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Upstairs, Downstairs meets Parasite: The acclaimed author of The Talented Ribkins deconstructs painful African American stereotypes and offers a fresh and searing critique on race, class, privilege, ambition, exploitation, and the seeds of rage in America in this intricately woven and masterfully executed historical novel, set in the early twentieth century that centers ar Upstairs, Downstairs meets Parasite: The acclaimed author of The Talented Ribkins deconstructs painful African American stereotypes and offers a fresh and searing critique on race, class, privilege, ambition, exploitation, and the seeds of rage in America in this intricately woven and masterfully executed historical novel, set in the early twentieth century that centers around the black servants of a down-on-its heels upper-class white family. For fifteen years August Sitwell has worked for the Barclays, a well-to-do white family who plucked him from an orphan asylum and gave him a job. The groundskeeper is part of the household’s all-black staff, along with “Miss Mamie,” the talented cook, pretty new maid Jennie Williams, and three young kitchen apprentices—the latest orphan boys Mr. Barclay has taken in to "civilize" boys like August. But the Barclays fortunes have fallen, and their money is almost gone. When a prospective business associate proposes selling Miss Mamie’s delicious rib sauce to local markets under the brand name “The Rib King”—using a caricature of a wildly grinning August wearing a jewel-encrusted crown on the label—Mr. Barclay, desperate for cash, agrees. Yet neither Miss Mamie nor August will see a dime. Humiliated, August grows increasingly distraught, his anger building to a rage that explodes in shocking tragedy.  Elegantly written and exhaustively researched, The Rib King is an unsparing examination of America’s fascination with black iconography and exploitation that redefines African American stereotypes in literature. In this powerful, disturbing, and timely novel, Ladee Hubbard reveals who people actually are, and most importantly, who and what they are not.


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Upstairs, Downstairs meets Parasite: The acclaimed author of The Talented Ribkins deconstructs painful African American stereotypes and offers a fresh and searing critique on race, class, privilege, ambition, exploitation, and the seeds of rage in America in this intricately woven and masterfully executed historical novel, set in the early twentieth century that centers ar Upstairs, Downstairs meets Parasite: The acclaimed author of The Talented Ribkins deconstructs painful African American stereotypes and offers a fresh and searing critique on race, class, privilege, ambition, exploitation, and the seeds of rage in America in this intricately woven and masterfully executed historical novel, set in the early twentieth century that centers around the black servants of a down-on-its heels upper-class white family. For fifteen years August Sitwell has worked for the Barclays, a well-to-do white family who plucked him from an orphan asylum and gave him a job. The groundskeeper is part of the household’s all-black staff, along with “Miss Mamie,” the talented cook, pretty new maid Jennie Williams, and three young kitchen apprentices—the latest orphan boys Mr. Barclay has taken in to "civilize" boys like August. But the Barclays fortunes have fallen, and their money is almost gone. When a prospective business associate proposes selling Miss Mamie’s delicious rib sauce to local markets under the brand name “The Rib King”—using a caricature of a wildly grinning August wearing a jewel-encrusted crown on the label—Mr. Barclay, desperate for cash, agrees. Yet neither Miss Mamie nor August will see a dime. Humiliated, August grows increasingly distraught, his anger building to a rage that explodes in shocking tragedy.  Elegantly written and exhaustively researched, The Rib King is an unsparing examination of America’s fascination with black iconography and exploitation that redefines African American stereotypes in literature. In this powerful, disturbing, and timely novel, Ladee Hubbard reveals who people actually are, and most importantly, who and what they are not.

30 review for The Rib King

  1. 5 out of 5

    Vanessa

    **I received this book in a Bookish Firsts giveaway. It is due to be released (at this time) in January 0f 2021. (FYI, the author's first name is pronounced "Lady.") Whew, I'm really struggling with what to rate this. This novel covers sadly timely topics (although it's set a century ago) such as race, class, sexism, privilege, xenophobia, and violence. It's also got a stilted first half with some pacing problems, a great middle, and then a blink and you missed it conclusion. The story is split int **I received this book in a Bookish Firsts giveaway. It is due to be released (at this time) in January 0f 2021. (FYI, the author's first name is pronounced "Lady.") Whew, I'm really struggling with what to rate this. This novel covers sadly timely topics (although it's set a century ago) such as race, class, sexism, privilege, xenophobia, and violence. It's also got a stilted first half with some pacing problems, a great middle, and then a blink and you missed it conclusion. The story is split into two parts. The first half tells the story of how Mr. Sitwell, a servant to a landed white gentry family who have fallen on hard times, ends up selling the recipe for a barbecue sauce to an investor and in the process becomes The Rib King, the face of the brand's racist caricature. The second half picks up a decade later with Jennie, a young mother who worked as a maid with Mr. Sitwell and is now a budding entrepreneur. She finds her attempt to market her homemade beauty products stymied by her perceived association with the controversial Rib King, a man she barely knew and hasn't seen in ten years after an act of violence set them on different paths. As Jennie tries to extricate herself from The Rib King's shadow, she finds herself in the middle of plots and counterplots that hinge on what influence she can exert on him and who she believes. It feels like Hubbard wrote this trying to mimic the style of early 20th century literature and the first 100-150 pages were a bit of a grind for me. When the story switched to Jennie though, I really liked it. Having said that, all of the labyrinthine plots and soliloquys about plots faintly reminded me of the Dune series, sans the sandworms and annoying twins. Then the story, which had gotten enjoyably bananas during the last act, abruptly careens to a stop with a "This is what everyone did" one page wrap-up that I found befuddling given how... deliberately paced other parts of the book were. There are a lot of thoughts in this novel about whether violence should be answered with violence and what good is non-violence when nothing changes. It was thought-provoking and I almost gave it four stars, but the mechanical problems with the way it was written kept nagging at me. None of which to say that Hubbard isn't talented, she clearly is. The style of this book didn't totally work for me despite the thoughtful treatment of a timely subject, but the majority of reviewers seem to have loved it.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Woodbury

