Who knew the humble peanut could provide a fascinating backdrop for an expedition into history, geography, culture, economics, and West Africa. Award-winning independent writer, Jori Lewis weaves a complex story in Slaves For Peanuts with a deft hand at including the tiniest of details without ever boring her reader. Few of us know the peanut’s tumultuous history or its intimate connection to slavery and freedom. Jori Lewis explains the natural and human history of a crop that transformed the lives of millions. She reveals how demand for peanut oil in Europe ensured that slavery in Africa would persist well into the twentieth century, long after the European powers had officially banned it in the territories they controlled. Delving deep into West African and European archives, Lewis recreates a world on the coast of Africa that is breathtakingly real and unlike anything modern readers have experienced. Slaves For Peanuts is told through the eyes of a set of richly detailed characters—from an African-born French missionary harboring runaway slaves, to the leader of a Wolof state navigating the politics of French imperialism—who challenge our most basic assumptions of the motives and people who supported human bondage. At a time when Americans are grappling with the enduring consequences of slavery, here is a new and revealing chapter in its global history.
Are Jignesh and Charlie, the brilliantly depicted leads in Carlos Allende’s new novel, gay caricatures? The author’s answer may surprise you. The Mexican-born writer is not one to shy away from sharing his opinions. For instance, Carlos lets you know that gay millennials have it far too easy. “They don’t understand what it was like to keep your queerness a secret – or not be able to marry the person you love!” Mr. Allende recognizes his target audience for Coffee, Shopping, Murder, Love may be older gay men. “But women like it too!” He laughs, adding “And some straight men.” Yes, his new novel, set in Los Angeles is full, if not brimming over with gay-world references from movies to TV to interior design and queer icons. It’s a racey read as in breathtakingly fast and deliberately filthy. Carlos spares no one from his inquisitive and informed gay appraisal. No one in his book is half-formed. With a super-intense economical use of words, here is a writer who knows exactly just how much description to give. And, it works. Laugh? You’ll cry at the absurdity of the situations. While at the same time, the French Farce scenarios could also be oh, so too real. This is the charm of Allende’s writing. You will crack up laughing, but if you have any understanding at all of what it feels like to be disenfranchised, to be an outsider – or gay, you will also see the poignant truth in Carlos Allende’s words.