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Confessions in B-Flat

af Donna Hill

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Confessions in B Flat was a particular treat for me. I am, admittedly, not a huge fan of historical fiction. But the lure of its description was too much for me to walk away. Two young Civil Rights activists from differing ideologies find themselves struggling to figure out if a relationship can withstand their polarized views.

Anita and Jason are, in many ways, like oil and water. Despite coming from a “bougie” background, Anita, a part-time waitress and poet, moves to the beat of her own drum and is often compelled by a sense of doing what fulfills her. She finds herself a follower of Malcolm X and is deeply committed to all Harlem has to give. Jason, a Georgia native who comes north to spread the teaching of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is more bound by duty and expectation. He wants to do what is right, even if it comes with a sacrifice. Their initial interactions are fraught with conflict about how they approach the fight for civil rights, but their chemistry is undeniable.

Hill masterfully captured the culture wars that existed in the ’60s. Jason’s Southern roots came with lofty expectations around gender roles and respectability that he was loathe to depart from. Anita had that same upbringing, but the Northern environment meant she engaged with them in a more fluid way. The tension, literally and figuratively, represented the shifting from traditional to more modern ways of thinking among the Black community around this era. So for all of the courtship dances with their families, the two move to their own pace in a way that feels right, social expectations be damned.

The characters in this book featured depth and complexity and sometimes a bit of hypocrisy. Anita was intent on living life on her own terms, whether that be her faith, her activism, her relationships. She wasn’t so much stubborn as she was fighting to make sure her voice was heard. Jason’s fight to do what he believed was right took him away from all that felt safe, even if it meant putting himself in harm’s way. Hill’s portrayal of them both showed that neither character was wholly inflexible, but their choices were deeply rooted in their own life experiences and the world they knew could come to fruition. They were at times endearing, infuriating, but always authentic and relatable.

My favorite feature of Confessions in B-Flat is its embedding of actual landmarks into the story to the point where they as as much a character in the story as Anita and Jason. More than just neighborhood names and well-known streets, the settings include staple restaurants and Black-owned businesses. The author goes a step further to include photos of the settings. While the images themselves aren’t necessary, they do add a touch of palpability and context. The resulting vibe is a book that feels part historical fiction, part scrapbook.

For readers who are particularly interested in history, this book will be a treat for how it highlights major figures and seminal events in the world broadly and the Civil Rights Movement nationally. Beyond Martin and Malcolm, there are references to well-known figures including John Lewis, Angela Davis, and Bayard Rustin. But there were also lesser known (to me) events such as the Cambridge, Maryland riots. As someone who considers myself well-versed, I found that I learned new things and was eagerly bouncing between looking up unfamiliar names and places as Hill introduced them.

Confessions in B Flat is more than a romance and it’s more than another fictionalized account of the Civil Rights era. It’s an honest look at two regular people doing their best to find their place in the movement. It is an examination of how the Black community as a whole worked to reconcile their warring ideals as they sought a more just world. It’s also an opportunity to reconsider assumptions about people on the other side of the “fence.” I think that what takes Confessions in B Flat from being another historical romance to a book that has lessons that can still be applied today. ( )
  lenabean84 | Jan 10, 2021 |
Title: Confessions in B-Flat
Author: Donna Hill
Publisher: Entangled Publishing, LLC
Reviewed By: Arlena Dean
Rating: Five
Review:
"Confessions in B-Flat" by Donna Hill

My Speculation:

Wow, now this is one read that will keep your attention till the end that was not only a good read but very timely due to what is going on in our world 2020 even though this event happened during the 1960s. And believe it or not, this civil unrest is still happening in some fashion now in our world of 2020.

It was quite an interesting read for Jason Tanner and Anita Hopkins, who meet on a bus going to New York City. We find Jason was being 'sent by Dr. King to help get the message of passive resistance to the people up north, which showed clashing with how Anita's had her support going for the support of Malcolm X's ideology.' As the story continues, it was good seeing if these two will clash due to their separate political differences that deal with civil rights, but what will happen when there is a beautiful love story connection between these two? What was it about Anita's special way she could put out the poetry at the B Flat that will keep you wanting more? The other characters in this story were well-developed and well-defined, giving the story that special punch in this emotional, educational, and gratifying read. This read reminds me of how far we've come since the Civil Rights area and how relatable now we are in the Black Lives Matter movement 2020. ( )
  arlenadean | Nov 26, 2020 |
Anita Hopkins is a New York girl that fervently believes in the message of Minister Malcolm X Shabazz, "by any means necessary." She volunteers for the movement, works as a waitress, is a poet with a growing local following, and a music lover. She doesn't believe in compromise until she meets Jason Tanner. Jason is from Atlanta, an avid churchgoer, and is devoted to the message of nonviolence taught by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. He's moved from Georgia to New York with the hopes of bringing the message of nonviolent protest to the North. To say that Anita and Jason stand on opposite sides of the Civil Rights movement is a major understatement, but their attraction to one another just might help them bridge the divide. Gradually, they begin to accept that their views will continue to differ but they're willing to "agree to disagree" to keep the peace as their relationship grows. Eventually, Anita introduces Jason to her parents in Brooklyn and Jason introduces Anita to his family in Atlanta. Jason wants more permanence to their relationship, namely marriage, but Anita thinks that they can simply live together for now. Just when it seems as if their relationship can't handle another stumbling block, they come together once again until Jason makes a decision that Anita can't understand or accept. This separation just might be the death knell for them when the Tanner family and Anita receive startling news. Anita might have stopped going to church after high school, but she needs faith and prayer now more than ever before.

I've read a lot of romance novels over the years, beginning with my first Harlequin when I was about 13-years-old. I can't believe that I've never read anything by Donna Hill before now. Confessions in B-Flat is more than a story about opposites-attract romance, it's also about the two sides of the Civil Rights movement: the philosophies surrounding those movements and the reasons for those philosophies. The story touches on justice, protest movements, and even the early days of Vietnam. There's a lot going on in this story and I enjoyed it all. I enjoyed the brief scenes with Dr. King, John Lewis, Andrew Young, the glimpses of 1960s Apollo theater music reviews, the inclusion of bits of speeches by Malcolm X, thoughts by James Baldwin, and others. Anita and Jason have a tempestuous relationship, but it was fascinating to read about the development of their romance. I enjoyed the scenes with Anita's parents, as well as those with Jason's family. Confessions in B-Flat has tons of angst and drama along with the romance and Civil Rights action. (Although this novel is set in the early 1960s, it is just as topical today with the Black Lives Matter campaigns, protests against police violence, etc.) This might not be a typical romance novel, but it was definitely one I enjoyed and feel can be enjoyed by anyone that enjoys reading romance stories featuring recent history. If you're not a romance reader, then you can enjoy reading Confessions in B-Flat for just the history alone (not to mention the poetry). I look forward to reading more by Donna Hill in the future and have already amassed a list of her previous books that I want to read. I'll be getting a print copy of Confessions in B-Flat for my 86-y.o. mother to read because I think she'll enjoy this one as much as I did.

Happy Reading, y'all!

I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. This review will post on 11/23/2020 at https://www.thebookdivasreads.com/2020/11/2020-book-438-confessions-in-b-flat-by.... ( )
  BookDivasReads | Nov 22, 2020 |
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