Skip to content

Recent Articles



  1. It’s time for me to have a break from this ol’ book blog.
  2. … it’s doing my head in and
  3. I need more time to just read and relax.
  4. 2020 was an exhausting year!
  5. I will be updating my Challenges 2021 
  6. …list with my reading progress.
  7. If you want to  reach….I’m still on twitter @nl_burns.
  8. I’ll return in the Spring
  9. …with my books, walks and foto’s!
  10. It’s time to hibernate and #NeedCoffee
  11. Live well, be safe, wear a mask
  12. for the love of all that’s holy
  13. …it’s not too much to ask.



  1. Girl, Woman, Other –  Bernardine Evaristo  – REVIEW
  2. Heads of Colored People – Nafissa Thompson-Spires  (12 short stories)  REVIEW
  3. A Black Women’s  History of the United States – Daina Ramey Berry  REVIEW


#2020 Good Riddance!!

  1. Even by dismal standards, it has been a shocker of a year.
  2. Pandemic, lockdowns, economic slump, apocalyptic wildfires
  3. …in Australia and USA and the most divisive
  4. …bitter US election in living memory


But it is time to think  of 2021…

  1. You can always stay connected via:
  2. Twitter: @nl_burns



  1. Brona @Bronasbooks for #AusReadingMonth21 (November)
  2. Karen @Books and Chocolate #BackToTheClassics 2021
  3. #BlackHistoryMonth (February)
  4. Cathy @746Books  #ReadingIrelandMonth21 (March)
  5. #NationalBookAward 2019 -2020 (winners and finalists)
  6. #PoetryMonth (April)
  7. #DutchLiterature (8 NF books I hope will be translated soon…)
  8. #AWW2021  @AustralianWomen WritersChallenge
  9. #TheEdithReadalong2021 @BronasBooks  (November)
  10. #NonFicNov  (non-fiction weeks) (November)
  11. #NovNov @746Books (novella) (November)


  1. So it is time to hit the reset button
  2. …and finally enjoy the long-awaited  2021.
  3. Here is my challenge 2021 reading list .
  4. Here is my monthly planning 2021
  5. Happy New Year 2021!


#Poetry Jericho Brown



  1. This  book is said to be
  2. …one of the best collection of poems
  3. by a living poet.
  4. Jericho Brown’s poems are works of art and
  5. …they deserve some of my intense reading time.
  6. It took me 2 days to research and read 52 poems.
  7. I learned about Brown’s abusive father and  the poet’s
  8. struggle to be a black gay man.
  9. I hope the notes I provided may
  10. …help you when reading my favorite poems.
  11. #MustRead



  1. 5 Duplex poems are a creation of Jericho Brown (JB).
  2. The structure is unique: the last word of a stanza
  3. ….in the last word on the first next line!
  4. It feels like a puzzel!



  1. Certain poems are inspired by people, books, art.
  2. I needed to read the ‘backstory’ in wikipedia 
  3. …so I  could understand the poems. 
  4. I’ve included links to information regarding these poems.
  5. Favorite: ” After Another Country”  (novel by James Baldwin, 1962)



  1. The title poem is “The Tradition“.
  2. After my first reading I still did not know what it was!
  3. I needed to do some research.
  4. Tradition is: 
  5. joy of gardening,  police violence, remembering victims of police violence.



Part 1:

  • Ganymede – myth about Ganymede   
  • As a Human Being  –  trying to stand up to father…..son-father relationship.
  • The Tradition – see quickscan
  • Hero – trying to impress mother….  son-mother relationship
  • After Another CountryAnother Country main character Rufus Scott 
  • The Water Lilies – image  water lilies = white people
  • Foreday in the Morning – morining glories…mother never sees them, she’s up early to work.
  • The Card Tables – love the personification of simpel ‘card tables’, funny!
  • Bullet Points – Sandra Bland (wikipedia) 
  • Duplex  – abuse-father
  • The Trees – lovely nature poem..the crape myrtle trees
  • A Young Man – father watching teen-age son be a playground guardian for little sister


