Hip-Hop as Literature or Literary Hip-Hop: The BreakBeat Poets

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doubts & desires

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

doubts & desires

The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop. Let’s be real…even if you love to read and love literature it is increasingly difficult to dedicate time to the solitary exercise.

Two memories come to mind as I engage with this new anthology published by Haymarket:

  • As an educator I constantly struggle with getting my students to be interested, to connect with and to see themselves in the literature we read.
  • Also, I remember a couple years ago chatting with my cousin who is now in college about Lil Wayne and how he has self-proclaimed ‘the greatest poet alive.’ My cousin could not reconcile how a rapper, artist, celebrity could also be a poet.

Why is this book different, worth your time?

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FM Book Review – May is for Mothers

Happy Mother’s Day to all. We just wanted to share Family Magazine’s recent book review sponsored by childrens_trust_logoWEB

Mama’s Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation

by Edwidge Danticat, illustrations by Leslie Staub

BOOKNightingale            Saya’s Haitian mother is in jail because the “immigration police” arrested her at work. Papa writes letters to judges, the mayor and congresswoman, and newspapers and TV reporters. But, no one writes back. Every week Saya and Papa visit Mama “at Sunshine Correctional, a prison for women without papers.”

Saya loves the Haitian stories her Mama tells her about the beautiful wosiyol, a nightingale with a sweet song (also Saya’s nickname). She misses Mama deeply. And, there is some comfort for Saya when cassette tapes come in the mail. She can listen to Mama’s voice telling stories and singing the nightingale’s song.

After one sad time, Saya writes a story herself, to help relieve her sadness. When Papa mails what she has written, a newspaper reporter prints Saya’s story for people to read. As a result, others get involved, helping to change this family’s story.

Bright oil paintings convey a sense of island culture. Also, folk art touches – like blue and pink nightingales – easily combine dream symbols with images from daily life. And, the expressive face of Saya’s stuffed animal, a monkey, both comforts and accompanies her.

Miami author Danticat was herself an immigrant from Haiti as a child. She writes with tenderness and conviction of a family torn apart because of a need for “the right papers,” as Saya calls them. This is an important immigrant story for our time.

Dial, $17.99 Interest Level: Grade 1-3  (This book is available to borrow at the Miami Dade Library; Main Library, Doral, Edison, Lemon City, Miami Lakes, North Dade Regional, Opa Locka, West Dade Regional. Also, may be purchased from local and online booksellers.)


by Timothy Knapman, illustrated by Patrick Benson

BOOKSsoon            Raju, a baby elephant and his mother, begin an adventure when the morning is still dark and cold. His repeated question (different from the familiar, “Are we there yet?), “When can we go home again?” receives a patient response from his mother, “Soon.”

Along this journey they encounter danger. First, they meet snapping crocodiles. Then, a snake comes slithering. And later, a prowling tiger roars toward them. Raju’s mother, however, knows exactly how to keep her little one safe. She “stamped her feet so hard, it made the ground tremble,” and she “blew her trunk so hard, it made the trees shake,” and finally she “reared up so high, she was as big as a giant.”

When they come to the mountain, his mother tells Raju to hold on to her tail. At the top, the two share the beautiful view.

Watercolor illustrations show sun-washed details. Face and body expressions are expertly matched with skillfully written text. Together, carefully crafted paintings smoothly blend the rhythmic flow of language with the subtle emphasis of repetitive phrases.

Although the young elephant is tired and his feet hurt after returning home at dusk, Raju asks, “When can we do it all again?” Even the youngest children will know the answer.

Candlewick Press, $16.99 Interest Level: Pre-School – Grade 1 (This book is available to borrow at the Miami Dade Library: West Dade Regional, West End Regional. Also, may be purchased from local and online booksellers.)


by Sandra J. Howatt, illustrated by Joyce Wan

BOOKsleepyheads            A crescent moon anchors both the story and each picture in this beautiful bedtime book. Illustrations with rounded shapes curve and comfort in seamless combination, with reassuring “s” sounds to lull little ones asleep.

Rhyming text steers readers through the moon-bright night. The featured animals are never named. But each one is called a “sleepyhead.” Such repetition quietly leads the child to name the creatures that inhabit this snuggly storybook.

The pencil illustrations are colored digitally and, while it is nighttime, the darkness is warm and welcoming, not scary. The gentle invitation to “Look!” is used again and again. And, the light from stars and/or fireflies lights up each open page spread. It’s a comforting reminder that creatures and people all sleep under the same sky.

