Terry McMillan Talks Writers
Terry McMillan states in a recent issue of Essence, “But if given the chance I’d rather talk about writers such as Tayari Jones, Bernice L. McFadden, Danzy Senna and ooh, have you read that book by Danielle Evans, Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self? Brilliant! I want to hear more about them.” While we probably know each of the authors mentioned, have you read an excerpt from their books?
Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self by Danzy Senna
Me and Jasmine and Michael were hanging out at Mr. Thompson’s pool. We were fifteen and it was the first weekend after school started, and me and Jasmine were sitting side by side on one of Mr. Thompson’s ripped-up green-and-white lawn chairs, doing each other’s nails while the radio played “Me Against the World.” It was the day after Tupac got shot, and even Hot 97, which hadn’t played any West Coast for months, wasn’t playing anything else. Jasmine kept complaining that Michael smelled like bananas.
“Sunscreen,” Jasmine said, “is some white-people shit. That’s them white girls you’ve been hanging out with, got you wearing sunscreen. Black people don’t burn.”
Never mind that Michael was lighter than Jasmine and I was lighter than Michael, and really all three of us burned. Earlier, when Jasmine had gone to the bathroom, I’d let Michael rub sunscreen gently into my back. I guess I smelled like bananas, too, but I couldn’t smell anything but the polish, and I didn’t think she could, either. Jasmine was on about some other stuff.
“You smell like food,” Jasmine said. “I don’t know why you wanna smell like food. Ain’t nobody here gonna lick you because you smell like bananas. Maybe that shit works in Bronxville, but not with us.”
“I don’t want you to lick me,” Michael said. “I don’t know where your mouth has been. I know you don’t never shut it.” (Read more . . . )
Where Did You Sleep Last Night? by Danzy Senna
In 1975 my mother left my father for the last time. We fled to Guilford, Connecticut. It was a rich town, but we rented an apartment in a tenement that the town’s residents referred to only as “the welfare house.”The backyard was a heap of dead cars. We lived on the second floor. Below us lived the town’s other nonwhite residents, a Korean war brideand her two half-Italian sons. Beside them lived an obese white woman and her teenage son.
I don’t know if we were officially hiding out from my father there—or if he knew where we were all that time. In my memory it seems that a long time passed before we saw him again, long enough for me to forget him. And I remember the day he reappeared. I was five, and I heard the doorbell ring. I raced in bare feet to see who was there. I saw, at the bottom of thedimly lit stairwell, a man. His face was hidden in the shadows, but I could make out black curls, light brown skin.
“Hi, baby,”he called up to me.
I stared back.
“Don’t you know who I am?”
I shook my head.
“You don’t know who I am?” (Read more . . .)
Glorious by Bernice McFadden
If Jack Johnson had let James Jeffries beat him on July 4, 1910, which would have proven once and for all that a white man was ten times better than a Negro, then black folk wouldn’t have been walking around with their backs straight and chests puffed out, smiling like Cheshire cats, upsetting good, God-fearing white folk who didn’t mind seeing their Negroes happy, but didn’t like seeing them proud.
If Jack Johnson had given up and allowed James Jeffries to clip him on the chin, which would have sent him hurling down to the floor where he could have pretended to be knocked out cold, then maybe Easter Bartlett’s father wouldn’t have twirled his wife and daughters around the house by their pinky fingers and his son John Bartlett Jr. wouldn’t have felt for the first time in his life pleased and glad to be a black man. And if Jack Johnson had let the shouts of “Kill that nigger” that rang out from the crowd unravel him or the Nevada heat irritate him, maybe then he would have lost the fight and things would have remained as they were.
Things could have gone a different way if Jack Johnson hadn’t gotten the notion some years earlier to cap his teeth in gold, so his smile added insult to injury when he was announced the victor of the “The Fight of the Century,” and that glittering grin slapped white folk hard across their faces. (Read more . . . )
Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones
My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist. He was already married ten years when he first clamped eyes on my mother. In 1968, she was working at the gift- wrap counter at Davison’s downtown when my father asked her to wrap the carving knife he had bought his wife for their wedding anniversary. Mother said she knew that something wasn’t right between a man and a woman when the gift was a blade. I said that maybe it means there was a kind of trust between them. I love my mother, but we tend to see things a little bit differently. The point is that James’s marriage was never hidden from us. James is what I call him. His other daughter, Chaurisse, the one who grew up in the house with him, she calls him Daddy, even now.
When most people think of bigamy, if they think of it at all, they imagine some primitive practice taking place on the pages of National Geographic. In Atlanta, we remember one sect of the back-to-Africa movement that used to run bakeries in the West End. Some people said it was a cult, others called it a cultural movement. Whatever it was, it involved four wives for each husband. The bakeries have since closed down, but sometimes we still see the women, resplendent in white, trailing six humble paces behind their mutual husband. Even in Baptist churches, ushers keep smelling salts on the ready for the new widow confronted at the wake by the other grieving widow and her stair-step kids. Undertakers and judges know that it happens all the time, and not just between religious fanatics, traveling salesmen, handsome sociopaths, and desperate women. (Read more . . .)
Happy reading, y’all!