Part 2:

  • Duplex – abuse-father
  • Riddle – Emmett Till (wikipedia)  – powerful
  • Correspondence – The Jerome Project by Titus Kaphar  
  • Night Shift – painful intimacies of domestic abuse
  • Shovel – vivd poem, no  hidden meaning…just pick up the body and bury it
  • Dear Whiteness – letter to “whiteness” …who the speaker is sleeping with
  • Entertainment Industry – issues of gun control and mass shootings
  • Layover – account of an assault, a pant-like stream-of-consciousness


Part 3:

  • Duplex – abuse-father
  • Of My Fury – love poem
  • The Virus  – HIV
  • Deliverance – remembering childhood Sundays
  • Dark – painfully candid as JB reproaches himself
  • Duplex  – abuse-father
  • Cakewalk – optimism between to old lovers despite HIV
  • Stand – love and pain is inseparable, there is joy to be found  within black bodies
  • Duplex: Cento – abuse-father

#Non-fiction Dying of Whiteness



  1. Metzl’s timely book looks at
  2. Trump’s Right-wing backlash policies:
  3. unraveling of Obama Care (the Affordable Care Act)
  4. resist available health care (anti-vax)
  5. amass gun arsenals
  6. cut funding for schools
  7. ...these politics are literally asking people
  8. to die for their “whiteness”.


Strong point:

  1. Read the introduction carefully before starting the book.
  2. It is filled with information that help you
  3. get a helicopter-view of the right-wing policy in USA.


Strong point…..but you have to see why!

  1. There are pages of statistics and
  2. methods of data gathering
  3. that my numb you. 
  4. But graphs will show that the results of
  5. distructive policy are quantifiable!
  6. That is crucial and the core message of the book.


  1.  I suggest skimming and highlighting the results
  2. …you want to remember.
  3. Example: 
  4. Compare gun laws in Missouri vs Connecticut
  5. …and numbers of gun inflicted suicide.
  6. White men become the biggest threat
  7. …to themselves in Missouri.
  8. They die by their own guns 2,5 x
  9. more often than do white men in Connecticut.


  1. But please, keep reading if only to see how
  2. budget cuts have devastated the public schools in Kansas!


  1. This is just so shocking.
  2. Trump and his enablers promote issues and policies to
  3. defend and restore white privilege.
  4. Dr. Metzl has gone into the America’s heartland
  5. to have conversations with people in
  6. Tennessee, Missouri and Kansas. (2013-2018)
  7. The author reveals to what 
  8. …depths these white Americans
  9. will go to  and vote  for
  10. …American backlash conservatism.


  1. This book  is such an eye-oener.
  2. I was so frustrated while reading how people can be so stupid
  3. …so convinced that Trump is working in their interests.
  4. He is not.
  5. Trump is a con-man and
  6. …it is killing America’s heartland.
  7. What is most frightening?
  8. Yes, Trump is leaving the White House but
  9. …Trumpism is here to stay!
  10. #MustRead

#Ireland Don’t Touch My Hair



  1. Ms Dabiri’s book begins with her upbringing in Ireland,
  2. moving through to pre-colonial West Africa,
  3. to the slave trade in America.
  4. She discusses the market dominance of beauty products
  5. how black hair is valued and misunderstood.
  6. Hair texture and style have no bearing on one’s ability to succeed.
  7. Black hair has been and continues to be judged by white standards
  8. …used as a tool to discriminate.



  1. Black identity is told through the prism of African hair.
  2. Historically, the way you wore your hair
  3. signified your marital status, your tribe, your class
  4. …and your position in society.”
  5. Black hair is much more than just hair….!
  6. Hairstyle  is an embodied visual language.
  7. Ms Dabiri gives White people this advice about African hair:
  8. “…our hair is spiritual. Look but don’t touch!” (pg 47)


  1. Strong Point:  Ms Emma Dabiri KNOWS  what she is talking about!
  2. She attended the prestigious school  SOAS University of London .
  3. SOAS is one of the world’s leading institutions for the
  4. study of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.


