Book Review: “Picturing Freedom: African Americans & Their Cars, A Photographic History”

Having read some of my fabulous book reviews on MHAM, the good editorial team at Reedsy Discovery approached me to start writing reviews for them.

Here’s my first one…

Picturing Freedom: African Americans & Their Cars, A Photographic History”

Rating: 5 Stars

Headline: The pictorial history of American civil rights you never knew you needed

Review:

I’m not always a fan of photographic books, most often the content seems to take a back seat to a random consortium of imagery, thrown together by the author to fill out pages. They don’t provide the level of substance I look for when I want to fully immerse myself in a period of History. Not this book, however.

Picturing Freedom is a fascinating collection of imagery of African Americans with their motorcars from across the twentieth century. Shedding light on an overlooked element of American culture, Burns highlights the significance of car ownership for what was most often the most impoverished segment of society. It offered freedom from segregation, class and gender structure and from the bindings of Jim Crow laws.

Opening with an introduction, extensive historical context, and several case studies of influential African Americans, the book showcases hundreds, if not thousands, of images from the Burns archive. Moving chronologically from the turn of the 1900s, where expensive cars limited most to posing in studios with set props, through to the roaring twenties, thirties and forties and beyond, the clothes and models may change must the sense of owner pride remains the same.

As I moved through this book I found myself completely transfixed by the characters and the stories I desperately wanted to learn more about. The young solider headed to war, the women with the blunt stare down the lens, elbow proudly rested on the bonnet. These are truly the untold stories of ordinary people during a turbulent period of American civil rights. And yet for the most part, these individuals are nameless, limited to the occasional half-written note on the back of a photo. It leaves the reader guessing, who are these people? What were their thoughts, ambitions and dreams in life? And did they achieve them? Forget people watching, this is photo watching at its very best.

The time and effort Burns has invested into compiling, researching and editing this book is nothing short of admirable. If you’re looking for something to spark a deep and meaningful conversation, or simply a new addition to your coffee table, then look no further.

AEB Reviews

Links

Reedsy Discovery Review: Picturing Freedom (AEB Reviews)

Purchase Link: Picturing Freedom: African Americans and Their Cars

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Alice’s Funding Page

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The Elizabeth Line: An Alternate Review

Here’s a quick run-through of what happened when I went on London Underground’s newest service, the Elizabeth line.

The first thing I was aware of when I descended the escalators at Paddington was the whizzy LED signs.

I don’t know why, but I found them mesmerising, like a lava lamp. It was also 7:30am and I hadn’t had coffee, which I acknowledge may have been a contributing factor. Nudged by another commuter in that classic “get-on-or-move-on” fashion, I hopped onto the next Eastbound train.

Now the thing is…well, I wanted to illustrate that even though it was very busy at Paddington station the train was pretty quiet. But, equally, I didn’t want it to be obvious I was taking random photos of the train. You can see my predicament. So what do you get?

A slightly burred picture of a door.

It really was a classically Alice dilemma.

Oh, thumbs up for the seat coverings by the way.

And the floor? I mean, I wouldn’t say I’d be eating off it, but by London standards it was fairly squeaky.

I just wish I could say it was seam-LESS! (Get it? Because there’s a joining line? Well, I thought it was witty).

And here’s a photo of Custom House, before a-la-mosh pit I got scooped up by corporate commuters and funnelled toward the ticket gates.

*Then Alice did actual work stuff at the ExCel conference centre*

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On leaving the ExCel I was running back what felt like the thickest black jacket in the hottest day. To say I was a bit toasty was an understatement, I was effectively drowning in a pool of sweat and free pencils.

Honestly I was so relieved to be somewhere with air conditioning and seating I forgot to take any photos. Minor detail.

It was probably owing to this (realising at Bond Street I hadn’t taken any photos and unable to, thanks to the copious amounts of free pencils filling my hands) that I became very obsessed with scoring a selfie with the Underground sign at Paddington. That, and in part because of the very strong coffee I knocked back before leaving the ExCel.

Ten attempts later (not kidding), I settled with what I got and shambled upstairs to find out the outbound train I’d been racing to get was actually a very slow train so ended up loitering around Paddington for 40 minutes for the train which, it turns out, all my colleagues were on as well. None of them were interested in my pencils, only moaning about the cleanliness of the toilets at Paddington. For a whole hour.

So yeah…

The Elizabeth line! Clean (enough), mesmerising signs (if you’re suffering from caffeine withdrawal) and just enough air con to stop you gagging on the stench of someone else’s body odour. What more could you want?!

Oh, and it’s actually super quick to get places. Minor detail.

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Alice’s Funding Page

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AEB Book Reviews – Now on Reedsy

Having read some of the content on MHAM, the editorial team on the book reviewing platform Reedsy Discovery approached me with a favourable proposition. Behind the scenes a few conversations have been taking place but now some of my reviews have gone live I can officially announce that as of this month I have have joined the team at Reedsy as an verified book reviewer.