    A bold and original historical novel exploring class, race, and the ways we take revenge. The Parasite comp is a very good one, not only because the book starts us in a house with servants and because of the dread and violence that runs through it, but also because of the twisty plot that takes you to very unexpected places. On its surface, this is a book about Black servants in a white home in early 20th century New Orleans, where the wealth is not quite what it once was and the servants bear th A bold and original historical novel exploring class, race, and the ways we take revenge. The Parasite comp is a very good one, not only because the book starts us in a house with servants and because of the dread and violence that runs through it, but also because of the twisty plot that takes you to very unexpected places. On its surface, this is a book about Black servants in a white home in early 20th century New Orleans, where the wealth is not quite what it once was and the servants bear the brunt of their employers' fiscal woes. The troubles of the household are particularly fraught because without these relatively stable jobs, the world outside is a horror, with strikes and unrest, especially around the most desperate Black workers. Leaving the house means entering a world of violence and fear, but is the house all that safe? This is a book about rage and violence, even if it doesn't seem like it at first. It is about the long shadow of trauma and loss, and the ways people seek power and stability. And what does that stability mean? What do you have to do to get it? What kind of compromises are you willing to take, what kind of pain are you willing to inflict? And how are you complicit in enabling someone else's violence if it suits your own ends? So many interesting questions all tied up in this book, while never hitting you over the head with them. This is one of those books that I will tell people to just trust and stick with it (unless it is really not working for you from the jump, of course). I liked it immediately but I started to feel like maybe it was too slow. This was probably more about me than the book, because now I can look back at it and say it was not slow at all, it was just being extremely deliberate about raising the stakes one step at a time. There are A LOT of steps so you have to stick with it but the reward is that by the time you reach the end of those steps the tension is extremely high and it starts to feel like maybe anything can happen, which is a very far cry from where the book started. The first section of it is the book equivalent of being a frog in slowly heating water where all of a sudden you look around and it's boiling. To be truthful, it goes beyond boiling it is more like blowing up the entire kitchen, but I do not want to say too much. Just that when the book transitioned from its first part to its second a few years later (not a spoiler, in the table of contents!) I was only a page or so in before I yelled out loud at it for a particularly impressive reveal. Right as I'd just thought I could relax. So sly, this book. The second part pulls together several pieces from the first, while once again slowly escalating the tension. I have a few quibbles about the structure. The beginning takes a little long to get going, and then the end comes way too fast, but phew what a middle. A real gut punch of a book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    This is the prequel to The Talented Ribkins where we are introduced to the family's patriarch August Sitwell. When I requested this book I was interested in seeing how many aspects of that book carried over: * Examination of Race/ Class * Unique Superpowers * Family Bonds Certainly, this novel deals with race relations and social justice issues. Where The Talented Ribkins was a contemporary novel that also centered on the Civil Rights Movement, The Rib King is set in the early 1900s. Our protagon This is the prequel to The Talented Ribkins where we are introduced to the family's patriarch August Sitwell. When I requested this book I was interested in seeing how many aspects of that book carried over: * Examination of Race/ Class * Unique Superpowers * Family Bonds Certainly, this novel deals with race relations and social justice issues. Where The Talented Ribkins was a contemporary novel that also centered on the Civil Rights Movement, The Rib King is set in the early 1900s. Our protagonists are black servants working for an affluent white family that has fallen on hard times. Hubbard uses this construct to emphasize power structures not only between race and class, but among the oppressed. Although both Sitwell and Bart have special "talents" there is not as much "magic" in The Rib King as there was in The Talented Ribkins. Here family is not based on biological relations, but on those you depend on for safety, survival and comfort. The Rib King is divided into two halves. The first part is told by August Sitwell and the second is from the perspective of Jennie Williams ten years later. I walked into this book yearning to know more about the Ribkins family so I was more beholden by the first half despite its slower pace. Both of our narrators make decisions without having the full picture. In the first half Sitwell makes many mistakes but in his mind he was doing what was best for his "found family". Unfortunately, the fates of the servants were so intertwined that his missteps impacted everyone. In the second half there is much talk about "Associations." Everyone seems concerned with how their associations make them look. Instead of telling the truth and revealing what they know, they worry over the potential consequences. In this second novel, Hubbard has more historical references. Erasure and cultural appropriation are at the forefront. Because of recent events my emotions and thoughts were all over the place. Many parts of this book rang true for the present even though it is supposed to be centered on a time period 100 years in the past. That said, I would definitely urge readers to pick this one up.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mallory

    This was a very interesting and unique book that wasn’t what I expected but I did enjoy it. The first half of the book was told from Mr. Sitwell’s perspective, the Barclay’s groundskeeper who has worked for them since he was a young orphan they took in to work the kitchen. The second half is told from Jennie’s perspective a young mother who was a maid isn’t he Barclay’s home. This book was largely about race and the injustices that have occurred in our country as well as the underlying tension b This was a very interesting and unique book that wasn’t what I expected but I did enjoy it. The first half of the book was told from Mr. Sitwell’s perspective, the Barclay’s groundskeeper who has worked for them since he was a young orphan they took in to work the kitchen. The second half is told from Jennie’s perspective a young mother who was a maid isn’t he Barclay’s home. This book was largely about race and the injustices that have occurred in our country as well as the underlying tension between races that has existed for years. It was sad for me to read about a ground of African American people wanting to protest a black man being shot in the middle of the street because how have we not gone anywhere or gone past killing black men on the streets? This was the kind of book that makes you think and it is uncomfortable to read at times but I think we do our best growing when we’re uncomfortable. The character of Sitwell who later became the Rib King wasn’t likeable but the reader was able to see how he became who exactly he is.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Monica **can't read fast enough**

