Cream by Christiana Harrell

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creamPublisher/Date:  CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, Aug. 2013
Genre(s):  Romance, Sexuality
Pages:  230
Website:  https://www.facebook.com/girlnovel

Rating: ★★★★★ 

CREAM is my first Christiana Harrell book. *hangs head in shame*

But it definitely won’t be my last because Harrell, whose Cream was a 2014 Lambda Literary Award finalist, truly proved her talents with a book surrounding the life of a character I loved and rooted for the entire way.

Cream is her stage name, a strip club performer with an androgynous appearance and a beautiful body. Dancing for men became a means to an end after being in a foster home after her parents’ abandonment. The first few pages introduce this past and her take-no-shit personality that serves her well as a stripper.

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2014 Lambda Literary Award Finalist From http://www.lambdaliterary.org

But it also gives credence to why she moves from city to city. Why she’s never befriended hardly anyone since her group home days. And why, even with the fights she’s had (and won), there’s still there’s an innocence about her.

Cream’s sexual naivety is the meat of this book. It’s shown in the way she was drawn to her friend Kitty – until she suddenly left Cream’s life. In the way she latched onto Payton, the daddy’s girl who shows her being a stud is her real meal ticket – both professionally and romantically. And when finally she finds unconditional love, she almost runs in the opposite direction.

And this realness is what I loved about Cream, both the book and the character. This gullibility Cream owns is not a Mary Sue plot device, it’s a journey Harrell writes so we can take this journey with her main character. You feel as if you’re a newbie right along with her, from Kansas City to Atlanta, and everywhere else in between.

Just the way Cream drops her boxers on the stage, Harrell’s writing leaves it all on the page. There’s very realistic dialogue, the sex is on fire, and Harrell’s voice is loud and clear through Cream without muddying the two voices. Her supporting characters also play a big role in the book, to the point where I thought Cream molded herself to any woman who offered her a hand.

That leads me to my next point that one of the most interesting aspect of Cream hinges on the sexuality of the characters. Though Cream dressed and performed as a stud based on Payton’s advice, it should be noted that Cream sometimes questions defining herself as a stud. Until meeting Payton she wasn’t aware of what a stud was, which at times I did find a skeptical. I could say it was because of her upbringing and her singular focus on survival, but never thinking about who you are sexually was a small part of the book that nagged at me. But her exploration of who she is was genuine.

Cream definitely fulfilled my expectations. The love she found and the book’s conclusion were so fulfilling, and worth the learning curve Cream took to find what I think she was always looking for – whether she could admit it to herself or not.

There’s a reason why Harrell has more than 10 books to her name. I plan to read every one of them.

[rating-report]

Reviewed June 2014


8qqlogo8 Quick Questions for Christiana Harrell about Cream

Tell us about your book, Cream.
Well, in as few words as possible, Cream is simply a story about a woman who learns some hard lessons about love and money, while discovering her identity and sexuality along her journey.

Who is Cream?
I want to say that Cream could be any of us, but she’s just too unique to be categorized. She’s carefree, she makes her own rules, she has tunnel vision, she just is.

One of the things I enjoyed about your novel was it felt as if you put yourself in the head of Cream: being on the stage, discovering her sexuality. How did you create her as a character? Any research involved?
Oh, there was plenty of research (lol). If you noticed, in the novel I mentioned real stud strippers like Face and Juicebox. I watched every video that I could find, but this time for “research,” rather than enjoyment. I watched their moves carefully and their facial expressions. I had to pay attention to costumes and audience reaction. Basically, none of the things I would normally pay attention to. We tend to forget that during the fantasy they create, they are people and they have lives outside of those neon lights. I try to be my characters in my real life when I write them. The people around me get some great entertainment.

Is Cream based on a true person or situations?
Cream is part fiction and part non-fiction. I don’t remember how this person came up, but my ex-partner and I were talking/gossiping like most couples do and she was telling me about a “stud” that lived the same lifestyle as Cream. The little bit that I learned made me want to give her a story. I didn’t know this person myself so I had to fill in the blanks. Literally, all I had to go on was a dancer who danced for both men and women because she was “about her money.

