Monday, February 16, 2015

Book Review: The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, The Book

**No real spoilers! I want you to enjoy every piece of this book!**

I've spent the last few days, whenever I've had a free moment, cozied up with Issa Rae's new book, "The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl." I've laughed, I've almost cried, and I've stomped and yelled in affirmation. (All things I would've done in a library, bookstore, and/or train, but thank the lord I'm on vacation. That would've been awkward.)

Get it? Hehe. Okay, still awkward.

Well, this is why the book resonates with me. As a size 14 (a very sexy one I might add), with size twelve shoes, natural hair, immigrant parents, and the newly proud comeback queen to several women/men that tried to play me, back in grade school...Issa Rae totally gets me.

This book is a compilation of hilariously echoing narratives, that are divided by equally compelling "Awkward Black Girl" guides on blackness, the workplace, eating in public, hair, and so much more.

Issa Rae talks about a young obsession with food, her fluctuation in weight, and her trials when it came to losing it. She touches on AOL chatrooms and "cybering" with boys, utilizing the nostalgic A/S/L. She goes to a party, thrown by one of the most popular girls, and frets about doing the dances right. She elaborates on dating, public displays of affection,  tomboy trauma, the assumptions of her peers, the sparseness of our faces in media, the list goes on.

The entire time I read the book, I thought, "WHY IS SHE IN MY HEAD?"

Issa Rae's writing is the perfect equilibrium. She spins tales and notions that we so often dwell on, but are afraid to say out loud. They are potent and bright, just as they were when they happened. I, too, remember them this way. Although the memories are long ago, they reoccur whenever I experience something that correlates.

I couldn't stop the memories, while reading.

I'm reminded of the blue jean stains, on the white walls of my best friend's house, from girls who knew how to "dub" boys too well, at my first house party. I remember the orange halter top and bellbottom jeans, the begging my mother to stay in the car and let me go inside alone. I remember chickening out, deciding that it was better to be a wallflower than to embarrass myself dancing.

I recollect crusades and telling boys, my age (hopefully), that my name was Tasha.

I'm still convinced that my weave is the cause for sudden attention. I alternate between afro, box-braids, and tracks, and I notice that men are abundant, when my hair is faux and flowing.

I'm irked by the girls that email me for help with their creative work, the same girls that clobbered me with words or fists.

I understand what it's like to stand out, intentionally or unintentionally, and hope that the world forgot/forgets how you embarrassed yourself.

Issa Rae's book is an amalgamation of all of these things. She is loud, vibrant, shy, reclusive, all at once.

But most importantly...Issa Rae is a locksmith. She just unlocked a door for all of us, alongside Shonda Rimes, Gina Prince-Bythewood, Ava Duvernay, Mara Brock-Akil, Demetria Lucas, the list goes on...

Our stories matter too.

I am an awkward black girl.

Gap-teeth, tall, thick, witty, snorting-while-talking, comic-book-obsessed, writing-my-ass-off, brown wonder-woman.

& I'm inspired.

Grab the book, HERE!

Intention: The Finale: Part 12

Khalil’s Perspective


I likened my mother to an octopus, a Hindu God, a spider. They all knew struggle. They all were perfect metaphors for the juggling she’d grown accustomed to. I was in my second year of college when she’d taken on a third job, to help pay the bills. I wanted to take on more hours at Foot Locker, but she wasn’t having it.

“Your studies are the only thing around here getting more hours!”

I smiled, as she yelled this in her breathless patois, and took the supermarket bags from her arms. She worked there as a cashier, during the late shift. On Fridays she’d bring home goods that were 50% off for employees, as long as they’d expire in a week. I could see her scrubs sticking out from under her market khakis. She’d picked up a morning gig as a nurse’s aid at a clinic and she was also babysitting on the weekends. I couldn’t wait till I was old enough, when she couldn’t refute me. Once I was in the position to do so, she’d never work another day in her life.

I put the bags on the counter and waited for my mother to give directions. She was particular about where she wanted things. If she intended to cook something soon, she wanted it in the fridge, most of the other items went into the freezer.

She took off her coat and dropped her keys and finally spoke, again, “Leave the oxtail on the counter, everything else goes away.”

“All of the meat?”

“Yes Khalil, my workload is crazy this week. You’re going to have to order in, after today.”

“Ma, I really can work more hours and just take less credits at school.”

She stopped dead in her tracks, “Don’t let me have to repeat myself, again. You’re going to graduate in four years and then you’re going to an Ivy League! You’re not getting caught up like all these other teens around here.”

I placed the juices into the fridge, “All what kids? The people I grew up with are doing okay.”

“Oh really? You know I saw Remington’s daughter at the clinic today. Her belly is starting to show.”