To say those reviews are going down well is perhaps a smidge of an understatement. Put it this way, I have been ranked as number two.

*Polishes knuckles on chest*

To help maintain a healthy balance with work/life/my other writing exploits my reviewing inbox is currently open to mostly non-fiction and short story. My reviews are published on the website to coincide with the book’s publication release date so expect plenty more going live in the upcoming weeks.

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Since starting I have already been approached by several independently published authors to ask for my services in an editorial capacity. Therefore…

In addition to book reviews (which you can submit to me direct), I am now also taking on commissions as a Developmental Editor.

Drop me an email with an overview of your work in progress (details on the contact tab) and I will get back to you.

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Keep an eye out on the MHAM webpage (even better if you subscribe) for plenty of upcoming book reviews as I vet my way through some of the best hidden gems independent publishing has to offer.

Reedsy Discovery Profile: https://reedsy.com/discovery/user/aeb_reviews

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Could you spare a dollar or two? Donate here!

Alice’s Funding Page

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An Earful of ELO and Bitter Tea: Why I Write

What do you picture when you think of the writer? A recluse, working in the half-light of winter or in the sun-kissed parklands of summer? Novel thoughts that flow through dainty calligraphy on tanned pages? Web string ideas that will one day sit proud and hardbacked in Waterstones or Foyles. Half an hour to transpose to pixel, twelve weeks to complete, another month or two for luck.

Ha.

If that’s the vision, let me grace you with the reality, as I find myself propped in a generic coffee shop. The table is scratched as a post, the air sticky and the green chair worn away to the bare threads. There is only one word for it, uninviting. But what does it matter? My leggings are peppered with rips and holes anyway, the stains and the marks, it’ll wash out.

A train goes past, one of those piddly little things that carry children at walking pace, no, slower than that, a snail’s. The driver sounds its electric toot-toot as it crawls by, my right ear left ringing while my left is pumped with coffee grinding and the tinny music of overhead Electric Light Orchestra. The best ambiance £2.25 of tea can buy. I sip the cold fluid with a grimace, bitter and stewed.

It’s gone 18:00, my hair is wet with grease and my young face slightly more etched from another exhaustive day at the office-come-dining table. Eyes swollen, fingers twisted. I worked through lunch, which every psychologist from here to Timbuktu will say is a one-way trip to an early grave, but the extra hour of toil then means an extra hour of freedom now. A fragment of bliss with a half-eye on time. Later, a stranger beckons at my door to collect dusty offcuts from my garage; he won’t negotiate on the timings and I really could do with that £20.

Writers are leather beaters, we take the skin of an idea and scrape, beat and dunk until that piece of flesh returns gold. Sometimes our elbows linger for too long in foul-smelling liquids that the only thing golden is our stained skin, saturated with stench.

Write. Write harder and faster and quicker and smarter and eloquently, until your fingertip pads run smooth and your skin cracks with effort. That’s what writing is. I’d consider myself a very successful woman indeed if I were ever to stumble across my work in a library or charity shop. Maybe that makes me simplistic, or maybe that makes me even more of a dreamer. I scrub my manuscript some more.

I started putting keyboard to laptop in 2014 on little more than a whim and utter boredom, to fill lonely nights in a strange town I barely knew. Eight years later I find myself plagued with a parasitic urge I can barely comprehend. What time is it? When did I last eat? How long before the staff spot my empty cup and kick me to the curb?

I don’t write because I want to, I write because it is an addiction. Leave hollow hope be for there is nothing to be saved.

My colourless eyes glance sideward as the same empty train edges closer once more.

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This piece was kindly sponsored by Ben Miller, who spotted my business card on a noticeboard and commissioned me to write a post on “Why I Write”.

Please sponsor me to keep doing what I love by donating here: Alice’s Funding Page

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Volunteering to Beat Cancer

I signed myself to volunteer recently at a Cancer Research UK Race for Life event at Cheltenham racecourse.

Stick me in a high visibility jacket with a radio and I’m your girl (be it with a slightly inflated sense of importance).

It was very windy (hence the squint) and, being Britain, I did get caught out in the rain for a short spell. Observation of the day, racecourses aren’t great for weather protection.

Here are some choice phrases from my time as the very important marshal number six on the 3km, 5km and 10km run:

  • “I want your tutu!”
  • “3km that way, 5km that way. Also, check me out with my semaphore arms!”
  • “You’re doing this so I don’t have to!”
  • “No such thing as going too slow. Look at me, I’m standing still!”
  • “It’s very windy here!”
  • (In response to someone asking for a mid-course vodka tent) “don’t have shots, but lots of shouts – YOU’RE AWESOME!” (It made them laugh.)

A big shout out to everyone across the country who make Race for Life (and similar) events happen and to all those taking part and raising money to support such a worthwhile cause. I’d wholeheartedly recommend volunteering for anyone looking for a fun day out (with a laugh or two along the way).

Links:

Cancer Research UK

Cancer Research UK – Get Involved (Volunteering Opportunities)

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Alice’s Funding Page

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Come Again?

