Sunday, April 3, 2016

Ernest Gaines Award winner Attica Locke to speak at UL-Lafayette Library, Hilliard University Art Museum

            Attica Locke, the 2013 Ernest Gaines Literary Award winner and author and writer for the Fox hit show “Empire,” will speak about her new book at 2 p.m. April 5 at the Gaines Center of the UL-Lafayetre Library. Locke will also speak at 6 p.m. April 6 at the Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Library on the UL campus.
            Locke is the author of the national bestseller “The Cutting Season,” which won the Gaines Award among other accolades - see review below. Her “Black Water Rising” was short-listed for the 2010 Orange Prize and nominated for several awards.
Locke’s latest book, “Pleasantville,” continues 15 years after “Black Water Rising,” following character Jay Porter as he struggles to cope with changes in his personal life and the disintegration of his environmental law practice. A girl goes missing in Pleasantville, a black neighborhood on the north side of Houston and a town Porter represents in the wake of a chemical fire. The missing girl was a volunteer for one of the local mayoral candidates, and her disappearance complicates an already heated campaign. When the nephew of a candidate, a Pleasantville local, is arrested, Jay reluctantly finds himself serving as a defense attorney. With a man’s life and his own reputation on the line, Porter is about to try his first murder in a case that will also put the electoral process on trial, exposing the dark side of power and those determined to keep it.
“Pleasantville” was included in the 2016 longlist for the Baileys prize, the United Kingdom’s only annual book award for fiction written by a woman.

My tardy review of "The Cutting Season" follows. When I heard Locke was visiting Lafayette, I pulled this book from my to-be-read pile and dived into, enjoying every minute. Here's my review:
Caren Gray loses her home in Katrina. Before that, her relationship to the father of her child. Coming back to Belle Vie, a plantation upriver from New Orleans that her ancestors worked and lived on, is not her idea of a new start but the opportunity arises and she accepts, serving as manager while her daughter attends a private elementary school in Baton Rouge.
As she makes her rounds one morning across the massive plantation grounds, she discovers the body of a young Latino who had worked the nearby sugar cane fields for a corporate sugar company. Within hours several people are considered suspects, including Caren.
Because of her possible daughter’s involvement in whatever happened that night, and the mistrust of local authorities, Caren investigates the murder on her own. She’s aided by Eric, her daughter’s father who’s a lawyer, and a New Orleans reporter who is looking into the antics of the corporate sugar company.
Attica Locke provides us with a riveting mystery in “The Cutting Season” but lurking beneath the top soil of this sugar cane region lies a haunting history that dates back decades. Caren’s mother ran the kitchen of the plantation while Caren played with the owner’s sons, although neither was allowed in the “big house.” Their ancestors cut cane, providing the wealth for the plantation. Heading back further on Caren’s family tree is a slave named Jason, who received his freedom after the Civil War but his actions ultimately set an ironic stage for Caren and the owners of Belle Vie.
            Don’t miss this Ernest Gaines Award-winning novel, and more that have been published by the author since its publication in 2012.
 For more information on Locke, visit

Poetry month
It’s National Poetry Month and each year the Academy of American Poets in partnership with American Booksellers Association, the American Library Association and the National Council of Teachers of English distribute more than 120,000 free National Poetry Month posters to classrooms, libraries and bookstores throughout the U.S.
Other initiatives by the Academy include:
Dear Poet, a multimedia education project that invites students in grades 5-12 to write letters in response to poems shared by award-winning poets serving on the academy's board of chancellors who will recite their poems in a series of exclusive videos presented on
On April 27, the Academy will hold its annual celebration, hosted by Meryl Streep, in New York City, featuring actors, dancers, artists, musicians and public figures on one stage sharing their favorite poems.
April 21 will be National Poem in Your Pocket Day, during which people throughout the U.S. select a poem, carry it with them and share it with others.
            Closer to home Dr. Abiodun Oyewole will offer a full day of spoken word and artistic expression on Saturday at Cité des Arts’ Second Stage. Oyewole will lead a poetry workshop from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., followed by a show at 7:30 p.m. featuring spoken word, hip-hop, dancing, and visual art with Sha’condria “iCon” Sibley, DJ Rabbit Rashad, Angie Joelle, Knowledge, Tyler Sho-Ked Wilson and Kemit Najee. The poetry workshop is free; tickets for the show are $10 in advance at, or $15 at the door.
Oyewole is a founding member of the American musical spieling group The Last Poets. The group — along with the artist Gil Scott-Heron — are credited as having had a profound effect on the development of hip-hop music. After being sentenced to four years in a North Carolina prison for larceny, Oyewole was forced to leave The Last Poets. He served two and half years of his sentence, during which he earned his bachelor’s degree. He went on to earn his Ph.D. from Columbia University in New York City, where he has served as a faculty member.  
Oyewole rejoined The Last Poets during its 1990s resurgence. The Last Poets took part in Lollapalooza in 1994 and released a new album, “Holy Terror,” in 1995 and the book “On a Mission: Selected Poetry and a History of the Last Poets” in 1996.
Oyewole’s workshop and show are sponsored by Lyrically Inclined, a Lafayette-based spoken word group headed by Alexandra “PoeticSoul” Johnson. More information is available at

Book releases
Jarita Davis’ collection of poetry titled “Returned Flights” will be released on Tuesday. Davis is a poet and fiction writer with a master and PhD from UL-Lafayette. Her work has appeared in the Southwestern Review, Cave Canem Anthologies, Crab Orchard Review, Tuesday: An Art Project, Verdad magazine, Plainsongs and the Cape Cod Poetry Review.

Book events
John H. Lawrence will speak on “Creole Houses: Traditional Homes of Old Louisiana” as part of McNeese University’s SAGE Program from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday. A booksigning will follow. Registration is required; visit