    I had a difficult time rating The Rib King. I enjoyed the story overall but I had trouble with the pacing. It took me a little while to get into it but once I did the story became more compelling and Hubbard covers a lot of ground showing how horribly and easily Black people are exploited, mistreated, and basically robbed of credit and benefit of their own ideas, creations, and general contributions. There is a lot going on in the story and is very character driven which is a big plus for me. Th I had a difficult time rating The Rib King. I enjoyed the story overall but I had trouble with the pacing. It took me a little while to get into it but once I did the story became more compelling and Hubbard covers a lot of ground showing how horribly and easily Black people are exploited, mistreated, and basically robbed of credit and benefit of their own ideas, creations, and general contributions. There is a lot going on in the story and is very character driven which is a big plus for me. This would be a really good pick for a book club and would be great for discussion and is the reason for my higher star rating. I haven't read anything else written by Hubbard and now I want to prioritize picking up The Talented Ribkins by her sooner rather than later. I was provided an ARC of The Rib King from Amistad in exchange for an honest review. Where you can find me: •(♥).•*Monlatable Book Reviews*•.(♥)• Twitter: @monicaisreading Instagram: @readermonica Goodreads Group: The Black Bookcase

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jackie

    I’m sort of at a loss about this book because i feel like i missed something important at some point along the way. The first half of the book was amazing. I was thoroughly compelled by Mr. Sitwell and the Barclays’ home. But when things switched to being told from Jennie’s POV, i just could not keep up. It felt like the author had a lot of pithy statements to make and just had to invent situations to have those words come up in dialogue. I couldn’t tell if the Harper situation was analogous to I’m sort of at a loss about this book because i feel like i missed something important at some point along the way. The first half of the book was amazing. I was thoroughly compelled by Mr. Sitwell and the Barclays’ home. But when things switched to being told from Jennie’s POV, i just could not keep up. It felt like the author had a lot of pithy statements to make and just had to invent situations to have those words come up in dialogue. I couldn’t tell if the Harper situation was analogous to something that happened in the real world, but i was very confused about all of that and these Farley characters that came out of nowhere. I also didn’t understand why Jennie spent most of her time acting high and mighty with people, making grand pronouncements about things to anyone and everyone. A really good concept turned into something too convoluted to be worthwhile in the end.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Stacy40pages

    The Rib King by Ladee Hubbard. Thanks to @bookishfirst for the Arc ⭐️⭐️⭐️ August Sitwell has worked for the wealthy Barclays for fifteen years. When he finds out they have lost their fortune, they set up sales of the cook’s rib sauce with August’s face on the bottle. He becomes The Rib King, but it is revealed that he has his own revenge agenda in mind. Ladee Hubbard is obviously a very talented writer, which is why I gave this book three stars. Based on story alone, it probably would have been t The Rib King by Ladee Hubbard. Thanks to @bookishfirst for the Arc ⭐️⭐️⭐️ August Sitwell has worked for the wealthy Barclays for fifteen years. When he finds out they have lost their fortune, they set up sales of the cook’s rib sauce with August’s face on the bottle. He becomes The Rib King, but it is revealed that he has his own revenge agenda in mind. Ladee Hubbard is obviously a very talented writer, which is why I gave this book three stars. Based on story alone, it probably would have been two stars. I was a bit confused by the back story, which ended up becoming a story within the book. It was only revealed a bit at a time and was confusing. This book really was almost two stories, broken into two parts. The second part occurred ten years after the first. A lot of moving parts came together, but I felt they were moving a bit too fast and flew over my head. The synopsis is also completely different than the story itself. “Everyone danced for money in this world, Mr. Sitwell thought. The jailer danced for the rich man, the rich man danced for his investors. Mr. Sitwell, it sometimes seemed, danced for all of them at once.” The Rib King comes out 1/19.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Anada Werner

    Rich and layered consideration of African American historical trauma and the myriad ways Black Americans have chosen to negotiate a society that wants to disenfranchise them at best, and murder them at regular intervals. Impressed with what feels like a very fresh take on the historical fiction genre and I’m looking forward to reading Hubbard’s first book next! Was for real titillated by the swerve the storyline took near the end of the second half, and was maybe hoping for more out of the denou Rich and layered consideration of African American historical trauma and the myriad ways Black Americans have chosen to negotiate a society that wants to disenfranchise them at best, and murder them at regular intervals. Impressed with what feels like a very fresh take on the historical fiction genre and I’m looking forward to reading Hubbard’s first book next! Was for real titillated by the swerve the storyline took near the end of the second half, and was maybe hoping for more out of the denouement, but I think the one given will leave me with food for thought.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Samantha Fink

