Pit Crew: How to Survive a Spiritual Pit Stop by Renair Amin

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pitcrewPublisher/Date:  Glover Lane Press, Dec. 2012
Genre(s):  Lesbian Real Life, How to Guide
Pages:  98
Website:  http://www.renairamin.com

Rating: ★★★★½ 

PIT CREW: HOW TO SURVIVE A SPIRITUAL PIT STOP, is both author Renair Amin’s testimony and a gift to anyone struggling with life and its many bumps along the way.

Her life saw tragedies of rape, a miscarriage, and family loss. She experienced being institutionalized, homeless and on drugs. Enduring what she felt God unjustly thrust upon her, Amin started taking stock and realized everything is a pattern, a track so to speak. And instead of letting life keep taking her around and around in confusion, she knew she needed support to get her life back in stride.

Hence the Pit Crew. Crafted from the Disney/Pixar animated movie Cars, Amin’s book revolves around the concept needing a set of trusted people in your life to fix you, uplift you, and check you when you need it.  Simply put, nobody can do this life alone, and Amin gives you the tools to see who’s important to your journey.

Amin explains the roles your pit crew plays – from the Crew Chief (God), the Car Chief, the Jackman, the Tire Changers/Carriers, the Gas Man and Utility Man – each one has a special role, and all work together to make you better. Her model doesn’t absolve you of personal responsibility, though. You are ultimately in the driver’s seat, and the decisions you make – especially whom you allow in your Pit Crew – is all on you. She emphasizes this with the thoughtful questions for discussion at the end of each Pit Crew description. You have to do the work. Also, learn to be still and learn your life lessons.

Amin, a minister, motivational speaker, and  life coach, writes with honesty and a desire to help women winding around a never-ending track with no finish line in sight. There is a never a time we won’t have issues in our lives, problems in our relationships and troubles on our jobs, but Amin’s book makes the bumps easier. Her own story, as a catalyst to writing this book, is poignant. I admire her courage share this story – her story – with the world.

Thank you, Renair.

Reviewed June 2013

Read the Catching Up With… Interview with Renair Amin


Domestically Cursed: A Story on Partnership Violence by Renair Amin

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domesticallycursedPublisher/Date:  Glover Lane Press, Apr. 2013
Genre(s):  Lesbian Real Life, How to Guide
Pages:  39
Website:  http://www.renairamin.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

When your back is against the wall – figuratively and literally – in an abusive relationship, you can either sign your permission slip for the beatings to happen again or you can fight to save your life. Although it took more than one instance for her to decide which way to go, Renair Amin finally figured it out in DOMESTICALLY CURSED: A STORY ON PARTNERSHIP VIOLENCE.

Though the media would have one to believe same-sex abuse doesn’t happen or is not as dire or critical because it’s two women or two men, it is. According to lambda.org, the rates of domestic violence in same-gender relationships is roughly the same as domestic violence against heterosexual women (25%). Amin knows the devastating effects, and Dometically Cursed is her contribution to stop this epidemic…or save a life.

Domestically Cursed is Amin’s time in a relationship she knew from jump would be no good for her. She was 21, dating Chris, a woman twice her age. Amin wasn’t exactly what Chris wanted, but she tried to make it work. Her age and inexperience led her stay in an over-her-head relationship, with many nights of torture from the woman who supposedly loved her.

Hindsight being 20/20, Amin had her instincts about the relationship. Her friends expressed concern. Her mother warned her against it. Even Chris warned her, telling her, “I beat my women.” She brushed these red signs aside. Nothing could deter Amin from being with this woman. Chris’ aggressive nature drew her in, but it soon was used against her to abandon her friends, be talked down to and be beaten on a regular basis. She had signed her permission slip, so to speak, to allow it to happen, but it couldn’t continue.

This is where Amin’s story takes off. Maybe I shouldn’t use the word story because this was her life. She survives the abuse, and fortunately, realized what void Chris filled in her life to allow her stay in such a dysfunctional relationship. Any woman reading Amin’s words can place themselves in her shoes, if they haven’t already been there themselves. She conveys what an abuser really is. She also provides invaluable resources to get help for women stuck in this situation. Because there is a way out.

