The Gerbera Series: The Preludes, Clear Sense and The Sweetness by Ninamaste MaTuri

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Publisher/Date:  Lulu.com, Mar. 2011 (The Preludes); Nov. 2011 (Clear Sense); May 2013 (The Sweetness)
Genre(s):  Young Adult, Coming of Age
Pages:   56 (The Preludes); 78 (Clear Sense); 96 (The Sweetness)
Website:  http://www.ninamastematuri.com

The Preludes:★★★½☆ 
Clear Sense:★★★★☆ 
The Sweetness:★★★★☆ 

Ninamaste MaTuri’s The Gerbera series has all the makings of childhood love, pain and laughter – and at the helm are Melanie, Adrianna and Nicole, three very unique girls diverged on the path to womanhood.

thepreludesTHE PRELUDES is just the beginning. It takes one back to your early school days: experiencing first crushes, attempting to fit in, and realizing your parents can be either a best friend or a major disappointment. It introduces tomboy Melanie, mother’s baby Adrianna and lovelorn Nicole, all wishing for something much needed in their lives. Melanie, with a white mother and black father, would like to accepted and not out of place in her class, being the only brown face with a lopsided Afro, and a cousin who teases her because of it; things begin looking up when her new teacher, with deeply brown skin and wavy black hair, comes into her classroom. Adrianna’s story starts at her mother’s funeral; after the service, the grief of missing her mother is exacerbated by father’s womanizing ways. Nicole’s father, on the other hand, is the shield against her mother’s unhappiness of Nicole’s masculine demeanor, but daydreams of Crystal help soothe her mother’s harsh words.

The Bottom Line:  Although each story is told very quickly, The Preludes sets itself up well to continue the girls’ journey. While Melanie stood out as a leader, I was enthralled most by Nicole, whose resilience to be herself and her relationship with her father shine. On the other hand, it’s evident Adrianna has a long road ahead of her, and she’s is the one I connect to the least.

clearsenseThe trip continues with CLEAR SENSE, and as the girls are now teenagers, their issues and desires become deeper. The novella reminds you of how intense we all felt about our problems at that age (or so it seems), that we would do anything to have what we want. Melanie’s secret admiration of Tiffany seems to be in vain, because Tiffany thinks the loving gestures are the work of her boyfriend, and Melanie has to concoct a plan to show her how she feels; will she finally get her dream girl? Adrianna has had it up to here with her father’s casual treatment of women since losing her mother, made even more apparent when Adrianna believes she’s found the guy she thinks could be the one. Can she really trust him? Nicole spends most of Clear Sense hiding her true feelings for Crystal, and at the same time being a good friend to her. Will her concern of Crystal lead her to something more?

The Bottom Line:  Clear Sense is a good continuation of the Gerbera series, and we are privy to Adrianna and Nicole’s aches, and Melanie’s antics with her cousins. It’s the more humorous of the series. Yet they all have more growing up to do, though, especially Melanie, who realizes something important in her pursuit of Tiffany. Watching them go through it is worth the transition you see in the next book in the series.

thesweetnessThe third book in the Gerbera series, THE SWEETNESS, is just that, but I would venture to add it’s a tad bittersweet. The girls are now young adults, living in the real world with bills, marriage and college on their minds. Melanie, now working hard at a 9-to-5, has a model for a girlfriend and enjoys the perks that come with having a beautiful woman on her arm; too bad it’s someone else she shares sparks with. Adrianna wants to move from her tragic past to a future with Thaddeus, the love she met in Clear Sense. It’s the first man in her life, her father, she has to heal her heart with in order to give her all to Thaddeus. College-bound Nicole has found the sweetness with Shelia who loves her unconditionally after Crystal’s absence. All seems to be bright in her life until her mother makes an unexpected appearance. She’s a tough cookie, though, and knows it’s something greater in store than what’s in her past.

The Bottom Line: The Sweetness is the best of the three novellas in that plots are fleshed out and we see a superb progression from the girls’ upbringing to adulthood. I see Melanie and Adrianna slowly learning how to love. Nicole, though, is the one I rooted for the most because she grew from a broken home and her mother’s abuse to a confident young lady through her father’s love. The Sweetness is also the book where characters from each girl’s story merge together. MaTuri promises more in her next book – centered around family planning – and I’m waiting to see what lessons life will teach these women next.

Reviewed September 2013

Read the Meet This Sistah Interview with Ninamaste MaTuri

About Ninamaste MaTuri

Ninamaste MaTuri was born in southern California. She lived in various cities throughout her early years. San Francisco was one of her favorites because of its diversity. Her family relocated to Minnesota when she was in middle school. She currently resides in Minnesota.

Ninamaste enjoys writing, and hopes to continue writing stories. She also enjoys hiking, visiting museums, and traveling, in her spare time.


37 Things I Love (in no particular order) by Kekla Magoon

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37thingsiloveoldPublisher/Date:  Henry Holt and Co. (BYR), May 2012
Genre(s):  Young Adult
Pages:   224
Website:  http://www.keklamagoon.com

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Summertime is what most high school students look forward after a year of homework, teachers and exams. Ever walk down a school hallway after the final bell has rung on the last of day school? You might get mowed down.

