Cover Image: Dispatches from the Vanguard

Dispatches from the Vanguard

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Member Reviews

As a retired white woman, I’m aware that my reading is narrow and I’m determined to widen it through reading more work in translation and more work by non-white writers. This book totally fits that bill. It is made up of interviews with artists, poets, writers; these are poet laureates, Pulitzer Prize winners, New York Times Best Sellers, TED speakers. This is a prestigious group of people!

Mr Howell has a light touch as an interviewer and allows each subject to tell their story and talk about their inspirations, their way of working, their background and I learned so much along the way. The thing I liked best is being introduced to people I would likely never have met without this book and researching them and buying some of their work. An example of a poet I’d not come across (my fault as this is prize winning stuff) is Tyehimba Jess and I’ve now bought “Olio” and it is introducing me to a lot more about Black culture.

This is a great book if, like me, you are aware of the gaps in your knowledge and need somewhere to start filling those gaps. Recommended regardless of your age, colour, or creed. There is a lot of gold here.

I was given a copy of this book by Netgalley in return for an honest review.
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Unfortunately not one for me.

Quite heavy going and quite dry. I thought I would enjoy it more than I actually did. Heavily essay based.
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An insightful and thought 
-provoking look at the all-encompassing racial firestorm that’s still engulfing America today. This is definitely one to pick up if you’re interested in civil rights and want to do better. I highly recommend.
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A very informative deep-dive into the Global International African Arts Movement, with powerful interviews and takeaways. Unfortunately, I just found it too detailed as well as being a bit muddled in its composition. This quote really resonated with me though; "Artists are the timeless gatekeepers of humanity" and it gave me a lot to think about as I read it, and afterwards.
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Patrick A Howell has interviewed a number of people involved in the Global International African Arts Movement.  These people range from artists to poets, musicians and more. In each entry in this book we hear the author and interviewee's thoughts on Black arts.  It is always good to read the opinion and views of others in order to be more open minded especially in regards to the diversity in the world.    I enjoyed many of the chapters in this book.    

Some of the chapters fell a bit flat for me and that could be in part since they were presented in an interview format, which isn't my favorite kind of reading experience.   However, I found the book to be an insightful peek into the minds of Black artists from around the world.   

<i>What to listen to while reading...</i>
Planet Rock by Afrika Bambataa
Doo Wop by Ms. Lauryn Hill
Can I Kick It? by A Tribe Called Quest
Yesterday by J Dilla
Human Nature by Michael Jackson
I Say a Little Prayer by Aretha Franklin
Sign O the Times by Prince
Still I Rise by 2Pac
Door of the Cosmos by Sun Ra
Pynk by Janelle Monae
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Thank you to Repeater Books and Net Galley for the ARC!

I struggled to find a central purpose for this book. By the way the book was advertised, I believed that it would be a compilation of works and art that were directly influenced by Trump's presidency. However, a lot of the interviews didn't even mention that at all, and while it is important to highlight these creators, it just felt like a brochure rather than a book.

I'm ranking this neutrally because it did introduce me to some creators I've never heard of, and the art/writing that was featured in the book were good. However, I grew bored of the compilation structure. There was sort of a central thread through the people featured, but overall I would've rather just preferred this as an article rather than a full-fledged book.
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Dispatches from the Vanguard is a literary scrapbook pulling together in one place a selection of thoughts, messages, interviews, pieces of art, essays and poetry from dozens of contributors. The book's subtitle "The Global International African Arts Movement vs Donald J Trump' sets out the aim of this work which seeks to demonstrate that out of chaos can come beautiful art and a renewed energy for achieving liberty for all American citizens. 

It's an ambitious work, there are many many contributors, and I think this was what I struggled with most when reading the book. There was far too much to digest, just as I was getting a feel for one contributor's way of speaking and thinking I was reading a description of the next contributor listing all of their accomplishments. I also wasn't always clear what the book was trying to achieve, some of the interviews were clearly designed to address race relations in the US and what the election of Trump could mean for the future of black people in the country. Other interviews, however, had a broader scope covering whatever issues were of interest to the contributor and some just seemed to be an opportunity to promote the artist's work. That's not to say that I didn't get a lot out of this book, I highlighted several passages but, overall, I found it too unfocused to truly have an impact or be memorable. 

I would still recommend this work though. I think flicking through it over a longer period would be more rewarding than reading it from cover to cover over a few days as I did. I would suggest picking out pieces from the book that speak to you at the time and concentrating on those, giving them time to marinate. While initially slightly overwhelming, what's great about introducing so many artists, writers and poets in one place is that readers can then, in their own time, look up the work of anyone whose words especially resonate with them and, in doing so, broaden and enrich the art they consume.
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Thank you to Repeater Books and NetGalley for the Advanced Reader's Copy!

Available August 11 2020

Led by an extraordinary leader himself, Patrick Howell's "Dispatches from the Vanguard" builds on a tradition of oral excellence in the Global International African Arts Movement through a series of interviews, works of art and descriptions of artists  including poet extraordinaire Nikki Giovanni, science fiction author Nnedi Okorafor, designer Rich Fresh among others. It's conversational and quite sensational. I greatly enjoyed reading the samples of poetry, pondering the gorgeous works of art and reading. What somewhat limits the book, due to the nature of the pandemic, is that the interviews seem to have been all conducted virtually. This makes the reading somewhat staid instead of the more dynamic and lively version I know the author has the potential to be.
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This was an interesting idea for a book. Unfortunately, it fell victim to feeling a bit repetitive and being less than the sum of its parts. It's not a useless book by any means, but perhaps dividing it up into volumes with more in-depth conversations with each people would have led to something more satisfying.
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Dispatches from the Vanguard: The Global International African Arts Movement versus Donald J Trump is an amazing collection of interviews and contextualizing information around each that speaks not only to this point in time but to our roles as human beings to engage in whatever ways we can with the powers that be.

The list of interviewees is a virtual who's who (certainly not complete but definitely among the most compelling) of contemporary art (in the broadest sense possible) and thought (they go hand in hand). To a person these figures show me how better to use whatever talents I may have and how to not waste my energy on pointless hate but use that energy to counter what is happening (and has been happening for a very long time).

In some ways this book is several different books. It certainly speaks and presents a solid case against Trump, indeed, against all that he represents (such as racism, Islamaphobia, sexism, misogyny, destructive excessive capitalism, disdain for human life, and so much more). It also serves as a guidebook for people to understand that no stand is too small to make for what is right nor is any stand too great when we all stand together. While the evil that is this administration is the unifying theme, the ideals are not specific to this time and place but rather almost universal ideals being applied to the here and now.

There is something here for anyone to take away, probably a lot of somethings, at least in my case. Some things will and should make you uncomfortable but hopefully it will be in a constructive way. More often than not you will have 'ah ha' moments where you read something that just makes so much sense you'll wonder why you had not thought of it in that way before.

Read this because of the historic moment we are in but take this information and understanding forward with you for the rest of your life, and pass it along to others through words and actions.

Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.
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I am not American so I may not have certain perspectives necessary to appreciate this in its fullness. Similarly, my disgust with politicians must needs be largely confined to the current bunch of muppets in charge of the UK. With that caveat aside, Dispatches from the Vanguard contains plenty of observations and critiques which are highly applicable to regimes other than Trump's. I found this an interesting, informative read and where I didn't entirely agree, it made me think. Well worth reading.
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