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My Life as a Wookiee: One Boy’s Journey to Find His Place in the Galaxy (Simon & Schuster) – Tony Pacitti

“…when he taps into his personal experience Pacitti writes with honesty, enthusiasm, and occasional hilarity. Many a Star Wars fan will find charm in this familiar story; those who don’t know their Wars from their Trek may be carried along by a deeply-examined connection to pop culture.” – Publisher’s Weekly

In a galaxy far, far away a geek was born.

So begins the real-life hero’s journey of Jedi Knight wannabe Tony Pacitti. In this hilarious coming-of-age memoir, Tony shows how Star Wars has served as a source of comfort, guidance, and wisdom in his life. From the first thunderous boom of John William’s score, seven-year-old Tony takes on Star Wars as his moral compass, his mentor, even his psychologist. Like his hero Luke Skywalker, Tony must then overcome Stormtrooper bullies, Lando turncoats, and Emperor Palpatine authority figures and embrace his own geekiness to grow into a man worthy of riding shotgun with Chewie.

With the sense of humor of Han Solo, the willpower of Luke Skywalker, and the wisdom of a (much younger) Yoda, Pacitti uses the Force to follow his heart, overcome obstacles, and live a life worthy of a Jedi Knight, endearing Star Wars fans everywhere in the process!

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Fierce Angels: The Strong Black Woman in American Life and Culture (One World/Ballantine) – Sheri Parks

“Thought-provoking.”  —Washington Post

“Former NPR host Sheri Parks fearlessly dives into the minefield of race, sex and popular culture in her smart, sharp critical study . . . and debunks stereotypical images of sisters.”  —Essence

“Parks argues that the image of the strong black woman has been as much a burden as a tribute because it has come to be expected that black women will endure all means of hardship in tending to the needs of others. [She] offers a compelling analysis of the toll of the strong image on women who have had enormous responsibilities but—until recently—little control.”  —Booklist

“[A] thorough study.” —Kirkus

“It’s been more than 30 years since feminist Michele Wallace’s Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman. . . . Parks’ book goes much further. . . . These women are change agents in American life, fiercely human angels, whose stories deserve the kind of complex and nuanced analysis that Parks’ book delivers.”  —Ms.

An important work on an essential subject, Fierce Angels explores and explodes the idea of the “strong black woman” as never before. Authoritative yet deeply personal and daringly confessional, Sheri Parks’s bold new study of the black female’s role as communal savior and martyr will challenge and change anyone who reads it.

Fierce Angels exposes the overwhelming emotional costs—as well as the benefits—attached to this role. Parks, an esteemed scholar, and popular media personality provides exclusive interviews and astute analysis, as well as accounts of her own searing and inspiring experiences, to highlight the myths and the realities of black women’s lives.

Beginning with the oldest ongoing archetype, the Dark Feminine, Parks reveals the layered significance of the fertility of darkness—the abyss out of which the world was spoken into existence, the primordial creator in ancient Greek, Sumerian, and West African cultures, and the essence of Mother Earth herself. As these myths matured, they played critical parts in the assignment of maternal roles to women of African descent, the Dark Feminine acquiring a particularly acrid scent once she crossed the Atlantic Ocean in shackles, bound for a life of slavery.

Parks traces the development of the “strong black woman” throughout her life on Southern plantations and New York streets and in countless kitchens in between. From the Black Madonna celebrated by Italian Americans to the nurturing and selfless “Mammy” forced to nurse her master’s child before her own, these abiding symbols of fortitude and dependability only solidified the mold into which the powerful dark woman was cast and paved a path that her descendants would have no choice but to follow.

Fierce Angels follows the inheritors of this legacy of power, compassion, and familial devotion into today’s world, seeing her in Coretta Scott King, who relinquished her dreams for those of her husband, and in Angela Dawson, a mother in East Baltimore whose home was fire-bombed when she tried to save her community from drug dealers.  Parks also shares important examples from entertainment, cogently reexamined and in some cases surprisingly reclaimed, from Hattie McDaniel in Gone with the Wind to the no-nonsense Lieutenant Anita Van Buren played by S. Epatha Merkerson on Law & Order.

Bringing it all home, Parks recalls the personal costs she’s paid for her own identity and fascinatingly captures those moments when she is expected to be all and know all, whether for her students at work or for strangers in the produce aisle in the supermarket. She investigates the support systems holding these stereotypes in place—latched onto by those both within and outside the traditional black community—and challenges readers, mothers, and daughters alike to examine how damaging and rewarding the assignment of this role can be and to take control of it within their lives.

Credible and cathartic, piercing and provocative, Fierce Angels is a book born of pain and introspection, a work sure to stir debate and become the primary source on this vital topic.

 

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