Hurston & Hughes Literary Circle 3.0

In it’s third year, the Hurston & Hughes Literary Circle seeks to connect and celebrate the beauty of the African diasporian poetry, prose, essays, and literature.

The weekly gatherings are on Tuesdays in various locations around the St. Louis metropolitian area that inspire dialogue, laughter, and a yummy treat.

Space is limited to twenty students, ideally evenly spaced between middle and high school, male and female. Students in public, parochial, independent, and homeschool settings are invited to participate.

Hurston & Hughes Literary Circle 3.o

African-American Summer reading and engagement experience for Teens

A program of Tayé Foster Bradshaw’s Bookshelf –

Antona Brent Smith, 816-878-3935

Who: 6th-12th Grade Students

Where: Coffeeshops, Bookstores, Libraries, and Parks, First session is at Mod Pizza, 338 S. Kirkwood Road, Kirkwood MO 63122. Session locations determined by teen interest. This is a build-your-own pizza restaurant with mini’s (single serve, 7-inch, limitless ingredient pizzas) priced at $5. Salads and beverages available.

When: Tuesdays, 4pm-6pm, June 7-JULY 26, 2016

Cost:  $25 Registration fee (waived if student really can’t afford it, plus Purchase or borrow the book, money for coffee or light meal, depending on location ($10) + cost of materials for their final presentation.

In its third summer, this unique gathering of literary scholars is an opportunity for upper middle school and high school students to dig deeper into African American and African dystopian poetry, literature, and essays. Conducted in a Seminar method, these sessions begin with poetry and usually read 3-4 books per summer, depending on the depth of the text. Each member is encouraged to suggest a text and then to be fully engaged in the discussions. It is a great preparation for those interested in pursuing Honors English or any of the AP Literature courses. It is also preparation for literary exploration in college. Each student is invited and encouraged to also read any required text for their upcoming English classes.

All participants are asked to come prepared to be engaged in the dialogue, to have read the materials, to have pen and paper for writing. All participants are also asked to set up a Google Plus account and will be added to the Hurston & Hughes Literary Circle page for updates. The director can be contacted on twitter, @lattegriot, on Facebook through TayéFosterBradshawGroup. Email is

Students will have an opportunity to present their thoughts at the end of the session, each participant is encouraged to find one piece of literature or poetry and render their presentation in a way that best exemplifies the text and that participant’s interest. It can be a photograph the student takes, a painting, a poster project, a song, or a story.

Final Presentation will be on Tuesday, July 26, 2016 at 7pm at the EyeSeeMe Educational Store multipurpose room, 7827 Olive Blvd. University City, 63130 . Each presenter will have 5-7 minutes to present. Parents and the Public are invited to attend. Light refreshments provided.

Total Estimated Cost for All Eight Sessions – $145 (assuming purchase of four books)

  Locations subject to Change with interest and response of participants

Hurston & Hughes Literary Circle 3.0 – African American Summer Reading Club

June 7, 4pm-6pm           Poetry, Read & Discover, Write & Share              Mod Pizza – Kirkwood                                  338 S. Kirkwood Road, 63122

June 14, 4pm-6pm         Be A Child Again, Read & Discover                        St. Louis County Headquarters                 1640 S. Lindbergh Blvd. Frontenac 63131

June 21, 4pm-6pm         Classically Minded                                                        Kaldi’s – Kirkwood                                          120 S. Kirkwood Road, 63122

June 28, 4pm-6pm         Someone Like Me, Tween & Teen                          STLPLibrary-Carpenter Branch                3309 S. Grand Blvd., 63118

July 5, 4pm-6pm              What is America to the Negro?                                 EyeSeeMe Educational Store                    7827 Olive Blvd., University City 63130

July 12, 4pm-6pm           Time to Get Ready, Honors & AP Prep                 Smoothie King – CWE                                   4475 Forest Park Avenue, 63108

July 19, 4pm-6pm           A Little Bit of History                                                    Missouri History Museum                           5700 Lindell Blvd 63112

July 26, 4pm-6pm           St. Louis Writing Scene and Celebration             EyeSeeMe Educational Store                    7827 Olive Blvd., University City 63130

This last session is a gathering and celebration, reading of poetry, presentation by the participants

Every participant is invited and encouraged to suggest materials, the criteria is that the protagonist and/or author must be a member of the African Diaspora (West Indian, Latin American, native African, or American)

Locations are subject to change after the first meeting

Contact – Ms. Antona, 816-878-3935 or





Tentative Reading Schedule

Every week, we ask that participants complete the reading materials before our sessions. If we are reading a book over a couple weeks, we ask that they read the agreed-upon sections for longer books and/or complete the shorter books. Every effort has been taken to make the reading list do-able during the eight week sessions.

