Category Archives: Nakia

Teaser Tuesday: Group Post

As part of a weekly feature, The Page Turners are here to share a piece of what we’re currently reading. Anyone can participate! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title, page number & author, too, so that other readers can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

“In few other professions are you required, each and every day, to weigh so many competing claims —  between different sets of constituents, between the interests of your state and the interests of the nation, between party loyalty and your own sense of independence, between the value of service and obligations to your family. There is a constant danger, in the cacophony of voices, that a politician loses his moral his moral bearings and finds himself entirely steered by the winds of public opinion.         pg. 65,  The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama   –Nakia

 

 

“My grandfather laid the blame for the state of his herds and his dwindling wealth upon the fact that all his sons had died at birth or in infancy, leaving him nothing but daughters. He gave no thought to his own sloth, believing that only a son would turn his luck around.” pg. 20, The Red Tent by Anita Diamant – Cashawn

 

“Just as the ancestor of the American Negro came from no single region, so he was of no single tribe or physical type. The “West Coast Negro,” the predominant type that came to the New World, was marked by such characteristics as tall stature, woolly hair, broad features, full lips, little growth of hair on face or body, and a skin color approaching true black. But there was no such thing as one African ‘race.'”  pg. 16, The Negro in the Making of America, by Benjamin Quarles-Miss Spinks

 

“The clientele who patronized the Five Moons weren’t there to socialize.  From the smell that slapped Eve the moment she stepped through the door, buring off stomach lining was the order of the day. ” pg. 39, Glory in Death, by J.D. Robb, –Alise

 

 

 

 

What are you reading?

 

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Teaser Tuesday: Group Post

As part of a weekly feature, The Page Turners are here to share a piece of what we’re currently reading. Anyone can participate! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title, page number & author, too, so that other readers can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

“It’s clear as an unflawed diamond that I fucked up big-time by dropping my ass out of school.  There was jobs out there for people without a drop of experience and no high school, but shit, them motherfuckas worked twice as hard and made less than half the money. “

pg. 101, Real Wifeys on the Grind by Meesha Mink – Notorious Spinks

“She called Ma a whore. Pow! Ma sucker punched Chicki, knocking her to the ground, and Ma couldn’t bend over with her pregnant stomach and all, so she let Chickie get up and then grabbed her by the hair and slammed her head against the brick wall.”

pg. 104, All Souls by Michael Patrick MacDonald – Alex

“He stood with his knees slightly bent, his lips partly open, his shoulders stooped; and his eyes held a look that went only to the surface of things. There was an organic conviction in him that this was the way white folks wanted him to be when in their presence; none had ever told him that in so many words, but their manner had made him feel that they did.”

pg. 48, Native Son by Richard Wright  – Nakia

 

What are you reading?

Book Review: Jesus Boy

“I averted my eyes and in a sudden move wrenched my hand from her grasp. When I dared look again, the hand that had held mine was brushing tears.
‘Don’t forget about me Elwyn.’
Strange music began to play in my head. Was my light-headedness a result of her flowery perfume? The memory of the shape and feel of her waist? God forgive me, I silently prayed, this is Brother Morrisohn’s widow. Brother Morrisohn, a man I loved.
‘I won’t forget you,’ I said.
When I got to my car, where Peachie awaited, I was breathing as though I’d just run a great distance.”

And so begins the love affair at the center of Jesus Boy, Preston L. Allen’s hilarious, satirical novel about the outrageous happenings at the Church of Our Blessed Redeemer Who Walked Upon the Waters. Sixteen year old Elwyn Parker, devout believer, respected youth in his community, and piano prodigy suddenly finds himself stumbling into a May-December romance with his deceased godfather’s 40 year old widow, Sister Morrisohn.

“And then I wept some more because the more she rubbed my neck, the more forgiveness I needed. For when she got down on her knees beside me and began to pray against my face, the very scent of her expanded my lungs like a bellows, and her breathing — her warm breath against my cheeks, my ear, into my eyes burning hot with tears — was everything I imagined a lover’s kiss might be.”