    2.5* Thanks to Bookish-First for an ARC copy in exchange for an honest review! Disclaimer: These are my personal thoughts, and everyone is entitled to their own opinion. This review shows my own experience; keep in mind your preferences in books may be different. This book is definitely unique, but it was also odd. What I got wasn’t what I went in expecting. Halfway through it took a turn from historical fiction to phycological weirdness. I was expecting a little more fighting for racial equality 2.5* Thanks to Bookish-First for an ARC copy in exchange for an honest review! Disclaimer: These are my personal thoughts, and everyone is entitled to their own opinion. This review shows my own experience; keep in mind your preferences in books may be different. This book is definitely unique, but it was also odd. What I got wasn’t what I went in expecting. Halfway through it took a turn from historical fiction to phycological weirdness. I was expecting a little more fighting for racial equality and not gang violence/turf wars. There was a bit of a business element to the story, but it didn’t add much. When I’m thinking about it, I can’t think of a lot of strong points for this book. There wasn’t much depth in this novel. It was slow paced and there wasn’t an endgame in mind. You question the reason for reading it in the first place. It was kind of like just hearing about a person’s life without having a specific end to the story. I still don’t really get what the plot of this book was, and I read the whole thing. The ending was told to us and not shown; like the author gave up and quickly ended things. There wasn’t much emotion, plot growth, or lure. I wasn’t really able to connect to the characters or become involved with what was happening. It was a very passive reading experience.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Gobookmart

    Originally posted on Gobookmart [image error] I was at first keen on The Rib King since it was contrasted with the film Parasite. While the two works center around the indignities of the class system, the unpleasant emotions the system can create in those at the lower part of the system. That is the place where the similarity end. The Rib King by Ladee Hubbard is an exciting, twisting, uncovering novel, focusing in on the individual characters, instead of more wider struggles. I am not commonly Originally posted on Gobookmart [image error] I was at first keen on The Rib King since it was contrasted with the film Parasite. While the two works center around the indignities of the class system, the unpleasant emotions the system can create in those at the lower part of the system. That is the place where the similarity end. The Rib King by Ladee Hubbard is an exciting, twisting, uncovering novel, focusing in on the individual characters, instead of more wider struggles. I am not commonly an enthusiast of historical fiction, so I was uncertain of the amount I was going to appreciate THE RIB KING. I commonly gravitate towards fast paced novels so this slow paced novel was a pleasant change for me. I actually enjoyed this slow paced novel, becoming acquainted with the characters, and watching the tale of The Rib King unfurl. This tale took me on such an excursion, it is hard to recall how the entire thing began! The rib king focuses on the staff of the Barclay house. Mr. Sitwell, the maintenance man, Mamie, the cook, and Jennie, a new employee, and previous dancer. Mr. Barclay has built up a betting habit, and thus, his luck, and cash, are running out. At the point when somebody makes Barclay an offer that will save his falling empire. However will unjustifiably exploit his staff, Barclay follows the cash. The remainder of the novel follows the surprising aftermath of this choice. I knew nothing about The Rib King before I actually began reading. I did not even understand the meaning of the title until halfway through the novel. I had no clue about where it was going, however I felt so invested in the excursion. There is a lot going on in this novel, yet the characters are so dynamic, and the world is so well created. It never turns out to be excessively complex. I loved The Rib King. I loved the characters, the story was so fantastically written, It was clear and confident. This is Ladee Hubbard's second book, and I don't have a clue how I missed her first book. I'll be reading that very soon. Follow us on social media Google News Facebook Instagram Twitter

  11. 4 out of 5

    Taryn

    The Rib King is very beautifully written. From the very beginning, I was in awe at the pacing of the story. I often get deterred from books with long chapters (example, chapter 1 of this story is 34 pages), but I was very easily intrigued by the synopsis and storytelling. We explore this timely story from two different perspectives. Unlike many stories however, this one does not alternate by chapters, but halfway through the book. I think this was a smart choice and gave to an excellent viewpoint The Rib King is very beautifully written. From the very beginning, I was in awe at the pacing of the story. I often get deterred from books with long chapters (example, chapter 1 of this story is 34 pages), but I was very easily intrigued by the synopsis and storytelling. We explore this timely story from two different perspectives. Unlike many stories however, this one does not alternate by chapters, but halfway through the book. I think this was a smart choice and gave to an excellent viewpoint into the characters and why they made the choices they made. Without any spoilers, I will say that this book should be read with open eyes. This particular book may be one of fiction, but there are so many truths to it. It can be difficult to comprehend something you would never imagine and yet these actions occur daily because privilege is alive and beating strong.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Provin Martin

    The Rib King by Ladee Hubbard has several memorable characters and meaningful quotes! You first meet Mr. August Sitwell who has worked for the Barclays since childhood. He currently watches over the entire estate as the grounds keeper, but he has worked in almost all of the positions available. He inadvertently creates a delicious ‘meat sauce’ and becomes the face on the jar of ‘Rib King’ sauce – but he is also a murderer. ‘ Vigilance: that was what was required to keep the weeds out, what he ha The Rib King by Ladee Hubbard has several memorable characters and meaningful quotes! You first meet Mr. August Sitwell who has worked for the Barclays since childhood. He currently watches over the entire estate as the grounds keeper, but he has worked in almost all of the positions available. He inadvertently creates a delicious ‘meat sauce’ and becomes the face on the jar of ‘Rib King’ sauce – but he is also a murderer. ‘ Vigilance: that was what was required to keep the weeds out, what he has started to lose sight of by spending so much time in the house.‘ Jennie Williams worked as a maid for the Barclays alongside Mr. Sitwell, until the estate burnt down. She finds a name for herself as a beauty parlor owner and entrepreneur. She has created her own product, a multi-purpose beauty cream. Jennies life is always a question of trust: who to trust and who not to. Who will cheat her out of her entrepreneurial dream? ‘All such a waste of time. You can’t wish this world away and you can’t shoot your way out either. You just have to find the strength to rise above it. By being excellent. That’s how you cope with this world‘ This book is one great mystery. The reader is halfway through the book before they realize what a tightly woven plot it has. As you wind your way through Mr. Sitwell and Jennies ‘associates’ and connections you discover no one is who they seem to be. ‘How I hate the way people lie to themselves, come up with fanciful stories and ways to romanticize the surface of things. When all along the real truth is right there, staring them in the face.‘