For Ellis, though, the summer means spending more time with her friends, but most especially with her father, still in a coma after a work accident two years prior. She currently skips her first period class just to see him, though he can’t hear or notice she’s there. Her father’s condition is also a source of contention between Ellis and her mother, believing it’s time to take him off life support. Ellis knows he will wake up one day, and become the man she remembers, take her on new adventures, reassert himself as no. 1 of one of the 37 things in her life she loves.

Most of the 37 things – from goldfish crackers to warm chocolate chip cookies to rain on a stain-glass window – in some way remind her of her father or the void he leaves in her life.

One thing she loves, her best friend Abby, manages to distract her, whether it’s telling Ellis about her million and one boyfriends or sneaking her out to a party, which turns out to be one crazy night (it involves jello – that is all). Abby’s selfishness is a welcome distraction so she won’t have to think about how strained things are with her mother or the therapist she forces Ellis to see. But her shallowness slowly becomes the thing that makes them drift apart because Abby can’t relate to Ellis’ family woes. But one person can.

Cara. Both Abby and Ellis’ former best friend became estranged from them for reasons unknown to Ellis. Chalk it up to high school differences, but when her and Cara reconnect, Ellis discovers how much she missed their friendship; it gives her the warmth she needs to deal with her so-called life. Their connection also sparks something tenuous between them that Ellis isn’t sure she can handle right now, but doesn’t want to lose — even if it means giving up Abby.

37 Things I Love (in no particular order) is heart-wrenching, because as a daughter who’s lost her own father, I can empathize with Ellis. It’s tough to watch the man who seemed like the strongest man person in the world, wither away, and on that note, I got Ellis. But there were times I felt I didn’t get enough into Ellis’ head, and I wasn’t too keen on how Abby took advantage of Ellis and never offered much in return. In a lot of the book, Ellis is a pushover, the only real fight she shows is battling her mom to take her dad off life support. The brightest spot comes in Ellis possibly discovering love for the first time with Cara; it’s sincere and sweet. Magoon captures Ellis’ confusion well, and the end of 37 Things may find you caring for just one more thing.

Reviewed August 2013

About Kekla Magoon

Kekla Magoon is the author of four young adult novels: Camo Girl, 37 Things I Love, Fire in the Streets, and The Rock and the River, for which she received the ALA Coretta Scott King New Talent Award and an NAACP Image Award nomination. She also writes non-fiction on historical topics, including Today the World is Watching You: The Little Rock Nine and the Fight for School Integration 1957-58 and the forthcoming PANTHERS! The History and Legacy of the Black Panther Party in America. Raised in a biracial family in the Midwest, Kekla now teaches writing in New York City, conducts school and library visits nationwide, and serves on the board of VIDA: Women in Literary Arts. Kekla holds a B.A. in History from Northwestern University and an M.F.A. in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Visit her online at www.keklamagoon.com.


Truth Disguised by Quandi

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truthdisguisedPublisher/Date:  Lulu.com, Dec. 2008
Genre(s):  Coming of Age, Romance, Contemporary Fiction
Pages:  245
Website:  http://www.truthdisguised.ning.com

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

A woman’s appearance doesn’t define her sexuality, so dressing like a boy shouldn’t make you a lesbian, at least that’s what Francis “Frankie” Livingston believes as she struggles with her imposed identity in TRUTH DISGUISED by first-time author Quandi.

Tell that to her family and friends. They think her tomboy attire, the fact that she’s never really had a boyfriend, and masculine demeanor are signs that she loves the ladies. Frankie hears it from her mother, who boisterously disapproves of her daughter being gay because of her own demons, and from her all-boy circle of friends that accept her but wonder out loud if she likes boys or girls. Only her father and girly twin sister, Arianna, support her no matter what or whom she chooses.

That’s the thing, though. Frankie doesn’t know what she wants. She’s always felt like a man trapped in a woman’s body, but can’t say for sure that means she’s a lesbian. When her dormmate, Tasha, becomes an admirer, Frankie pursues this flirtation with reservations. She’s intrigued at being with a woman, and gives Tasha the relationship she wants, but secretly, Frankie has always held an attraction to her best friend, Maurice.

This confusion has been a life-long burden for Frankie, haunted by whom she should be and whom she should love. Society tells her one thing, but her head tells her another. It’s when serious issues arise with her family that she realizes her heart is the only thing she should listen to.

In Truth Disguised, Quandi has created an appealing heroine in conflicted Frankie. Her protagonist’s journey is enhanced by fully-fleshed supporting characters, like her parents, sister and four homeboys. Also, the “don’t judge a book by its cover” message isn’t forced on the reader. It’s only the grammatical errors that take away from the plot. I was a little sad at the ending, but it’s an eye opener for sure. A book for teens and questioning women alike, Truth Disguised proves appearances aren’t everything.

Reviewed November 2009