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THE TALENTED RIBKINS: A Novel ~Ladee Hubbard

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

Winner of the 2016 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award

THE TALENTED RIBKINS was, “Inspired by W.E.B. Du Bois’s famous essay “The Talented Tenth” and fuelled by Ladee Hubbard’s marvelously original imagination, The Talented Ribkins is a big-hearted debut novel about race, class, politics, and the unique gifts that, while they may cause some problems from time to time, bind a family together. “

Johnny Ribkin has now reached his 70s and life should be much easier and it is not.  His mobster boss is demanding the return of some money that Johnny has been taking for pay and has hidden in buried important spots all over Florida.  As he follows his map of hidey – holes, he discovers that his brother left a 13-year-old daughter, who has a special talent and her mother cannot pay the mortgage.  Johnny ends up sharing his retrieved cash with Eloise’s Mother and then taking Eloise on his adventure to find his funds and introduce her to her family.  Actually, every descendant in the Rib King’s family tree has a special talent and they find themselves happy to use their talent to their best advantage.  The family has some most unusual talents!

Johnny, his brother and his cousins in their youth formed together to create a Justice Committee.  This group protected and assisted folks who were working on civil rights and political action.  They formed a bond that was difficult to break and yet they needed more funds to keep going, which ultimately broke up the group.  Johnny was still trying to create the perfect map for the future – he just needed more money.  He discovered lots of corruption among politicians and that often their word was not true and he got roped into helping a mobster lawyer steal.

Eloise is a bright young woman working out very carefully how her talent might be useful to her and her future.  She enjoys learning about her family and their talents as she travels with her Uncle Johnny.  Her family is very funny and her curiosity creates a backdrop for the story to unfold.  The duo is on a mission and it is wonder full.

“For sheer reading pleasure Ladee Hubbard’s original and wildly inventive novel is in a class by itself.” —Toni Morrison, Nobel Prize-winning author of The Bluest Eye, Beloved, and Song of Solomon

“Crafty and wistful…Hubbard weaves this narrative with prodigious skill and compelling warmth. You anticipate a movie while wondering if any movie could do this fascinating family…well, justice. To describe this novel, as someone inevitably will, as Song of Solomon reimagined as a Marvel Comics franchise is to shortchange its cleverness and audacity.” —Kirkus, starred review

I enjoyed every page, the interesting writing style and the clever story.  The interesting politics and discoveries were just an added bonus.  Ah the bonds of family – THE TALENTED RIBKINS

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“Ladee Hubbard is the winner of the 2016 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award and the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition for the Short Story. She holds a BA from Princeton University, an MFA in Dramatic Writing from New York University, an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin, and a PhD from the University of California, Los Angeles. She lives in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Talented Ribkins is her first novel.”

Ladee Hubbard Facebook

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Language Arts

THE UNFORTUNATE IMPORTANCE OF BEAUTY: A Novel ~Amanda Filipacchi

Monday, September 21st, 2015

THE UNFORTUNATE IMPORTANCE OF BEAUTY is a story picked by my book group for our discussion in September.  I ran into one of our members at the grocery store who was reading ahead as she is headed back to school in a few days and she said, “our next two books are weird!” I was hoping that meant weird and wonderful and not just strange.   I have to say it was a very interesting premise and the humor made me smile as I turned pages and settled in for the cover-to-cover experience.

About the author from Amazon:

“Amanda Filipacchi is the author of four novels: Nude Men, Vapor, Love Creeps, and, just out, The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty (W. W. Norton, Feb. 2015). Her fiction has appeared in Best American Humor and elsewhere. Her nonfiction has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, and The Atlantic. She earned an MFA in fiction writing from Columbia University. She lives in New York.”

The story is a rather amazing testament to friendship.  There are four friends, who gather for the Nights of Creativity.  Georgia has written several novels, Jack is a person who can resolve conflict, Lily is a brilliant composer of music, Penelope works at being a potter and selling pottery, but her craft is putting pieces back together, and Barb who is an award winning costume designer.   Gabriel was a member of the group, but he committed suicide and changed the group’s lives.  His suicide note said that he was in love with Barb but not worthy of someone who was so beautiful.

