So I considered posting several things today. A posting on some book that I enjoyed a long time ago. A blah blah blah rant about why I haven’t started reading Dreams from My Father yet. Or just an overall update. I guess I’ll just do all three.

No, I haven’t started Obama’s book yet (although I think it will be a good read based on a little page browsing) because I’m preparing for VONA next week. I’m really excited about receiving and providing writing/story feedback with other writers of color. As an African-American writer, how often does one receive an opportunity like this? I’m sure I will appreciate the experience even more this fall when I am the only black face in my grad classes. Not that I’m worried about it. My VONA assignment is to read ten stories from the other workshops participants averaging at about 25 pages each. I’ve knocked out 6 so far and still have 4 more to go. I don’t think the short story that I’ve written is my best work, but one thing that I do recognize is that it needs a great deal of work. Good reason to workshop it, right? Plus, I’ll have a whole week in San Francisco, CA to focus on making it better. Again, I’m really excited about this opportunity.

Needless to say, in reading the works of other up and coming writers of color, I have not read Obama’s book. I have a long plane ride so I figure I’ll read during my airport and flight journey, but I’m not even going to hold myself to that. I would put a book excerpt or a snippet from some interview, but we all know who Obama is. We know what the book is about too. So why don’t I save that stuff for later and provide you all with information on a throwback favorite. What does that mean? Well, it simply means I read and enjoyed these books a long time ago.

During my high school years, the black fiction scene was not what it is today. I was just beginning to read the novels of newcomer Terry McMillian and later Eric Jerome Dickey, but there was no special section in the bookstores for these books. You just had to know what you were looking for or accidently come across it. Most times, since my mother worked two jobs and barely had enough to give me lunch money (no big deal, I ‘borrowed’ food from friends), my bookstore happened to be the local library. It was free, but my choices were limited. See, there was no going online to order the library books back then. There were one or two old computers and from there you just had to figure out what was available. Regardless, I spent hours in the library, roaming the aisles and picking up random books.

In the biography section, I became a Motown junkie–ok, not a junkie, but I read all of the biographies of the Supremes and the Jacksons. The Dreamgirls movie/broadway show (although loosely based) had nothing on the drama-filled pages of the original world-renown girl group. Nothing. There was excitement on every page–and I loved to hate Diana. I couldn’t believe how a woman who wasn’t even an original member, who nobody else wanted to be in the group, who could barely sing, could just come in, sleep with a few folks, and take over. I recommended these books to friends, but of course they only wanted to see the picture section.

But what I loved about each Supreme bio was the one thing that remained constant. Diana was a selfish bitch. I loved it! Couldn’t read enough of it! And I soon discovered that maybe there are times when a woman has to be that way to get what she wants. Did Diana not get everything she wanted in the end? So wasn’t it all worth it? Once I completed one bio, I would search for another. I believe I found and read a total of three. I needed confirmation that she was really all that they had described her as. One person’s analysis wasn’t enough, I needed more. With that being said, I dedicate this post to my favorite high school biographies. Maybe you’ll roll your eyes, but maybe you’ll be intrigued enough to order your own used copy. Libraries still exist you know?

Call Her Miss Ross by J. Randy Tarborrelli 

She was Motown’s brightest star, the one with guts enough and ambition enough to make her dreams come true, no matter where they took her. Rules that apply to others have never applied to Diana Ross. She won’t let them. CALL HER MISS ROSS goes behind the footlights and stage facade, behind the broad smile and beautiful voice, for an exclusive look at the real Diana. J. Randy Taraborrelli has interviewed over 400 people and uncovered stories that have never been told before. The ultimate control maven, she became the star of The Supremes without giving Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard a second throught, but also gave them both money when they ended up broke; self-centered, she dated newlywed Smokey Robinson on the sly in order to get more work at Motown; fiercely devoted mother of five, she gives her children anything they desire; impossible employer, she insists that everyone call her “Miss Ross”; insecure star, she demands complete control over every record, every movie, and every performance, no matter what the result. Her triumphs and tragedies, her virtues and vices, her lovers and enemies — here’s Miss Diana Ross as she’s never been seen before.

Dreamgirl: My Life as a Supreme by Mary Wilson 

More than 40 years ago, three girls from the Detroit projects made the world ‘Stop!’ and take notice of their fresh harmonies and classy style. Cultivated by the Motown star machine, Mary Wilson, Diana Ross, and Florence Ballard popped onto the charts with hits like “Baby Love” and “Where Did Our Love Go” and made the Supremes not only a household name, but rock and roll legends. The story of their journey to fame is one that fairy tales are made of—complete with battles, tragedies, and triumphs. It’s a story that only one of the founders of this talented trio is able or willing to share with the world. Supremes’ co-founder Mary Wilson boldly brings to life all the intimate details of the group’s struggle to top the charts. This is the first book to tell the complete story of Mary’s courageous life from childhood through the height of the Supremes, to the turn of the century. The Supremes wonderful music isn’t the only thing to remain in the public’s mind. Diana Ross’ push for dominance in the trio has become legendary. Mary Wilson speaks candidly about Ross’ tactics to latch ontoBerry Gordy, and force her will on the group’s activities. For example, while on the early tours, Diana would threaten to call Gordy from the road if the men on the bus didn’t behave to her approval. She also openly pushed for Flo’s removal from the group. Wilson also openly shares her thoughts on . . . The group’s never-ending battle to get support from Berry Gordy and Motown Records; Working and associating with music legends such as Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and the Beatles; The struggle to keep the Supremes on the charts after Diana left the group; Her memorable romances with Tom Jones, Flip Wilson, Steve McQueen, and Duke Fakir of the Four Tops. (Wilson has updated this book since my original read. More...)

All That Glittered: My Life with the Supremes by Tony Turner 

The Supremes were the golden girls of Motown, living large after a streak of gold records. Tony Turner was a streetwise kid from Harlem when he first met Flo Ballard in a New York Department store. But from that chance encounter, Tony became virtually the fourth Supreme — serving as the group’s mascot, gofer, confidant. All that Glittered is a unique, behind-the-scenes look at the super group — from the only insider with nothing to hide. Befriended at age 12 by Supremes member Florence Ballard, Turner embarked on an odyssey that took him from his Harlem neighborhood into the jet-setting glamour world of one of the most popular black singing groups of all time. In colloquial, gossipy style, he relates numerous tales of his life as an unofficial aide-de-camp to the group, but especially to the talented but ill-starred Ballard. And a sad, depressing story it is. Turner’s young eyes and ears took in all the bitter, behind-the-scenes machinations, especially those that brought about the end of Ballard’s participation in the group, her plunge into poverty, and her untimely death. Motown mogul Berry Gordy, superstar Diana Ross, and third original member Mary Wilson are covered by anything but glory in this book. (My favorite selection by far!)

Back to my VONA readings, but stay tuned for updates. 🙂