When shining light on the sins of the saints at the Church of Our Blessed Redeemer Who Walked Upon the Waters, Allen does not stop at Elwyn and Sister Morrisohn’s indiscretions. We are also introduced to Elwyn’s former life long crush, Peachie, who at sixteen, shockingly becomes pregnant by and immediately marries, an upwardly mobile minister in the church.

The stories are highly exaggerated but the circumstances are real and truthful to an extent. Having been raised in the Black church, I was pleasantly entertained by Allen’s illustration of hypocritical church members without being judgmental or condescending in his writing. However, I can see many people in the church being offended by this story, because it sarcastically mocks the ways in which people within the church behave. For instance, when Elwyn’s grandmother, one of the highly revered Mother’s of the church, suspects that Sister Morrisohn has seduced her grandson, she rips the woman to shreds with an evil tirade:

“Aren’t there enough slack-leg Johnnies with whom you can satisfy your vile, pagan lust? When it burns down there, why don’t you just run to the nursery and throw yourself on the infant with the fattest diaper…Thou thankless apostate, thou creeping Jezebel. The stink of thine iniquity rises to the nostrils of God…You should be flung from the highest tower. And when you burst open, the dogs should pick your rotting flesh from your putrid bones.”

Eventually, you find out that Elwyn’s grandmother, along with his father, his dead godfather, and a host of other people to whom he has always looked for spiritual guidance and examples of Christian living, all have past and current sins and mistakes that come back to haunt them.  No one is without sin in this novel.

Despite the drama throughout the storylines, Allen expertly immerses the reader in the workings of the Black church, the many positions handed out to those with the most money, the most saintly, and the oldest parishioners.  He also includes the weekly and monthly church activities and the cultural traditions during special events, like revivals, weddings, and funerals. These were my favorite parts of the book.

Readers who are open minded or not bogged down by their own opinions of religion, may get a kick out of the primary theme throughout the story:  nobody is perfect, no matter how much closer to God you think you are because of your title within the church. By the end of the book,  and after having lived a life filled with guilt and self righteousness, this is something that Elwyn finally realizes.

“God is love,” Peachie says. “God is here with us right now.”

I am looking forward to reading a lot more from this author.


Teaser Tuesdays: Group Post

As part of a weekly feature, The Page Turners are here to share a piece of what we’re currently reading. Anyone can participate! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title, page number & author, too, so that other readers can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

“The dead looked like pictures of the dead. They did not smell. They did not buzz with flies. They had been killed thirteen months earlier, and they hadn’t been moved.”

p. 15, We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with your families, by Philip Gourevich –  Alex

 

My parents were anxious to give me a head start in life — perhaps a little too anxious.  My first memory of confronting them and in a way declaring my independence was a conversation concerning their ill-conceived attempt to send me to first grade at the ripe age of three. 

p. 1, Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family by Condoleezza Rice – Notorious Spinks

 

“Doe’s soldiers ran around the streets of Monrovia with Quiwonkpa’s organs, including his penis and heart. People were invited to walk right up and touch them. The rest of his body was sliced up too like hamburger meat, and displayed near the gas station at the Paynesville junction.”

p. 247, The House at Sugar Beach by Helene Cooper – Nakia

 

“If they concentrated, if they closed their eyes, they could always find their way back to the otherworld.  It was beneath the tall hawthorn tree n the yard, beneath the chestnut tree in Paris.”

p. 8, The Story Sisters: A Novel by Alice Hoffman – Alise

 

“Hurricanes and other acts of God had a way of clarifying things; clearing away the grimy film of uncertainty, they polished everything to shine, wholly reassessed, in new light. This is important, that is not.”
 
p. 242, Wading Home by Rosalyn Story – Malca

 

What are you reading?