  13. 4 out of 5

    Tracey Thompson

    I was initially interested in The Rib King because it was compared to the movie Parasite. While both works focus on the indignities of the class system, and the bitter feelings the system can evoke in those at the bottom of the pile, that is where the similarities end. The Rib King by Ladee Hubbard is a twisting, exciting, revealing novel, focusing on the individual characters, rather than wider struggles. This novel took me on such a journey, it's difficult to remember how the whole thing starts I was initially interested in The Rib King because it was compared to the movie Parasite. While both works focus on the indignities of the class system, and the bitter feelings the system can evoke in those at the bottom of the pile, that is where the similarities end. The Rib King by Ladee Hubbard is a twisting, exciting, revealing novel, focusing on the individual characters, rather than wider struggles. This novel took me on such a journey, it's difficult to remember how the whole thing starts! The novel focuses on the staff on the Barclay house: Mr. Sitwell, the groundskeeper, Mamie, the cook, and Jennie, a new employee, and former dancer. Mr. Barclay has developed a gambling habit, and as a result, his luck, and money, are running out. When someone makes Barclay an offer that will save his falling empire, but will unfairly exploit his staff, Barclay follows the money. The rest of the novel follows the unexpected fallout of this decision. My attempt at a synopsis does not even begin to convey the depth of this book. There are paragraphs that could easily be expanded to a whole other novel. I knew very little about The Rib King before I started reading, and didn't even understand the significance of the title until about halfway through the book. I had no idea where it was going, but I felt so invested in the journey. There is a lot going on in this book, but the characters are so vibrant, and the world is so well-established, that it never becomes overly complex. I loved this book. I loved the characters, the story was so unbelievably compelling, and the writing was clear and confident. This is Ladee Hubbard's second novel, and I don't know how I managed to miss her debut. I'll be remedying that very soon.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Clancy

    The story of The Rib King starts in New Orleans in 1914 where we are introduced to a cast of characters who are working as the staff at the Barclay residence, a well to do White family, who has unfortunately stumbled upon some financial misfortune. The first half of the story explores themes of race relations in both the home itself and in the greater context of the setting of New Orleans itself and even further to the South Eastern area of the USA. The characters that we follow most closely in The story of The Rib King starts in New Orleans in 1914 where we are introduced to a cast of characters who are working as the staff at the Barclay residence, a well to do White family, who has unfortunately stumbled upon some financial misfortune. The first half of the story explores themes of race relations in both the home itself and in the greater context of the setting of New Orleans itself and even further to the South Eastern area of the USA. The characters that we follow most closely in this first half are August Sitwell, the gardener/handman, for the Barclays and Miss Mamie, the cook and head of staff at the residence. Without divulging too much of the story, we watch as the characters interact with one another and with the setting of the story, so much so that I would argue that the setting of the book is another character altogether. As the story progresses in this first half, facts about characters are revealed which accumulate and have disastrous consequences for all involved. The second half of the story follows Jennie, the maid, of the Barclay residence as she works to carve her own spot in the world with her own invention. In the second half of the book we have now jumped to New Orleans in 1924. However, she finds that due to her history it is much harder to make a name for herself. The second half of the story further explores what lead to the disastrous event in the first half and the lasting consequences for everyone that was related to the event. My thoughts on this book were all around positive. I do believe that the blurb on the back of the book and wherever the book is advertised is a bit misleading as it only explains half of the book. That being said, I loved the second half of the book (as well as the first half). I enjoyed spending time with the characters, learning their motivations, and being there when they failed and succeeded. I think that the book wrapped up a bit too quickly- I think it could have benefited from a few more pages explaining how things worked the way they did but I was altogether very pleased with the story that Ladee Hubbard created! I would recommend this book.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    This historical novel, The Rib King by Ladee Hubbard is set in a time frame of American history that really fascinates me. Having said that, I was not disappointed and highly recommend it. I loved reading this novel, truly enjoyed the characters and storyline. The book cover is bright yellow and has an interesting appeal. The story is set in the early twentieth century with most of the main characters being black servants. Miss Mamie, the cook, the maid, Jennie Williams, three orphan boys and Mr This historical novel, The Rib King by Ladee Hubbard is set in a time frame of American history that really fascinates me. Having said that, I was not disappointed and highly recommend it. I loved reading this novel, truly enjoyed the characters and storyline. The book cover is bright yellow and has an interesting appeal. The story is set in the early twentieth century with most of the main characters being black servants. Miss Mamie, the cook, the maid, Jennie Williams, three orphan boys and Mr August Sitwell the groundskeeper. They all work at the upper class, white household of the Barclays. This book is well written with memorable characters and quotes. It deals with so many topics that are deep, controversial, unsettling and still very relevant in the present day. Thank you BookishFirst, author Ladee Hubbard and her publishing company for providing this book to me for a honest review.

