Thursday, November 24, 2011

5 Reasons to Leave a Lover: A Book Review

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In my review of Carolyn Moncel's Encounters in Paris, I spoke of the five short stories about Ellery Martin-Roulet – a 35-year-old African-American public relations executive living and working in Paris. Ellery's life was just turned upside down as a result of simultaneously losing her job and learning that her husband was being unfaithful to her.

In 5 Reasons to Leave a Lover, Ellery becomes even more real to us readers as we see her seek vengeance on the "other woman" by arranging to have her deported (and then reconsider this action), release her anguish by trashing the belongings of her beloved, and envelop her twin girls in a new family arrangement that excludes a father figure at home. I won't divulge the details of the plot here - you must read this novella to find out more!

I found this book to be more compelling than the first, perhaps because we get to follow Ellery in what seems to be real time as opposed to having fragments of her life revealed in the short story format of Encounters in Paris. I suppose this indicates my preference for novels. Having said that, I quite enjoyed the "other short stories" in 5 Reasons to Leave a Lover - "Maybe Just Leave, Steve" and "Maybe in Death, Beth." I especially like the surprise ending in "Maybe Just Leave, Steve," when we discover the true identity of the protagonist Cinnamon.

In the notes found at the end of the book, Moncel indicates that she was inspired by the theme of Paul Simon's song "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" to pen these stories - hence the titles of the book and the two short stories in it.

The notes also indicate that Moncel is working on a novel called Geneva Nights, in which Ellery will once again appear. Moncel also intends to produce a full-fledged novel from Encounters in Paris by the end of this year. I look forward to reading both!

Carolyn Davenport-Moncel

Carolyn Davenport-Moncel is a virtual media and web consultant and life-long storyteller. Though she has published many online articles on media relations, she had to push through her tendency to procrastinate to get her creative writing juices to flow into her first book of short stories. She says that her stories are 25% real and 75% imagination, and that she takes her inspiration from all sources.


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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Parisians No Strangers to Gospel Music

“After a long love affair with jazz, the blues, and African-American culture in general, Paris is suddenly awash in ‘church music.’”

This quote comes from an article written by Lori Montgomery and published in the Rome News-Tribune in October 1997. The church music that is being referred to is gospel.

The article goes on to quote long-time Paris resident Richard Allen as saying “Gospel has been on the rise for about three years, but now it’s almost taken over. It’s where jazz used to be.”

I’ve lived in Paris since 1992 and can testify that there was a surge of interest in gospel music during the latter half of the decade. While gospel brunches à la Chesterfield Café* are no longer the rage around town, Paris’ love affair with the music is still alive and well. Not a month goes by when there are not several opportunities to listen to gospel performed by groups or solo artists.

Solo artists in Paris tend to be women . . . Manda Djinn and Linda Lee Hopkins spring immediately to mind. These ladies have incredible voices and are an indelible part of Paris’ gospel scene.

Manda Djinn
Photo courtesy of Manda Djinn

Choirs such as Gospel Dream and Gospel River are ever present in Paris nowadays – they perform so frequently that you can easily find fliers around town announcing a 4- to 6-week roster for their concerts. Their concerts are generally held in churches—not only at the American Church and the American Cathedral, but also at French churches such as Saint Julien le Pauvre and Saint Germain des Prés. Gospel Dream recently opened its doors to provide singing lessons (cours de chant) to the general public, offering two sessions every Monday evening.

Gospel Dream fliers
© Discover Paris!

The Total Praise Mass Choir, organized by Pastors David and Jocelyne Goma (from Congo Brazzaville and Paris, respectively), is another such group. With membership ranging between 150 and 200, it is the largest gospel choir in France. The Gomas have organized an annual Gospel Festival in Paris since 2003 and have invited some of the biggest names in gospel in the U.S. to participate. Artists who have flown to the French capital to sing with the choir include Kirk Franklin, Byron Cage, Marvin Sapp, and Donnie McClurkin.

This year’s featured artist was CeCe Winans.

* The Chesterfield Café, once located on rue La Boétie off the Champs Elysées, is now closed.


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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Black London versus Black Paris

London is one of my favorite cities in the world. I was recently thinking about the riots that began there a few months ago and spread across the UK, similar to what happened in France in 2005. When the problems in London first started, I remember reading initial accounts on the Internet and wondering whether the underlying issue was race. It was only after concerted searching that I was able to discern that the inciting incident was the fatal shooting of a man of African descent.

This got me thinking about how little I know about black history and contemporary life in London. It also made me wonder whether African Americans who visit Europe visit London with the intent to explore the black experience there. In all the times that I have visited London, I only focused on black history and contemporary life once – and that was because I wanted to write an article about it.

Dr. King – 20th Century Martyr at Westminster Abbey
© Discover Paris!

Electric Avenue Market – Brixton
© Discover Paris

Plaque honoring C. L. R. James
© Discover Paris!

Chef Ashbell McElveen, former owner of Ashbell’s in Notting Hill
© Discover Paris!

In comparison, it seems that many (if not most) African Americans who visit Paris want to experience at least one aspect of black history and / or contemporary life here.

I admit that I may have a biased opinion on this issue because Entrée to Black Paris walks and activities are Discover Paris’ most popular service. But I have done some casual polling among clients and they agree that London does not draw African Americans the way that Paris does.

Do you think of London as a black heritage destination? Leave your comments in the space below. I’d love to get more opinions on this!


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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Black Paris Profiles™: Jake Lamar

I have had the pleasure of interviewing writer Jake Lamar on more than one occasion, including an exchange that led to a feature article on in 2004, shortly after the publication of his fourth novel, Rendezvous Eighteenth. A lot has happened since then, so I contacted Jake for an update. Read on to find out what twists and turns his career has taken in the last seven years.


Jake Lamar
© Mimi Haddon

Jake Lamar is a novelist and a journalist. On the journalist side, he contributes to the The Root, “the leading online source of news and commentary from an African-American perspective.” At the time of this writing, his latest article for the publication addressed the domestic terrorist attack in Norway. On the novelist side, he is working on a book that is a big departure from his “normal” genre – he says that “it’s not a thriller, it’s not set in Paris, and it does not deal with racial questions.”


Black Paris Profiles is now available on Kindle.  Only excerpts are available on this blog.
To get your copy of Black Paris Profiles, click HERE.


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