Nakia’s Favorite Reads of 2010

With the help of GoodReads.com, I recently set my 2011 reading goal at 24 books. That may not seem like a lot to some of you, but as someone who just two years ago only read five books in an entire year, and is internationally known as a lazy procrastanista, twenty four books is commendable. Let’s pray I reach my goal (I’m 4% done already lol)

I read 21 books in 2010 though, and I’d like to share a few of my favorites.

10. Bitch is the New Black by Helena Andrews (pub. June 2010):  This memoir was the June selection for my bookclub. I enjoyed it because I identified with Andrews’ shenanigans as a late-20 something Black woman, witty, smart, attractive, and still wondering why she’s single. She is hilarious and insightful when sharing her life experiences. Some of the chapters lagged when she ventured away from her dating mishaps, but Andrews’ is a wonderful writer and with Bitch is the New Black having already having been optioned for the big screen by Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy), I’m looking forward to the movie.

9 Orange Mint & Honey by Carleen Brice (pub. Feb 2008): I wouldn’t have known about this book had it not been for Jill Scott. I love me some her, and when friends got word that she would be starring in the television adaptation of Orange Mint and Honey, titled “Sins of the Mother”, I received links and emails out of the ying yang telling me to tune in. I of course picked up the book a few weeks before the movie premiered on the Lifetime Movie Network. I’m so glad I did. This story of Shay, stumbling grad student and daughter of an alcoholic who suddenly becomes sober and has another baby, was riveting. It was hard not to cry during certain parts of the book, especially when Shay agonized over the pain from her past and used that as an excuse not to forgive her mother, who did everything in her power to make it up to her . Brice handled the mother-daughter relationship superbly, and I give her two thumbs up on accurately introducing the audience to how children are affected by living in a home filled with alcoholism.

8 Jesus Boy by Allen L. Preston (pub. April 2010): Hilarious, satirical story that delves into the skeletons that clutter the closets of the leaders and most revered saints in the Black church. After his life long crush becomes pregnant and quickly marries a burgeoning minister away at Bible school, sixteen year old musical prodigy and devout Christian, Elwyn Parker, starts a risque affair with 42 year old Sister Morrisohn, the wife of his recently deceased godfather. Highly exaggerated, but still truthful to an extent, I was pleasantly entertained by how easily Allen was able to illustrate how hypocritical church members can be, without being a judgmental or condescending story teller. I can see many people in the church being offended by this story, but those who are more open minded may get a kick out of its primary theme: Nobody is perfect, no matter how much closer to God you think you are.

7 Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (pub. 2006): This was my book club’s pick for November. Even though I had to read a few hundred pages before it captured my full attention, I’m so happy I kept pushing through. Ngozi Adichie did an AMAZING job telling the story of the Biafran War of the 1960s through the eyes of Olanna, Odenigbo, Egwu, Richard, Kainene and countless other memorable, endearing characters. This story was about war, but it was also about love during a tumultuous time. I enjoyed this story immensely, and learned a huge amount of Nigerian history and the differences between ethnic groups in the process.

6 Waiting to Exhale by Terry McMillan (pub. 1992): Before reading “Getting to Happy”I decided to re-read Waiting to Exhale to familiarize myself with its characters and scenarios. McMillan is a hilarious writer and she is fantastic at showing the camaraderie that Black women share within their friendships. I saw a lot of the old me in Bernadine, Savannah, Gloria, and even Robin, which at some points made me sad, and at other points made me extremely happy that I’d learned my lesson at an earlier age. That is what I enjoyed most about this book. The meet ups and girls night outs definitely reminded me of how I interact with my friends. Check for my review, “Waiting to Exhale Revisited” here.

5 A Taste of Power by Elaine Brown (pub. 1993):  This is the memoir of Elaine Brown, chronicling her poverty laden childhood in Philadelphia; her migration to Los Angeles where her job in a strip club led to romantic liaisons with powerful celebrity connections; to becoming a pivotal part of the Los Angeles chapter of the Black Panther Party, eventually becoming one of Huey Newton’s lovers, working tirelessly as the editor of their newspaper, abruptly becoming national president, and spawning the new, unheard of, and short lived era of female leadership within the highest ranks of the organization. My book club read this in February and I absolutely loved it, mainly because it gave me a peek into the history of my city, a first hand account of the historical significance of the Black Panther Party, and the treatment of women in such an organization.