Doing a bit of industry research one evening I come across this book of poetry, “Dung Beatles Navigate by Starlight”.

I know I can give as good as it gets on the waffle game (and I’m not talking about sweet treats) but this is next level:

The book’s description reads:

These poems explore the boundary between science and poetry, and juxtapose the lexicon of organic chemistry, in particular, with a botanical discourse which is more conventional in poetry, but which the scientific treatment defamiliarises. Far from being abstruse and heavy, the treatment here lightens the subject with an imaginative playfulness, as in ‘The First Green Human: The Observer Interviews Clorinda’, where Marvell’s pastoral character is turned, through a journalistic register, into a personification of current ecological concerns.

My reaction?

I’m done. No way can I compete with that level of blurb-ery (#ShouldBeAWord) talent (and I’m not entirely kidding).

In other news, Mumma B says she’s reassured in knowing that her daughter isn’t the only one who can spout waffle. Whoop.

(Link: https://cinnamonpress.com/store/dung-beetles-navigate-by-starlight/)

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Alice’s Funding Page

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Financial Recommendation for 2022 – Invest in Wood

The other evening I decided I wanted to pop down to the local shopping centre (mall) to do some creative thinking kinda stuffs.

Now here’s the thing, it was about 18:45 when I arrived and, knowing that the shopping centre closed at 20:00 I was fairly adamant I was NOT going to pay for coffee, knowing that thirty minutes down the line Sammy-stickler (not their real name) would be out with his broom trying to nudge me off the premises of their well-to-average-do establishment. I was not going to splash out £3.20 for a coffee.

So I head into the shopping centre. It was pretty chill atmosphere, I think they were playing an Eternal song over the speakers (in fairness, it does often feel like Swindon is stuck in the nineties).

Pumped full of the sweet nineties tuneage, I decided to pop into one shop. Just one. A single shop to stretch my legs a bit and get me into the zone.

Yeah…that didn’t happen. Two words – ex-display clearance.

Fifteen minutes later I’m now the proud owner of some new wooden coat hangers.

That’s my shadow on the floor, for anyone who’s never known the pain of taking photographs of inanimate objects at 22:00

It doesn’t end there! Because sure, I could have got ten for £2, I could have even walked on by (those were the only two options so we’re really talking an all or nothing opportunity here). And what is life without seizing the opportunities that come our way?

That’s right, I went and bought twenty ex-display, pink wooden coat hangers for £4. (And I didn’t even need to pay for the bag #Smooth #ThisGirlIsOnFire)

Remember how I said was determined to not spend £3.20 on coffee?

Right, so hear me out on this. That one coffee would have been finite, served, drunk and, well, let’s say “processed” in a couple of hours. These coat hangers will last me years and years and years and years. And yes, before you ask I do indeed already have a wardrobe full of the black plastic hangers I bought almost ten years ago and yes, they’re still in a decent state. But think of the bigger picture – right now it will set you back nearing £10 for just eight hangers. Eight!

SEE?! It makes complete financial sense!

So at the end of the day who’s really laughing? And please don’t say the Neon Sheep store that saw me coming, I’ve heard it already and it’s not getting any funnier.

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Alice’s Funding Page

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Writing Retreat in the New Forest *VIDEO*

Video of my recent five-day break in the New Forest, England. I went out specifically to focus on writing and while it didn’t quite turn out entirely as I’d hoped, I had a very relaxed time in beautiful surroundings.

Until the next time!

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Please consider donating the price of a cup of coffee to my funding page:

Ko-Fi

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“Cleaning-Up the Microwave” (a Chemical Fume-Induced Song)

From the makers of That’s When the Cleaning Fumes Got to Me, I present me, cleaning the microwave with equally questionable methods.

If it’s not the fact I forgot to turn the mircowave off (apparently it’s not safe), it’s the realisation afterwards of the potential effects those fumes were having on me.

But still, at least the microwave is clean now.

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Please consider donating the price of a cup of coffee to my funding page:

Ko-Fi

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Reactions to “Chicken Con Carne”

Less than an hour after I upload my last post, Alice’s “Chicken Con Carne”, my phone buzzes. Two separate messages, one from Mumma B and the other from brutally honest mate Laura. Wishing we well? Asking what I’m up to? Nope, expressing concern over my grasp of international dialogue and my hands. As you do.

That’s right, I did indeed study Food Technology and the Spanish language at GCSE, with respective grades of A and B (I even won an award for my cooking). Where did it all go wrong? One word, University-catered-halls-of-residence-slash-studying-hard-slash-it-was-around-this-time-I-discovered-GoT-and-daytime-TV.

It gets worse. I visited Mumma B the other day and she’s given me a knife, that is how concerned she is. It must make her the first parent in history to thrust a knife into her daughter’s hand and beg me to take it. She even smuggled it into my handbag when I tried to leave it behind.

(The best bit? The video was recorded months ago. The face on Mumma B when I told her? Priceless.)

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Please consider donating the price of a cup of coffee to my funding page:

Ko-Fi

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