The Free Mind of a Man in Captivity: Twelve Years A Slave, Book and Film

The director Steve McQueen has turned the book Twelve Years A Slave into the film 12 Years a Slave, interpreting Solomon Northup’s story with accuracy, exquisite craft, and significant understanding.  What makes 12 Years A Slave remarkable are the consciousness, skill, and experience of Solomon Northup, his being an embodiment not of potential but of actual value—value (valued formed by liberty, knowledge, accomplishment, and family relations) that was denied by those who captured him. 

A review of Vanishing Point by Jeri Kroll

Kroll_VanishingPointFront COVER copy At no point does the book lose its dramatic momentum. In fact, so compelling is the plot at times that it takes some effort to slow down and read the poems fully as poetry should be read, rather than racing on to see what happens. Vanishing Point is quick and easy to read, but the poems repay second and third readings where the complexity of the work begin to unfold. Diana’s self-awareness grows viscerally and sensually as she comes to accept the sensations of her adult body through the final section.

A review of The Killer Next Door by Alex Marwood

Marwood makes clever use of cliffhanger endings and shifts from one point of view character to another to build suspense. The Epilogue begins grimly, showing Cher back in the social welfare system, but surprises us with a gratifying conclusion. Readers who enjoyed Marwood’s earlier mystery/suspense novel, The Wicked Girls, will like this one for its many surprises.

Notes on the television program “Roots,” Black Narratives, the new King monument in Washington, D.C., and Barack

I know that the original broadcast of the television program “Roots,” based on African-American writer Alex Haley’s imaginative reconstruction of his family’s history, was an important cultural and historical event, presenting at once to all of America a history—the history of the capture and enslavement of Africans—that had been referred to but rarely discussed at length or widely. 

A review of No One is here Except All of Us by Ramona Ausubel

No One is here Except All of Us is an exquisite, circular tale that takes us back to where we started – where we all start – at birth, where we create the world afresh. It’s full of wonder even in the midst of the most dire tragedies. Beautifully written, full of pain and poetry, this is a book that opens histories most intense and painful moments and shows what survives: love and DNA.

A review of Vienna Nocturne by Vivien Shotwell

Vienna Nocturne is outstanding, as well, because of Shotwell’s knowledge of opera. As a professional singer, a mezzo-soprano, she knows how a singer feels as she or he stands before an audience, and she can also put musical effects into words. When Anna first sings the role of Susanna, she has “the sensation of balancing a ball on her nose like a bear at a circus.”