“Jessa? She’s pregnant.”

“Yes and it’s a boy. We gave her a complete physical and ultrasound today. She came in a few weeks ago asking about an abortion, but it was too late. Now she and the father are thinking of adoption.”

I tried to hide my anxiety, I stood in front of the open fridge and shuffled a few things around unnecessarily, “Who’s the father?”

My mother passed me a juice I missed, “I’m not fast in folks business, Khalil. All I know is that he’s in her life, but he’s not ready for a baby either.”

I spent the rest of the semester wondering if Jessa’s unborn child belonged to Devon. I wondered if Jessa would change her mind and if they’d live happily ever after or if she’d be a single mother. I wondered if she’d know the difficulty that my mother faced, everyday.

I was disgusted with myself, I was still so concerned for her welfare. Despite all of the anger I felt, I still wanted to know if she’d be okay.

Present Day

Amari yelled again, “What the hell is he talking about, Devon?”

Devon dropped the bag, “Listen, Amari, Jessa and I were young. I thought she was taking birth control. The condom broke…”

Amari clutched her afro and grabbed her bag, “You have got to be kidding me. You have a child!”

“Legally, no. We gave up our rights. Listen, let’s not do this in front of Khalil. We can go in…”

Amari interrupted, “Now you want to go inside? Now you want to talk...”

“You owe me that much, Amari! You’ve been sneaking around and lying to me!”

“Are we seriously talking about lying? You were about to ask me to marry you, without telling me that you have a child somewhere in the world. You were about to let me feel like I’ve been the only one in this relationship with secrets.”

I jumped in, “She’s right. She doesn’t owe you anything, Devon.”

Amari looked at me like she dared me to speak again, “I’m going to pass on the rest of this conversation.”

She started walking down the street, as fast as possible. I jumped in the car and followed her. I rolled down the window, when I’d driven up to where she was walking, and called out to her.

“Amari come and stay with me or let me take you to wherever you’re going.”

“I’m going to my parents house and I don’t need a ride.”

She walked faster, like she was trying to get away from me, like she was trying to get away from every memory we’d created.

I drove slowly, while she walked, “So that’s it?”

She finally stopped, “Devon was foul. He should’ve told me. But you knew too. You held it in. You didn’t say anything, until it worked to your advantage.”

I parked, got out of the car, and stood next to her on the sidewalk.

“Amari, I didn’t want you to feel like I was using it to get you to leave him.”

“That’s what it felt like, just now.”

“I didn’t really know that the child was his. I guess, I didn’t know I’d be right. I’m sorry, I just…”

“You just what? You just thought that I’d run straight into your arms and let you whisk me away? That’s not how this works. Devon is a jerk for hiding that from me, but judging by the look on his face it’s not something that he’s proud of. You don’t use someone’s hurt to wage a war, Khalil. Is that who you are?”

I didn’t know what to say. The words tumbled from my mouth, while I’d watched him walk away with her. She was everything I ever wanted and the entire scenario felt like deja vu.

Amari’s Perspective

I spent the next few months, getting my life back in order. I yearned for Khalil, I was enraged at Devon. I felt bad for hurting Devon, I was pissed that Khalil hid things from me. My feelings were all over the place and I needed to busy myself.

Khalil text me everyday for two weeks, until he finally gave up. I guess he realized I was serious, when I changed my number. Devon didn’t even try.

My childhood bedroom felt like a safe-haven, my friends and family were solace. I took an advisor position for a few clubs after school and started taking a fiction class at Columbia.

I used my train rides, to and from, work and class, to erase the hurt.

Dear Journal,

It’s been a while. Devon sent my things to my parents this morning, I hear he’s moving back home too. I’ve been ignoring both men, because I didn’t want to choose. I guess Devon chose for me.

I’ve been looking for apartments on my lunch break and writing myself into an alternate world. I’m trying to escape the one I’m currently in.

I was wrong. I should’ve explained myself to Devon the moment I felt us drifting apart. I should’ve suppressed my feelings for Khalil, until I was free and clear.

We intend to do the right things.

We’re told it’s simple.

Meet someone.
Fall in love.
Stay with them, if they’re good to you.
Leave them, if they’ve wronged you.

Before I knew about Devon’s child, he hadn’t truly wronged me. We just weren’t meant to be together. But I latched on to recollections. I clung to the good in our relationship, hoping the gut feeling I had would disintegrate.

Sometimes we cling to things that aren’t destined. We force a puzzle piece into another and ignore a gaping hole, just to get to the bigger picture faster.

Destiny is something that must come along, on it’s own. It’s nothing we can intimidate.

Things don't always work out the way you intend them to.

I’m learning...

