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Book Reviews

Shadow Dancing: $elling $urvival in China

by: Kathryn Waddell Takara, Ph.D.

Book review of Shadow Dancing: $elling $urvival in China, published on page 18 of the Fall 2017 edition of The Pen Woman periodical. Book reviewed by Barbara Routen of the NLAPW Tampa Branch. She states that “Kathryn Waddell Takara’s free-verse poetry collection, Shadow Dancing: $elling $urvival in China, is an intriguing look at China’s awakening… [it] takes the reader on an unforgettable and timely journey of cultural differences and similarities, answers and questions.”  See the above pictures to read more.

Zimbabwe Spin: politics and poetics by:  Kathryn Waddell Takara, Ph.D.

Zimbabwe Spin: Politics and Poetics by Kathryn Waddell Takara ISBN 978-0-9860755-3-7 $16.95

Poets forge and foster hope. Is present-day Zimbabwe worth a song? Well, Kathryn Takara forces us to believe so: “Creative melodies of possibility flash across the darkening horizon lit by evening fires.” She predicts that the Great House will rise again from its current political mess. Listen to this great American poet, and you will realize Charles Baudelaire lives on. Takara’s dexterity in offering us Zimbabwe on a sweet and sour plate tells us that poetry is sister to photography. Zimbabwe Spin is a soothing voice for the rise of an African lame giant.”
–George Gnapka, PhD, author and professor in Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)

“Kathryn Takara has tackled a difficult subject, bridging two geographic locations and personal and political longings and positions, and forged them into a poetic song.”
–Rashidah Ismaili, PhD, author, psychotherapist, professor


Love’s Seasons:  Generations Genetics Myths by:  Kathryn Waddell Takara, Ph.D.

Love’s Seasons: Generations Genetics Myths by Kathryn Waddell Takara ISBN 978-0-986075-0-6 $19.95

Whether the action takes place at a black college in Tuskegee or a village in China, Takara proves once again that she no longer belongs to the United States, but to the globe, no longer captive of the fickle trends of American letters.” — Ishmael Reed, Author, Critic, Playwright

“Between Alabama and Ka`a`awa there is a vast ocean of consciousness composed of a movement of infinitesimal water particles in a perfect and perennial dance with the infinitude of life forms. Dr. Waddell Takara captures the mystery of life and beyond with her precise cadence in sync with the divine love constantly generated by the vast and infinitesimal movement. Her open-ended poetics of sensuality transforms the “I” into an affect, inviting readers to experience at first hand the process of becoming-nature, becoming-cosmos, and becoming-whole on a molecular level of existence.” — Masahide T. Kato, PhD,  Asst. Professor, PolSc, University of Hawaiʻi at West Oʻahu

“In Love’s Seasons Kathryn Takara has captured the complexities of feminine essence. Clearly she has listened to her heart, the hearts of other women, and the female heart throbs in nature. Kathryn has delivered these expressions through relatable passages.  The appeal is gender universal as women can identify with the in-depth, multi-dimensional reflections; and men have the opportunity to learn about the wonderful intricacies of femininity.” — Bonnyeclaire Smith-Stewart, CEO and Founder, 4MillionVoices, Inc.

“Love’s Seasons. Powerfully mesmerizing in its lyricism, boldly passionate in its sensuality, moving and haunting in its recollection of history and memory, but always grounded in its evocation of Aloha, Kathryn Takara’s Love’s Seasons is a moveable feast to be devoured. This utterly stunning collection reminds us that the art of poetry is very much alive and that its high priestess lives under the moon on the North Shore, Hawaii. Kathryn Takara is a bloody Goddess and should be worshipped wherever there are books! Or campfires, incense and good company. So potent is Kathryn Takara’s language in Love’s Seasons. Takara has taken the rhythms of her history and memory and has created a stunning lei of magnolia and frangipani, one that not only weaves and connects her earlier life in Tuskegee, Alabama to the blue waves of her home in Ka`a`awa, Hawai`i but interweaves her vast experience as a daughter, a mother, a scholar, a global traveler, a spiritual healer, a lover. Love’s Seasons is the lei she gifts us whose vibrancy, bold in its exploration of a woman’s sensuality.” — Sia Figiel, Author