  16. 5 out of 5

    rachel

    Brilliant. I don't necessarily disagree with other reviewers that this one is all over the place and oddly paced, but except for the last couple of pages, it really worked for me. Around the midpoint of the book, I explained the plot to my boyfriend and his response was, "I've never heard of a book quite like that" (being the background story of a black man/woman whose image is used to sell a product). Same - and that is part of the freshness of The Rib King. It is both historical in setting and Brilliant. I don't necessarily disagree with other reviewers that this one is all over the place and oddly paced, but except for the last couple of pages, it really worked for me. Around the midpoint of the book, I explained the plot to my boyfriend and his response was, "I've never heard of a book quite like that" (being the background story of a black man/woman whose image is used to sell a product). Same - and that is part of the freshness of The Rib King. It is both historical in setting and feels, through dialogue and description, like it is 0f the early 20th century. Yet, it is SO contemporary in the exploitation of black creation that it describes, which continues to this day.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jillian Mouton

    A wild story with super vivid characters! But it felt like the action was over as soon as it began. There was so much buildup, and most of the serious drama occurred off-page and was relayed to the reader after the fact. As a result, even though the story's concept was incredible, it felt weirdly clinical and anticlimactic. I actually had a lot more fun describing this wild plot to my (long-suffering) sister and watching her reactions to all the twists than I did reading it. A wild story with super vivid characters! But it felt like the action was over as soon as it began. There was so much buildup, and most of the serious drama occurred off-page and was relayed to the reader after the fact. As a result, even though the story's concept was incredible, it felt weirdly clinical and anticlimactic. I actually had a lot more fun describing this wild plot to my (long-suffering) sister and watching her reactions to all the twists than I did reading it.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Amanda Lyons

    I was immediately drawn to the cover of this book when I saw it. I thought the plot sounded interesting. Just a head's up, this book has longgggg chapters. And I found the writing style to be a little confusing at times and had to go back a few sentences to figure out who was speaking (whether it was August Sitwell, or someone he was talking to). But I still managed to read through the first half of the book in one sitting. I think I was hoping for more details to emerge that would draw things t I was immediately drawn to the cover of this book when I saw it. I thought the plot sounded interesting. Just a head's up, this book has longgggg chapters. And I found the writing style to be a little confusing at times and had to go back a few sentences to figure out who was speaking (whether it was August Sitwell, or someone he was talking to). But I still managed to read through the first half of the book in one sitting. I think I was hoping for more details to emerge that would draw things together, and instead was left with a super quick ending to the first half of the book that just led to more questions. Then we fast forward to 10 years in the future to follow another character, Jennie, and it felt like the two stories were never going to connect. And when they did it felt super rushed and I was still left confused as to how everything ended.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Katie Shockey

    I am not typically a fan of historical fiction, so I was unsure of how much I was going to enjoy THE RIB KING. I typically gravitate towards fast-paced books so this slow burn of a novel was a nice change of pace. I enjoyed slowing down, getting to know the characters, and watching the story of The Rib King unfold. One thing I was not expecting when I started reading the book was the switch in main character about halfway through. The first half focuses on August Sitwell--the groundskeeper-turne I am not typically a fan of historical fiction, so I was unsure of how much I was going to enjoy THE RIB KING. I typically gravitate towards fast-paced books so this slow burn of a novel was a nice change of pace. I enjoyed slowing down, getting to know the characters, and watching the story of The Rib King unfold. One thing I was not expecting when I started reading the book was the switch in main character about halfway through. The first half focuses on August Sitwell--the groundskeeper-turned-butler of the Barclay household. The second half focuses on Jennie Williams--the Barclay's maid. While The Rib King brand is the glue that binds the second half of the book to the first, it seemed to branch off into a direction that I was not expecting based on the synopsis. I was unsure at some points how all of the different details of the book were going to fit together, but Hubbard managed to pull everything together at the end of the book. The ending was one that I did not see coming. While reading the book I kept thinking about brands like Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben's---how the real Black people behind these recognizable brands have been used by corporations run by predominantly white men to sell products. It's a conversation I know brands have had over the past handful of years, and this book does an excellent job of exploring the topic.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Cat

    I'd heard of The Talented Ribkins (which, by the way, seems to coexist in The Rib King's world) but this book is the first I've read by Ladee Hubbard. I have to say, although the plot is compelling, Hubbard's dialogue is where this book takes off. The way her characters interact creates a distinct psychological ephemera in whichever context they're placed (from down on the Boardwalk, to inside Barclay's kitchen, to interacting with Barclay, in an apartment, etc). The setting isn't only place-dri I'd heard of The Talented Ribkins (which, by the way, seems to coexist in The Rib King's world) but this book is the first I've read by Ladee Hubbard. I have to say, although the plot is compelling, Hubbard's dialogue is where this book takes off. The way her characters interact creates a distinct psychological ephemera in whichever context they're placed (from down on the Boardwalk, to inside Barclay's kitchen, to interacting with Barclay, in an apartment, etc). The setting isn't only place-driven, it's people- and attitude- driven. It's like reading a book that takes place in a video game, and you can hear the boss or enemy music creeping in as you start another scene. The audiobook is narrated by Korey Jackson & Adenrele Ojo, respectively. Both of the voice actors fit incredibly well in the story, and Ojo's accents contributed an element to the storytelling that really made the recording for me. Audiobook accessed through the libro.fm bookseller program, via my place of work, Oxford Exchange bookstore in Tampa, FL.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Carla

