K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood by La Toya Hankins

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k-rhosweetteastePublisher/Date:  Resolute Publishing, Nov. 2013
Genre(s):  Friendship, Romance, Sorority
Pages:  236
Website:  http://www.latoyahankins.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

First things first, can we just admire the beauty that is this book cover? Gorgeous.

With that done, let’s get down to the beauty that’s in La Toya Hankins’s newest novel, K-RHO: THE SWEET TASTE OF SISTERHOOD. Hankins, the author of SBF Seeking, has done it again, creating a moving story about an unbreakable bond between sorority sisters pledging Kappa Alpha Rho.

The premise is simple, but the enduring friendship is anything but. It’s a kinship built amongst three diverse Copper Road University sophomores who on the surface don’t have much in common, who probably wouldn’t have even been friends otherwise, but connect from enduring on the same line, commiserating their relationships, and growing through their college experiences in the 1990s and adulthood 10 years later.

And to think it all began by an invitation in a heavy purple linen envelope one cold February evening. From that first interest meeting, Kiara, Gloria and Donna clicked and became inseparable.

The anchor of the group is Kiara, a legacy considered a shoo-in to be a K-Rho swan. Practically groomed for membership since birth, the business major knows all the answers and passes all the trials with flying purple and platinum colors, but she harbors a secret that could end her bid for joining the sisterhood. They don’t know her lover Chris is a she – not a he – and Kiara questions whether they would accept her otherwise.

Gloria, the liberated brainiac, always has a saying, a random fact, or a long-winded explanation as the voice of reason between the trio. On full scholarship and living in the honors dorm, she’s cerebral but down-to-earth and open to more experiences than the other two girls, including being down with the swirl. Beneath that adventurous attitude lies a woman who wants to be stepped to the right way. She doesn’t settle – and her high standards could be her downfall.

Now, Donna…this girl, the daughter of a deaconess and a Marine, won my heart. She’s the sister that could offer you with a Bible-quote in a heartbeat, but would beat your ass and ask questions last if you messed with her man. The curvy beauty lives (and fights) for Peter, who’s a player on and off the football field. As a strong as she appears to be, there’s a soft spot she has for Peter that even her sisters can’t seem to sway her from. And trust me, they’ve tried.

Crossing over, even with all that going on, was an accomplishment the girls held in high regard, and cemented their friendship through college and one tragic incident that set a slightly darker tone for the remainder of the book.

Ten years later, the girls are balancing relationships, children and careers. Kiara is still devoting her every waking hour to K-Rho at her partner’s expense; Gloria is tired of letting love find her – and of being alone. Donna is the most transformed, now a mother to Peter’s children and settled in domesticity.

This second half of K-Rho doesn’t hold as much fun as the beginning when they were fancy-free co-eds, enjoying Greek parties and gossiping about who was zooming who. However, I do think they become fuller, mature characters. I enjoyed their interactions with each other, mostly between Kiara and Donna, who are my favorite women in K-Rho. The “lesbian” and the “Bible-thumper” understood each other in ways that show best friends don’t have to do anything but love and accept each other for whom they are. Hankins shows this time and time again between Donna, Kiara, and Gloria.

I did have a couple of qualms about the night of the “incident,” in that I thought it was of out of character for one of the women to even be in that situation. I also kind of hoped Hankins would have delved into skin-color issues in African-American sorority life, but that’s just my wishful thinking.

Hankins, a Zeta Phi Beta member since undergrad, writes authentically in K-Rho. She exhibits talent in writing what the sorority experience is like, most especially as a lesbian in an alliance of women who may not always accept you – despite wearing the same colors.

But despite it all, Kiara, Gloria and Donna can’t be, won’t be stopped.

So at Hankin’s capable hands, sisterhood does taste quite good.

[rating-report]

Reviewed March 2014

About La Toya Hankins

La Toya Hankins is a native of North Carolina and currently resides in Raleigh, NC. A graduate of East Carolina University in Greenville, NC, she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism with a minor in political science. During her college career, she became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. and later served as second vice president for one of the largest graduate chapters in North Carolina.

