Upon Review: Mama Lacee by Kenneth Brooks

May 21st, 2013

I love to curl up with a nice, steaming cup of tea and a free book to review. In fact I subscribe to three book review sites: Book CrashBook Rooster and The Bookplex just so I can indulge in my favorite leisure activity. What’s even better is when an author contacts me for a review. If you’re an author looking for someone to review your book or short story, check out my Request a Review page.

Because I like to share the great reads I’ve found (and warn readers of the not-so-great finds), I developed a system:

  • One cup — worse than a cup of luke warm black pekoe
  • Two cups — it may be hot, but you’ll need plenty of sweetener just to tolerate it
  • Three cups — it’s not my favorite, but it beats going without
  • Four cups — nice and hot and only needs a smidge of sweetener to be perfect
  • Five cups — loose leaf vanilla Earl Grey, yummy

Sometimes a book or story doesn’t warrant a five cup rating, but it’s so good it can’t be missed. For those I include the “Must Read” starburst in front of the cup rating. You’ll find my cup rating above the picture of the cover. Enjoy!

 

Mama Lacee by Kenneth Brooks

Four Cup Must Read

 

 

Usually it’s the description that makes me want to write a review. However, this one leave a lot to be desired:

“IT”S THE TWENTIES. MAMA LACEE IS IN HER 80’S. SHE’S BEEN THE LOCAL HEALER LONGER THAN MOST PEOPLE HAVE BEEN ALIVE. SHE’S SEEN IT ALL…GOOD AND BAD”

It’s my general rule that I won’t accept a book for review without checking the Look Inside feature on Amazon first. I’m glad I did.

The Good…

Don’t be fooled by the less than appealing cover. The story is riveting. It’s a wonderful glimpse into a time of rampant racism and blatant abuses of power. Best of all, there’s plenty of spirituality (the author considers it paranormal activity) to intrigue those who enjoy peeking behind the veil of reality.

The Not-so-good…

I don’t know if it was the author’s intent or not, but there is a lot of jumping between point of view and past and present tense. At times it feels like there’s an outside narrator and then the character seems to take over the telling of a scene. It can be rather disconcerting. Also, there are some formatting issues where paragraphs look strange.

The biggest drawback of the entire story is the abrupt ending. I would have liked to have known what happened to the rest of the people in the story once the “bad guy” is defeated. Did they learn from what happened and become better people? And what about the business men? What did they do? What happened to those who enforce the laws? If Brooks ever decides to release an updated version of Mama Lacee, I hope he considers giving his reader a good denouement to this marvelous story.

The Overall…

If you can get past technical flaws in the writing and don’t mind an abrupt end, Mama Lacee by Kenneth Brooks is a fantastic read.

The Bad Samaritan: Are We Hyper-sensitive To Racism?

August 4th, 2011

racoon trap photoRecently I heard about a man who was fired from his job — a job he’d had for over 20 years — at a farm supply store because a “concerned citizen” had taken offense over the way two items had been placed side by side. This concerned citizen took a picture of the offending items and sent it to the corporate headquarters. From there it came down through channels until the man responsible for stocking the shelves was let go.

So what were the offending items? Niger food and raccoon traps.

A little language history…

Now, to those who aren’t aware of the etymology of the N-word, it is a derivative of the word negro, meaning black. Niger also means black.

Raccoon, or coon as it’s more often used (as in “once in a coon’s age“), has been used as a racial slur for a very long time.

Some basic information about farm supply stores

In a farm supply store you’ll often find Niger food for birds, squirrels, ducks, geese, chipmunks and other outdoor pets — including raccoons. As for the raccoon traps, that’s rather obvious. They are humane traps for capturing raccoons.

Putting Niger food next to raccoon traps makes sense if you trying to help someone humanely trap a pesky raccoon. This is exactly what the man stocking the shelves was trying to do.

Enter the “bad samaritan”

It’s good to be alert to racism and to do our part to head it off, but sometimes it seems we’re too sensitive, seeing racism where it isn’t. The man responsible for sending the picture of the Niger food and raccoon traps thought he was doing a good deed. Unfortunately what he did was get someone fired for doing his job.

I think there are two reasons this happened: 1) a concerned citizen was ignorant of the realities of the situation and 2) society has become hyper-sensitive to the issue of racism.

As I said, being alert to racism is necessary and we must do what we can to stop it, but we also must consider that our perceptions are skewed because of this.

For instance, Mike Duran, a Christian horror author, rarely designates ethnicity to his characters. However, in a review of his book The Resurrection Katherine Coble stated there was a racist undercurrent simply because the antagonist had an afro. Mike addresses his own questions regarding society’s hyper-sensitivity to racism in his post White Men, Black Women, and Fictional Stereotypes.

Before reading Mike’s post I hadn’t considered the ethnicity of characters as a big deal, except in the case where the character is obviously used in a derogatory way (like Coble’s assertions of Mike’s antagonist being an “ignorant colored person”). After reading it I began questioning my use of characters and the question of whether ethnicity matter.

Now, after learning about the farm supply employee losing his job over a customer’s ignorance, I’m questioning our push toward educating “white people” about race and racism. And, in case you’re wondering, both men were white.

It’s good to know about racism. It’s good to stand up against it. It’s bad to see it where it isn’t.

What do you think? Was the concerned citizen doing the right thing by sending a picture straight to corporate or should he have checked his facts first? Are knee-jerk reactions ever a good thing, especially when considering race? How can we keep something like this from happening again?

Photo by blakeemrys