“Love’s Seasons takes us into the innermost corners of Kathryn Takara’s heart, chronicling a lifetime of love in all its permutations. Introspective, vulnerable, sensual, and wise, she sets each rite of passage to her own special music. This comprehensive collection is eloquent proof that the poet has come of age.” — Carol Munday Lawrence, Producer/Screenwriter

“Journey with Kathryn as she shares with you her immersion in nature, her love of family, here global trotting and her meditation on love. These poems are honest, and as infinite as the myriad faces of nature. The lines whisper like petals unfurling, and by the end of the poems, the brilliant blooms are evident. Love’s Seasons is a bouquet you will want to keep for yourself, but also happy to share.” — Opal Palmer Adisa, Author of 4-Headed Woman

“Born into North America’s so-called colored aristocracy, and descended from African, Cherokee, French, German, English, Irish, Scottish, and Welsh ancestors, Kathryn Waddell Takara tells and retells her families’ stories of glory in footloose lyrics that linger. The learned poet’s mother “drove Buicks / for almost 50 years / loved to play tennis and throw parties in her youth / played serious bridge with Lionel Richie’s mom / enjoyed canasta with Booker T. Washington’s granddaughter.” Her handsome father “came to Tuskegee to work on peanut-oil / therapy with George Washington Carver / to research a liniment for those paralyzed by polio / like President Roosevelt who reluctantly / visited the campus with his wife.” One poem discloses how First Lady Eleanor “dared fly with a black man!” In daring jumps and leaps and breathless takes – at play like memory itself — Waddell’s swooping memoir — part chant, part prose – celebrates the sacred power of life-spirit, love, yearning, womanhood, manliness, ritual, creativity, and humankind’s blood-deep divinity.” — Al Young, California’s former poet laureate

“Passionate and sumptuous, Love’s Seasons hovers in suspended moments that enthrall us, from the elegance of blood ties to the morning-after musings of night’s raptures. Woven through with lush images of nature, Takara’s poetry reminds us that, as part of the natural world, each experience–like each season–has a rightful place in the rhythm of growing. Through an engrossing exploration of the heart’s dimensions, Takara teaches us that, when the cycle completes, the fifth season is transcendence.” — Brenda Kwon, author of Beyond Ke’eaumoku: Koreans, Nationalism, and Local Culture in Hawai’i and The Sum of Breathing

“Takara continues to produce for us poems that are personal, romantic, spicy, funny and inspiring. Love’s Seasons are fresh , new and collected poems that touch that part of our senses that often need special stimulation. In these poems Takara acknowledges her African, Native American and European ancestry that are the roots of her being. As a sensitive woman whose Hawaiian experiences have helped guide her on her chosen path of creativity We thank her for this gift.” — Miles M. Jackson, Professor Emeritus, University of Hawai`i


Frank Marshall Davis:  The Fire and the Phoenix (A Critical Biography)  by:  Kathryn Waddell Takara, Ph.D.

Frank Marshall Davis: The Fire and the Phoenix (A Critical Biography) by Kathryn Waddell Takara ISBN 978-0-984122-899 $19.95

Not only does this important and fascinating biography of Frank Marshall Davis track the poet from his humble beginnings to his admission to the American literary canon, but provides fresh information about the music, literature, politics, sports, and sexual mores of the period of the 1930’s and ’40s. Those on the right, who have criticized the president for his association with someone, whom the networks that peddle sensationalism have marked as radical, will learn here that Davis was once a foot soldier for the Republican party and wrote anti Communist tracts.” —Ishmael Reed, Author, Ishmael Reed Publishing Company

