Cream by Christiana Harrell

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creamPublisher/Date:  CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, Aug. 2013
Genre(s):  Romance, Sexuality
Pages:  230
Website:  https://www.facebook.com/girlnovel

Rating: ★★★★★ 

CREAM is my first Christiana Harrell book. *hangs head in shame*

But it definitely won’t be my last because Harrell, whose Cream was a 2014 Lambda Literary Award finalist, truly proved her talents with a book surrounding the life of a character I loved and rooted for the entire way.

Cream is her stage name, a strip club performer with an androgynous appearance and a beautiful body. Dancing for men became a means to an end after being in a foster home after her parents’ abandonment. The first few pages introduce this past and her take-no-shit personality that serves her well as a stripper.

Lambda-Medal2014

2014 Lambda Literary Award Finalist From http://www.lambdaliterary.org

But it also gives credence to why she moves from city to city. Why she’s never befriended hardly anyone since her group home days. And why, even with the fights she’s had (and won), there’s still there’s an innocence about her.

Cream’s sexual naivety is the meat of this book. It’s shown in the way she was drawn to her friend Kitty – until she suddenly left Cream’s life. In the way she latched onto Payton, the daddy’s girl who shows her being a stud is her real meal ticket – both professionally and romantically. And when finally she finds unconditional love, she almost runs in the opposite direction.

And this realness is what I loved about Cream, both the book and the character. This gullibility Cream owns is not a Mary Sue plot device, it’s a journey Harrell writes so we can take this journey with her main character. You feel as if you’re a newbie right along with her, from Kansas City to Atlanta, and everywhere else in between.

Just the way Cream drops her boxers on the stage, Harrell’s writing leaves it all on the page. There’s very realistic dialogue, the sex is on fire, and Harrell’s voice is loud and clear through Cream without muddying the two voices. Her supporting characters also play a big role in the book, to the point where I thought Cream molded herself to any woman who offered her a hand.

That leads me to my next point that one of the most interesting aspect of Cream hinges on the sexuality of the characters. Though Cream dressed and performed as a stud based on Payton’s advice, it should be noted that Cream sometimes questions defining herself as a stud. Until meeting Payton she wasn’t aware of what a stud was, which at times I did find a skeptical. I could say it was because of her upbringing and her singular focus on survival, but never thinking about who you are sexually was a small part of the book that nagged at me. But her exploration of who she is was genuine.

Cream definitely fulfilled my expectations. The love she found and the book’s conclusion were so fulfilling, and worth the learning curve Cream took to find what I think she was always looking for – whether she could admit it to herself or not.

There’s a reason why Harrell has more than 10 books to her name. I plan to read every one of them.

[rating-report]

Reviewed June 2014


8qqlogo8 Quick Questions for Christiana Harrell about Cream

Tell us about your book, Cream.
Well, in as few words as possible, Cream is simply a story about a woman who learns some hard lessons about love and money, while discovering her identity and sexuality along her journey.

Who is Cream?
I want to say that Cream could be any of us, but she’s just too unique to be categorized. She’s carefree, she makes her own rules, she has tunnel vision, she just is.

One of the things I enjoyed about your novel was it felt as if you put yourself in the head of Cream: being on the stage, discovering her sexuality. How did you create her as a character? Any research involved?
Oh, there was plenty of research (lol). If you noticed, in the novel I mentioned real stud strippers like Face and Juicebox. I watched every video that I could find, but this time for “research,” rather than enjoyment. I watched their moves carefully and their facial expressions. I had to pay attention to costumes and audience reaction. Basically, none of the things I would normally pay attention to. We tend to forget that during the fantasy they create, they are people and they have lives outside of those neon lights. I try to be my characters in my real life when I write them. The people around me get some great entertainment.

Is Cream based on a true person or situations?
Cream is part fiction and part non-fiction. I don’t remember how this person came up, but my ex-partner and I were talking/gossiping like most couples do and she was telling me about a “stud” that lived the same lifestyle as Cream. The little bit that I learned made me want to give her a story. I didn’t know this person myself so I had to fill in the blanks. Literally, all I had to go on was a dancer who danced for both men and women because she was “about her money.

The gist I took away from Cream is that sexuality can’t be defined by roles or labels. Was that your message?
That was definitely one, the biggest one. Roles seem to be a big deal in our community when they really shouldn’t be. If people can read about Cream and accept her the way that she was, then they can accept anyone.

Will you continue Cream’s story?
I thought about it, but if I did that, I’d have to continue so many others. I couldn’t stand the pressure

What’s next for Christiana Harrell?
At the moment, I’m working on the second stud in the “Stud Life Series.” Her name is Magic. There are three others that have to come after her. That should keep me busy for the next two years or so. Hopefully, one of them will get an award. I won’t complain.