  1. Strong point:  this book made me look more closely at art….
  2. …and the hairstyles represented in it!


  1. Strong point:  I thought I was going to get a book just about hair
  2. but Ms Dabiri has touched on many themes relating to hairstyles.
  3. Themes of personal identity,
  4. cultural traditions, modern aspirations,
  5. and social and political issues.
  6. She deleves deeply into her own Yoruba roots
  7. … Benin Africa.


  1. Strong point:  Personal…describing life in Ireland as a black girl:
  2. “…an environment characterized by a pervasive and
  3. constant refrain of black inferiority...
  4. I was bombarded with it.” (pg 88)
  5. But Ms Dabiri  did add some humor into her story….
  6. “being black and Irish in Ireland
  7. …was to have almost unicorn status” (pg 5)


  1. Weak Point: I was not very interested  pages 103-122
  2. …about A’Lelia Walker (1885 –1931)
  3. She was the only surviving child of Madam C. J. Walker,
  4. popularly credited as being the first self-made female millionaire
  5. promoting hair products for  African-American women.
  6. I skimmed this section.
  7. Chapter 5:
  8. …honestly, not interested in Shea Moisture,
  9. Madonna or Kim Kardashian’s  cornrows.


  1. Strong point:  chapter 6 
  2. Ms Dabiri discusses complex geometric shapes used in braiding.
  3. Braiding was used also in ‘intellignce networks’.
  4. Hair was used a a form of mapping
  5. …a means of communication.
  6. The hairstyle was a form of  signal
  7. …so escape could happen in blocks of slaves.


  1. Strong point:  TITLE!!
  2. …Solange on Spotify   “Don’t’ Touch My Hair”
  3. Somehow these lyrics just give expression or emotion to
  4. …the deep feeling  of African hair.


Don’t touch my hair
When it’s the feelings I wear
Don’t touch my soul
When it’s the rhythm I know
Don’t touch my crown
They say the vision I’ve found
Don’t touch what’s there
When it’s the feelings I wear

Last Thoughts:

  1. This book was more scholarly than I anticipated.
  2. Ms Dabiri has completed her PhD and her expertise is apparent.
  3. She uses a mixture of scholarly and popular sources.
  4. But Ms Dabiri has produced a very readable book about
  5. looking at indigenous cultures from a new perspective.
  6. She  emphasizes the strengths of African society in divination,
  7. architecture design, entrepreneurship and…so interesting
  8. the unchanging tradition of hair braiding!
  9. #AbsoluteDelight  to read!

#Non-Fiction The Dead Are Arising



  1. Decades of research went into the creation of
  2. The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X
  3. by Les Payne and Tamara Payne, a fully realized portrait of Malcolm X.
  4. Pulitzer Prize winner Les Payne set out to interview anyone
  5. who had ever known Malcolm X, and after his death in 2018,
  6. his daughter and researcher Tamara Payne completed his work.
  7. This was a absloutely stunning book!
  8. Part 1: Malcolm’s young years 1- 15 yrs
  9. Part 2: Malcom move to live with half sister in  Boston
  10. ….he is street wise and soon ends up in jail.
  11. These two sections are just the pre-show
  12. …and can feel a bit slow at times.
  13. Do not stop reading because Malcolm’s biography
  14. … is a riveting a page-turner!
  15. Les Payne has included many new items of information
  16. that  Malcolm X…LEFT out of his own
  17. autobiography written with Alex Haley.