“Dr. Takara has done a masterful job of telling the story of Frank Marshall Davis by encapsulating the experiences and circumstances that turned an imaginative and creative mind into a force for civil rights and justice who ultimately sacrificed power and career for a semblance of dignity and solace. Takara has shed light on Davis’ near-disappearance from the literary limelight, making a convincing argument that he is deserving of a place in the pantheon of his contemporaries. Frank Marshall Davis:  The Fire and the Phoenix (A Critical Biography) is an eye-opening glimpse into the soul of a complicated figure, and few could duplicate the account of his journey as poignantly without Takara’s precious firsthand experience.” —Marsha McFadden, City Editor, Honolulu Star Advertiser

“Dr. Takara has brought forth a brilliant work. She has unearthed a gem and polished it with skill, wit and a keen insight. The luminosity of her work brings into sharp focus the life of an engaged writer, activist, and a man with all the complications of a human being. By using a socio-historical approach, Dr. Takara reveals the scope of the work and time in which Frank Marshall Davis’ life was lived. We are informed of the social, political and cultural events that shaped his life and inspired his creative world and writing. We applaud this tremendous work. It is well written, giving us perspective of Dr. Takara as well as her subject. The role of a biographer as listener and recorder has been painstakingly rendered, a labor of love that lasted over fifteen years. For this precious book, we are indeed grateful to Dr. Takara. This is a wonderful addition to the canon of African American Literature. We are all the richer for this work!” —Rashidah Ismaili, ret. Rutgers University

“Frank Marshall Davis, an utterly fascinating observer and participant in race relations in recent American history, has found a powerful voice in this remarkable volume by Kathryn Takara. This is a biography of especial note, deserving of a wide readership.” —Peter T. Manicas, Professor Emeritus, University of Hawai’i at Mānoa and Queens College, CUNY

“Kathryn Waddell Takara has organized this work both in a time line and commentary to guide the reader to appreciate Davis’s work under difficult environments, including his last days in Hawai`i.  Hawai`i challenged Davis to survive in economic terms and to describe and to analyze the effects of the similarities and differences of the Hawaiian influences in the Black experiences in and around Hawai`i.” —Kiyoshi Ikeda, Professor Emeritus, University of Hawai`i

“I have always known that Kathryn Takara was an astute intellectual. She writes prose with the precision and passion of a poet. Her biography of Frank Marshall Davis brings to life a man who lived in tumultuous times. The racism of the times can be experienced clearly through his eyes via the words of Dr. Takara. A wonderfully passionate story!” —Carol A. Dickson, Professor, University of Hawai`i at Mānoa

“Fans of Frank Marshall Davis, will welcome this definitive biography of a man who is a significant American poet. Details about Davis’ life include involvement with artists and writers, leadership with the Black press, experiences with the labor movement, and the ordeal of the McCarthy era. Dr. Takara, a poet herself, provides a well- documented account based on years of friendship, interviews, archival research and analysis of his published and unpublished works.” —Miles M. Jackson, Professor Emeritus, University of Hawai`i at Mānoa


PACIFIC RAVEN:  Hawaii Poems  by:  Kathryn Waddell Takara, Ph.D.

Pacific Raven: Hawaii Poems by Kathryn Waddell Takara ISBN 978-0-9841228-0-6 $16.95

If this new book of excellent poetry doesn’t convince the Gov. of Hawai`i to name Kathryn Takara the state poet laureate, nothing will. She already has that title on the mainland.” – Ishmael Reed, Author, Ishmael Reed Publishing Company

“The lyrical poetry of Pacific Raven mingles the ethereal with the corporeal. Exploring timeless philosophical questions, Takara grounds her ideals within precise images from the material and natural worlds, emphasizing humanity’s duty to serve as caretakers. Her descriptions of nature’s beauty in the Hawaiian islands particularly advocate an active role for humans in caring for nature and for one another.” – Mera Moore, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania

“In PACIFIC RAVEN, Kathryn Takara’s multi-sourced, compassionate poetic intelligence engages Hawaiian places, and a remarkable light and warmth is given off. These sonorous poems register the ways in which growth and dwelling – being attentive and responsive to the natural, social, and political economies of one’s surroundings – involves spiritual and creative movement. Takara has gathered within herself many artistic and philosophical traditions, and out of them fashioned a supple, personal and committed lyric line. Hail to thee, Pacific Raven!” – Paul Lyons, English Dept.Univ. of  Hawai`i Chair, graduate school

