Friday, September 19, 2014

#FridayReads: The Moor's Account by Laila Lalami

In this stunning work of historical fiction, Laila Lalami brings us the imagined memoirs of the first black explorer of America—a Moroccan slave whose testimony was left out of the official record.

In 1527, the conquistador Pánfilo de Narváez sailed from the port of Sanlúcar de Barrameda with a crew of six hundred men and nearly a hundred horses. His goal was to claim what is now the Gulf Coast of the United States for the Spanish crown and, in the process, become as wealthy and famous as Hernán Cortés.

But from the moment the Narváez expedition landed in Florida, it faced peril—navigational errors, disease, starvation, as well as resistance from indigenous tribes. Within a year there were only four survivors: the expedition’s treasurer, Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca; a Spanish nobleman named Alonso del Castillo Maldonado; a young explorer named Andrés Dorantes de Carranza; and Dorantes’s Moroccan slave, Mustafa al-Zamori, whom the three Spaniards called Estebanico. These four survivors would go on to make a journey across America that would transform them from proud conquis-tadores to humble servants, from fearful outcasts to faith healers.

The Moor’s Account brilliantly captures Estebanico’s voice and vision, giving us an alternate narrative for this famed expedition. As the dramatic chronicle unfolds, we come to understand that, contrary to popular belief, black men played a significant part in New World exploration and Native American men and women were not merely silent witnesses to it. In Laila Lalami’s deft hands, Estebanico’s memoir illuminates the ways in which stories can transmigrate into history, even as storytelling can offer a chance for redemption and survival.

Laila Lalami was born and raised in Morocco. She is the author of the short story collection Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits, which was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award, and the novel Secret Son, which was on the Orange Prize long list. Her essays and opinion pieces have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The Nation, The Guardian, and The New York Times, and in many anthologies. She is the recipient of a British Council Fellowship and is an associate professor of creative writing at the University of California at Riverside. She lives in Los Angeles.

Friday, September 12, 2014

#FridayReads: A Cup of Water Under My Bed by Daisy Hernandez

A coming-of-age memoir by a Colombian-Cuban woman about shaping lessons from home into a new, queer life

In this lyrical, coming-of-age memoir, Daisy Hernández chronicles what the women in her Cuban-Colombian family taught her about love, money, and race. Her mother warns her about envidia and men who seduce you with pastries, while one tía bemoans that her niece is turning out to be “una india” instead of an American. Another auntie instructs that when two people are close, they are bound to become like uña y mugre, fingernails and dirt, and that no, Daisy’s father is not godless. He’s simply praying to a candy dish that can be traced back to Africa. 

These lessons—rooted in women’s experiences of migration, colonization, y cariño—define in evocative detail what it means to grow up female in an immigrant home. In one story, Daisy sets out to defy the dictates of race and class that preoccupy her mother and tías, but dating women and transmen, and coming to identify as bisexual, leads her to unexpected questions. In another piece, NAFTA shuts local factories in her hometown on the outskirts of New York City, and she begins translating unemployment forms for her parents, moving between English and Spanish, as well as private and collective fears. In prose that is both memoir and commentary, Daisy reflects on reporting for the New York Times as the paper is rocked by the biggest plagiarism scandal in its history and plunged into debates about the role of race in the newsroom.

A heartfelt exploration of family, identity, and language, A Cup of Water Under My Bed is ultimately a daughter’s story of finding herself and her community, and of creating a new, queer life.

Daisy Hernández grew up in Fairview, New Jersey in a Cuban-Colombian family. She's worked at the New York Times, Jenny Craigs, McDonald's, and ColorLines magazine (though not in that order) and has made home in Virginia, Florida, California, England, and the Upper East Side (though again not in that order). She is the author of "A Cup of Water Under My Bed: A Memoir" (Beacon Press, 2014) and coeditor of the anthology "Colonize This! Young Women of Color on Today's Feminism" (Seal Press, 2002). 

Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, the National Catholic Reporter, bitch magazine, Ms. magazine, the Christian Science Monitor, Fourth Genre, and Bellingham Review. A former editor of ColorLines magazine, she has an MFA in fiction from the University of Miami and an MA in Latin American Studies and Journalism from New York University.

Friday, September 05, 2014

#FridayReads: The Beat of My Own Drum by Sheila E.

Out this week is "The Beat of My Own Drum" a memoir from Sheila E.

 From the Grammy Award–nominated singer, drummer, and percussionist who has shared the stage with countless musicians and is renowned for her contributions throughout the music industry, a moving memoir about the healing power of music inspired by five decades of life and love on the stage.

Sheila E., born Sheila Escovedo in 1957, picked up the drumsticks and started making music at the precocious age of three, inspired by her legendary father, percussionist Pete Escovedo. Two years later, she delivered her first solo performance to a live audience. By nineteen, she had fallen in love with Carlos Santana. By twenty-one, she met Prince.