    I had a very hard time giving this a star review! I think 3.5, and not just a three. I don't often have this problem, but to me this was different at the beginning than it was at the end. This book in the beginning took place in 1900 and was really a story told about August Sitwell, who worked for the "rich" Barclay's. Mr. Sitwell, is a freeman, but doesn't get paid well. While I didn't enjoy the circumstances surrounding the treatment of the Barclay's staff, and the despicable character of the I had a very hard time giving this a star review! I think 3.5, and not just a three. I don't often have this problem, but to me this was different at the beginning than it was at the end. This book in the beginning took place in 1900 and was really a story told about August Sitwell, who worked for the "rich" Barclay's. Mr. Sitwell, is a freeman, but doesn't get paid well. While I didn't enjoy the circumstances surrounding the treatment of the Barclay's staff, and the despicable character of the Barclay's, the story, or what I thought the story to be about was interesting. The "rib sauce", whos recipe it was, who benefited, etc. was so interesting! The second part of the book was about another staff, after her employ with the Barclay's years later. This part of the story seemed to diverge to more union activities. Again, similar threads on racial and societal injustices prevailed, but I wasn't as engaged in this part of the story as the first part where it seemed to me more character driven. Perhaps it was the length of the book at this point, as I was looking forward to it ending as I'd had enough at this point in continuing with a book that I thought had diverged into another book altogether. I did enjoy the writing, and would read something else by this author if they did more work on switching up the style of the writing so it was the same throughout. I noted some reviewers enjoyed the second part of the book rather than the first. I received this book as a BookishFirst giveway. Thank you!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Zibby Owens

    The Rib King is about an African American man who's a groundskeeper in 1914. He invents a meat sauce that becomes a national sensation and is distributed all over the country. He spends the rest of his life touring the country, giving cooking demonstrations as the Rib King. I love how the author set the book up and showed us exactly what daily life was like in the household. The scenes are so vivid; you feel as though you're right there on the bus going home with August, traveling to see his cowo The Rib King is about an African American man who's a groundskeeper in 1914. He invents a meat sauce that becomes a national sensation and is distributed all over the country. He spends the rest of his life touring the country, giving cooking demonstrations as the Rib King. I love how the author set the book up and showed us exactly what daily life was like in the household. The scenes are so vivid; you feel as though you're right there on the bus going home with August, traveling to see his coworker's house. You experience how loyal August is to his job and why he would want to run back inside when he saw something was wrong—his pride in taking ownership. It's incredible how the author painted the picture perfectly as if we were there. Even down to how everyone experienced electricity, and how for those working in the house, electricity was not a good thing. In a way, she made all of us tourists in a different time period. To listen to my interview with the author, go to my podcast at: https://zibbyowens.com/transcript/lad...

  23. 5 out of 5

    Luca Tanaka

    When they said Upstairs, Downstairs meets Parasite, they weren't kidding. (I haven't seen Upstairs, Downstairs, but let's call it basically Downton Abbey.) Set in early 20th century Chicago, The Rib King is a well-researched deconstruction of persistent Black stereotypes and a character study into the people behind the caricatures. In its dynamic cast, it explores the myriad reactions people can have to oppression, the lingering trauma, and the downstream effects of their actions. It has twists When they said Upstairs, Downstairs meets Parasite, they weren't kidding. (I haven't seen Upstairs, Downstairs, but let's call it basically Downton Abbey.) Set in early 20th century Chicago, The Rib King is a well-researched deconstruction of persistent Black stereotypes and a character study into the people behind the caricatures. In its dynamic cast, it explores the myriad reactions people can have to oppression, the lingering trauma, and the downstream effects of their actions. It has twists and dark turns asking how far the downtrodden will go to uplift, or to get back. This story is slow to build, but well worth the payoff, and the ending really did feel like it did watching Parasite. I hate to think that I almost put it down before I got there, but I was very impressed with the ending. A note on the audio: I'm frequently surprised at how poorly narrators do southern accents because it's definitely one of the less subtle accent regions to at least approximate. But Adenrele Ojo is not by any means the worst accent offender out there, and she did a good job of differentiating voices. Also surprised that they mispronounced the author's name? (She says it like lady, not lah-'dee)

  24. 5 out of 5

    Di Richardson

    This book is on a lot of “best of 2020” lists. It wasn’t that for me. It has also been described as Upstairs Downstairs meets Parasite. Again, not for me. So I struggles with how to give what I think is an accurate description. It seems to be set in the early to mid 1900’s, where segregation is still pretty prevalent. The Barclay’s are an upper class white family. The household staff is all black. When their fortunes start to fall, Mr. Barclay receives an offer to purchase the recipe for a BBQ s This book is on a lot of “best of 2020” lists. It wasn’t that for me. It has also been described as Upstairs Downstairs meets Parasite. Again, not for me. So I struggles with how to give what I think is an accurate description. It seems to be set in the early to mid 1900’s, where segregation is still pretty prevalent. The Barclay’s are an upper class white family. The household staff is all black. When their fortunes start to fall, Mr. Barclay receives an offer to purchase the recipe for a BBQ sauce served in his home. Desperate for money, he is anxious to accept the offer, which he claims he should own, because it was developed by his staff while working for him. The employees that actually developed the recipe don’t really agree with that interpretation, and one of them, August Sitwell, who only recently understood how his family had its land and heritage stolen by whites, pretty much goes off the deep end with this latest insult. While this book takes Mr. Sitwell to the extreme, it is a rather sad retelling of an all to familiar truth.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Erricka Hager

    3.5✨ Dang, I was hoping a lot more for this story. It sadly, never fully met my expectations. The first half of the book was jumbled together and didn’t quite make a lot of sense to me. We are introduced to our main characters - Mr. Sitwell and Miss Jennie - who are servants to a white family in New Orleans. Mr. Sitwell has an unique talent of being able to identify ingredients that make up a variety of products - sauces, perfume, etc - and sadly that talent gets him thrown into being the racist f 3.5✨ Dang, I was hoping a lot more for this story. It sadly, never fully met my expectations. The first half of the book was jumbled together and didn’t quite make a lot of sense to me. We are introduced to our main characters - Mr. Sitwell and Miss Jennie - who are servants to a white family in New Orleans. Mr. Sitwell has an unique talent of being able to identify ingredients that make up a variety of products - sauces, perfume, etc - and sadly that talent gets him thrown into being the racist face of a barbecue sauce. The second half of the story follows Miss Jennie, a decade later, as she’s navigating the difficult world of being a female business owner. Miss Jennie knows the true story about The Rib King and her business is sadly plagued by her connection with The Rib King. The second section outlines what exactly led to The Rib King’s rise to fame and the details behind it. I wish Hubbard would’ve spent a little more time wrapping up the story but overall this was a decent read. I especially loved the vivid details about the current time period. It’s clear Hubbard really researched this time period and was able to convey it to the reader. Thank you to NetGalley and Amistad Books for this ARC, I really appreciate it. All opinions are my own.

