The Talking Drum

The Talking Drum
By Lisa Braxton

It is 1971. The fictional city of Bellport, Massachusetts, is in decline with an urban redevelopment project on the horizon expected to transform this dying factory town into a thriving economic center. This planned transformation has a profound effect on the residents who live in Bellport as their own personal transformations take place. Sydney Stallworth steps away from her fellowship and law studies at an elite university to support husband Malachi’s dream of opening a business in the heart of the black community of his hometown, Bellport.

For Omar Bassari, an immigrant from Senegal, Bellport is where he will establish his drumming career and the launching pad from which he will spread African culture across the world. Della Tolliver has built a fragile sanctuary in Bellport for herself, boyfriend Kwamé Rodriguez, and daughter Jasmine, a troubled child prone to nightmares and outbursts.

The Talking Drum explores intraracial, class, and cross-cultural tensions, along with the meaning of community and belonging. It examines the profound impact gentrification has on people in many neighborhoods and the way in which being uprooted affects the fabric of their families, friendships, and emotional well-being.

The Talking DrumLisa Braxton’s debut, is beautifully written (perhaps why it’s being released by a press more known for their poetry), and transports us to early 1970s Massachusetts, where a predominantly black neighborhood is about to fall victim to the twin forces of gentrification and institutional racism, with a strong dose of corruption on the side.

Crime Reads


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Through the Lens of Love: Facing Terminal Illness

Through the Lens of Love: Facing Terminal Illness
A Memoir by Robin Gross

Through the Lens of Love: Facing Terminal Illness is an open-hearted, inspiring story of the two years Robin’s husband, Dr. Richard (Dick) Gross, was dying from glioblastoma (GBM), an aggressive form of brain cancer. If you or your loved one has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, this book will guide you through the days and months to come. Robin will be your voice of reason, your shoulder to cry on, and your light at the end of the tunnel.

When Dick and his wife Robin receive news that he has GBM, the life they built together over forty years abruptly changed in one day. With the help of family, friends, and acquaintances, his last two years became an unexpected, extraordinary part of Dick’s life. Through the Lens of Love: Facing Terminal Illness is foremost a love story that brings you on an amazing journey which begins on a photography trip to Monet’s Garden in France and ends with an emotional reunion in Callaway Gardens, Georgia. 

Anyone who has been touched by glioblastoma will hear their own voice echoed somewhere in Robin’s book. With gentle yet exquisite and sometimes humorous style, she invites readers to explore her family, faith, & friendship. 

— Jo Simpson, MSN, spouse of glioblastoma patient


Why do we write books? In the hopes our story, experiences, lessons learned might help others. Kudos to Robin Gross for honoring her husband, family and community for their loving support through her dark night of the soul. You will be inspired and uplifted by the humanity demonstrated in this book – and will be motivated to reach out to those around you to re-establish what matters most in good times and bad – kindness, compassion and connection. Read it and reap.                             

— Sam Horn, SOMEDAY Is Not a Day in the Week


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Wind — A Novel of the Ice Age

Wind — A Novel of the Ice Age
By Patricia Kranish

Twenty-five thousand years ago small migrating bands of hunters and foragers converged on paths across the freezing earth. Evidence of their existence is etched in their long-buried bones, turned to stone as hard as the tools they shaped over the millennia.

Archaic vestiges connect the common threads that weave through the myths of all people everywhere. Brothers clash, floods engulf the earth, good and evil are forever locked in battle. No matter how far separated by time or distance we are from our earliest ancestors, we share the collective longing to pierce the mystery of our own humanity.

They were predators and prey. They made up for what they lacked and what they feared by shaping the equivalent of tooth and claw, weight and warmth. They took only what they could carry on their backs, staying in one place just long enough to strip the fruit from their knotty stems, swallowing flinty seeds, bitter leaves and unyielding rind, their hard stomachs wringing the last bit of nutrition to sustain their strength.

When the last of the fruit was plucked, and their prey took flight, they moved on in a race against time, when the ground would freeze and the vines would fold into the harsh sleep of winter. Wind is the story of Sura, her people, and ours, and the fight against the forbidding wind that dominated life in the Ice Age.

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Jane Lazarre

Race and Whiteness: Three works by Jane Lazarre

Jane Lazarre is a widely published novelist and essayist who has spent more than fifty years as a white woman living in an African American family. Married over all these years, she raised two grown sons and is now a grandmother.

Beyond the Whiteness of Whiteness, Memoir of a White Mother of Black Sons

A powerful meditation on motherhood and racism in America, this is the story of the education of an American woman. Praised by writers from Tillie Olsen to Grace Paley to Alice Walker, this memoir has been taught and read by numerous students and teachers interested in stories of motherhood, African American autobiography, whiteness and American literature. In this widely read and praised memoir, Lazarre recounts the stories of her own life and its transformations through a deeper understanding of the world. From a crucial moment as a mother in which her consciousness is transformed, to comprehending the complexities and history of whiteness, she describes each step of her intellectual and personal journey toward understanding what she calls “the whiteness of whiteness.”