After following the rhymes and finding all the little ones “in houses and in barns,” the one still missing is “asleep in Mama’s arms!”

Beach Lane, $16.99 Interest Level: Junior Kindergarten – Grade 1

(This book is available to borrow at the Miami Dade Library; Main Library, Culmer Overtown, Doral, Edison, Lemon City, Miami Lakes, North Dade Regional, West Dade Regional. Also, may be purchased from local and online booksellers.)

Other great choices:

Henry Finds His Word

by Lindsay Ward

Dial, $16.99 Interest Level: Pre-School – Kindergarten (This book is available to purchase from local and online booksellers.)

BOOKmonsterMonster Mama

by Liz Rosenberg, Illustrated by Stephen Gammell

Philomel, Interest Level: Kindergarten – Grade 2 (This book is available to borrow at the Miami Dade Library; Doral, North Dade Regional, West End Regional.)

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The Dance of Anger – Book Reflections

doubts & desires

doubts & desires


I have a confession to make.

There are days, sometimes weeks, where I feel I have conquered my anger. Where I feel, ok…I’ve got this. I know how to manage my anger because I know where it’s coming from. But then, when you’re wrapped with a blanket of serenity, BAM! There it is again. Even if you did what you felt you needed to do to cope with it, to ease it. Even if you did listen to your voice and said what you wanted to say and how you wanted to say it. The opposition at times is stronger and then the anxiety returns. Slowly forming like a wave, until it hits the shore knocking the air right out of me, my breathing becomes rapid, and oh no…here comes the panic attack…my chest hurts…I’m trembling. “Why? Why? Why!” And then I begin to wage a war against myself because I feel I have lost. I feel I have failed myself. I’m supposed to have it together. Two steps forward, one step back. It’s a process.

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OMG que voy hacer: Teaching My Daughter Our Culture in a Spanglish Spanish

video via titinatuty on Youtube, CBS

My parents and parents-in-law say, “Tienes que enseñarle español. Aprenderá inglés eventualmente.” (You have to teach her Spanish. She will learn English eventually.) Every time I hear this I think of Gustavo Pérez Firmat’s line, “The fact that I am writing to you in English already falsifies what I wanted to tell you. My subject: how to explain to you that I don’t belong to English though I belong nowhere else.” While in a more optimistic moment, he references the hyphen, how we can belong to multiple historical, cultural and linguistic moments, in this quote he contemplates how we can truly belong to none. Also, Julia Alvarez discusses that in between of language and culture, what Edwidge Danticat calls “the tools I have at my disposal” and “the choice that rises out of the circumstances of our lives.” I love reading these writers because through them I can understand my own identity as inheriting a constant tension second generations negotiate to maintain culture, language, self.

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Love for Jay Gatsby, Film Adaptations and All Things Leo

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I am one of those few English majors who absolutely loves film adaptations. Although most films never hold a candle to the original text, it is wondrous to see protagonists you have spent time with, learned from, grappled and disagreed with all of a sudden pop up on this larger than life screen. The Great Gatsby (2013) is by far one of my favorites. I realize I am in the minority, but hear me out.

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A Brilliant Parenting Book



Two years ago if you would have told me I would be immersed in parenting books, I would have laughed and looked at you like you were crazy, as you just declared the impossible. Parenting books? I was in the middle of planning a trip to Spain. So there you have it. That’s where my heart and mind were, drinking Sangria, eating paella, and partying in Ibiza. Nonetheless, two years later, I find myself only reading parenting books. Nothing else really seems to be up my alley at the moment, except for when I found and read this book. And that’s coming from the obsessed Hosseini girl. 

