interesting human introspection story about a changing neighborhood. It makes suburbanites think about other places. As western suburbs of Chicago tear down houses and neighborhoods change, it is everywhere and good to hear about other places and circumstances. It makes the reader think.

Read a review from the Los Angeles Times or check out the official website for fun extras like reading guide questions, an excerpt, a Q&A with the author, or a video.

Run by Ann Patchett

Run by Ann Patchett (2007)
A beautifully written story that proves several themes tied around relationships. A prominent man has raised his son and two adopted African-American sons since his wife’s death years ago. His relationship with his oldest son is lacking and his plans for his adopted sons are at odds with what they want for their lives. The tangle of feelings within the family, including the hole left in their lives when the mother died, are brought into focus when an accident brings new people into their world. In fact, their world is turned upside down. The characterizations are wonderful. I didn’t want the book to end.