Amin – minister, motivational speaker, and life coach – can attest to that.

Reviewed June 2013

Read the Catching Up With… Interview with Renair Amin


HIGH – On Love & Addiction by April Joy Bowden and Jeanie RAINBOW Bell

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Publisher/Date:  AuthorHouse, Mar. 2010
Genre:  Lesbian True Life
Pages:  148
Website:  http://www.apriljoybowden.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Choosing between love and addiction is a difficult decision – when both lift you up and can take you crashing back down.

Whereas drugs have the ability to destroy lives and relationships, only love has the power to bring you through and fight the disease.

This struggle is depicted in HIGH – ON LOVE & ADDICTION, written by April Joy Bowden and Jeanie RAINBOW Bell. Bowden is also the author of the poetry book, The Other Side of Joy.

Jeanie and April’s relationship began like any typical love romance. Their eyes met across a dance floor, and while they didn’t seem like each other’s type, they fell in love and soon moved in.

At first glance, Jeanie was good on paper: she had a great job, owned a home, drove a nice car, had a good upbringing, kept up a neat appearance, and treated April like a queen.

But soon after moving in, strange messages were left on their voicemail. Then Jeanie pulled disappearing acts for days on end. She missed or ruined holidays. That’s when April knew when Jeanie had a drug problem.

The rest of HIGH navigates April and Jeanie’s long journey to getting Jeanie well. What should have been years spent together and creating a family were instead lost to Jeanie’s addiction, relapse and recovery. When Jeanie was sober, she and April had the best time together. When the habit took over, everything took a backseat to getting the next high or, in April’s case, finding Jeanie.

The good thing is that Jeanie and April survived. Through their entries, Jeanie learned what her addiction was doing to her lover and herself, while April endured her own recovery from love.

For those who’ve had an addict in their lives, HIGH – On Love & Addiction is a detailed account of what the struggle is like on a day-to-day basis. Their entries are frequent and slightly repetitive, but that’s the realness of dating addict. One day at a time.

Reviewed December 2012


Living With 3 Strikes Against Me: Life Through My Eyes as Black, Female and Gay by Ericka K. F. Simpson

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Publisher/Date:  Amazon Digital Services, Inc., Aug. 2012
Genre:  Lesbian Real Life
Pages:  149
Website:  http://www.ekfsimpson.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

After authoring countless novels, such as the outstanding I Am Your Sister, Ericka K. F. Simpson has finally written her own life story in LIVING WITH 3 STRIKES: LIFE THROUGH MY EYES AS BLACK, FEMALE AND GAY.

The messages Simpson imparts descend from her reactions and responses to life experiences. She started writing Living when she was 23 and was still learning her way in the world. Now she’s summoned the courage and confidence to be herself and share this knowledge with others.

Simpson has a testimony. Growing up in a religious household, it didn’t feel right having crushes on girls. She tried to deny it by dating guys, but it was a losing battle. What she felt was real. Denying it and carrying the pain literally made her sick, developing stage 3 colon cancer; stress and anger from trying to please others festered into a tumor that could have killed her. Only then did Simpson begin to live for herself.

Living is divided into seven categories, ones that talk about her early life, love, women, religion and parental controls; a section of Simpson’s poetry is included, as well. These segments provide insight into the author, who displays a maturity that should rub off on younger black lesbians.

Simpson offers these gems:

Love: “Trust me, there is someone out there who will appreciate you for who you are. They will love you the way you need to be loved and most of all, they will fight for that love. Wait for that person, wait for that moment, wait for that kind of love then you fight to keep it.”

Sex: “The point I’m trying to make is this, whether you have good pussy or bad pussy, clean or raunchy, give good head or no head, you’re offering something that all women have the ability to provide. And your pussy being ‘well used’ don’t make it better than most.”

Religion:My point is, for those of you who are gay and love God, worship Him anyway. Don’t let the church make you feel ashamed to love God and someone of the same sex. People do not know your heart but God does and He’ll know if the relationship you have with him is real.”