Cream was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award in the Lesbian General Fiction category. Congratulations! How did it feel to be finalist?
Aw man. I literally almost fell out of my chair. The day that I submitted the novel, I honestly did not expect to hear anything back. You’d be surprised how much I doubt myself. Being a finalist definitely gave me confidence, but now I have to top Cream and I’m not sure that’s possible. Either way, I’m happy and humbled for the experience.

Want to know more about Christiana Harrell? Read her Sistahs on the Shelf interview A Sistahs Favorite Things interview.

About Christiana Harrell

“I write about heterosexuals, I write about lesbians, I write about transgenders… I write about people.”

Christiana Harrell is a 27-year-old writer from New Orleans, LA., that got her start in writing at six-years-old. She published her first title Girl: a Story for Every Les Being in 2009. She currently has more than 10 titles to her name. She is currently working on her next novel.


Soft Tsunami by Claudia Moss (Oct. 2013 Pick of the Month)

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softtsunamipotmlogoPublisher/Date: Mariposa Publications, Sept. 2012
Genre(s): Poetry
Pages: 126
Website: http://claudiamoss.webs.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Who is Claudia Moss?

I’ve been asking myself that since I read her novel, If You Love Me, Come in 2011. I was so in love with that book, the troubles of four women connected and intersected by the power of love. Its similar style to one of my all-time favorite books, Mama Day by Gloria Naylor, intrigued me to learn more about its creator.

In my discovery, I found Miss Moss, also known as the Golden Goddess to be a storyteller, a word weaver, a mama, a mentor, a radio host and most of all, a poet.

Based on her newest work, SOFT TSUNAMI, I could say she’s something of an enigma, but that wouldn’t be accurate because her poems lay out her maturity, her sensualness, her grown woman assertiveness. There’s nothing in her words that can be interpreted as meek or mild, only confidence, and that’s what I loved most about her book.

So I touch you softer than quill skimming rice paper
A message of calligraphy teasingly rough
Sighs in the taste of us
Transcribed in wetness
Before an indelicate deluge
Squirts
Across my body
To dry in dainty spots on your Soul
Touch-tethered to mine

Reading her poems, I also call her a whirlwind. There’s a flurry of emotions, sensations and passions that speak to and for any femme confident in her sexuality, and her love for the womanly form is mesmerizing. Studs, take notice of this femme form:

‘Cause you don’t know what to kiss first
her smooth sexy feet
those cheeks, Oooh those cheeks
have you humming stupid yummy tunes
about her tight crescent moons
dipped in a sepia glaze
her waist lining towards her cute kitty

Her style may scream raw, but she also can give and receive love, and is humble in its presence.

Others bow to
Wondering how we two
Share a current so rare
So true
You see, I recite her
And she–
She interprets me.

But don’t get it twisted. Just like a raging tide, Moss can batter your heart with a line so venomous, you’d wish you hadn’t crossed her.

i’m not frightened of the walkin’ away
and don’t think the way you lay the pipe is yo’ ticket to say
ladies already lined up to play
with the goddess you took for granted
like the door don’t swing both ways

Yet above all, Moss is a Lyrical Lady, her Soft Tsunami celebrating and opining the life of a woman who has is living a full life, but steady embracing what the universe continues to teach her.

Tender-hearted, sometimes I bow to tongues sharpened on the
cutting board, but I am my own unguent, my Band-Aid
against the lacerating wounds of the mouth, when I remember
I AM.
Today I live the lessons I teach.
I am untamed, free.
I do what I want to do, say what I want to say,
indiscriminately.

So this is Claudia Moss. Lover of natural hair, butches, Backwoods women, and fine literature. While her words may be slightly repetitive, with Soft Tsunami, she wants you to know whom she is. Now I can truly say I do.

Reviewed October 2013

Read the Pick of the Month Interview With Claudia Moss

About Claudia Moss

Claudia Moss is the author of two novels, Dolly: The Memoirs of a High School Graduate (her Holloway House debut, adolescent novel) and If You Love Me, Come (her latest, self-published novel). Her short fiction has appeared in a host of anthologies including Longing, Lust, and Love: Black Lesbian Stories (Nghosi Books), Gietic: Erotic Poems/Kinky Short Stories (Gia Bella & The Siren), The Lust Chronicles (e-book), The Hoot & Holler of the Owls (Hurston/Wright Publications), Purple Panties (Strebor Books), SWING!: Adventures in Swinging By Today’s Top Erotica Writers (Logical-Lust Publications), Life, Love & Lust and Her Voice: poetry (Lesbian Memoirs). Her poetry has also appeared in Venus Magazine. She is also the author of the independently published Wanda B. Wonders series, which introduces the enigmatic Everywoman, Ms. Wanda B., who is a humorous social commentary, unafraid to voice her opinions on contemporary life in shades of black and white.