Queens is book country

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Quite a few fiction and non-fiction books are edited or written by Queens native or adopted sons and daughters. Among these are two recently released works, "Souls Of My Sisters" and "Lost."

'Souls of My Sisters'

Candace Sandy, press secretary for U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-St. Albans) as well as president of the Sponsorship and Media Shop, has found the time to co-edit the new book, with Dawn Marie Daniels, formerly of Simon and Schuster and now with a newly formed publisher, Simply Said.

"Most of us have not met face-to-face," said Sandy, 31. She said that she and Daniels, friends since junior high school, decided it would be a good idea to compile such a book as something for them and other black women "to learn from."

"Therapy is not very popular in our community," Sandy said. "There's really no outlet for us."

She stressed, though, that the book is relevant for both genders of all races, since it gives insight into very human feelings, fears, and hopes.

Published by Dafina Books, an imprint of Kensington Publishing Corp., "Souls of my Sisters," with a foreword by Ilyasah Shabazz, a daughter of Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz, is a collection of accounts by more than 70 black women from across the country who, as announced on the cover, "break their silence, tell their stories, and heal their spirits."

Some examples:

"It is not okay to settle for less than what you want," Leslie Harris observes in her short essay, "The Spirit Train." She tells of her chance encounter with a mother more than twice her age on the No. 4 train heading into 42nd Street. The woman starts talking to her, not to ask for money, as Harris first thinks, but to lament that she wasn't coming home with circus tickets for her children because the only ones available were for the very last row, and why should her children have to settle? "She went on to say," Harris writes, "that she had to settle too much in life and she refused to let her children start settling this early in life."

Felicia Middlebrooks, a morning anchor for WBBM in Chicago, relates in "I Am Enough" that she grew up in a middle-class family of four daughters in Gary, Ind. in the 1960s and '70s. "Most of us [women in general] were groomed as little girls to believe that someday the right guy would come along and sweep us off our feet and grant us significance. What I've learned is that you were born with that significance, and no amount of ill treatment or disrespect - no matter what the source - will ever change that."

Dolly C. Turner, a teacher who had produced the children's show, "Dolly's Treasure Chest," that aired on PBS, writes in "Grandma Dolly" that many white as well as black people feel that black women who are raising children alone "can't accomplish much because there is no father in the home. What American society fails to realize is that black women have led single households since slavery. Our families have been torn apart since our arrival here, but it hasn't stopped us from producing senators, congressmen, presidential candidates, secretaries of state, doctors, lawyers, engineers ... and strong black women and men."

"Souls Of My Sisters" is available for $15 at book stores or by calling Dafina Books at 888-345-2665, online at www.kensingtonbooks.com.

Sandy, Meek's wife Simone Marie, and others will be at the Forest Hills Barnes & Noble store at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 15, for discussions and book signing.


"It was the truth and there was no denying it. Jeremy Keller was being followed. At first he didn't quite believe it. Who gets followed in real life?"

Scott Stein, 29, who grew up in Bayside, so begins his first novel, "Lost." As he describes it, Jeremy Keller has a job that's "nothing to brag about," the love of his life doesn't know he exists, New York can't seem to leave him in peace, and his rent is late.

"But at least he is being followed. Not everyone can say that."

The story had to be set in New York - not just because Stein grew up here, but because where else could Jeremy Keller unwittingly cause the closure of a popular restaurant and make Page 5 of the Daily News by eating a piece of cake? Where else could he be involved in a car chase - through the subway system?

Stein credits Cecile Tiger, his third-grade teacher at PS 169, and Brenda Goldstein, his English teacher at Bayside High School, with inspiring him to write. "They really encouraged me," he said.

Not surprisingly, authors that Stein admires include Kafka, Poe, and Rod Serling. In fact, a short story he wrote for the magazine, Liberty, has a definite "Twilight Zone" bent to it. "Garghibition" describes the development, and consequences, of a pill, "Gargantuanx," that makes the user believe he is three inches taller while not making him any taller at all.

Even more surreal is another Stein short story, "The Last Peanut," a tale of a boy who accidentally releases a strange, orange cloud on the world with his chemistry set. After all the political finger-pointing and expectations of the end of the world, it's soon discovered that the orange cloud leaves everything unharmed - except peanuts.

Stein is working on his next novel, "The Stacker."

"Lost" is available in hardcover for $22.95 at book stores, or by contacting Free Reign Press online at www.freereignpress.com.

Stein will read from "Lost" and sign first editions of the novel at Barnes & Noble in the Bay Terrace Shopping Center in Bayside at 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 27.

Updated 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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