I continued to write and someone sat next to me, “What are you writing?”

I kept my eyes on my book and tried to ignore their question.

“Still mean, I see.”

I looked up and into his eyes, “Hi, Khalil.”

He closed my journal, “I’m sorry, Amari. You’re right, I should’ve told you sooner. I also should’ve stayed away, until you were ready.”

I nodded in agreement. I took him in. He looked just like he did, the first day that I met him. He wore a university hoodie with jeans and held a textbook in his hand.

He spoke again, “I miss you.”

I wanted to say it back. I wanted to hug him and accept his apology. I wanted us to be together, but I didn’t want to force destiny.

He sensed my hesitation, “Destiny is something that must come along, on its own. It’s nothing we can intimidate. Sorry for looking at your writing, but I couldn’t help myself. Isn’t being on the same train, on the same car, again...destiny? Can we start over?”

I thought about it, I smiled, “Perhaps.”

He put his arm around my shoulder. I pulled a card out of my blazer and handed it to him:

“Author, huh? All done with the book?”

“Yes and I’m working on my next.”

I snatched the card from his hand, as the train pulled up to 116th---Columbia University. I walked out briskly, with Khalil on my heels.

He caught up with me, “Why’d you take the card back?”

“Oh. I didn’t want you to be tempted,” I snickered.

He stopped me, pulled me close, and kissed me full on the lips, “Too late.”

Thursday, February 12, 2015 I'm Still Looking for A Love Jones In The Brown Sugar Section...

"I’m a Love Jones fan.
The only Darius I know is a class one a-hole, that looks in the mirror way too often. I won’t lie though-–he’s super gorgeous. Well, he was. Some of us age better than others.
I was the writer in our brief union, but definitely a Nina when it came to the dangerous line between coy and courage. When he broke my heart, I got up at an open mic that his fraternity was hosting and performed a poem that tore him to shreds.
Yimmy-ya that. Trick.
I own the film in DVD form. I don’t own a DVD player due to my all Apple everything crib, iTunes heavy, but I still watch it every now and then on Youtube. (Thank God for hackers and freebies.)
While I’m watching, I try to juxtapose the happenings of my current life versus what’s happening on the screen. Sigh. It’s a scary comparison."

My new dating column has moved over to! Read the rest, HERE!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Intention: Part 11

(From Amari's perspective.)

"Leaving is not enough. You must stay gone. Train your heart like a dog. Change the locks even on the house he’s never visited. You lucky, lucky girl. You have an apartment just your size. A bathtub full of tea. A heart the size of Arizona, but not nearly so arid. Don’t wish away your cracked past, your crooked toes, your problems are papier mache puppets you made or bought because the vendor at the market was so compelling you just had to have them. You had to have him. And you did. And now you pull down the bridge between your houses, you make him call before he visits, you take a lover for granted, you take a lover who looks at you like maybe you are magic. Make the first bottle you consume in this place a relic. Place it on whatever altar you fashion with a knife and five cranberries. Don’t lose too much weight. Stupid girls are always trying to disappear as revenge. And you are not stupid. You loved a man with more hands than a parade of beggars, and here you stand. Heart like a four-poster bed. Heart like a canvas. Heart leaking something so strong they can smell it in the street."
--Frida Kahlo

The night we disappeared:

I knew I was in the wrong. I'd known it the night Khalil and I slept together. I'd known it when we ran off, as if we both didn't have jobs, lives, loved ones to answer to. My guilt hung from the pit of my stomach and swung about, with a fervor that caused me to shake.  

Khalil saw this, he walked over to his overnight bag, sitting on the hotel room love seat, and pulled a small paper bag from it.

He brought it to me, as I changed into one of the room's robes, ready to sleep, hoping my dreams would help me avoid the decision for that much longer.

"What's this?"

He smiled and sat on the bed next to me,  "It's something I was going to give you when you were officially mine, but you look like you need it now."

I opened the bag. There was a shirt in it, it was blue and red, with white sentences wrapped all around.

you consume in this place a relic.
And you did, And now you pull down the bridge between your houses
you make him call before he visits,
you take a lover who looks at you like 
maybe you are magic. Make the first bottle
you take a lover for granted

They were jumbled, but as I looked closer I saw that it was one of my favorite quotes by Frida Kahlo.

I looked at him, he placed his hand on mine. It was still shaking.

“How did you know I loved Frida Kahlo?”

He smiled, “Remember that night we video chatted? She was all over your wall, behind you.”

“You're familiar with her paintings?”

“Yeah. I took a few art classes in college. I know a little bit about her story too. She loved hard. I know you love that way.”

I kissed his cheek, “Thank you, I love it.”

