Salamanca Cover

Seeking Salamanca Mitchell

Benjamin Baker knew love for the second time when his eyes met Salamanca Mitchell’s. The first time was at age 11, when he’d sat down at a piano to play his first original composition. But both of those loves are nearly destroyed when he goes to work for Alfonse Mitchell, Salamanca’s father and a prominent soul-food restaurant owner with a secret criminal life.

Seduced by the lure of easy money, Ben joins Mitchell’s den of thieves, only to earn seven years in prison when the burglary ring falls apart. As his singing group goes on to stardom without him, and Salamanca struggles to raise Ben’s daughter while on the run from her own father, he can only dream of a waiting family just beyond prison’s doors. Ben and Salamanca must each travel different roads to get back to each other, fighting against their own fears and against Alfonse Mitchell, the most tenacious enemy of all.

Beats, Rhymes and Life: What We Love and  Hate About Hip-Hop

Novelist Jasper (Seeking Salamanca Mitchell) and filmmaker Womack have both written about various aspects of hip-hop culture, and here they collect a fascinating group of essays by music writers on key ideas and images in the genre. The book is organized by what the editors consider the strongest images in what all the writers view as the “cultural juggernaut” of hip-hop: the fan, the buzz (drugs), the love, the cane (pimps), the cross (religion), the coffin, the whip (cars), the ice (diamonds), the stilettos, the tag (graffiti), the turntable, the shell casing, the block, the floor (dancing) and the suit (business). Each writer clearly loves hip-hop music, and all are united by a sense, stated best by Lisa Pegram (in a powerful look at “Romance vs. Promiscuity in Mainstream Hip-Hop”) that the music is “our blues, our jazz, our rock and roll, our generation’s birthmark on the American experience.” In the end, many of these writers challenge current artists, producers and record industry executives to recognize that the musical possibilities that arose out of the multicultural hip-hop scene of the late 1970s and early 1980s are being reduced to what Faraji Whalen describes as “the idea that black youth should conform to and emulate the worst possible racial stereotypes.” This is a fine collection for anyone invested in hip-hop and the pop culture landscape it transformed.” – Publisher’s Weekly

Snow

“Nicknamed for his snowflake-shaped birthmark, the title character of Jasper’s taut, brutal inner-city character study is trying hard to preserve a shred of purity and decency, but the mean streets of Washington, D.C., make it a tough proposition. A murdering thief for hire, Snow manages to keep just out of reach of the cops, and of his archrival Kamau. Luscious Adele and baby Kayi are what he comes home to, and what he wants to quit for, if he can manage both to make a big enough score, and to get out of the business cleanly. Authentic and cinematically convincing details (a poker game puts “local weed and weight money, high four-figure money, in the middle”) underpin Snow’s inner struggle as, in flashback, he tells the story of his street education” – Publishers Weekly

The House on Childress Street

Author Kenji Jasper only knew his maternal grandfather, Jesse Langley Sr., as a quiet man who smoked too many cigarettes, drank too much liquor and quoted the Bible like it was the only book he’d ever laid eyes on. Jesse’s children rarely hugged him, and his nearly sixty years of marriage to Sally seemed cold and complicated. But when the man who declared himself “The Lone Ranger” passed away in late 2002, Kenji began a long and life-changing journey to learn more about the grandfather he barely knew. From the streets of his native Washington, D.C., to rural Virginia, North Carolina, and his home in Brooklyn, Jasper’s journey to find the truth leads him through three generations of stories, through tales of love and loss, loyalty and betrayal, addiction and redemption.
The House on Childress Street examines life, love, and survival through the eyes of one little family on one little block that somehow manages to speak for us all.

Dark

Thai Williams is walking a thin line between two worlds. On one side he has his job as a filing clerk for the Washington, D.C., Department of Public Works, his girlfriend Sierra, and his plans for going to college. But on the other, darker side there are his friends Snowflake and Ray Ray, men who run the neighborhood streets dodging the dangers of the criminal life and its after-effects. But that thin line disappears when Thai walks in on Sierra with another man, whom he eventually kills in a haze of jealousy and confusion. From there Thai finds himself on the run and away from the five-block stretch where he’s lived for all his life. He finds his way to Charlotte, where Enrique, his closest friend of all, has moved in search of a better life. In the course of the week that follows, Thai encounters a series of men and women who show him aspects of life he never dreamed of in his narrow ghetto existence. All of them are looking for answers, but it is Thai who must find his own path out of the dark and into the clear light of moral responsibility and repentance for his actions.