4 Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (pub. Jan 2007): I never had any desire to read this memoir, but when it hit the movies, my book club decided to see it together after reading it in September. Words cannot express how much I loved this book! Emotional, funny, open, honest, descriptive. I feel like felt EVERYTHING that she went through while dealing with her divorce and the depression associated with her new lover. I fell in love with Italy right along with her, and I can’t wait to visit Bali after reading of the spiritual renewal, inner peace, and new love she found there. Elizabeth is definitely my kind of writer. Can’t wait to read the sequel, “Committed”.

3 Before I Forget by Leonard Pitts (pub. 2009) Found this book on a list of favorite books of 2009 on author Carleen Brice’s blog, which led me to suggest it to my book club, making it our first pick of 2010. Pitts brilliantly tells the story of Mo, former successful soul singer and recently diagnosed with early onset Alzheimers, who decides, before all of his memories are gone, to take a cross country road trip from Maryland to Los Angeles with his 18 year old son Trey, to visit his own dying father. Trey is headed down the wrong path fast, while Mo hasn’t talked to his own father in decades. The theme of manhood, fatherhood, and responsibility, is littered throughout this story of redemption and forgiveness. Pitts is a master at weaving layers to produce a full, powerful, and touching story. There were times when this book made my heart race (from chapter 18 until the end), when it made me angry, when I wanted to cry. Everyone in my book club LOVED it. We also felt that this is a book that all Black men should pick up, no matter their status, background, or history. The novel was multi generational, making it easy for a number of different ages to identify with the story.

2 After the Garden by DorisJean Austin (pub. 1987): What happens when Elzina Tompkins, raised and sheltered by her bible thumping and VERY judgmental grandmother, becomes pregnant and marries immediately after high school, Jesse James, from the James clan filled with boisterous, belligerent, and illegitimate alcoholics? One of the best love stories I’ve ever read. This novel chronicles the ups and downs of two completely different people who survive solely off of love, in Jersey City in the early to mid-1900s. This book was brilliant and I have no idea why it isnt a classic! Full review coming to The Page Turners soon.

1 Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (pub. 2002 , Pulitzer prize for Fiction 2003): I added this book to my reading list because it was an Oprah book club pick. It was brilliant, amazing, heart wrenching, mind boggling…this story made me feel every emotion. I wrinkled my nose in disgust, laughed, cheered, and felt compassion for every character in this epic saga. Eugenides weaves the tale of how and why Calliope Stephanides lived the life of a girl well into her teenaged years, before realizing that something was biologically wrong. Starting from the mistakes made and secrets kept by her grandparents, on down to her parents, unfolds the story of an hermaphrodite who is too scared to love. Eugenides knows how to make you root for these characters, no matter the laws of love and procreation that they break. He also shares the story of immigration and the development of Detroit from a booming auto center, to a desolate ghetto. Loved every minute of it. Almost cried when I lost the book halfway through the story. Thank God I found it. If one can get past the uncomfortable thoughts that may arise, you’ll be able to ingest a wonderful story. Adding this to my list of favorite book of all time!

Honorable mentions go to Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, and The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi Durrow.

Let me know if you’ve read any of these, or share some of your favorite reads of 2010.