After working as a regional reporter and features editor in the Charlotte metro area for seven years, La Toya entered the world of banking, where she worked for the fifth largest bank in the country. Presently employed with the State of North Carolina, she divides her time between being a proud pet parent of a terrier named Neo and volunteering in the community.

Currently serving as the chair of Shades of Pride, organizer of the annual Triangle Black Pride, La Toya is an active supporter of LGBT issues and health disparities that affect her community. Her literary influences and loves include Zora Neale Hurston, Walter Mosley, Anne Rice, and Pearl Cleage. Her motto, borrowed from Hurston, is “I do not weep at the world, I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife.”

La Toya is the author of SBF Seeking and K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood.


Who is First Lady Wanda Davis? (Book 1: Greater Harvest Saga) by Michael Drain

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whoisfirstladywandadavisPublisher:  CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, Dec. 2013
Genre(s):  Religious, Romance, Coming Out
Pages:  114
Website:  http://www.browninkentertainment.com

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Wife. Mentor. Friend. Shopaholic.

In WHO IS FIRST LADY WANDA DAVIS?, a story of the perfection it takes to be a pastor’s wife by Michael Drain, we’re introduced to all sides of Wanda, even the ones she tries to keep cleverly concealed.

Wanda Davis followed her husband, Howard, from their college days to the pulpit. In the years since his installation, she’s been the “perfect” pastor’s wife: steadfastly supportive of Howard’s mission, mindful of her words and actions, and helpful whenever needed. This dedication and her husband’s strong word ascend Greater Harvest Cathedral to megachurch status. Once a rock in the South Bend, Indiana community, the church is now in the wake of a scandal, and Howard thinks Wanda is a catalyst to getting the church back to its roots.

Yet Wanda is in the midst of her own spiritual storm.

Being a first lady doesn’t allow much room to be herself. Where she felt other wives in her position wielded their power in a greater capacity, Wanda felt stifled. She can’t speak her mind or tell what’s bothering her, lest she be judged. This pressure builds into an addiction she can’t shake: shopping. Hiding expensive clothes and thousands of dollars in mounting debt, Wanda’s compulsion may stem partly from her first lady pedestal, but it actually masks an even deeper craving: being with a woman.

As a pastor’s daughter, Wanda couldn’t reconcile her spiritual self with being a lesbian. After breaking it off with a female classmate in college, Howard was the man who accepted her as she was, and she saw him as her rock and deliverance.

Even when she didn’t see it, Howard has always believed in his wife and their relationship. He places Wanda front and center over the church’s women’s service during revival. Wanda, with her heavy heart, is not so convinced, especially when the occasion pairs her with an alluring event planner. How can she lead the women when she is so conflicted in her own soul?

The pastor’s wife element in Who is First Lady Wanda Davis?, the first in a series, adds something extra to Drain’s story, but I feel Wanda could be any woman confused in her sexuality and her love for God. Her turmoil in living up to the self-imposed standards of a first lady — and the behind-the-scenes church drama — are real to the black church. We do make it hard for our gay brothers and sisters, but what I found moving was how understanding Howard was to Wanda’s transition then and now as she figures out her life. Howard’s a good guy.

The book’s formatting could use work, and the sermons throughout are slightly repetitive, but Drain engages.

By the conclusion, I can tell something more sinister is coming in Wicked Harvest, Book 2 in The Greater Harvest Saga. I’ll be reading it.

[rating-report]

Reviewed February 2014

About Michael Drain

Michael Drain is a married, social columnist for the LGBT magazine Rainbowaffairs.com. He is also the CEO of Brown Ink Entertainment, a company that specializes in LGBT an mainstream entertainment, i.e. stage productions, music, publications, media, graphics and artist representation. He is a graduate of Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis. Drain currently resides in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Drain, who wrote and directed the smash hit, My Revival!, is currently working on several stage plays and a follow up novel to Who is First Lady Wanda Davis? titled Wicked Harvest, set for a 2014 release.


First Love by C. Truth

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firstlovePublisher/Date:  Penny Publishing, LLC, June 2011
Genre(s):  Romance, Coming Out, Young Adult
Pages:  181
Website:  http://www.bflyctruth.com

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

As much as I want to, I can never tell a book character what to do. And not just because she’s not a live, breathing person, but because when it comes to a teenager like Savannah in FIRST LOVE by C. Truth, she wouldn’t listen to me anyway.

