One of the building blocks of street lit has been tough, independent, and resourceful African American women. Often these female characters work without male support and by sheer grit keep families functioning by any means necessary.
This month’s selections feature independent women who strip for cash, kick teenage daughters out of the house for dating drug dealers, stand up for what’s right in a court of law, and wade into a jailhouse beat down just to help their celly. You’ve come a long way, but is anyone calling you baby?
Pick of the Month
Miller, Karen E. Quinones. An Angry-Ass Black Woman. Gallery: S. & S./Karen Hunter Bks. Oct. 2012. 288p. ISBN 9781451607826. pap. $15. F
Who can blame me for being excited about Miller’s fictionalized autobiography after this opening blast? I ain’t scared of death. In fact, death can kiss my black ass. Ke-Ke (pronounced Kay-Kay), age 49, lingers in a coma following a brain tumor operation. With her family by her bedside, she slips into memories of her Harlem childhood during the early 1960s. When Ke-Ke turns 16, she takes stock of her situation: My father was in the nut house, my brother was a junkie, my mother had died, and my twin sister was molested by a pedophile and was now hell-bent on being a slut. I thought things couldn’t be worse. Miller’s entertaining stories resemble a street version of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, each chapter opening a window to life in the hood. Nothing here will disappoint street lit fans as becoming an angry-ass black woman stems from many sources. Maybe early in Ke-Ke’s life, her outrageous mother set the tone. My mother beat me and David and Kitty until she was tired, then rested up and beat us some more. Wow.
VERDICT Anyone searching for a primer on street lit should read Miller’s (Satin Doll; Passin’) latest. Ringing loud and clear, Ke-Ke’s voice expounds on racism, crime, drug use, poverty, spousal abuse, and pedophiles preying on young black girls. This is exactly what street lit is all about. Buy more copies than you think you need.
King, Joy Deja. Boss Bitch. King Prod. May 2012. 224p. ISBN 9780984332540. pap. $15. F
King’s new entry in her established Bitch series (Bitch: A New Beginning; The Bitch is Back; Queen Bitch) has Aaliyah Mills Carter pulling jail time for the murder of hip-hop mega superstar Sway Stone. Worse, Amir, the man she loves, is getting close to Justina, Aaliyah’s one-time friend and now bitter rival. In a second storyline Precious, Aaliyah’s mother, works the system to reveal the truth of who killed Sway. Aaliyah’s crime family pulls strings, and the courtroom drama ends with Aaliyah being set free. She then sets out to become her own boss bitch, teaming up with former cellmate Peaches. Soon the girls are pulling in big money, but this is the drug game. Aaliyah’s own words prove that it’s a brutal life: In my world you’re either for me or against me, there’s no in between. Of course, many folks wouldn’t mind seeing Aaliyah fail.
VERDICT King has legions of fans, and this installment will not disappoint them. There’s a slight drag during courtroom scenes, but the ultimate betrayal leads to a stunning finale.The working title for the next installment is Bad Bitch. Prep for patron inquiries.
Johnson, Brandi. Trickin’. Urban Bks. 2012. 376p. ISBN 9781601625120 pap. $14.95. F
Ra’Keeyah Jaz’Mire Jackson is only 16 but acts way grown, especially when she meets up with her crazy friends Shayna and Quiana in a hotel room to strip for groups of horny white men. Big money flows and gets bigger when Ra’Keeyah has sex with one of the patrons and realizes she just made the quickest and easiest $500 of her life. The hard party life shifts when Brick enters the picture. He’s a drug dealer with a heart of gold who fall in love with Ra’Keeyah. Brick informs her he hates women who remove clothes for cash. Now there’s a problem! Ra’Keeyah leads a double life, keeping her wild side a secret from Brick as he generously bankrolls her opulent lifestyle.
VERDICT Johnson (In My Girls I Trust) shows her solid chops for writing authentic street slang, and her female protagonists are resourceful and independent. But the pacing is slowed by excessive detail until the last few pages when serious trouble comes full circle. The alluring title will attract fans of the genre, but they should be warned that this is more soap-opera romance than rough street lit.
Poole, Daaimah S. Another Man Will. Dafina: Kensington. Sept. 2012. 340p. ISBN 9780758246233 pap. $15. F
Thirty-something sisters Dana, Crystal, and Yvette have paid the price of falling for irresponsible guys. Crystal has three kids by three different fathers. Dana hangs on to boyfriends way too long. Yvette is reeling from her ex-husband’s vicious betrayal. In Poole’s (What’s His is Mine; A Rich Man’s Baby) lengthy tale, each sister narrates her journey to find a happy ending. At one point Dana’s friend Tiffany fumes. I’m educated, in shape, being pretty and have good credit. So why can’t she find a quality match? Tiffany continues. I just want to meet someone who is not crazy with issues, is not strapped for cash, or does not have a litter of kids. The 21st-century dating scene is rough!
VERDICT Readers seeking a gentle summer read will like Poole’s long and involved storyline. Although there is plenty of backstabbing drama, the tame sex scenes makes this more of an African-American romance rather than street lit. There’s a big difference.
Zane. Z-Rated: Chocolate Flava III. The Eroticanoir.com Anthology. Atria: S. & S. (Zane Presents). Aug. 2012. 368p. ISBN 9781451689624 pap. $16. F
Erotica is, well, hot this summer with many copies of Fifty Shades of Grey being read poolside. There’s plenty of knockin’ boots and mattress mambo flooding Zane’s latest collection of erotic tales. Showing up are such standard fare as voyeurism, porn videos, and the accidental-on-purpose body rub in a crowded elevator. But the stories also include up-to-date technology from tweeting to web cams. Zane’s stable of authors represents a mixed bag of writing styles; there are established writers like N’Tyse, Cairo, and Allison Hobbs and newbies like Perkdaddy who flashes talent in his story Sneakin’ and Peekin’. Fair warning, some phrasing will cause eye rolls. It’s hard to keep my hands to myself, but I have to. She’ll let me know when the time is right to indulge in my cravings.
VERDICT It is what it is, and two words guarantee circulation: Zane. Erotica. Enough said.