-Nakia

Teaser Tuesdays: Group Post

As part of a new weekly feature, The Page Turners are here to share a piece of what we’re currently reading. Anyone can participate! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title, page number & author, too, so that other readers can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

“I never came on to her, so I wasn’t any kind of threat.  With no sexual investment, she couldn’t lose with me. She couldn’t win either, but that suited us best, with Lorna you had to keep your distance.”

pg. 35, “K” is for Killer,
by Sue Grafton




This new girl had better be taking note that this was no flim-flack family that she was moving in with, I thought. We had a sister who went to boarding school in England!” 

pg 40, The House at Sugar Beach
by Helene Cooper





Breaking away and moving a comfortable distance from poverty seems to require a perfect lineup of favorable conditions. A set of skills, a good starting wage, and a job with the likelihood of promotion are prerequisites. But so are clarity of purpose, courageous self-esteem, a lack of substantial debt, the freedom from illness or addiction, a functional family, a network of upstanding friends and the right help from private or governmental agencies. Any gap in that array is an entry point for trouble because being poor means being unprotected. You might as well try playing quarterback with no helmet, no padding, no training and no experience, behind a line of hundred-pound weaklings.”
pg. 5, The Working Poor: Invisible In America,
by David K. Shipler

“My brother ran away in fright. I found a piece of rope, made a noose, slipped it about the kitten’s neck, pulled it over a nail, then jerked the animal clear of the ground. It gasped, slobbered, spun, doubled, clawed the air frantically’ finally its mouth gaped and its pink-white tongue shot out stiffly. I tied the rope to a nail and went to find my brother. He was crouching behind a corner of the building.
pg. 11, Black Boy,
by Richard Wright
Alex



“Ma takes her pill from the silver pack that has twenty-eight little spaceships and I take a vitamin from the bottle with the boy doing a handstand and she takes one from the big bottle with a picture of a woman doing Tennis. Vitamins are medicine for not getting sick and going back to Heaven yet.”
(read via Kindle) Room,
by Emma Donoghue
What are you reading??

Teaser Tuesdays: Group Post

As part of a new weekly feature, The Page Turners are here to share a piece of what we’re currently reading. Anyone can participate! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title, page number & author, too, so that other readers can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

“If you took away all of the pieces that made up George Orson – his lighthouse Motel childhood and his Ivy League education, his funny anecdotes and subtly iconic teaching style and the tender, attentive concern he’d had for Lucy as a student – if all of that was an invention, what was left?  There was, presumably, someone inside the George Orson disguise, a personality, a pair of eyes peering out; a soul, she supposed you might call it, though she still didn’t know the soul’s real name.”

[no page number, reading via Kindle], Await Your Reply
By Dan Chaon
Shydel

This, like so many other things, was not a joking matter for Julius, who preferred to instigate and to control his comedies.  More than his friends, Julius was interested in power; It wasn’t a focused preoccpation: there wasn’t a type of power that he sought, just the absolute, brute fact it.

pg. 28, The Emperor’s Children
by Calire Messud

 

“We were the kind of girls who would always be very pretty if but if never seemed to happen. If Jasmine’s skin cleared up and she could keep her hair done and she did something about her teeth, which were a little crooked, and if I lost five pounds and got contact lenses and did something about the way my skin was always ashy, maybe we’d be the prettiest girls in Mount Vernon, but we weren’t, we were just us”.

pg. 10, “Virgins”, Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self
by Danielle Evans
 
“I even bragged to my friends how good I felt about the whole matter. When they were at my apartment during times when there wasn’t any food to eat, I told them that even though I starved, my time was my own and I could do anything I wanted with it.”
pg. 81 , “Revolutionary Suicide”
by Huey Newton
Alex


 

 

“As the smoke entered her lungs, she seemed to return to who she really was, who she was now. A forty-eight-year-old who was a receptionist for a plastic surgeon and rented DVDs and videos and looked for herself in the backgrounds of old movies.”

-pg. 5, “Third Girl From The Left” by Martha Southgate
Malca

 
 
 
 
 
What are you reading???

Teaser Tuesday: Half of a Yellow Sun

The Page Turners have decided to participate in Teaser Tuesdays, a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title, page number & author, too, so that other readers can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

“She took it carefully from his fingers; they did not touch each other.  It was a tiny moment, brief and fleeting, but Olanna noticed how scrupulously they avoided any contact, any touch of skin, as if
they were united by a common knowledge so monumental that they were determined not be united by anything else.”
– pg. 223, Half of a Yellow Sun
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

 

Any teasers you’d like to share? Post them in the comments!
– Nakia W.

