Flicted by A.J. Kush

By The Book was eager to explore this month’s selection, “Flicted”, written by A.J. Kush. A graduate of Georgia Southern University. Kush is an artist, lyricist and motivational speaker who spends time teaching and mentoring youth in communities across Atlanta. His passion for history, family and music comes to life throughout the pages of his first full-length novel “Flicted (Afflicted)”.

“Flicted” is a refreshing coming of age story which follows 14-year-old Derrick “Dez” Allen as he navigates childhood friendships, colorism and sexuality while simultaneously discovering the magic of music during the Golden Era of Hiphop. “Flicted” reads like a music album of beautifully crafted words through the eyes of an inexperienced teen. 

A.J. tackles issues of racism and classism in Savanna Georgia, despite the town being majority African American. BTB liked that Kush did not linger on race as an impediment to the development of the main narrative. Rarely do we read stories about communities of color that bypass the flash of police “torture porn”, glorified violence and dysfunctional families while addressing their challenges.

A.J. brilliantly incorporates rap lyrics from Hiphop’s 90’s Golden Era to foreshadow the beginning of each chapter. (Example) – Chapter 2 titled, “Ain’t No Half Steppin”. “Brain Cells are lit. Ideas start to hit. Next the formation of words that fit. At the Table I sit. Makin it Legit. And when the pen hits the paper, ahh shit.”- Big Daddy Kane.

This inspired some of our book club members to lay the book down for a few minutes, play the actual song and take a trip down memory lane before continuing the read. Kush reminds us what it was like growing up with artists like Salt & Pepper, Scarface and 2 Live Crew all competing for space in our psyche.

Terms like “Flicted”, short for conflicted or afflicted, are introduced to show what A.J. describes as being “afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair…” -2 Corinthians 4:8.

A.J. Kush’s writing style is authentic, cohesive and flows seamlessly. The storyline is masterfully imagined with relatable subplots that keeps the reader engaged. Wittiness and humor are balanced with serious situations that the characters are forced to address while learning valuable life lessons along the way.

A few areas where Kush could have spent more time was flushing out the relationship between Dez’s Mom and Stepdad. Dez’s mother was essential to his understanding of love and relationships yet, many of the subplots concerning her and his Stepdad were half told or unresolved. There was also a missed opportunity to provide robust development of other key characters such as “Dez’s” big brother and troubled cousin Marcus from the rougher side of town in Liberty City. 

“Flicted’s” ending seemed abrupt and could have benefited from a few extra pages to explain how it came to its final conclusion. Perhaps it is a good thing for A.J.’s next offering that we were left desiring a bit more. 

BTB rates Flicted with 4 PAGES. We believe this book should exist in every library and can help inspire youth around reading as they may see themselves in a familiar, yet foreign setting.


The Symbol Of Our Mission And Logo

TThere is a saying in West Africa that the elders are living libraries. This is a sentiment that is shared among civilizations all across the world and has been honored, even in death, among the Senegalese.

Senegal in particular has a sacred tradition of oral storytelling by traveling poets, historians and musicians.These storytellers are called “Griots” or “Jeli” and they possess knowledge of family lineages, act as advisors to royal families and are tasked with leading praise songs. They served as living history books, preserving ancient stories and traditions through song. 

Senegal is also one of the few places on earth where the sacred Baobab tree grows and is often referred to as the “Tree of Life”.  The Baobab provides populations with a source of water and food, shelter, clothing and medicine. 

The trunk of this special tree is where Griots were buried in death. Senegalese believed that to bury the Griots underground would be as though history itself was being buried alive. Boabobs that still contain bones are rare. People came from all around the world to utilize the bones of these masters of knowledge and keepers of history in their own practices.

Descendants of these ancestral sages began to place the bones in secret places. In 1962, the Senegalese President Leopold Sedar Senghor banned the burial of Griots in Baobabs because of health risks associated with the decomposition of bodies, as well as being a political gesture to French influences that frowned upon the practice.  

The Baobab tree became a living mausoleum for the remains of famed local Griots and is now represented in our logo as a symbol of our By The Book mission to preserve the knowledge, wisdom, guidance, wittiness and fanciful storytelling found in books that we treasure. 

The O’s in our logo are homage to Opon Ifa, which is a divination board used in West African cultures to tell or read stories that have a permanent effect on one’s life. Similar to the affect one may have after reading a really good book. The colored version of our logo contains color tones commonly found on various West African fabrics, further connecting the two traditions in a meaningful way. 

As we begin publishing book reviews and releasing interviews with authors, we would love for you to join us in our journey to promote the power of literature and the discovery of worlds we may have never known.

You can directly contribute to our mission by reading/sharing our book reviews and interviews and engaging with us in meaningful dialogue via our IG @ByTheBookClub. And feel free to contact us directly at:

Thanks for your support,

By The Book: Book Club, 

“For Those Who Treasure Words.”


Rhymefest on This Is 50 with Ashlee Ray


For Those Who Treasure Words

By The Book (Book Club) serves the Writer/ Author and Self Publishing community by reading, giving detailed analysis and promoting the ideas of unique thinkers.