Last Thoughts:

  1. This book filled in a lot of gaps in my memory of the 1960s.
  2. Growing up I had heard of Malcom X
  3. ….but only knew he was assassinated on February 25 1965.
  4. Why?  Who was involved?  I had no idea.
  5. The mainstream media placed
  6. …the spotlight on Martin Luther King
  7. …and left Malcom X in the shadows of my mind.
  8. Now…finally I know why Malcom X was killed
  9. …but it took 55 years and the painstaking research of Les Payne
  10. to solve this crime
  11. #MustRead

#Fiction The Yield



  1. Language shapes our thinking.
  2. Indigenous languages see the world in particular ways.
  3. There are three stories:
  4. Poppy Albert – built a dictionary of his language
  5. Granddaughter August –  returned home for his funeral
  6. Reverend Ferdinand Greenleaf – defender of
  7. ….“the decent Natives whom I have lived amongst”


Strong point:  

  1. Each narrative has a distinct writing style…remarkable!
  2. The ways that the author uses words, sentence structure
  3. …and sentence arrangement all work together
  4. to establish mood, images.


Strong point:  

  1. A sentence in chapter 6 struck a nerve.
  2. Thinking about all the people
  3. who have died in USA due to Covid-19.
  4. How the families must now cope with such grief and loss.
  5. …Ms Winch captures the moment for me:
  6. “…And just like that the home became just a house…”


  1. Albert:  40% of the book
  2. What does your this character want in the story?
  3. Determined to answer the call of the spirits (ancestors)
  4. urging him to remember. (Prosperous Mission)
  5. – personal narrative about family  told in the form of
  6. …definitions of aboriginal words.


  1. Rev. Greenleaf: 23% of the book
  2. What does your this character want in the story? 
  3. Determined to set the record straight
  4. …as to what happened at the Prosperous Mission.
  5. Rev. Greenleaf mentions  it was
  6. “not the sentiments that
  7. divided us…but the words.” (pg 148)
  8. Central in the book is the…
  9. importance of the Albert’s dictionary.


  1. August: 37% of the book
  2. What does your this character want in the story?
  3. Determined to honor her grandfather Albert (Poppy)
  4. …and save ancestral lands from a mining company.



  1. To be honest….the book was OK.
  2. I enjoyed  2 narratives:
  3. Poppy’s dictionary and Rev. Greenblatt’s letters.
  4. August? 
  5. Ms Winch writes with great insight of the
  6. unraveling of  August…when exposed to loss.
  7. She has made some mistakes when her
  8. life seems to be careening out of control.
  9. But I felt the “unraveling” was a bit too lengthy.
  10. August keeps  floundering around in their own distress
  11. …until chapter 33 when she finally decides to stay with her family.
  12. The last 9 chapters were full of action
  13. …and August’s new found purpose.

#Classic Iola Leroy


  1. It tells the story of a wealthy Mississippi planter
  2. who frees and marries his mixed-race slave.
  3. They have two children, Iola and Harry.
  4. They are raised without knowledge of their
  5. mixed background and educated in the North.
  6. After  the father’s death
  7. …greedy relatives thrust Iola and her mother into slavery.


  1. Ch 1-8  present
  2. Ch 9-12 flashback ( 20 years ago….)
  3. Ch 13- 33 present


  1. Strong point:  Regional dialect, characters influenced
  2. by a specific locale with  speech and attitudes
  3. …reflected the deep South in 1860s.
  4. Mainly in ch 1-8…so if you find it irritating reading
  5. ….just remember the rest of the book is ordinary text.


  1. Strong point: 
  2. This book  as old as it is…just makes me think!
  3. Pg 32 says:
  4. THEN: “…when the colored men were being enlisted,
  5. …that he (soldier) would
  6. break his sword and resign.”
  1. NOW: 128 years later Lloyd Austin could would be
  2. the first African American to lead the Pentagon.
  3. West Point graduate, retired four-star general,
  4. former commander of the American military effort in Iraq
  5. …has been nominated by President Elect Biden
  6. …to be his Secretary of Defense.
  7. Oh,…times are a changin’!