She’s 17, a high school senior and falling in love with best friend Bree. She can’t talk to her by-the-Bible mom, who wants a better friend for her daughter than the openly-gay Bree. And she can’t tell Bree she likes her, because she has a girlfriend. She has virtually no one to turn to with her feelings.

I wish she would listen to me. But what could I tell a book-smart, hard-working girl like Savannah, coming from someone older?

  1. Don’t get a boyfriend just to please your mother. When handsome football player Marco approaches and asks you out, say no. Just because he’s 5’7’’ with chocolate skin and deep waves in his hair, and he’s the guy all the girls want, doesn’t mean you really want to go out with him and you shouldn’t get him caught up in your confusion about your sexuality. It can only lead to heartache for both you. Especially when you kiss him and you’re thinking about Bree.
  2. Be honest with yourself. Savannah, you spend a lot of time in your room pondering your sexuality, and that’s good. But you also beat yourself about liking girls when that’s truly where your heart is. Stop it, be who you are. There’s nothing wrong with liking girls. I spent my own high school years denying whom I was, only to feel like I should have just owned up to my feelings.
  3. Tell Bree how you feel. Girl, it’s hard, I know. Telling someone how you feel is never easy. But this is Bree, your homie. You’ve known her since elementary school. She’s told you all about her girlfriends, and you know she would do anything for you. I find it hard to believe she would abandon you after you told her the truth. And don’t worry about that girlfriend of hers; she’ll reveal her true colors – and whom do you think she’ll coming running to advice and comfort?
  4. Don’t make such a big deal about sex. I know at 17 it seems like sex is the best thing on earth. Don’t get me wrong; it’s amazing. But you know what, Savannah? It’s better with the right person. Feel me. Don’t be in such a hurry to give what’s your most precious gift. Cause when it’s right, ooh wee!
  5. Get your mother a boyfriend. Your mother is a piece of work. These praying rants y’all do to save you from lesbianism aren’t going to work. Since your mother is forever beating down the church doors, find her a deacon to work out her own issues with.

Now that I’ve taken care of Savannah, let’s move on to C. Truth. First Love is a dramatic book for sure, but the both the story and the writing needed work. There are more than a few grammatical issues, and some of the situations Savannah found herself in seemed too far-fetched, like her first college visit which went swimmingly considering how complicated her life became by that point. I read so many 5-star reviews for First Love, and while I was reading, I was a little disappointed in how the story unravelled.

Full of youthful decisions and text messages, First Love is good for the drama and the angst of beginning love. Some girls could identify with the identity and parental issues Savannah faces. Teens can read it also for C. Truth’s 8 Love Lessons she provides at the end of the book. Too bad she didn’t make Savannah follow any of them.

[rating-report]

Reviewed November 2013

About C. Truth

I was born in Kansas City, KS, and raised by my Great-grandmother in Kansas City, MO. After high school I went straight to work. I spent five years with the worlds largest electronic retailer, then left the Store Assistant Manager position and enrolled the University Of North Carolina at Charlotte and began writing full-time. I have been living in Charlotte, North Carolina since 2007.

I began writing in my early years of high school. Teachers, friends and family had mentioned to me that my writing was something special, but I didn’t gain the courage in my writing until I started blogging on downelink.com, a lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgendered social networking site in 2008. The comments left on my page about the blogs gave me the inspiration I needed to complete my first five novels titled First Love, a love story; Intoxicating, an anthology of short stories; Fly Truth, an anthology of thoughts, Second Love, a continuation novel; and iEscaped, an anthology of poetry.


SBF Seeking by La Toya Hankins (June 2012 Pick of the Month)

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Publisher/Date:  JMS Books/CreateSpace, Jan. 2012
Genre:  Romance
Pages:  234
Website:  http://www.latoyahankins.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

“Goin’ to the chapel and we’re gonna get married…”

Wait, not so fast.

That’s what Yvette Thurman said to herself before walking down the aisle to her longtime boyfriend, Martin in SBF SEEKING. by La Toya Hankins. She comes to this decision after much thought – and after placing a personal ad seeking a white man to fulfill a secret fantasy.

