Two weeks ago, Book Expo America took over Chicago for three whole days of galley signing, panels, raffles, and more. When all was said and done, nearly 20,000 people attended. For those of us who missed the fun, Entertainment Weekly provided a handy-dandy recap of the “11 Best Things We Saw at BEA.” Clocking in at #6 were two new dynamite female MCs: one, the fictional Rani Patel of Cinco Puntos Press’s Rani Patel in Full Effect; the other, real-life poet/playwright/role model Chinaka Hodge, author of Dated Emcees from City Lights Books.
Lee Byrd, one of the publishers of Cinco Puntos Press, knew from the beginning that Rani Patel in Full Effect was a special book.
“Publishing is like writing, an act of self-discovery,” Byrd said. “Every book we’ve acquired has taken us on a journey, to places we’ve never been before. And oh, the places Rani Patel in Full Effect has taken us, starting with the title — did I even know what ‘in full effect’ meant before I met Rani Patel?”
Every epic female character comes from an equally epic author. Sonia Patel may have a day job as a psychiatrist, but by night, she goes to underground hip-hop clubs, dances, and spits bars with the best of them. Don’t believe it? Check out this clip of her rapping some of Rani’s lines from the book in character, which Patel says helped a lot with her writing process.
Patel isn’t the only impressive author bringing a wide range of skills to the table. Poet, educator, playwright, and screenwriter — Chinaka Hodge can and does it all. If you think you’ve heard her name before, it may be from the collaborative hip-hop ensemble she helped form, The Getback. Maybe you know her from the experimental play she wrote in 2010, which starred Daveed Diggs, the Tony-nominated actor from Broadway hit Hamilton. Or maybe it’s because she was on not one, but two seasons of HBO’s Def Poetry. Her list of credits and accolades goes on and on, and it’s well-deserved.
Elaine Katzenberger, the publisher at City Lights Books, has been a fan of Hodge’s work since the beginning.
“I first became aware of Chinaka Hodge’s talent when she was a teenaged writer in the Youth Speaks program. In a room full of eloquent and charismatic young spoken word poets, she stood out in a way that demanded recognition: here was a voice to reckon with,” said Elaine Katzenberger, the publisher at City Lights Books. “Publishing Chinaka Hodge’s first collection of poems here at City Lights is a hugely exciting moment for all of us, and I personally couldn’t be more proud of this book and this author.”
Mark your calendars – Rani Patel makes her debut on October 11, and Chinaka Hodge’s book is available starting May 24!