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An inspiring book

I believe that reading a book has it’s time. A specific pocket of time. The right time. I believe that all of us read books at certain moments in our lives in which we find ourselves relating above all, to the story and/or character. In high school I read Shakespeare and was captivated by Othello. Shakespeare for me was the new adventure and I was enthralled with the language. Art. Doth. Thither. It was how I wanted to speak. (I even wrote several poems emulating Shakespearean language. I was obsessed.) However, I could not read Shakespeare now. In my 20’s, I fell in love with the Twilight Saga, Eat. Pray. Love, and The Bell Jar. I immersed myself in Meyer’s books, where I many times wished and believed I could be a werewolf. I was completely bewitched. Gilbert’s book was poignant, which summed up my life up until then. Reading her words was like seeing myself in a mirror, only this time, there were no smudges. Her story made me confront my fears, my broken dreams, my severed heart, and seek a new venture. And yet again, I realize that I could also not read that book now. I’m no longer at that point of my life. I have moved on. Plath’s story conferred that I was Esther’s analogue and utterly depressed. I lived her life; waking up everyday, going to work, surrounding myself by those who love me, but feeling numb inside. Feeling disconnected from everyone, everything, and as a result the world itself. My mother could not get past the first couple of pages of Catcher In The Rye. She said it was like reading a story from a 6th grader. (And there is absolutely nothing wrong with reading a story from a child! This is coming from someone who has read most of the Diary Of A Wimpy Kid series) She could not embrace the colloquial language. We’re talking here about an American classic and one of my favorite books of all time. The thing is, it wasn’t her time. Her time to read that book had passed. 

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Growing book by book: Little Blue Truck


I should preface this by saying I have always had an impenetrable desire to read. I was like a ravenous beast whose thirst were books. There was a time when I read several books a month. With much enthusiasm I started a book club, but that wasn’t long lived. Regardless, a lot of my time was spent with my nose stuck in a book and writing. Of course, this was pre-Mommy days when I was wrapped up with myself, my thoughts, and heedless of time. Time was endless. Now, I rarely can get several chapters in a week. As a result, a book can sadly take several months to finish. 

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Where are the Dominican authors?

Dominican Authors 3 Where are the Dominican – American authors?

 I love to read. Though the word love does not really encapsulate what I feel. In the words of Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) from the movie Annie Hall, “I luuurve, you know, I loave, I luff” reading. It feeds my soul. It’s the escape from reality that I enjoy most, entering a world of the unknown and seeing it through someone else’s eyes, or coming across a metaphor that is unique and really conjures an image. Those are the great ones. And it’s the original stories that leave an imprint. I’ve read A Thousand Splendid Suns from Khaled Hosseini and was able to get a peek into the Afghan society. I read the The White Tiger which gave me a second hand experience in the daily life of an Indian servant.  I read Living to Tell a Tale as I journeyed through different cities/towns in Colombia, such as Bogotá and Cataca. However, where are those stories closest to my heart?Dominican Authors 4

There aren’t many renowned Dominican writers recognized in today’s Latin American literature classes or mentioned amongst current literary giants. Yes, we have Junot Diaz (Pulitzer Prize winner) and Julia Alvarez but both have an American education and write in English. It really makes no difference to me where they were educated. Don’t miss my point. I’m talking about writers who are educated in Dominican Republic, literary masters in the country’s language; Spanish.  I’m talking about writer’s whose work is recognized outside of the island. It would of course take a literary genius but where is he/she? There was Joaquin Balaguer and Juan Bosch, both former presidents of DR, but they’re dead. And unless you live in the Dominican Republic you really don’t read about Pedro Mir whose only novel, Cuando Amaban Las Tierras Comuneras (When They Loved the Communal Land) is highly regarded internationally. Then there was Salomé Ureña, a poet and a pioneer for women’s education in DR, but where is the modern voice? A voice of today that can appeal and represent not only the country’s literary array but internationally as well.

Dominican Authors 6Balaguer, Bosh, Mir, and Ureña are all in the past. Dominican Authors 5Where are today’s literary works? I don’t want to just hear about those who have already assimilated. I’m far too familiar with that story, though not personally. I want to hear about those who lived there for a big part of their lives. Someone who can share a story on how they spent their Sunday afternoons walking around El Malecón with their family after a movie and buying candy from el paletero. Take a look at Colombia’s Gabriel Garcia Marquez Cien Años de Soledad (One Hundred Years of Solitude), and Chile’s Pablo Neruda (Nobel Prize winner) whose Veinte Poemas de Amor y Una Cancion Desesperada, (Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair) is his most highly acclaimed book of poetry, or Isabel Allende who wrote La Casa de Los Espíritus, (The House of Spirits).  So what’s going on with the Dominicans who seem to have been stigmatized for having success in American Baseball Dominican Authors 2
and for their shameless debauchery such as crime, violence, and drugs? Unless we’re talking about Baseball, Dominicans don’t really hold a positive light in the American eye. Is it a fault of the education system? Anti-literacy in the popular culture?  Maybe because we’re too small of a country, and hence have a very small market for publishing? I don’t know, but can’t help to ask.