Ironically, it leads Yvette to a woman.

Yvette knew she was choosing the wrong path in marrying Martin, only saying yes because she “didn’t know what else to say.” Her relationship with Martin began when she was a college freshman; now a 25-year-old magazine writer, it doesn’t suit her needs physically or otherwise. Something is missing.

In her attempt to find it – and at her friends’ and family’s insistence – Yvette breaks up with Martin. The only thing they didn’t expect was that Yvette would happen upon love with a woman. Her first female relationship, it’s full of all the affection and chemistry she was sorely missing – and provided her something she didn’t even know she could have.

Now her inner circle – best friend Danita, mom Lena, twin sister Yolanda, and close pals – has something to say about this new love Yvette’s found with Jasmine. It doesn’t faze her as she charges ahead without any qualms. She’s doing her for the first time.

Hankins debut novel is funny, and sensitive, and while Yvette is naïve to the pitfalls of coming out, she’s a sincere character with a distinct voice. So are her family and good friends who add a greater dimension to the first-person story. In SBF Seeking, Hankins creates a woman you’ll be happy for when she finds her first love, but want to wake up to the realism of first love.

But who are we to begrudge Yvette’s happiness? Shoot, I’m rooting for her next adventure.

Reviewed June 2012


Deepest Desire by Anne Shade

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deepestdesirePublisher/Date:  Freedom of Love Press, June 2008
Genre(s):  Coming Out, Romance
Pages: 
116
Website:  http://www.folpress.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Confronting your closet after being married – and divorced – and then jumping into a new relationship is a lot for a woman to take in. So lovers Eve Monroe and Lynette Folsom proceed with caution in DEEPEST DESIRE, the first novel from Anne Shade.

Besides, being married was just a diversion Eve. She assumed being the perfect doctor’s wife would cure her appetite for women, a desire she’s had for as long as she could remember. But when the urge resurfaces, her marriage ends in a mess.

Moving forward and feeling stronger, she begins a new business venture, Details by Eve, and enjoys a life uncomplicated by longings for the same sex – and then she’s asked to plan a book release party for out lesbian writer Lynette. After reading her erotica, and meeting the attractive writer, Eve is faced with her attraction for women and nervously gives in.

And why wouldn’t she? Lynette is dreadlocked, intelligent, fun to be around, and very open about whom she is. She is very intrigued by Eve, the voluptuous beauty who seems to be strong-willed inevery aspect of her life except coming out to her strictly religious family. Lynette has dealt with women not strong enough to be themselves, so being with Eve is an exercise in patience. But their heat is undeniable.

While her relationship with Lynette is the most sensuous she’s ever known, the perfect Catholic daughter of African-American and Puerto Rican heritage is nervous about telling the world. Rejection stops her every time. She has to realize that Lynette worth it – or let her fears stop her cold.

Deepest Desire boasts a simple love story. What’s most enjoyable is how the love between Eve and Lynette is extremely erotic, but not overtly so. Shade is honest about two women overcoming exes and hang-ups to obtain the love they so deserve. I’d like to know more about Shade, who exposes how to get to the deepest part of a woman – and love everything that’s beneath.

Reviewed August 2010


What Goes Around Comes Back Around by C. D. Kirven (Feb. 2009 Pick of the Month)

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Publisher/Date:  Outskirts Press, Nov. 2008
Genre(s):  Coming of Age, Coming Out, Identity, Self-Love
Pages:  224
Website:  http://www.cdkirven.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Karmic retribution allows the universe to make things happen the way the world intended. Yet we still have some control over our destiny, to shape the future based on our experiences and goals. C. D. Kirven’s debut novel, WHAT GOES AROUND COMES BACK AROUND, builds on this premise as we follow the coming of age of Kingsley Ross.

As the novel begins, Kingsley can be best described as passive, a 14-year-old girl who believes her grandmother’s words of what goes around comes around. She and her best friend, Tanya, spend their days doing typical teenage mischief, which returns to bite her in the ass. When it comes to getting what she wants, Kingsley doesn’t aggressively pursue her desires, and by adulthood, she’s living with glimmers of regrets.