 

“Leaving Atlanta” At The Movies

A few years back, I fell in love with Leaving Atlanta, a fictional novel that tackles the real life tragedies behind the Atlanta child murders that took place between 1979 and 1981. Tayari Jones tells the story of these heinous crimes through the eyes of the children most affected by the horrific turn of events.

SYNOPSIS: At the start of a new school year in 1979, we get to know three children and their families as the entire community deals with the initial reports that there is a child murderer in Atlanta. Tasha Baxter, Rodney Green, and Octavia Harrison will discover back-to-school means facing everyday challenges in a new world of safety lessons, terrified parents, and constant fear. When classmates begin disappearing and friends become headlines Tasha, Rodney and Octavia find ways to live with the fear or escape it. (source)

When I read this book, I was in college and had yet to learn of the Atlanta child murders that terrorized the Black community in Georgia, resulting in at least 30 deaths and disappearances. Jones’ novel had me glued to each word, praying for the safety of these children, wishing the horror would come to an end and the perpetrators be found immediately.

It was then that I also fell in love with her writing: poetic, subtle, with strong, resonating storylines, and characters that you can almost feel right beside you. She went on to garner many awards for this story, notably the Hurtson/Wright Award for Debut Fiction. Leaving Atlanta was also named one of the best books of 2002 by The Washington Post and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

So, I was ecstatic when I found out indie filmmakers Althea Spann and Karon Om Vereen are readying Leaving Atlanta for the big screen. I usually have a disdain for movies based on books, mainly because the movie always tends to fall short, but something about this story makes me feel like it needs to be told to a larger audience. It needs to reach those of us who don’t read, or pay attention to old or current headlines. People need to be pricked in their hearts, feel compassion, hold their children a little closer, and be more aware of the dangers that can lurk right outside of our homes.

Recently, Jones tweeted a link to a teaser clip made for the project.


The duo and their crew are busy raising money and seeking backers to help this production get on the road to completion. Check out their site over at Kick Starter, which offers easy and simple ways in which everyone can help.

I truly hope this project is able to get off the ground. I also encourage everyone to pick up this book. It’s entertaining, informative, and damn good writing!

Also, stay tuned for Jones’ upcoming release, Silver Girl, scheduled for May 2011.

For more info:

Leaving Atlanta’s website: http://www.leavingatlantathemovie.com/
Tayari Jones’ blog: http://www.tayarijones.com

-Nakia

“Waiting to Exhale” Revisited

“I want to know why I’m thirty-six years old and still single. This shit is not right. What ever happened to the good old days?”’

“What good old days?” Gloria wanted to know.

“You know. When a man saw you in a crowd, smiled at you, flirted, and came over and talked to you. Not one has asked me for my phone number since I’ve been here. Why not? There’s nothing wrong with me. Shit, I’m smart, I’m attractive, I’m educated, and my pussy’s good, if I do say so myself. What happened to all the aggressive men? The ones that arent scared to talk to you? Where the fuck are they hiding?”

“They’re not hiding. They’re just scared to make a damn commitment,” Robin said.

“They’re with white women,” Bernadine said.

“Or gay,” Gloria said.

“Or married,” Savannah said. “But you know what? They’re not all with white girls, they’re not all homosexuals, they’re not all married, either. When you get down to it, we’re talking five, maybe ten percent. What about the rest?”

“They’re ugly.”

“Stupid.”

“In prison.”

“Unemployed.”

“Crackheads.”

“Short.”

“Liars.”

“Unreliable.”

“Irresponsible.”

“Too possessive.”

“Dogs.”

“Shallow.”

“Boring.”

“Stuck in the sixties.”

“Arrogant”

“Childish.”

“Wimps.”

“Too gotdamn old and set in their ways.”

“Cant fuck.”