  26. 4 out of 5

    sarah

    thank you to libro fm for providing me with an early audiobook copy in exchange for an honest review! i enjoyed this listening experience! this has been comp’d to parasite, which i can definitely see from the discussions about race, class, status, and power. i will say i liked the first half of the story significantly more than the second half- i was more invested in the original story than i was the follow up to the events. i also kind of feel like the synopsis given for this is not exactly wha thank you to libro fm for providing me with an early audiobook copy in exchange for an honest review! i enjoyed this listening experience! this has been comp’d to parasite, which i can definitely see from the discussions about race, class, status, and power. i will say i liked the first half of the story significantly more than the second half- i was more invested in the original story than i was the follow up to the events. i also kind of feel like the synopsis given for this is not exactly what the story ends up being, or at least what i expected wasn’t what i got.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    A Bold and Memorable Tale This ambitious novel The Rib King covers a lot of ground under the umbrella of American history, race relations, and social commentary. What I liked about the book was that the commentary was not heavy handed but a viable part of the plot with facts woven in to the conversations of very believable characters in the early 1900's. Mr. Pound and Mr. Barclay, for example, are Southern white men who openly discuss the characteristics of good servants; the poor Irish "often A Bold and Memorable Tale This ambitious novel The Rib King covers a lot of ground under the umbrella of American history, race relations, and social commentary. What I liked about the book was that the commentary was not heavy handed but a viable part of the plot with facts woven in to the conversations of very believable characters in the early 1900's. Mr. Pound and Mr. Barclay, for example, are Southern white men who openly discuss the characteristics of good servants; the poor Irish "often prove surly" while they are sure that "perfectly respectable colored will happily work as a servant." They think nothing of saying this in front of and requesting the confirmation of their opinion from the Black cook. The reader will sense Mamie's discomfort and need to play along with the men's faux intellectual analysis of genetic aptitude. Much of the book is like this: although told from a third-person POV, the experiences seem more in alignment with Black groundskeeper, Mr. Sitwell and maid Jennie Williams. Their lives intersect for a while during employment at the lavish but struggling Barclay estate. The struggles stem from living beyond one's means as well as Mr. Barclay's gambling debts. This book has older characters with memories of the Underground Railroad, a very realistic portrayal of the struggles of Black Americans to make a decent living as free citizens, and an equally realistic portrayal of how easy it was in that time period to continue to subjugate other people. I recommend this book to adults not because of subject matter or language but because the pacing and writing style are less likely to appeal to YA readers. I received an ARC of this from Amistad Publishers through BookishFirst, and this is my honest review. Look for this book to reach the shelves in mid January 2021.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Laurie

    Intriguing story of race relations in the early 20th century that revolves around a recipe for rib sauce that was appropriated from the creator, Mamie, who ran the Barclays’ kitchen as their main cook. August Sitwell, another servant of the household, was used as the marketing caricature for the rib sauce. He, along with Mamie, were never given credit, and so also did not profit from the rib sauce sales, leading to immense hatred for the family who stole the recipe. Dire consequences happen due Intriguing story of race relations in the early 20th century that revolves around a recipe for rib sauce that was appropriated from the creator, Mamie, who ran the Barclays’ kitchen as their main cook. August Sitwell, another servant of the household, was used as the marketing caricature for the rib sauce. He, along with Mamie, were never given credit, and so also did not profit from the rib sauce sales, leading to immense hatred for the family who stole the recipe. Dire consequences happen due to the theft of the rib sauce, with unexpected and in some cases, unwanted results.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kristiana

    The Rib King is an excellent and compelling read! The Barclays home and its servants become fully formed in the first couple chapters and their well being is a concern the reader takes on. The story centers around the groundskeeper, August Sitwell, and maid, Jennie Williams. Sitwell has worked for the Barclays 15 years and navigates the needs of his employer and the well being of three orphan boys who work at the house. The narrative and jump in time was unexpected, but Jennie’s story is just as The Rib King is an excellent and compelling read! The Barclays home and its servants become fully formed in the first couple chapters and their well being is a concern the reader takes on. The story centers around the groundskeeper, August Sitwell, and maid, Jennie Williams. Sitwell has worked for the Barclays 15 years and navigates the needs of his employer and the well being of three orphan boys who work at the house. The narrative and jump in time was unexpected, but Jennie’s story is just as engaging. This is a story of survival and connection. The narration for the audiobook is great.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Brittany

    4 Star read Wow! What an interesting read.I always find novels about the 1920s very Interesting and enjoyable in this book did not disappoint. The author in this book covered a lot of American history , and the social commentary was on point. I'm looking forward to another book by this author. 4 Star read Wow! What an interesting read.I always find novels about the 1920s very Interesting and enjoyable in this book did not disappoint. The author in this book covered a lot of American history , and the social commentary was on point. I'm looking forward to another book by this author.

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