One decision she laments is not allowing herself to fall in love. Uncomfortable with her blossoming lesbian tendencies, Kingsley fails to pursue a relationship with a woman she meets through a set-up, the drop-dead gorgeous Emery, who has the swagger to make Kingsley swoon despite her trepidation of being with a woman. They spend a glorious night together, leaving Kingsley more confused than ever. When Kingsley sees her months later – with another woman – it devastates her that she never told Emery how she felt. She let her fears prevent her from the love she could have had.

Seeing Emery moving on with her life, Kinsley vows to take charge of her own, experiencing everything the world has to offer. It helps her to see things clearly, to see that she was living by other’s standards – her family, society – instead of her own.

“I realized that all this time I had been thinking that I was no one on my own but everything with someone else. This was a lie that became my way of life. I am everything now…”

Nominated for a Lambda Literary Award, What Goes Around Comes Back Around captures a woman’s passage to herself. Through Kirven’s writing, it’s refreshing to see Kingsley grow from her antics as a teenager to a woman of her own. The transformation, described in colorful detail, is engrossing on many levels: Kingsley becoming an adult, accepting her sexuality, and discovering herself. Kirven allows you to take the ride with her character, and while a little bumpy, it leads to a place of self-fulfillment and love.

Reviewed February 2009


Passing for Black by Linda Villarosa (Aug. 2008 Pick of the Month)

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Publisher/Date:  Dafina, June 2008
Genre:  Romance
Pages:  262
Website:  http://www.lindavillarosa.com

Rating: ★★★★½ 

We’ve all dealt, in some form or fashion, with the issue of being black, being a woman, and being gay – at times feeling as if you don’t really fit on any side, but having to stay true to both aspects of yourself. In PASSING FOR BLACK, the first foray into fiction by renowned journalist Linda Villarosa, this entanglement is experienced by Angela Wright, a buppie struggling with both her sexual and racial identities.

By outside appearances, Angela’s life is seamless in her middle-class world, where she’s an editor at Désire magazine, engaged to a history professor at a prominent university and mingles with a Black elite inner circle. Yet it’s simply a facade. Angela has never felt secure with herself, and “passing” is simply her coping mechanism to deal with never feeling “black enough.” With her mother, Janice, considered a local heroine in the black female community, she always felt tragically compelled to live up to her mother’s roots. And at 29, she should be ready to be married after a six-year relationship with Keith, but something always holds her back. Namely, her attraction to women, a temptation she forbade herself from having for so many years.

But it’s one she can’t resist with Cait Getty, one of Keith’s colleagues at Amsterdam University. After spying the woman hanging posters for a lesbian sex conference, all pretenses of a white picket fence life fade away. Instead, she finds herself drawn to the androgynous vibe of this white woman, an activist whose fervor for women’s issues is only matched by her passion for Angela. With sandy brown hair, boyish good looks and British accent, Cait is nothing Angela expected to be infatuated with. In fact, she’s everything opposite of what her family and friends would see her with.

It leaves Angela, who’s normally indecisive and non-confrontational, torn as to whom she should be with. Her head tells her to do the right thing and stay with her “good black man,” while her heart demands she face her fears and be with the one person who makes her feel true to herself. It’s a hard decision, with consequences that will manage to hurt anyone involved.

And while Angela’s living an illusion, others in her life are also passing. Cait focuses so much lesbian rights that she ignores the plight of anyone else that doesn’t fit in her box. Keith feigns a “good Negro” veneer to his white superiors while alienating his own people. Even her best friend, Mae, learns to leave her Southern roots behind to be accepted in the workplace.

Yet Angela is the center of this provocative tale. When Angela decides her future much later, she satisfies her craving to be true to herself, and passing just isn’t good enough anymore. Because of Cait, everything she never thought she wanted turns out to be everything she needs.

Passing for Black makes for a challenging read. Villarosa tackles the subject of racial and sexual identity with class and a sense of humor. It’s down-to-earth enough for the casual reader, and speak to any black lesbian feeling out of step with their two worlds. Passing conveys that every woman’s journey to herself is never easy, but one she shouldn’t spend passing by.