A precious one is among us. A woman of rare beauty and power who writes poetry as if her very being depends on it. Her name is Kathryn. Her home is Hawai`i. Only a few on earth know of her thus far. That should change with the publication of this, her second book, for here is the pinnacle of her work to date. Here are poems of enlightenment. Of love. Of life. Here is a poet of sensuality so strong that you can taste and smell and hear her words as you see them on the page. Here is a poet of such spirituality that your soul will feel touched by hers. This is a book of such wonderful contrasts–of poems like “Backyard Smoke Bath” that are so haiku-like but are not haiku, of tiny little gems of poems and large major masterpieces like “Ode to Li Po,” of language so earthy yet so elegant, of deep rhythm that’s often unmetered in traditional senses, of the intimately personal and the cosmically universal sometimes in the same breath, of elemental nature and human family. This is also so very much a book of Hawai`i, of its life and its land, and the very life of the land. If you’ve never been to Hawai`i then come here first. It’s a better introduction than anything from the Hawai`i Visitors Bureau. If you’ve lived all your life in the islands then also come here. You’ll feel so at home. May as many as possible read these poems. For Kathryn is here. Kathryn is now. Like Nefertitti, the beautiful one has come.” – Bill Danks is the author of “Prometheus Rebounds” and other works. He plays Native American flute at Seven Stones Cafe in Media, PA

“In her newest collection, Pacific Raven, Kathryn Takara Waddell is more than a poet; she is a mage wielding her wand filled with lyrical ink.  She has the unique ability to weave Pacific island imagery with her Southern roots to create poems that slip you across the shores of Ka’a’awa to her “holy moments.” Kathryn’s poetry can haunt you.” – Allison Francis, Ph.D., English Dept. Chaminade Univ. Honolulu, HI


Tourmalines  by:  Kathryn Waddell Takara, Ph.D.

Tourmalines: Beyond the Ebony Portal by Kathryn Waddell Takara ISBN 978-0-9841228-2-0 $14.95

“Kathryn Takara has known rivers, trees, oceans, mountains and volcanoes. Her latest collection of poetry Tourmalines: Beyond the Ebony Portal solidifies her role as a true multi-culturalist. The learned scholar, poet, professor and author came of age in the segregated south and continued to thrive and create through the civil rights movement, the new Black Renaissance of the 1990’s and the first decade of the millennium. In the eighties, Takara helped quell racial tensions in Hawai`i and worked diligently to make Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday a state holiday. I believe that Takara and her contemporaries helped pave the way for America’s first African American president, Barack Obama.” —Shelah Moody, writer, San Francisco Chronicle,

“Kathryn Takara captures the mythic and the modern in her lyrical portrayal of her journey from the segregated South, through the Civil Rights movement and across the Pacific to the islands of Hawai`i. Each tourmaline mirrors her creativity, activism, passion, and desire for freedom; both individually and as part of the African Diaspora. These are absolutely my favorite poems as she travels to a “destiny beyond Dixie” to inspire hope in a time of despair.” —Karla Brundage, MA, writer, teacher, editor

“In this evocative collection,  Tourmalines: Beyond the Ebony Portal, Kathryn Waddell Takara first shares her knowledge of Greek and Egyptian mythology through richly wrought lyrics we read as poems, before she travels through her childhood, eventually paying tribute to powerful voices like Maya Angelou’s and Kwamé Turé’s. I chew on her verses as if they were a literal feast of fresh fruits glistening like cut crystals.  Continually, Kathryn allows us to glimpse the jewels in her mind that manifest themselves, once again, as sheer poetry.” —Allison E. Francis, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at Chaminade University of Honolulu and performance poet

“Whether the individual poems in Tourmalines are reflections on myths and origins, home-memories, tributes to Blacks artists and intellectuals, fiery political statements, or tender expressions to family members, they are characterized by Kathryn Takara’s ability to find the many-hued, sometimes flawed, often healing, crystalline heart of her subjects, and to shine her particular poetic light through them. The collection has the clarity, sharpness and dazzle of a bed of crystals.” —Paul Lyons, Professor, English Dept, University of Hawai`i at Manoa

“The jewels of Africa shine through the poetry of Kay Takara.” —Daphne Barbee Wooten, Esq.