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InheritanceInheritance is a novel of American race history: of relationships between people of different and mixed race heritages, of love, friendship and profound loyalty, and of deep ignorance, violence and hatred. The story moves from from the present time, back to the early 20th century in a Connecticut city, once a stop on the Underground Railroad, then back to the period of Slavery shortly before the Civil War in Maryland, on the western coast of the Chesapeake Bay. The white characters are all connected through a Black family, whose four generations move through the novel. This is a story of our shared inheritance, of what it means, in this nation’s history and present, to be so called “mixed” racially, and what it means within the lives of the people who carry these meanings and questions within themselves.

The voice of the narrator, Samantha Reed, a young woman of mixed American heritages, remembering a dramatic transformation in her identity when she was 16, is reading, writing, learning this history as it has played out in her heritage. A young naive white woman, daughter of a slave holder, becomes a fervent abolitionist. An immigrant Jewish woman falls in love with a black oyster-man while being deeply attracted, in a way she does not understand, to his wife. An Italian American writer considers her devotion to the form of fiction and to the idea of “color blindness” as she encounters the demands of her racially mixed granddaughter for “the truth,” and, later, by a black woman writer of memoir. Inheritance is an American story of how history is not only in our world, but deeply within ourselves.

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Worlds Beyond My Control

Worlds Beyond My ControlIn Worlds Beyond My Control, Lazarre revisits the landscape of her pioneering first book, The Mother Knot, exploring with searing honesty the complexities of motherhood. In this later work, she tackles the emotionally demanding time when separation from children begins. Moving from a traditional narrative style, through the immediacy of a journal, and finally to a direct autobiographical voice, the novel interrogates genre itself while following one woman’s odyssey through a conflicted and confusing world. A white mother of black sons, Julia suddenly finds herself at a loss. One son is leaving home, a beloved child is struck with a serious illness, and throughout the city the dangers of racism’s physical, verbal and emotional violence toward black boys and young men increases daily as her beloved sons make their way through their growing lives. Fearful of crime in a crime-ridden city, learning to be fearful as well of police, Julia feels she is both “stark white and visible,” to her family and “trying to bridge their differences with her voice.”  A writer in danger of losing her words, a mother who fears the loss of control, this is the story of a mother and a writer who learns to accept the limits of her power – the endurance to face a new relationship to husband and sons – to reclaim the power she has always felt in what she names “sex and words.”

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List & Story

List & Story
By Hilda Raz

In Hilda Raz’s dazzling List & Story, a pencil waits for us in every room, a bride and bridesmaid hold a trashcan between them, and April is recast as “a beautiful automaton” that lights peach blossoms on fire. These kaleidoscopic poems whipsaw between love and grief to create raw, unflinching elegies. Raz’s exquisite formal control is paired with associative leaps in these stunning explorations of identity, mortality, and the threshold between language and speechlessness… Bristling with brutal truths and sudden tenderness, Raz reminds us that, despite our losses, language and love will return in this life and the next.

—Hadara Bar-Nadav, The New Nudity

”Here then is my life in letters. A great weight,” writes Hilda Raz. This harvest—of art, of ripe heirloom tomatoes, of bobcats and lightning—nourishes us body and soul. This poet wants “to know how women sound in their heads.” These poems offer that, plus the beauty of “the glow we can’t see by,” the great mysteries of time and love and the night sky. Here is a poetry in the company of nature and art, saying YES out loud. Here is a poetry that acknowledges death, its nearness, then invites it to the table, where we feast. Thank you, Hilda Raz, for a masterful, profound collection.

—Peggy Shumaker, Cairn: New and Selected Poems

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Emerging Voices

Emerging Voices is a quarterly online webzine. Based in London, the webzine presents voices from around the globe reflecting the personal and the political through paintings, poetry, essays, photography and video.

Going into its third year, Emerging Voices features have included:

Paintings linking visual art and politics
Poetry and sculptural art
Photography about politics and religion
Artists addressing climate change
Readings on mothers and daughters
Essays from Armenia, Zimbabwe and South Africa
… and much more.

Rose Levinson, Ph.D., formerly of Berkeley, is Founder and Managing Editor of Emerging Voices. Her writings appear each quarter.

Join our free subscriber list to be updated on quarterly postings.

Send us a 350 word submission on one of the following topics:

What are the most significant changes Covid 19 means for you personally and for your community?
Will the current wave of protests across the United States lead to significant changes? Why or why not?
Finally, our August issue will feature photographic essays. We invite you to submit four photographs along with a short essay. Send your contributions by July 15 to

We welcome you to our community of readers!

Jumpstart Your Writing in July

Jumpstart Your Writing in July
With Autumn Stephens

Power up with a single-session prompt blitz, or zoom into an energizing month of new work with veteran writing coach, workshop leader, and Wild Women author Autumn Stephens. Appropriate for diverse experience levels and genres.

Pandora’s Prompt Box – July Prompt Blitz on Zoom
Saturday, July 11, 9:30-12:30 (PDT)
Three-hour intensive with provocative prompts, real-time writing, and supportive feedback. Participants will sign off with two or three new pieces underway and a renewed sense of possibility. $30.

Pandora’s Prompt Box – The Sheltering Series on Zoom
Thursdays, July 9, 16, 23, 30 9:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m. (PDT)
No words? Find the phrases for what you feel in this supportive four-week workshop. Each session centers on a connected series of prompts to facilitate exploration of emotion and experience and to enhance craft. Class size limited to 15. $120.

For more information, CLICK HERE.

For queries and sign-ups, contact