If you read Living With 3 Strikes Against Me and take it in, you will be blessed with information and humor that you can apply to your life. It’s said that God places people in your life for a reason, and Simpson’s story is definitely not in vain.

Reviewed December 2012


The Other Side of Paradise by Staceyann Chin

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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


How to Love a Black Lesbian by Velvet Knight and Joy A’Che

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howtoloveblackesbianPublisher/Date:  Sexy Black Rainbows Entertainment, Feb. 2010
Genre:  Relationship Guide
Pages:  26
Website:  http://www.sexyblackrainbows.com

Rating: ★★★★★ 

If you’ve ever been in love, want to be in love or are in love right now, HOW TO LOVE A BLACK LESBIAN is the e-book you must read. Within the pages lie the simple truths about loving a black female.

Velvet Knight and Joy A’Che break down what it takes to deeply care for a woman — from her head to her toes. Yet it goes further than just loving the physical aspects of your mate. Getting to know her mind, soul and spirit is vital according to the authors, who preach that “starting from the outside and going in” is the best way to enjoy the qualities your other half possesses.

First, the relationship manual stresses discovering what makes your lover tick. For example, knowing exactly why she became a lesbian is a key to whom she is as a person. So ask her. The authors say “to love a lesbian you should know why one is a lesbian.” Her attitude and response to the question should reveal more her character and her heart.

But don’t think that loving a woman’s body is not important. Knight and A’Che emphasize adoring every single part of your lover, her touch, and even her imperfections. I like how the authors play up the importance of swagger – whether she’s femme, stud or in the middle – as another facet to enjoy about your partner’s confidence in being female.

For right in time for Valentine’s Day, How to Love a Black Lesbian is definitely required reading. Knight and A’Che provide a sensual guidebook for beautiful African-American women who love women. Anyone in or out of a relationship should read this how-to because it’s an excellent blueprint to building a solid foundation with your lover.

Reviewed February 2010


Love and Marriage: The Gay and Lesbian Guide to Dating and Romance by Cheril N. Clarke

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loveandmarriage2Publisher/Date:  Dodi Press, Jan. 2010
Genre:  Relationship Guide
Pages:  24
Website:  http://www.cherilnclarke.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Want hundreds of tips to kick start, rekindle or preserve your relationship? Then get your hands on LOVE AND MARRIAGE: THE GAY AND LESBIAN GUIDE TO DATING AND ROMANCE by beloved novelist Cheril N. Clarke.

Not only is Clarke the author of lesbian contemporary romance novels, she’s also a happily wedded woman of three years. That helps when perusing these helpful suggestions that list everything from scrapbooking to playing hide-and-go-seek to lap-dancing – all in an effort to keep the romance brewing.

The e-book is broken up conveniently into three sections: Getting to Know Each Other, Commitment and Marriage. Each pointer is marked with a symbol indicating the cost and activity type. As a word of advice, she states that you should make this book your own and not try to do everything at once.

If you’re on a first date or starting a new relationship, Clarke offers out-of-the-box plans for first dates. Things like taking a hot air balloon, having dinner in a castle, or walking under the stars on moonlight night will surely set a very good first impression.

For those in monogamous relationships, she doesn’t forget about you. To strengthen your bond, why don’t you take your girlfriend to a bed and breakfast or write her an old fashioned love letter?

And to cherish your union and combat the long-term itch of marriage, among Clarke’s hints are commissioning an artist to paint a couple’s portrait, having personalized china made, and attending a hedonism retreat.

By reading Love and Marriage, all couples should find something to fit their fancy – from the simplest declaration to the most elaborate arrangement. Clarke has your relationship in mind.

Reviewed February 2010


Grace After Midnight by Felicia “Snoop” Pearson

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graceaftermidnightlesbianrealifePublisher/Date:  Grand Central Publishing, Nov. 2007
Genre(s): Lesbian Real Life, Street Life
Pages:  240
Website:  http://www.myspace.com/bmoresnoop

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

“I’m not making excuses and I’m not feeling sorry for myself. Don’t expect you to feel sorry for me either. Just want to tell my story while it’s fresh.”