“Stop!” Savannah said.

“Well, shit, you asked,” Robin said.

I never in my wildest dreams thought that the subject matter in this book, especially conversations like the one above, would make it’s way into my conversations with friends, associates, and random people on the internet. I especially didn’t think I’d have the same complaints…not the first time I cracked open this book, back when I was 12 years old.

With the recent release of Terry McMillan’s highly anticipated novel, Getting to Happy, I thought it would only be fitting to re-read Waiting to Exhale. I hadn’t read the story of Bernadine, Gloria, Savannah, and Robin’s friendship since I was 19, in college with no real idea of how their situations might be similar to my eventual life as a grown ass Black woman. It was just fiction, entertainment, something  to past the time. Back then, never did it cross my mind that one day I’d identify with these characters. But that seems to be why Waiting to Exhale was such a hit back in 1992. As I stated in my intro, I remember Black women gushing over how much they enjoyed this book. My mother had it. Her friends had it, but it wasn’t until I saw Kimberly from “A Different World” walking around with it on campus, did I ask my mom could I borrow her copy. I don’t quite remember my reaction to the book, other than it resulting in me wanting to read everything else Terry McMillan had ever written (my mother let me read her copy of Mama. my favorite by her, but drew the line at the adult content of Disappearing Acts; I then turned to my dad who didn’t hesitate on buying it for me…he didn’t know any better lol).

I don’t quite remember my reaction to the book during my college years either. I do remember seeing the movie and feeling like Whitney was not fit for the part of Savannah. She was my favorite singer at the time, but Savannah was sassy and sometimes belligerent. Whitney didn’t quite fit the character in the book, but hey…you do what you have to do to sell movie tickets.

This time around, I’m 29. I’ve had my share of grown up experiences, relationships with Black men being high on my list. So I wondered, would I receive the story as just entertainment, or would I see myself in some of these characters?

There was Bernadine, reeling from being smacked in the face with the news of her husband cheating with his white secretary while secretly storing away money, property, and assets to prevent her from getting more than their house in their divorce. The pain of being thrown into single motherhood without consistent support after having given up her dreams of having her own catering business because her husband wanted her home with the kids, set her off on a new beginning that started with a new haircut and an irresponsible affair with a married man.

There is Gloria, an overweight single mom who can’t remember the last time she has been touched by a man, who gives all of her time to her salon, her teenaged son, and food. We meet Gloria as she prepares to welcome her son’s father into her bed for a tune up, if you will, only to find out that his strong hesitation is rooted in the fact that he is gay.

There is the youngest of the bunch, Robin, who doesn’t make a move unless her horoscope says so; in love with a handsome dirty rotten scoundrel, and in an attempt to get over him, trying to step out of the box and give someone who doesn’t fall into her “type” a try.  “Lately, though, I’ve had to ask myself some pretty tough questions, like, What am I doing wrong? And why do I keep picking the wrong men to fall in love with? I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, to tell the truth, but I do know that one of my major weaknesses has always been pretty men with big dicks. And Russell definitely fit the bill. I’ve been trying to figure out a way to get over this syndrome, but it’s hard, especially when that’s all you’re used to.”

And lastly, there is the aforementioned Savannah, recent transplant from Denver to Phoenix, the setting of the book, who is giving herself one year to find a man in Arizona, or she is off to another location. “Then as corny as I know it is, I actually found myself thinking about a few resolutions of my own. On the top of my list is finding a husband. I promise myself that in 1990 I will not spend another  birthday by myself, another Fourth of July by myself, another Thanksgiving by myself, and definitely not another Valentine’s Day, Christmas, or New Year’s by myself.”