Our members are made up of leaders in Community, Arts and Professional spaces dedicated to uncovering the treasures of words.

We host and post reviews, Blogs, interviews and analysis, connected to all our reads.

We want people who love books as we do to have a special gathering place to discover, discuss and share unique stories.

By The Book begins a new book each month.

• After the Read, our members discuss:
-How clear the author conveyed the story
-The impact of the story on us as readers
-The relevance the book has to its intended audience
-The Quality of Character Development

• Our members also provide notes to the author (Praises, Suggestions, Questions & personal thoughts).

If you are an author who’d like us to review your book or have a book to suggest for our readers club please contact us at:

Our Book Rating System

By The Book (Book Club) has a 1 through 5 PAGE rating system.

Our ratings help the prospective reader and author see how their offering is interpreted by a collective of readers.

Rhymefest Speaks With Hot 97 in NYC


Dreaming In Color Series

When we sleep, I believe our dreams can present scenarios and outcomes of (Alt) realms and realities.

Other times, we have say so in our dreams navigating and making choices with fantastical outcomes.

Perhaps all of these alternative selves is a piece of our consciousness that exists to assists the awake version of “US” somewhere else.

For example, as I write this post there is a version of me dreaming about writing this post.

Perhaps the Dream-state is the “REAL” awake and what we think is Woke has been the dream all along. In any case, here are a few dreams of mine written out.


Death Is Inescapable (A Dream In Color)

I was at a Chicago house party in the community; maybe (the hood).

The old house was a huge dingy structure with outdated brown paint and 80’s style wood paneling lining the walls.

Despite its ran down appearance this place with excitements happening in each room.
Laughter, music and painting on canvases through one door.

Weed smoke, colored lights and dancing in the next room.

All kinds of melanated people who comfortably knew each other enthusiastically debated topics of art, revolution, social justice and spirituality.

I walked into this space and was welcomed as a guest of honor; more relaxed I spoke about my ideas with an air of authority.

This house party was a low key gathering spot for ultra creatives, an evolved version of church minus the business of it all.

Relaxing, exchanging ideas and rejuvenating one another seemed to be the theme of this place.

There was a middle aged quirky half balding guy who seemed a bit out of place in attendance.

He became mildly offended by some of the things I saying, he challenged my spiritual philosophies as sacrilege.

Some of the other guests challenged the idea of anything being anti-God if all comes from the Creator.

I did what I usually do in those situations by giving him personal attention and listening with authentic concern to his views.

The guy was a little off, but who am I to judge most artisans live in other kinds of realities then the “normals”.

Common suddenly pulled up to the house in a fancy S.U.V. to pick me up.

He wanted to ask a favor of me, he asked if I knew of anyone who wanted to buy his Chicago suburban home for $1.2 million. [sidebar]-(This Is A Dream, Common Doesn’t Have a Chicago Suburban Home)

As he drove, we listened to old soul music and had some incredible dialogue.

The Sun began to rise as twisted through winding roads that opened up into mountains with exotic trees, wide open skies and colorful quaint houses sprinkled throughout.

Rashid (Common) talked passionately about being in better places in order to feel better.
I spoke to him about the marvels of the world being all around us, no matter where we were.

The scene suddenly switched, now we were on a single engine plane he was piloting.
Common flew the plane under the clouds and over beautiful aqua green & blue waters below.

I was super impressed that this rapper/guy I knew from the south side of Chicago grew to the level of driving through beautiful secret locations and flying planes.

We landed at a small cafe/brunch restaurant in the middle of the ocean that upon first glance could only be accessed by plane, perhaps it was a small town in the background similar to Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard, I’m not so sure.

We exited the plane from the water onto the port and went straight in for lunch.

Lots of wealthy beautiful people whisked around wearing whites and light tans, the weather was gorgeous and problems seemed distant to non existent.

The breeze was gentle, the air was fresh with the slight smell of fruit.

The sun was as warm and felt like a firm hug all over my soul.

A small cute dog came to my table with 2 other pups who were just as adorable.

I fed them morsels from my plate, as the waitress delivered a newspaper to the table.
I began to read as I periodically gazed out the open window at the beautiful oceanic scene, the gentle waves and the suns rays over the wealthy.

My meditative calmness quickly turned to nightmarish horror as I read about a terrorist attack at a Chicago house party. A man came into the home and opened up gun fire because of his belief the attendees were Iranian & Muslim sympathizers.

This was the same party I was at the night before, this was the same guy I spent time with who was offended at some of my language “Oh Lord”!

In an instant the beautiful sky turned dark, lightening filled the clouds.

Someone yelled “There’s a storm coming, everybody out!!”

Common had already left, his plane was in the air; people began stampeding toward the door.

The puppies looked at me helplessly and I thought, I gotta grab them before I make my escape.

I placed them in a box I found, I looked outside and the clouds closed out all light from the sun, the waves that were once my friends began violently crashing ever closer.

I sat back down at the table and waited to be over taken without hostility or resentment. I awoke and felt death ever closer.