What we need are books that hit us like a most painful misfortune,
like the death of someone we loved more than we love ourselves, that make us feel as though we had been banished to the woods,
far from any human presence, like a suicide. A book must be the ax for the frozen sea within us.
T. Nicole Robinson - MY OWN TERMS
Walter Tariq Anderson - PAPPY
Dame DaVohn - THE SONS OF SHEA
Tiffany Nicole Robinson’s debut novel, My Own Terms, was meant to be a wondrously triumphant tale
of one woman’s attempt to re-discover the meaning of life and what it means to be happy, single, and free.
But, because of bad writing, underdeveloped characters, and lack of a strong plot…or any plot for that matter, Robinson’s
book reads more like a banal collection of private journal scribblings and trite diary entries rather than an actual concentrated
Shana is on the run from a fruitless marriage, abusive husband, lackluster life, and East Coast living.
With no plan, no money, or final divorce, she flies 3000 miles in search of a new and inspired life in California. Upon arrival,
she hooks up with good friend Africa (who she hasn’t seen in seven years) and is given refuge at her expensive
Barham Villas apartment which is located in the princely suburbs of beautiful San Diego. Just like in the Calgon
commercials, Shana whimsically banishes away her Philly past for the more desirous predilections of one-night stands, shopping
sprees, and 22 inch rims.
Yet, beyond the sex, rims and haute couture dreams, there isn’t much that Robinson does to
illuminate her protagonist or the plot, and her characters are ultimately left to fend for themselves. Neither
Jay, DeShawn, Aiden (Shana’s one-dimension fan club), or Africa (Robinson’s worst and best creation) seemed believable
or said believable shit! At no point in the book could we see ourselves or our stories or our lives in any of these characters.
All we get is an ambiguous character named Shana who is presumably educated, sophisticated and classy, but acts and behaves
like a streetwise, gold-digging, hood girl who will fuck at the drop of a dime (Robinson unconscionably juxtaposing wild,
dangerous, unprotected sex with some uncritical notion of revolutionary feminist freedom).
Is My Own Terms the best that Robinson could do with a story about a young, educated,
classy, Philly sista? It’s bad enough that our literary appetite is soured by the usual suspects
of hypersexual brothas with smoked out dreams and 22 inch rims, and weaved-out ghetto queens with vanity-chased ambitions,
but - worse - we are left to assume that Shana represents the educated, classy, sophisticated 21st century African American
woman. That’s not to say that black women are perfect, but, in Robinsons stereotypical depiction of black womanhood
we get no real convincing idea of what it means to be a 21st century African American woman. Her treatment of black
sexuality is limited to cheap, random, pornographic moments and suicidal sexual encounters - and the gratuitous
sex-scenes only places the book under even greater ridicule because Robinson’s technique for eroticism and romance is
unconvincing and uncreative.
Finally - for me…personally….the real disappointment comes from the character whose namesake
should’ve evoked something more meaningful, philosophic, and even spiritually redemptive. With such a beautifully provocative
name like Africa, I’d hoped her to have some depth or metaphorical magic that might assuage the mediocrity
of Robinson’s terrible writing – and possibly save the book! But even Africa fails to deliver the book from the
imminent shelf of eternal obscurity. With no meaning, purpose or substance, My Own Terms and its Lolita-like
protagonist amounts to nothing more than bad writing.
Release date: January 6, 2009
Walter Tariq Anderson’s debut novel detailing a difficult childhood of abuse, neglect, and the awful but formidable
trauma of the murder of one parent at the jealous and irate hands of another is the typical stuff of ole American family tales.
In that sense, this novel is not fresh or original, but, because of its rich dialogue and deep social commentary, this book
cannot be discarded away to the tufted literary junk-pile of crass writing and soul-less memories that has been the signature
stereotype of self-published writers.
Told in the funk-braised tradition of Donald Goines street narratives, Anderson’s novel
- a story about a kid named Pappy who grew up on the east side of Buffalo New York - is a double-edged allegory that craftily
meshes together past and present scenarios to present a tragic portrait of a man who reaches the end of a tightrope existence
only to face the mess of what has become his life. The writing’s on the wall and Pappy will either swim or drown in
the perilous currents that conspire to undermine him in his own nihilistic drama of drugs, sex, and violence.
But, will Pappy learn from his mistakes and save his life? Will he ever make it out of the place
that now serves as the middle-world between life and death? To do this, Pappy must first examine his life from past to the
He grew up a spoiled and pampered child and got everything he wanted, and he was constantly doted
on by two loving parents and a maternal grandmother who protected him from the ills of his surroundings up to the day she
died. Then, something traumatic happens to Pappy’s family and he is changed forever, and the effects of his traumatic
childhood is acted out on the tough, hardened, criminal streets of east Buffalo, New York, a rancid neighborhood infamously
known as the citadel for inner-city violence, gangs, drugs, as well as teen-pregnancy and high drop-out rates.
Before it’s all over, Pappy is stretched out in a recovery program for drug addicts, trying to figure out what went
In this blues-dipped drama of home-bred despair and storefront misery, Pappy searches for a
meaningful existence and a purpose in life before he – like so many other young black males – becomes a statistic,
or worse, a victim of his own wretchedness.
This book should be in every innercity library.
Dame DaVohn’s novel is brave and honest in its unflinching attempt to examine the revolutionary
spirit of an inner-city community depleted of hope and possibility. The Sons of Shea begins with the necessary death of an
old front in order to usher forth a new one. The question then is whether or not the old generation has kept with the tradition
of bequeathing the new generation the intellectual tools necessary to sustain that tradition. Perhaps so.
DaVohn’s novel is centered around the pervasive and engulfing dilemma of two complex
issues: the Stonegate community and the New Rock Movement. Bishop returns to his hometown of Stonegate to find
it in a terrible state of social decay, drug infestation, and industrial collapse. He believes that with a little self-sacrifice,
committed leadership, and fearless courage, the community can rise again. With the help of childhood friends and local residents
Bishop steers the path for neighborhood revitalization. But, as with all great community movements, jealously, envy, and corruption
takes its proper place and ultimately becomes just as potent and important in the machinations of social change to which the
movement has vowed to inact.
This is a timeless story because it revisits a time in our history when people cared about their
communities, their neighbors, their children, their surroundings, and were willing to stand up and fight to preserve the peace
and order of the community. The real heroes lived next door and folks went to church, prayed and kept the faith. This is a
historical story because it touches on some of the same tenets of self-help, community upliftment and social responsibility
that signified the leadership of great black titans like John Dancy and Adam Clayton Powell. But it is an American story because
it is told in the Utopian spirit of love, compassion and humility.
A must read!
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