My side eye put it in a lot of work during the first few chapters.  These women were making mistakes in their mid thirties that I wouldn’t dare make in my late-20s. Savannah  jumped at the chance to allow a man she barely knew to drive with her from Denver to Phoenix during her move, only to find out that he was just using her for a ride, and had every intention to move in with her once they arrived.  She then stumbles into an affair with an old love, who happens to be married.  Robin falls head over heels with a man before he even takes her out on a real date. She finally cuts it off with him once she realizes he is a drug user, after  having already slept with him multiple times. Bernadine cheats with Herbert, helping to destroy another woman’s marriage in the same way that her own failed. And Gloria tops it off by trying to convince a man who obviously is disgusted by her, to sleep with her.

Reading of these circumstances at this age with a more mature perspective had me wondering, “What the hell is wrong with these women? Where is their common sense? What was Terry thinking?”

But, as I delved deeper into the story of these four women, I realized that behind all of the mistakes and bad decisions, was a desperate urge to be loved. And not just any old way. They wanted consistency and respect and strength behind the love that they craved.  And much of this seemed to be right out of their grasp.

Throughout most of the book, I felt like I had nothing in common with Robin but  I finally identified with her when she decided to give Michael, the good, safe guy, a chance to win over her heart. “I knew I wasn’t attracted to him physically, but maybe that’s what I needed: the kind of man every woman wouldn’t be drooling over. Somebody decent and ordinary.” I can’t even count how many times I’ve had conversations with friends and associates about settling with the guy we aren’t passionate about, but who we know would keep our hearts safe and sound, treat our hearts gently, and live to make us happy.

And there was Bernadine, who ran into a stranger at a bar on the night she went to celebrate the finality of her divorce. A man who she fell in love with right there, that night, who restored her faith in men, which helped her start off feeling free and happy on her first night as a single woman. “In the house, she sat down on the couch and, out of habit, reached for a cigarette. But she didn’t have the desire or the need, and didn’t smoke it. She sat there, smiling, replaying the past night in her head for hours. It didn’t matter if she never saw him ever in life. It didn’t matter at all. She was alive again.“ I loved this part of the book, how it helped Bernadine resolve her issues with men without having been saved by a knight in shining armor or some other ludicrous fairytale ending.

I identified the most with Savannah and her brokenness after having met a man from San Francisco at a professional conference in Vegas for her job. They spent a week of bliss together, sharing secrets, learning each other inside out, even went as far as to read the Bible together. He spoke of the future with her, shared his past, and convinced her to open up to him. It ended when they returned to their respective homes and he forgot she ever existed. She was crushed.  “I’ve got feelings. And right now they hurt. And he’s the cause of it. All I want to know is this: What happened to all the pride, the tenderness, the love and compassion, black men are supposed to show us? I thought we were supposed to be a prized ‘possession‘. How are we supposed to feel beautiful and loving and soft and caring and gentle and tender and compassionate and sensitive, when they treat us like shit after we surrender ourselves to them… I can’t afford to do this shit anymore. It costs too much. And besides, being lonely has never made me feel this damn bad.”

I don’t tend to say those words out loud, but they definitely run through my head every now and then. The hurt and pain of getting one’s hopes up and the disappointment of it all being a lie was captured superbly in this storyline.

By the end of the novel, where they’d all found a little bit of peace to hold on to, I was able to recognize this story for what it was. A very well written, extreme version of the struggles with love that a lot of Black women deal with. Many of us have made huge mistakes in trusting too soon, or putting our own happiness on the back burner for others, or using our bodies to get the attention we crave, or destroying our bodies to distract ourselves from the love that we lack.  Some of it may have been exaggerated for entertainment purposes, but much of it happens in the every day lives of Black women all over the country.

The most important part of the book though, was the friendship that she created amongst these women. So many of their conversations, though brash and vulgar, reminded me of hilarious conversations with my girlfriends about love, life, jobs, and everything in between. McMillan captured the definition of Black woman kinship and stretched it into a novel. They were there for each other to lean on, assist, tell each other off when they needed to, and to stop each other from making fools of themselves.

I now see why this book resonated so well within the Black community. Terry showed the world how badly Black women want to be loved and how deeply we cherish our friends. And she hit the nail right on the head.

-Nakia M. White