The gist I took away from Cream is that sexuality can’t be defined by roles or labels. Was that your message?
That was definitely one, the biggest one. Roles seem to be a big deal in our community when they really shouldn’t be. If people can read about Cream and accept her the way that she was, then they can accept anyone.

Will you continue Cream’s story?
I thought about it, but if I did that, I’d have to continue so many others. I couldn’t stand the pressure

What’s next for Christiana Harrell?
At the moment, I’m working on the second stud in the “Stud Life Series.” Her name is Magic. There are three others that have to come after her. That should keep me busy for the next two years or so. Hopefully, one of them will get an award. I won’t complain.

Cream was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award in the Lesbian General Fiction category. Congratulations! How did it feel to be finalist?
Aw man. I literally almost fell out of my chair. The day that I submitted the novel, I honestly did not expect to hear anything back. You’d be surprised how much I doubt myself. Being a finalist definitely gave me confidence, but now I have to top Cream and I’m not sure that’s possible. Either way, I’m happy and humbled for the experience.

Want to know more about Christiana Harrell? Read her Sistahs on the Shelf interview A Sistahs Favorite Things interview.

About Christiana Harrell

“I write about heterosexuals, I write about lesbians, I write about transgenders… I write about people.”

Christiana Harrell is a 27-year-old writer from New Orleans, LA., that got her start in writing at six-years-old. She published her first title Girl: a Story for Every Les Being in 2009. She currently has more than 10 titles to her name. She is currently working on her next novel.


Abandoned Property: The Eviction Chronicles Part 2 by Kai Mann

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Publisher/Date:  Scriblical Vibez Publishing LLC, June 2013
Genre(s):  Family, Romance, Self-Love
Pages:  282
Website:  http://kai-mann.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

ABANDONED PROPERTY by Kai Mann, the sequel to 30 Day Notice, proves that losing family, money or your soul can sometimes set you on the path, for better or worse, you were destined.

30 Day Notice was Mann’s first installment in Eviction Chronicles, and it was a journal into the life of Kori Maitland. It was being literally trapped in the closet with a gun to her head that set her life in motion, leaving behind her four children to escape her boys witnessing the pain and discomfort being a lesbian trapped in a straight marriage. She knew God was steering her life to something greater. Moving from Florida to Chicago, Detroit and California, then back to Detroit, she encountered a series of trials that seriously tested her faith and sanity.

Abandoned Property continues her story, but ties in stories of five people Kori collided with on her journey, from her husband she left to the women’s she’s loved. Jerard, Darius, Jay, Layla, Karina and Coco had all in some way been discarded in some fashion, and each one’s reaction to their abandonment impacts Kori’s life.

Jerard has been left to raise four kids after Kori’s departure; Darius deals with his sexuality after his father leaves his family for drugs; Jay can’t seem to forgive her mother’s neglect; Layla is forced to begin life again after her husband skips out; Karina is facing motherhood alone; and Coco feels the ache of her mother’s rejection when she comes out at 17.

With this many characters and their separate issues, it would appear that Mann’s story would be convoluted, but that could be far from the truth. It has great focus and I could see that, just like reality, every character’s life has a unique purpose and reason for being in Property. From childhood hurts to love affairs gone wrong, their hurts are magnified and felt as the story progresses. None of these characters were cookie cutter. What Mann reveals is how their abandonments serves to either propel them forward or set them back; how each chooses to use their insecurities, daddy issues, questioning sexuality or self-doubt; and how they dump their issues onto Kori by simply leaving or staying. Some truly loved Kori; some showed their love in destructive ways.

Abandoned Property permits us to see why the people were in her life for a reason. It paints a detailed, complete picture of what Kori underwent when she moved from place to place and couldn’t find a healthy relationship. And I wanted her to find real, unconditional love. Essentially, that’s what all them were looking for. How they try to obtain it is the compelling part.