Every week, we will have a time of sharing and when appropriate, snacking if we are at a coffee shop. We will have a time of thoughts and reflections about the materials read, some discussions, questions, and writing. These sessions will all be determined by the materials read and conversations can shift based on insight of the participants. Each H&H participant is asked to come with paper and pen/pencil, their copy of the reading materials, and an inquisitive mind.

June 7, 2016, Poetry “The reading of poetry is in itself an act of political resistance to the mainstream.” Ocean Vuong

As is our tradition, we begin with poetry. In our discussions, we read for content, have someone read aloud, and discuss the meaning of the poem in the time it was written as well as today. We also discuss the form the poet chose. Our poetry selections span the eight major movements of African American Literature.

We Wear The Mask – Paul Laurence Dunbar (we read this every year and discuss it)

I, Too by Langston Hughes- pp. 74-75 in African-American Poetry: An Anthology, 1773-1927 edited by Joan R. Sherman

The Negro Speaks of Rivers by Langston Hughes – pp. 73-74 in African American Poetry: An Anthology, 1773-1927 edited by Joan R. Sherman

Fifty Years – James Weldon Johnson (written on the 50th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation) (1913)

III – pp 41-55 of Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankin

Strange Patterns by Carrie Allen McCray – pp. 100-101 in Word of Mouth: Poems Featured on NPRs All Things Considered® edited by Catherine Bowman

Negative by Kevin Young – pp. 115-116 in Word of Mouth: Poems Featured on NPRs All Things Considered® edited by Catherine Bowman

Yet Do I Marvel by Countee Cullen – pp. 76-77 in African-American Poetry: An Anthology, 1773-1927 edited by Joan R. Sherman

Naturally by Audre Lorde – pp. 122-123 in Modern and contemporary Afro-American Poetry edited by Bernard W. Bell

from right on: wite America by Sonia Sanchez – p. 135 in Modern and Contemporary Afro-American Poetry edited by Bernard W. Bell

after kent state by Lucille Clifton – pp. 142 in Modern and Contemporary Afro-American edited by Bernard W. Bell

Coal by Audre Lorde


June 14, 2016

Be A Child Again – we will explore and discover African American picture books at the library, each participant chooses one, reads it, and shares out with the group, then we will play our hand at writing a children’s book, a fun activity


June 21, 2016 Someone Like Me – Tween and Teen African American Fiction Challenge

High School Girls –  The Year The Colored Sisters Came To Town by Jacqueline Guidry

High School Boys –

Middle School Girls – One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams Garcia

Middle School Boys – The Rock and the River by Kekla Magion


June 28, 2016 Classically Minded

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

Middle School – P.S., Be Eleven and Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams Garcia



July 5, 2016 – What is America to the Negro: Themes of Freedom.


(note, this is a light week between the June 28 book and the July 14 book to give readers a chance to do some reading for their classes)


July 12, 2016 – Time to Get Ready – Honors, AP, and Summer Reading Requirements

Readers are invited to read the book for their class, incorporate themes of race, gender, inclusion, diversity, and class in the discussion with fellow readers, they will also have an opportunity to do some writing for those classes. Readers are asked to have their intended book read before H&H.


July 19, 2016 – Where Do We Go From Here

This is our only non-fiction week, however, in light of the upcoming election, the current situation of our country, and the future generation contending with issues of the past, we feel it is important to discuss these themes. Readers are expected to read The Atlantic article (June 2014. The two books listed are suggested reading, especially for high schoolers taking any history class.