And so begins GRACE AFTER MIDNIGHT, the striking autobiography of Felicia “Snoop” Pearson, star of the critically acclaimed HBO series, The Wire. In the short but poignant memoir written with David Ritz, Snoop recants her upbringing in the tough streets of Baltimore, the place that both raised and almost killed her.

Born with cross-eyes and crack in her system thanks to a drug-addicted mother, Snoop had much to overcome in the first moments of her life. She was no more than three pounds at birth, but surpassed the grim expectations placed on her. After years in foster care, she was taken in by a loving older couple, Cora and Levi Pearson. They offered her a good home with Christian values and worked to make sure Snoop had a better life.

Yet it didn’t stop her from taking on the streets. By her pre-teens, Snoop had her first taste as runner whose quiet strength took her far in the game. At 12 years old, she was witnessing murders, drug deals, shakedowns, and way too much for a girl her age. One of her mentors, a man known as “Uncle,” took Snoop under his wing and tried to get her abandon her dangerous behavior, but it was too little too late when Snoop ended in the Jessup State Penitentiary at 14 for murder.

Snoop recalls this night in third person and tells the story of how she ended up killing a girl in self-defense. It landed her a six-year sentence for second-degree murder, but ultimately saved her. While there she turned her life around, gaining a new appreciation for doing the right thing. With Uncle’s help, she left there feeling like she could do anything – and quickly found her good intentions weren’t worth much. That is, until she met Michael K. Williams from The Wire, landing the role of a lifetime with no acting experience.

The rest is history.

Snoop’s story is compelling and heart wrenching. You see the innocence of a child wanting her mother and a heart growing cold from rejection. You also glimpse a woman truly turning her life around, trying to obtain the grace after midnight she found in prison. And you also witness a woman true to her sexuality, being openly gay all her life.

For that, she should be applauded. Bravo, Snoop, bravo.

Reviewed May 2008


The Lezory Files by Safari Ann Jones and Rose Sutra

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Publisher/Date:  Lulu, July 2007
Genre:  Lesbian Real Life
Pages:  166
Website:  http://www.lulu.com/content/921620

Rating: ★★½☆☆ 

Safari Ann Jones and Rose Sutra’s THE LEZORY FILES speaks volumes that love is surely a killer.

This memoir recounts the experiences of Safari and Rose’s rocky road to true love, a street littered with unfulfilled dreams and broken hearts. They share their experiences in the life – some of them happy, most not. The pain and disappointment of lesbian love are detailed from their childhoods to discovering first and finding everlasting love. The real-life stories they describe are relatable to the black lesbian experience in that we all have dealt with coming to terms with ourselves and trying to find our place in the world. Poems from the authors are also included in the book.

Growing up for Safari was a time full of lost dreams. She discovered the sweetness of women through her innocent crushes on girls but it was years before she would fully admit her preference. Even now, she sums up her lifestyle as being a “choosebian,” meaning she is straight and choses to be with women.

Rose, on the other hand, always knew she was gay, but it didn’t stop the wreckage she endured in her life. Being abused when she was younger took its toll on her adult life, but it leads her to Safari and their intense relationship, where the pair fell hard after two chance meetings. All of the drama they faced was worth finding love with each other — right?

In The Lezory Files, Safari and Rose gear this book to black lesbians as “a wake up” call to love one another and ourselves, and the authors’ purpose was fulfilled as they bared it all, from happiness to heartbreak. It reads more like novel than a real-life story. Nothing was held back, intricate and sordid, and accounts like these are honest and reflect, in some part, our lives. We love and hurt like everyone else. What made the book a little bitter, though, were the excessive grammatical errors throughout the book. Parts of the book were choppy, as well, and it made for a belabored reading.

Yet I will say had The Lezory Files been edited more, it would have been a great story of two women finding love in all the wrong places – but still hopeful that it will conquer all.

Reviewed March 2008