Barb reacts to this sadness by making and wearing a fat suit of clothing inclusive of messy teeth and a wild and frizzy grey wig.  She has worn this cover-up/costume for the last several years.  Barb also believes that her father had affairs when her mother’s great beauty began to fad and they divorced.   She hopes someone will overlook her “ugly” veneer and love her for herself.

Georgia leaves her laptop in a cab and she can no longer write until it is returned a number of days later.  Her novels are quite popular. Georgia is clever with words and ideas.

Lily who is not very attractive at all and can write beautiful music which drives folks to purchase office supplies or purchase books at Barnes and Noble falls in love with Strad who can not see her as beautiful at all and the group begins to help Lily with her obsession of him.  The group encourages each other and cares for each other and develops some absurd solutions to help problem-solve and find happiness.

The humor is not knee-slapping or belly laughing material, rather makes this group more loveable and likeable and charming.  There is a constant undercurrent about beauty and a condemnation of Strad but not a true or real solution to the society’s influence. There is a strong message about how persuasive our culture is and the role of marketing and how that changes minds and uniforms us into roles.  The characters need to come to their own conclusions and ideas and then proceed into society with the strength of friendship holding them together.

It was an interesting and fun read and I was happy to be introduced to this book and this author.   I will ask at our next gathering who discovered the book and why they chose it for us to discuss.  Certainly THE UNFORTUNATE IMPORTANCE OF BEAUTY will produce an interesting discussion evening.

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INCENDIARY GIRLS: Short Stories ~Kodi Scheer

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

“A fresh take on the vagaries of the human body and the human spirit.  Scheer spins inventive tales, laced with a dose of magic.”   Danielle Ofri, MD. PHD; author of What Doctors Feel


INCENDIARY GIRLS is a gathering of short stories, primarily about women, the power of healing, science and medicine and the quirkiest, magical twists I have enjoyed placing before my eyes.  I have always known that I love to read but I didn’t know how much I loved the short story genre until I began reading Scheer’s book.

Recently short stories have given the characters a huge roster of problems to deal with and then often left me puzzled or wanting something more.  INCENDIARY GIRLS gave me enough of the character to truly engage and enough weight to the dilemma of the story to make me think and speculate but not enough to keep me awake all night.  I could relate to each of the women and had a laugh out loud moment of sheer delight with several of them.  The young woman victim in a genocide experience in 1915 defeating the Angel of Death, who is the narrator, at the age of 12 just touched many empathetic buttons  and I was so thankful to have read each page and found a sigh of recovery.

In our busy world, I truly believe the short story can activate our minds with finesse and charm; keeping our thinking skills well exercised.

The Story Titles:

  1. The Fundamental Laws of Nature
  2. Transplant
  3. Miss Universe
  4. Gross Anatomy
  5. When a Camel Breaks Your Heart
  6. No Monsters Here
  7. Salt of the Earth
  8. Modern Medicine
  9. Primal Son
  10. Ex-Utero
  11. INCENDIARY GIRLS

I just have to share this quote from the words of praise on the inside cover – do not know the author “In Scheer’s hands, empathy and attachment are illuminated by the absurdity of life.  When our bodies betray us, when we begin to feel our minds slip, how much can we embrace without going insane? How much can we detach ourselves before losing our humanity?  Scheer’s stories grapple with these questions in each throbbing, heartbreaking moment.”

I am sure both of my book groups would find weirdness in these stories, and that the discussion which followed would be animatedly connecting.  I am sure that medical students would find a special interest in these shorts!

Short Stories are great brain nutrients!

If you purchase anything from Amazon or Powell’s  from this site, I will receive a few beans in my bucket. Donations also welcomed. Thank you for your support.

tlc logo An unproofed e-copy of this book was sent to me for review by TLC Online Book Tour and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. It was a delightful privilege to review the short stories found in – INCINDIARY GIRLS.

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