Tales from the Bench: Essays of Life and Justice by:  Judge Sandra A. Simms (Ret.)

This is a pioneer memoir about a neglected slice of Hawai`i judicial history. In this unique, insightful, and compelling book, written by the first African American woman judge in the Hawaiian Islands, Simms candidly reveals the cultural and political events and forces on the Mainland, and the diversity, crime, and social problems in the Islands that shaped her courage and commitment to justice, in spite of and because of her history: growing up black in Chicago. She credits her family, community, social networks, church, the dynamic forces of post WWII African American migrations to Chicago, and the Civil Rights Movement for her choice and dedication to a career in law. Simms uses words and storytelling to skillfully integrate her personal background with her subsequent 30 plus years in Hawai`i where she successfully served as an attorney, a politically appointed judge, and a witness (observer) of many fascinating experiences. In this book, Simms sensitively recounts memorable criminal cases involving women, drugs, island families and their support for their loved ones, simultaneously revealing the heart and responsibility of a judge to remain objective and fair in face of complex situations and island politics.” —Kathryn Waddell Takara, PhD, Professor (ret), University of Hawai`i at Manoa

“Sandra Sims shares her struggles, aspirations and accomplishments that are personal and at the same time of general interest. Readers will not only enjoy stories written by the first African American female judge appointed to the Hawai’i Courts, but will gain insights about themselves, law, Hawai’i, African Americans, women and families. This is an important addition to the literature on diversity and justice.” —Amy Agbayani, former member of the Hawai’i Judicial Selection Commission and former member of the Hawai’i Civil Rights Commission

“I have a lot of love and admiration for my big sister. She never backed down from a fight. Her chosen weapons were her words and the truths they represent. This book gives the rest of the world glimpse of the woman that we already know and love; “big sister is down for the cause” and will always speak loudly for people in need of justice. She is fearless because her trust is in God who has given us love, wisdom, strength, and peace of mind.” —David Nuckolls, Coach and Community Volunteer

“By skillfully weaving her personal story with cases she’s had to rule on in the courtroom, Sandra Simms provides a compelling view of what goes on in the heart of a judge, even as she upholds her responsibility to be fair and impartial. This slim volume is filled with heartfelt and hard-earned wisdom.” —Jana Wolff, Owner, Vista Communications, Inc.

“I enjoyed the recollections and insight. I look forward to the next edition. The book was insightful, compassionate, and necessary. Thanks.” —Miles S. Breiner, Esq.


African Americans In Hawaii  by:  Daphne Barbee Wooten, Esq

“The history of African American Attorneys is important to document since they were at the forefront of fighting for civil rights and equality. African American Attorneys in Hawai`i is a powerful and timely read given that our first African American President is from Hawai`i, and a lawyer.” —Stephanie Stokes Oliver, former editor of Essence magazine, author of Song for My Father, Seven Soulful Secrets and Daily Cornbread

“This book illuminates and brings out of the shadows the history of African American Attorneys in Hawai`i.” —Attorney Rustam A. Barbee

“African American Attorneys have a colorful history, from Justice Thurgood Marshall to President Barack Obama, both of whom have ties to Hawai`i. Barbee-Wooten tells the little known stories of some of those attorneys who broke barriers and made their impact on Hawai’i’s legal landscape, leaving the door open for many more to be told…” —Sandra A. Simms, Hawai`i State Judge (ret.)

“The significant role played by African American Attorneys in Hawai`i history and their contributions to equal justice and inclusion under the law since before statehood to the present is undeniable and can no longer be ignored, as evidenced by the research in this important new book!” —Kathryn Waddell Takara, PhD, Professor, University of Hawai`i (ret.), Author, Publisher

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