Letters to My Bully edited by Ifalade Ta’Shia Asanti and Azaan Kamau

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Publisher/Date:  Lulu, Aug. 2012
Genre(s):  Life Guide, Self-Help
Pages:  180
Website:  http://gloverlanepress.webs.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

“And in between the Silence, Listen to the Voice that whispers,
You’re good. Overcome.”

Somber and bittersweet, LETTERS TO MY BULLY edited by Ifalade Ta’Shia Asanti and Azaan Kamau is an uplifting work.

It documents letters, essays and poetry written by authors to their tormentors, usually their peers or loved ones, with the purpose of showing teens and adults that they are not alone and with time, life does get better. The 35 authors featured in Letters, including CSI: Miami actor Robert LaSardo, have been beaten, humiliated, tortured, but in spite of what they endured, they still impart positive messages, and prove that the best revenge is living well.

As noted in Letters, their harassment was due to any number of reasons bullies chose to focus on: sexuality, skin color, weight, intelligence, socio-economic status, etc. It also paints abuse at the hands of family members and lovers, turning their homes into haunted houses in the one place that’s supposed to be safe.

Letters shows another side to bullying in that the abused, without an outlet for their pain, can as easily turn their hurts onto someone else, using their clenched hands and sharp words to give love and hate. It’s a vicious cycle that must stop.

One specific thing I took from Letters is that as the adults, we are the ones who can lessen or end bullying. How we treat others starts at home, and our children learn most from what we teach and what they see from us. Beyond saying it gets better, how about we make it better. Show them they are more than what some bully says or does to them. Most of the former victims felt helpless and wondered, why me, and at the same time, wanted love more just as much as being rescued. When 160,000 bullied children miss school every day and bullying is the number one cause of suicide for 11-16 year olds, something has to be done.

Letters is what editors Asanti (The Bones Do Talk) and Kamau (Stiletto), accomplished authors and poets both with numerous titles, wanted to contribute to this epidemic. Kamau is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Glover Lane Press, which also published the co-edited Tapestries of Faith: Black SGLBT Stories of Triumph, Family, Love & Healing. The book’s flow was nicely paced and included statistics about bullying. The only weak spot was that some of the poetry didn’t grab me as much as the personal essays.

I’d recommend Letters to teens and adults, especially to in need of healing from their pasts. The most powerful message sent from Letters is that each one survived. There’s a great energy and almost small appreciation to what they went through to prove that anyone can overcome.

YOU DID NOT WIN. I am a fat lesbian (albeit a slimming one as I lose the need for protection) who loves herself and doesn’t give a damn what anyone says about her state of being. I love my body and love my experience of love as a lesbian. I am no longer trapped in the coffin of your bullying and while I do not believe good comes because of evil, I believe good comes despite evil. The good that came for me despite your evil words and deeds is that I am stronger, more vocal, more attentive and more resistant than I used to be, or than I ever guessed I would be.

Reviewed October 2013


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


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