I felt like Mann really brought Kori full circle. I felt a better connection to her (although there’s still a small part of me that questions leaving her kids). The writing is more cohesive in Abandoned Property, mostly because it wasn’t all narrated by Kori as in 30 Day Notice. It’s a solid effort. Now I just need to know what’s next, Kai Mann? I wonder what the future holds for Kori, but as long as she has herself to rely on, she should be okay.

[rating-report]

Reviewed November 2013

About Kai Mann

Kai Mann grew up in Fort Myers, Florida and currently resides in Detroit, Michigan. She is the author of two novels in the Eviction Chronicles called 30 Day Notice and Abandoned Property. Kai began writing at a young age and has always wanted to write a novel but knew that meant she would need to experience life before that could happen.

Kai came to the conclusion in the latter part of 2008 that the Creator had given her a story to tell and in 2009 she started writing her first novel 30 Day Notice. That year Kai would also become an independent contract writer for Examiner.com and hold the title of Detroit’s Best Friend Examiner. In her role as an Examiner, she purposefully writes articles to incite a deeper level of thought when it comes to friendship.

In 2011 Kai published 30 Day Notice under her newly created publishing company called “Scriblical Vibez Publishing, LLC”. The name came out of a need to publish content that she believed would challenge others to think and create a vibrational change in the universe. She believed the Creator gave her the name to remind her that she was responsible to scribe biblically while creating a message type vibe.

Kai is a proud member of the Motown Writers Network where she volunteers at conferences, workshops, and assists in publishing content on the network’s site.

In 2013 she published Abandoned Property her sophomore novel. In the same year she helped to produce a DocuSeries called Out Loud in the D. While the DocuSeries is still in progress, Kai is presently working on her next project a book of poems called Living on Lafayette Street.


The Other Side of Paradise by Staceyann Chin

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othersideofparadiselesbianrealife

 

 

 

 

Publisher/Date:  Scribner, Feb. 2010
Genre(s):  Coming of Age, Lesbian Real Life
Pages:  261
Website:  http://www.staceyannchin.com

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Staceyann Chin – writer, prolific poet, political activist and purveyor of knowing your pussy – never had life easy. Growing up in Jamaica without a father and being abandoned by her mother almost promised her future would end up a tragic story. Yet, out the rubble of her childhood grew the unwavering spirit that turned her into the courageous woman you see on stage belting out her poems with such fervor.

In THE OTHER SIDE OF PARADISE, the reader gets to see the upbringing that birthed an artist. After being brought into the world Christmas Day, she is left behind with her brother, Delano, in the care of her grandmother. There, in the town of Lottery, Staceyann’s inquisitive and highly imaginative mind got her into adventures in school and at home, and allowed her to fill in the gaps of her mother’s whereabouts and her father’s identity. There, she also blossomed thanks to her grandmother’s nurturing, despite longing for her mother’s return.

When her mother does come back for them, it was clear to the nine-year-old that her mother is unfit to raise two young children. The siblings were quickly separated when their mother sent Delano to his father and left Staceyann with her auntie in an area called Paradise. What she experienced is anything but. The crowded, run down house of horrors was Staceyann’s nightmare. Abusive hands, harsh rules and unbearable conditions plagued her, but also helped her to protect and save herself.

From there, Staceyann’s quest for stability led to the discovery of her sexuality. After finally freeing from her auntie, she can be without the fear of punishment. She flourished at school, and later college, where she fell in love with a girl. Unafraid, Staceyann made this pronouncement to her classmates in her usual vociferous fashion. In Jamaica. Where violent homophobia runs rampant. But that’s of no matter to Staceyann Chin. She’s who she is, and makes no apologies.

That’s the heart of This Side of Paradise. While the seeds of neglect were planted with her mother’s disappearance, Staceyann cultivated this angst into the fruit of hope and fortitude. It helped that she had a wicked sense of humor and quick wits to match. Paradise is hard to swallow at times. Knowing she’s survived is the all the happy ending you need.

Reviewed August 2010