Reviewed August 2008


Am I My Sister’s Keeper? by S. Stephens (Dec. 2005 Pick of the Month)

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Publisher/Date:  iUniverse, Sept. 2005
Genre(s):  Romance, Coming Out
Pages: 164

Website:  http://www.sstephens.info

Rating: ★★★★★ 

When your head is torn between your sexuality and the expectations your parents, where does that leave your heart? That is the struggle starkly captured in S. Stephens’ debut novel, AM I MY SISTER’S KEEPER? Stephens brings the protagonist Elise James to life, along with her grueling inner struggle to both stay true to herself while pleasing her family.

Elise has acknowledged her attraction to women since she was 15 years old. With that knowledge, she delved into the world of same sex relationships only to have it blow up in her face when her parents learn of her “lesbian episodes.” It plants a wedge between Elise and her parents, and ruins the relationship with her younger sister, Lynn. It’s then Elise realizes the world does not accept her kind of love, and after a four-year respite at a college far from home, she leaves women behind to live a “normal” life. She doesn’t want to put her family through any more pain and yearns to be the daughter her parents could be proud of.

After settling at home in Miami, Elise begins dating Grayson, a high school classmate. They become serious very quickly, and are engaged within weeks – to the pleasure of her parents, but to the chagrin of her other “family” – best friends Carmen, Iran and Donna. They know Elise is simply fooling herself being with Gray. In spite of disagreeing with her decision, the friends take Elise out to celebrate, and that’s where Elise meets Symphony.

Symphony is the type of woman Elise has always desired – smart, sexy and self-confident. Despite being engaged to Gray and, she begins seeing Symphony on the sly, carrying on a wicked tryst. Elise is torn between the perfection of Symphony and the perfect life she has mapped out for herself with Gray.

Meanwhile, baby sister Lynn is falling through the cracks. Lynn always looked to Elise, but because of Elise couldn’t be true to herself, she fails Lynn. Their parents spent so much time trying to keep Elise “straight” that Lynn acts out to receive any attention at all. When Lynn’s so far gone that the worse happens, it takes the whole family by shock, but finally brings them together.

Am I My Sister’s Keeper? is a heart-wrenching tale of a woman who sacrifices her heart and soul to please her family. It takes her a while but Elise figures out that being herself, without qualms, takes true courage. S. Stephens writes a true story with intensity and a great ring of truth. The plot is carried out smoothly, to a climax that will keep the reader hanging on for dear life. Make room on your bookshelf for Stephens as she is an author worth reading every single time.

Reviewed December 2005


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


Double Pleasure Double Pain by Nikki Rashan

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doublepleasuredoublepainPublisher/Date:  Urban Books, Apr. 2008
Genre:  Romance
Pages:  288
Website:  http://www.nikkirashan.com

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Entertaining, genuine and down to earth, DOUBLE PLEASURE DOUBLE PAIN is the tale of Kyla, a 26-year-old “super-junior” at the local college who hasn’t quite got her act together. After eight years of school, she doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life, and is settling for a part-time job at a department store when she knows she could do better. And she’s somewhat content with Jeff, a “good man” who loves and supports her, while her best friends Vanessa and Tori provide her comic relief.

Then a pleasant surprise takes the form of one of her classmates. In one of Kyla’s social work classes (her umpteenth major), she meets Stephanie, with whom she has an immediate connection. They are both trying to get ahead in life and among the oldest students in the class. When Kyla discovers Stephanie is a lesbian, it surprises and fascinates her. Soon Kyla has to deal with her own blossoming attraction to a woman stirring up feelings she didn’t know she had.

Stephanie doesn’t step to Kyla at first, but let’s their friendship develop slowly. Kyla gets to know her on a personal basis, even meeting Stephanie’s nine-year-old son, Jaron. After a while, the ladies are sharing more than just classes–and Kyla doesn’t know what to do.

The rest of the novel basically deals with Kyla’s emerging sexuality and trying not to break anyone’s heart, whether it’s Stephanie, Jeff or her own. By the time she decides between her “safe” life with Jeff or the lesbian unknown, she’s gained what’s most important: the confidence to know whom she really is.

Double Pleasure Double Pain is a fast read. It’s surprising to see just how Kyla will end up. Through her inner turmoil, the reader takes a voyage with Kyla through her sexual journey–and it’s well worth the trip.

Reviewed August 2005