The Case for Reparations: 250 years of slavery. 90 years of Jim Crow. 60 years of separate but equal. 35 years of state-sanctioned redlining. Until we reckon with the compounding moral debts of our ancestors, American will never be whole. by Ta-Neishi Coates

Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Sister Citizen by Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry

Letter from a Birmingham Jail by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


July 28, 2016 – Celebrating Local Poets, Spoken Word, Contemporary Works, and The End of Our Reading

Chop, Citizen, and Lemonade discussed

Readers are invited to share a brief expression of their experience this summer, it should be literary in nature







Lack of Publishing Diversity

We have written about this topic before, particularly as it relates to literary works by, for, or about black women or women of color. It is what prompted us to start doing book reviews at Tayé Foster Bradshaw’s Bookshelf.

Year-after-year, we confronted a lot of the same issues with regards to the miniscule titles coming from the major publishing houses. Year-after-year, we encountered a lot of stereotyped images or storylines from YA fiction (like the entire Buford High Series that upon further investigation is written by white males and a grandmotherly white female) to fiction aimed at African-American females.

The topic has reached more general conversation in the last few years with Lee and Low being one of the booksellers advocating for more transparency on the gatekeepers at the publishing house. This recent article with compiled statistics and easy-to-understand graphics helps illustrate the issue.

The recent pulling of the “happy slave” whitewashed historical fiction children’s book, , one of  Scholastic’s recent children’s book offering s,helps propel the need for more diverse books to the mainstream. It not only quenches a thirst of women of color who do read, opens opportunity for writers of color, but also helps Caucasian readers explore cultures they are unfamiliar with, even within their own community, helps white children see children of color (black , Latino, Native, and Asian) in non-stereotyped roles, and helps to further efforts for a more diverse, more equitable, and more inclusive society.

Let’s hope that with efforts from a broad spectrum of writers, publishers, agents, parents, teachers, readers, and booksellers, that we won’t have to worry about a miniscule amount of diverse reading materials, but a bounty of too many to read in one year.


Who Determines One is a “Best Selling Author?”

I read a lot of books.  

I review a lot of books.   

I shop for a lot of books.

It is natural that my interest piques when, in this era of independent publishing, one touts themself as a “best selling author.”  The inquirer in me immediately wants to ask, “in whose opinion?”  I’m not referring to the noted and well named authors like J.L. Rowling, Toni Morrison, James Clavell, or Steven King.  I’m not even talking about Zane, Bernice McFadden, or Isabelle Allende.  No, I’m speaking about the one-book, self-published, authors selling their wares on Amazon, hoping for a write-up on Goodreads whose profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ tout them as a “best selling author.”

The classically trained marketer with the MBA from one of the top midwestern programs in the country automatically wants to do some consumer research and delve into some quantitative data (I still hate statistics!) to determine if this claim is true.  Exactly at what point does not become “best selling?”

Entrepreneurship in the arts is to be celebrated and applauded, we all want to control the rights to our creative output, to control the destiny of our work, and to reap the financial rewards.  Perhaps it is in that vein that these writers are engaging in a little more creative license and giving themselves a moniker not fully earned in the marketplace.

One such “author” whose independent book is self-published in the Christian marketplace, has all the marketing hype on a tiny book lacking substance. Another “author” has the same claim on a self-published urban genre filled with stereotypes.  There are the self-help books, the “how-to-get-rich” books, even some recipe and workout books all carry this same claim.

The New York Times Best Seller List is one thing.  If I make that list with my two upcoming projects, that would be amazing and I would proudly proclaim that on my bio.  If a writer’s work has not reached national acclaim, even national niche acclaim (say, top selling African-American, Latino, Native America, Asian American, LGBT America author) can they still claim this title?

What about top sellers at the bookstores?  We’ve lost Borders and only have two “national” brick & mortar bookstores left – Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million.  Does it count if Amazon lists the top book and one is found there?  What about eReader? Or Local Bookstores?  Would that count if it is Left Bank Books, the Book House, or STL Books?  What makes it a top seller?  Is it a dollar amount or a volume amount?

I am part skeptic and even though I have degrees in marketing, am somewhat leery of marketing claims about some books.  I’ve seen some heavily hyped works that fall short within those first 50 pages.  Life is too short to read bad lit.

My question remains somewhat unanswered and perhaps up to the reader.  What exactly makes one a “best selling author?”