The Beat of My Own Drum is both a walk through four decades of Latin and pop music—from her tours with Marvin Gaye, Lionel Richie, Prince, and Ringo Starr—to her own solo career. At the same time, it’s also a heartbreaking, ultimately redemptive look at how the sanctity of music can save a person’s life. Having endured sexual abuse as a child, Sheila credits her parents, music, and God with giving her the will to carry on and to build a lasting legacy.

Rich in musical detail, pop and Latin music history from the ’70s and ’80s, and Sheila’s personal story, this memoir is a unique glimpse into a drummer’s singular life—a treat for both new and longtime fans of Sheila E. And above all, it is a testament to how the positive power of music serves as the heartbeat of her life.

Emmy and Grammy Award–nominee Sheila E. is one of the most talented percussionist/drummers in the world, performing and/or recording with Prince, George Duke, Herbie Hancock, Billy Cobham, Con Funk Shun, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, Lionel Richie, Ringo Starr, Hans Zimmer, and countless others. She maintains a heavy involvement in charitable organizations as a philanthropist by promoting music and arts education as an alternative form of therapy.

Friday, August 22, 2014

#FridayReads: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Years ago, my coworker told me how amazing the Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon was and now that tit has been picked up by Starz as a series, I've putting it on the list:

Written by Diana J. Gabaldon, who is of Mexican-American and English descent, the 8-book series "focuses on 20th-century nurse Claire Randall, who time travels to 18th-century Scotland and finds adventure and romance with the dashing James Fraser. Set in Scotland, France, the West Indies, England and North America, the novels merge multiple genres, featuring elements of historical fiction, romance, mystery, adventure and science fiction/fantasy."" via Wikipedia.

The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon—when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient stone circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of Our Lord . . . 1743.

Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life . . . and shatter her heart. For here James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire . . . and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.

Read Diana's Blog: dianagabaldon.com/blog and follow her @Writer_DG

Thursday, July 24, 2014

She Had Lots to Say

Here's to standing in your own power:


“She was fierce, she was strong, she wasn’t simple. She was crazy and sometimes she barely slept. She always had something to say. She had flaws and that was ok. And when she was down, she got right back up. She was a beast in her own way, but one idea described her best.

She was unstoppable and she took anything she wanted with a smile.” ― Drake

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Want to Design your own Fitbit Band? Let's make it happen!

Fitbit recently announced their collaboration with designer Tory Burch offering a pendant, print silicone band or a metal hinged one. As a Fitbit owner, I was relieved to hear that they finally offered users of their wearable tech, a few options outside of the standard unappealing silicone band available only in a few solid colors.

My excitement was quickly squelched because the new line is really limited in variety and the most stylish, the pendant and the metal band, cost even more than the actual tracker costs.

Did Fitbit Miss the Mark?

Another thing of note for Fitbit is that the Tory Burch aesthetic isn't exactly suited for everyone. While Tory Burch's mission to be a "luxury brand defined by classic American sportswear with an eclectic sensibility and attainable price point" seems on point, her Soccer Mom, BabyBoomer consumer demographic with sky-high credit limits;, echoed by her somewhat cultish and basic New-York-City-uniform following, is a turn off.

Was this just a strategic play to go after this market by Fitbit rather than fulfilling the needs of their dynamic user base?

It makes my head spin a bit if so. Did your marketing and design team do their homework?

While colossally plugged-in and influential Millennials and Gen Z crave the ability to go against the grain - design, own and make their own mark in the world in order to stand out, this offering seems to be in exact opposition to this global trend. Are we just not important? I know health, fitness, and wellness are incredibly important to many of us who track our goals, sleep, food and exercise because we want to be a better person in a better world.

I love to express myself visually. I change my style, hair, makeup constantly. I want either an accessory that is timeless and classy - a neutral that will go with everything or I want the ability to change out what I am wearing easily and not break the bank. My ideas for a fitbit band? A white silicone one, a woven thread or leather one, an interchangeable pendant that wasn't so conventional. Maybe even something more retro, steampunkish or vintage like verdigris or something dainty and delicate. I mean, I have ideas, lots of them!

And what about more fashionable options for men? In the past couple of years, there has been an upswing in what marketers are referring to as "Yummies" or Young Urban Males who are super trendy and love to shop.

Tory Burch for Fitbit

I would love to see a future offering that allows for creative, inspired individual expression for all Fitbit users. 

I think a collaboration with a Quirky-like crowdsourcing or Constrvct platform, where inventive and creative users can submit their own designs and ideas for accessories could take Fitbit to the next level. Why not just open it up to all your fans?

Imagine a studio for your consumers, powered by their designs that produces amazing, ingenious designs produced by a global tribe of techies who wear, share and advocate for fitbit. A golden, win-win opportunity to profit if you ask me.

I hope you're reading this, Fitbit, folks.



 
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