  1. Strong point: 
  2. Ms Harper is prescient…
  3. perceiving  in 1892 the
  4. …significance of events before they occur.
  5. “Other men have plead his (black man’s) cause
  6. but out of the race must come its own defenders.
  7. With them the pen must be mightier than the sword.”
  8. REF: Opinion NYTimes  dd. 12.12.2020 
  9. Svp read –>  “How White is Publishing?”
  10. …and add more voices of color to your reading lists!



  1. Ms Harper fulfills the requirement of historical fiction:
  2. — bringing alive the past
  3. — speaking forcefully
  4. — to the readers of today.
  5. Themes: importance of religion, oppression of women
  6. Themes: racism, central role of women in community/family
  7. Subplot: a beautiful love triangle…
  8. Triangle:  Iola – Dr. Gresham – Dr. Latimar
  9. Some have said this book feels outdated
  10. …but I disagree. 
  11. It made many strong points
  12. …that we can learn from….even today!
  13. Iola Leroy is powerful enough to
  14. remain with readers for years to come.
  15. That is why it is a ….
  16. #MustRead  #Classic!

#Merry Christmas 2020

  1. Glad to report  that despite a
  2. …FULL LOCKDOWN  in The Netherlands
  3. …Santa was able to visit us!
  4. Why are Santa’s reindeer allowed to travel on Christmas Eve?
  5. They have herd immunity.



#Reading Challenges 2021

  1. A little too early to pop open the bubbly?
  2. I don’t think so.
  3. After a year we all want to forget
  4. …I am excited and eager to start afresh.
  5. Books will get me to a sunnier Summer 2021 where we all
  6. can enjoy all the things
  7. …we used to take for granted!


January – December 2021:

  1. 19th C Classic: Iola Leroy   REVIEW F. E.W. Harper (1892) 
  2. 20th C Classic: The Ways of White Folks: Stories  – Langston Hughes (1934)
  3. Classic by woman: Their Eyes Were Watching God: A Novel – Z. N. Hurston (1937)
  4. Classic in translation: The River Between – Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o (1965)
  5. Classic BIPOC Author: The Bluest Eye – Toni Morrison (1970)
  6. Classic new Author: Palace Walk: The Cairo Trilogy –  Naguib Mahfouz (1956)
  7. Classic favourite Author: Notes of a Native Son – J.Baldwin (1955)
  8. Classic animal in title: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou(1969)
  9. Children’s Classic: The House of Dies Drear – Virginia Hamilton (1968)
  10. Humorous Classic: Not Without Laughter by Langston Hughes (1930)
  11. Travel Classic: The Lonely Londoners Sam Selvon (1956)
  12. Classic Play: Funnyhouse of a Negro  – Adrienne Kennedy (1964)



  1. Tara June Winch   The YieldREVIEW
  2. Ali C. Eckermann – Too Afraid to Cry: Memoir of a Stolen Childhood
  3. Miranda Tapsell – Top End Girl
  4. Karen Wyld – Where the Fruit Falls
  5. Kirli Saunders – Kindred (ordered from AUS)
  6. Nardi Simpson – Song of the Crocodile (ordered from AUS)


February: #BlackHistoryMonth

  1. The Dead Are Arising – Les Payne – REVIEW
  2. How to Make a Slave and Other Essays  – Jerald Walker   REVIEW
  3. A Black Women’s  History of the United States – Daina Ramey Berry  REVIEW
  4. Another Country – James Baldwin
  5. Dying of Whiteness – Jonathan Metzl   REVIEW



  1. Don’t Touch My HairEmma DabiriREVIEW
  2. Felicia Olusanya (aka FeliSpeaks) – Poet
  3. Emma Dairi – What White People Can Do Next  (published May 2021)



  1. Jay Bernard – Surge
  2. Jericho Brown –  The Tradition   REVIEW
  3. Danez Smith – Homie
  4. Danez Smith – Don’t Call Us Dead
  5. Shane McCrae – The Guilded Auction Block
  6. Yusef Komunyakaa – Neon Vernacular
  7. Fiona Benson – Vertigo and Ghost
  8. Borderland Apocrypha – Anthony Cody –
  9. The Essential Gwendolyn BrooksG. Brooks



