Ain’t Gonna Be the Same Fool Twice by April Sinclair

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aintgonnaPublisher/Date:  Harper, Feb. 1997
Genre(s):  Coming of Age, College Life
Pages:  324
Website:  http://www.aprilsinclair.net

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Everything feels fresh and exciting much like Stevie in AIN’T GONNA BE THE SAME FOOL TWICE, this colorful sequel to Coffee Will Make You Black.

By the novel’s start, Stevie has graduated high school and is leaving and is leaving to attend college in a small Illinois town not too far from her native Chicago. Although the school is predominately white, Stevie manages to hang with Black folk, making fast friends with Sharlinda and Today. But it’s her relationship with French girl Celeste that proves to be her life-changing moment: that’s when Stevie discovers the delicious taste of a woman.

It’s also confirmed when she, Today and Sharlinda travel to San Francisco for a getaway after graduating college. After her buddies ditch her dates, Stevie decides to explore the city on her own by going to a women-only dance. There she meets Traci, one of the few sistahs in the place. The two hit it off, and pretty soon Stevie decides to stay in San Francisco to carve out a life of her own.

Stevie moves in with Traci, taking over the room and rent for one of the roommates who’s traveling abroad. Although the romantic relationship is great with Traci, it’s hard for Stevie to adjust to the city a first; trying to find a job is pure hell and San Francisco has its share of far-out folk. But you can never keep a Black woman down, and Stevie’s willing to explore new experiences. It’s 1975, and the world is changing; Stevie wants to change along with it.

In time Stevie finds out the more things change, the more things stay the same. Racism might to be as blatant in the City by the Bay as it is in the Windy City, but people are still hung up on color. And after her affair with Traci goes sour, she discovers love is a bitch, too. But she takes everything in stride, and learns that you can be a fool, but you won’t ever be the same fool twice.

Sinclair’s Ain’t Gonna Be is dynamite. Stevie’s spunky character is a hoot, complete with the 70’s lingo and all. The story is fulfilling and leaves you wanting more. Although not as sweet as its predecessor, it’s still a funky good time.

Reviewed January 2006


Coffee Will Make You Black by April Sinclair

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coffeewillmakeyoublackPublisher/Date:  Harper, Feb. 1995
Genre(s):  Young Adult, Coming Out
Pages: 256
Website:  http://www.aprilsinclair.net

Rating: ★★★★★ 

I can remember reading COFFEE WILL MAKE YOU BLACK as a teenager. It was the first novel that truly moved me. Rereading it years later, it still touches me.

Coffee Will Make You Black, the classic coming-of-age novel by acclaimed author April Sinclair, follows Jean “Stevie” Stevenson as a teen growing up late 1960s Chicago. Back then, times were truly a-changing: black folks were still known as colored, but were slowly beginning to embrace the mantra “Black is beautiful.” It was an era where parents wouldn’t let their children drink coffee for fear it would darken their skin color. Social unrest and the civil rights movement were in full force. Born to working poor parents—her mother a bank teller, her father a janitor—Stevie, as she’s affectionately known, is just a black girl is trying to make her way through adolescence in one piece.

At the novel’s beginning, Stevie is 11 and a half and in the sixth grade. She’s in that awkward stage, flat-chested and taller than most of her male classmates. Her skin is the color of Cracker Jacks, but “most Negroes didn’t get excited over folks who were darker than a paper bag.

Stevie’s only desire is to be popular, to hang with Carla, the girl everyone adores. She finally gets her wish when, after an altercation, the two become fast friends. Carla’s a lot faster than Stevie and teaches her a lot about life.

The novel traces Stevie’s five years of her life, from first crushes to first kisses to first love. She learns a lot about herself through her friendships and her family, all while trying to pave her way in a racially-conscious time. But Stevie does make a white friend in Nurse Horne, one of the few Caucasian faculty members at her predominately black school. Nurse Horne believes in her and tells her she can become anything she puts her mind to. She also lets Stevie know it’s ok to be “funny,” to embrace her blossoming sexuality.

Written with great heart and down-home humor, Sinclair’s debut novel sizzles and makes a bold statement about being black and being yourself. Coffee has a fresh voice and takes you back to being young and trying find your way in this world. Sinclair has crafted a novel that 10 years later, still resonates with the little black girl in all of us.

Reviewed December 2005