Hip-Hop Poetry, AIDS Education, and Alameda County Fires

A crop of new books explores emotions, an epidemic, and courage.


Dated Emcees by Chinaka Hodge (2016, City Lights Books, 63 pp., $13.95)

Chinaka Hodge is a brilliant poet, playwright, screenwriter, and educator from Oakland. In Dated Emcees she lays everything out on the page as she writes about her love life and hip-hop, intertwining them in a raw and powerful way. Her words evoke honest emotions as she confronts the difficulties of coming-of-age as a black woman in America. Hodge blurs the line between lived and imagined experience, and creates a new and inventive narrative that showcases her passion for hip-hop. She writes about difficult topics, and her voice shines through in a direct, confrontational, honest tone. Her poems are a breath of fresh, honest air, and her words will stay with you long after you read them.

Sensing Light by Mark A. Jacobson (2016, Ulysses Press, 363 pp., $15.95)

This breakout book by Mark Jacobson, a leading Bay Area HIV/AIDS physician, follows three doctors meeting at the onset of the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco. The three are vastly different: a gay medical resident from working-class Boston; a middle-aged supervising physician at one of the nation’s toughest hospitals; and a divorced mother raising a teenager. An engaging and educational novel, it could only have been written by someone who was there from the start. Jacobson began his internship at SF General Hospital in 1981, days after the CDC first reported a mysterious, fatal disease affecting gay men. His expertise gives crucial insight to the history of AIDS and he tells an unforgettable story.

Images of America: Alameda County Fire Department by Firefighter Heather Marques (2016, Arcadia, 127 pp., $21.99)

This paperback takes a nostalgic trip through the firefighting history of Alameda County in images that firefighter Heather Marques has pulled together to highlight the men and women who served fire departments in Eden, San Leandro, Dublin, Lawrence Berkeley, Lawrence Livermore, Newark, Union City, and Emeryville. Some of the most striking photos are of the early bucket brigades, heavy horse-drawn equipment, “modern” horseless engines of the 1900s, a 2005 fire at the Tesla Road summit, a heroic rescue on Corral Hollow Road, and a dramatic portrait of firefighter Cynthia Weizer with a respirator.

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