  1. Viet Thanh Nguyen – The Committed
  2. Daphne A. Brooks – Liner Notes for the Revolution
  3. Hisham Matar – The Return
  4. Robert Jones jr. – The Prophets
  5. Zadie Smith – White Teeth
  6. Cathy Park Hong – Minor Feelings (essays)
  7. Teju Cole  – Open City
  8. Nafissa Thompson-Spires –Heads of Colored People – (12 short stories)  REVIEW
  9.  Wallace Terry – Bloods 
  10.  Walter Mosley  – The Long Fall (The First Leonid McGill Mystery)    


June:   #NationalBookAward

  1. The Yellow House Sarah H. Broom  (memoir)
  2. Wayward LivesSaidiya Hartman (criticism)
  3. Magical NegroMorgan Parker (poetry)
  4. Know My NameChanel Miller (autobiography)
  5. Everything Inside: StoriesEdwidge Danticat (fiction)
  6. LOT: Stories – Bryan Washington (finalist)
  7. The Secret Lives of Church Ladies – Deesha Philyaw (finalist)



  1. Clint SmithHow the World is Passed (June 2021)
  2. The Awkward Black Man – Walter Mosley (short stories) 
  3. Sweat – Lynn Nottage – 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Drama
  4. Ruined – Lynn Nottage – 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Drama 
  5. Topdog/UnderdogSuzan-Lori Parks
  6. Disgraced – Ayad Akhtar 
  7. The Piano Lesson – August Wilson
  8. While Justice Sleeps – Stacey Abrams (May 2021) (CF)
  9. Sombody’s DaughterAshley C. Ford (June 2021) (memoir)
  10. There There – Tommy Orange (debut novel)   REVIEW



  1. Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion Jia Tolentino (essays)
  2. Trust Exercise Susan Choi (fiction)
  3. The Sixth Man Andre Iguodala (memoir)
  4. Girl, Woman, Other –  Bernardine Evaristo  – REVIEW
  5. Solitary Albert Woodfox
  6. Lost Children Archive Valeria Luiselli (fiction)
  7. Afropean: Notes from Black Europe – Johny Pitts –  Leipzig Book Award 2021
  8. Unworthy Republic – Claudio Saunt (Native American history)
  9. Memoiral – Bryan Washington (fiction)


September:  Dutch Literature   

  1. Indo – Marion Bloem  (NL-Indonesian)
  2. Mijn ontelbare identiteitenSinan Çankaya (NL-Turkish)
  3. Wij slaven van SurinameAnton de Kom (NL-Suriname)
  4. Reizigers van een nieuwe tijdAbdelkader Benali (NL- Moroccan)
  5. Wie Was IkAlfred Schaffer (NL-Aruban) P.C. Hooft-prijs 2021 (poet)
  6. Wees OnzichtbaarMurat Isik (NL-Turkish)  Libris Prize 2018
  7. De Tolk van JavaAlfred Birney (NL-Indonesian) Libris Prize 2017
  8. Revolusi – David van Reybrouck (Belgian historian)


October #TheEdithReadalong21

  1. Grand Days
  2. Dark Place
  3. Cold Light


November: #AusReadingMonth2021

  1. Stan Grant – Talking to my country
  2. Archie Roach – Tell Me Why: The Story of My Life and My Music
  3. Stan Yarramunua – A Man Called Yarra
  4. Tony Birch – White Girl
  5. Omar Sakr –The Lost Arabs
  6. Omar Musa – Millefiori 
  7. M. M. Morsi – The Palace of Angels 
  8. Paul Collis – Dancing Home
  9. Kim Scott – Taboo
  10. Victor SteffensenFire Country: How Indigenous Fire Management