The latest First Voices Series Panel at Hue-Man Bookstore was held on a much more humid day then the previous one. Instead of hurriedly purchasing a cup of hot chocolate to warm myself I ordered chilled water and took a seat in the back. The First Voices Series Panelâ€“â€“held quarterlyâ€“â€“is an event that managing owner Marva Allen has made a staple at Hue-Man with the hopes of discovering â€œthe next E. Lynn Harris or Terry McMillan.â€
This time around there were only two authors presenting their workâ€“â€“the third ended up being a no-show. Lillian Butler sat with her copper dreadlockâ€™s dangling around her face as she waited for the panel to start. Butler is a Harlem restaurateur, singer, and now a book author (along with her husband Eddie Robinson). Butler was there to present her self-published book Raw Soulâ€™s Health Journey: Your Personal Road Map for Vibrant Living and Youthful Aging. Beside Butler sat lawyer, mother, wife, and someone whom can also add the title of author to her resume, Chandra. Chandra spoke about her debut novel A Guiding Force Within â€œA Corporate Dilemmaâ€.
Though the crowd was sparse at first the space steadily filled up leading to a hushed chorus of creaking chairs being unfolded for new attendees. While speaking about her novel Chandra made sure to wave to the crowd and sneak in greetings to friends without diverting too much from explaining her motivation and reasoning for writing this novel. Chandra used the word â€œfunâ€ repeatedly to describe what she tried to insert into A Guiding Force and that word-of-mouth has seems to corroborate her intent. Placing herself on a strict schedule she was able to finish her novel and have it published within a year. Spring Arbor (a leading book distributor of Christian books) accepted A Guiding Force and worked with Chandra on distribution and advertising. The author was also very proud to note that her daughter Cristin was the cover artist for her book.
A Guiding Force Within â€œA Corporate Dilemmaâ€ centers on a young woman who thinks she has it all in the corporate world. Thereâ€™s sexual harassment, faith, and sex within the novel with real, relatable themes. And even though her primary occupation is that of lawyer Chandra emphasized that she did not was this to be a â€œlegal book.â€ Chandra wanted people â€œto pick it [Guide] up, read it, and have a good time.â€
When a little girl in the front row asked how she made a book Chandra took on a inspiring tone to explain that she wrote it and other people made it, but that with hard work you can make a book too.
Lillian Butler was gracious and showed interest in Chandraâ€™s book. She asked if the author wanted to read a portion of her novel and offered her more time with the audience. Once it was her turn Butler presented her book Health Journey. For the past five years She and her husband Eddie have run Raw Soul restaurant in Harlem. They wanted to share a healthier, better way of eating within the community and share what worked for them to lose a good amount of weight, have more energy and a longer life. Butler has done the research and sounded like a health professional when explaining the harm of free radicals we gorge on from white sugar and fried foods, presenting the case that just because itâ€™s organic and raw doesnâ€™t mean a dish canâ€™t be tasty, and enforcing that it doesnâ€™t have to be hard to make our food healthier for ourselves. Ice cream, cakes, burgers, crackers, milk, pizza, and lasagna are just some of the dishes that are available at Raw Soul and some of which have do-it-yourself recipes in Health Journey.
The growing audience leaned in, nodded, and soaked up Butlerâ€™s instructions on sprouting (soaking beans then leaving them out until they grow sprouts a healthy nutrient that may be lost in beans when cooking them), slowly integrating raw foods into your lifestyle, and why coconut oil is a better cooking oil to use than canola (coconut oil is a good natural fatty oil whereas canola has lots of processing and preservatives in it). â€œEating cooked foods makes them harder to digestâ€ and eating natural, raw foods helps keep oneâ€™s system regular so that the body is absorbing the true nutrients and not the preservatives that substitute for them.
Her husband stood up and spoke for a few minutes during the Q&A portion to further state that when they first attempted a raw food diet and opening their restaurant it was a struggle. And the fear was that no one would be interested. But once they put in the missing ingredient and added some â€œsoulâ€ to their dishes they found the demand in Harlem to eat healthier without compromising taste. The two lost a substantial amount of weight on this dietâ€“â€“Eddie testified to losing over a hundred pounds and keeping it off. Butler stated that she â€œwant(s) to heal the community. I want to heal my community.â€ And in presenting her knowledge to an audience mixed with the middle-aged and the young her hope didnâ€™t fall on deaf ears.
Afterwards there was a rush to purchase both authorsâ€™ books to the cashier stand. The buyers then carried the titles to the back for an autograph where they presented the authors with grins and bestowed them with praise. Yet another successful event where First Voices made a good impact on Harlem.
WORDS: Jennifer Baker-Henry