He got up to get ready for bed, but I couldn’t stop thinking about Frida. She did love hard, perhaps too hard. Her union with Diego was complicated and confusing, he cheated and lied, she cheated as revenge, but her heart always belonged to him.

I never wanted to love anyone like that. It was debilitating and frightening. I wasn’t ready for Khalil’s savvy to envelop me and any common sense I had left.

He took off his shirt, he switched to a Phillies tee. I watched the red fabric slip over his abs. He playfully pushed me back onto the bed.

“Let’s go to sleep punk.”

And my former notions were dust, particles slipped through the thread count, on to the floor, and under the door, as we fell into slumber.

Leaving is not enough. You must stay gone. Train your heart like a dog. Change the locks even on the house he’s never visited. You lucky, lucky girl. You have an apartment just your size.

I knew it was time, but I wasn’t ready to leave.

Devon and I grew apart each day. Our love became routine:

Avoid morning faces in the bathroom.
Pass me my lunch.
Pass me my keys.
I love you.
Lunch text.
Dinner text.
Maybe sex.

I thought back to when we’d met in Kristina’s kitchen.

I was in the prime of my life. I’d just got home and I was ready to conquer the world. I landed a job at the best school in my area, wrote long chapters of my book, and started networking with the literary world.

For months I was content. I had everything I could ever want.

& then the New Year came.
I watched Kristina and Miles sink into one another,
as I stood underneath a rotting mistletoe,
and realized that everyone at the party had someone else, but me.

Naturally, at their next gathering it was all I could think of. I watched Kristina dance about the kitchen, without a care, and I knew what was missing.

& then...what I thought I was missing, walked in.

Months from that moment, I would wonder…

Was Devon love at first sight or love out of convenience?

He forgot anniversaries.
He bought things for me that were nothing like me.
An amalgamation of I-didn’t-take-the-time-to-think-this-through,
a basket of:
a rose,
a gaudy costume bracelet,
a pharmacy journal,
sitting in the apartment we’d spent so much time in together,
for a writer,
someone who never wore much jewelry,
someone that was allergic to rose petals.

I wanted Devon and I to work. I held the basket close and forced a smile. I didn’t want him to think I was ungrateful.

But I couldn’t stop the notions from repeating..

after three years you’d think he’d know me,
after three years you’d think he’d know me,
after three years you’d think he’d know me.

You had to have him. And you did. And now you pull down the bridge between your houses, you make him call before he visits, you take a lover for granted, you take a lover who looks at you like maybe you are magic.

Khalil and I headed up I-295, boxed in by our loud voices and 70mph. He wanted to stay in Philly, I wanted to go home.

“Amari, you could’ve told him the truth over the phone! He already knew! You could’ve dealt with that when you got home, tomorrow.”

“That? That’s what you think my relationship is?”

“What is your relationship? Explain it to me. One moment you’re all mine and the next you need to explain yourself to Devon.”

I looked at him, like he was crazy, “You knew what this was, from the beginning. I told you I was taken, from day one.”

“But you never stopped me. I pushed a little further, each time, because I knew I wanted you to be mine. The minute you told me to leave you alone, I would’ve. But you didn’t.”

His hand was suddenly on my knee. He spoke again, “Why didn’t you?”

I was afraid to answer. I knew the truth, but I needed it pushed out of me.

He asked again, “Why, Amari?”

“Because, I love you.”

It was quiet.
Quiet for longer than I would’ve liked it to be, but I had nothing else to say.

He broke the silence, “You don’t have to go home.”

You loved a man with more hands than a parade of beggars, and here you stand. Heart like a four-poster bed. Heart like a canvas.

We pulled up to my apartment building an hour later. Devon was waiting in front of the building. Khalil saw this and his eyes grew wide.

“You want me to come in with you?”

I frowned, “I have to do this alone.”

Khalil ignored me and got out of the car. Devon approached us, he grabbed my bag from my shoulder. After all of this, he still insisted on being a gentleman.

“Devon let’s go inside.”

Devon stood still, his face red all over, enraged. He stared straight at Khalil.

I prompted him again, “Devon, baby, let’s go inside. Let’s talk.”

Khalil stood at the driver’s side of the car, he pressed the alarm and locked the doors. He wasn’t going anywhere.

Khalil spoke, “You have something you want to say, Dev?”

“Don’t call me that. You don’t know me like that anymore. You haven’t known me like that since you disappeared during college, since we moved and you didn’t have the decency to say goodbye, and since you brought this teenage revenge sh*t to my doorstep.”

Khalil walked around the car and up to Devon, “That’s what this is about? You’re mad I didn’t return your calls?”

“I’m mad you never handled yourself like a man.”

Devon dropped my bag and it was clear he was ready for an altercation. I touched his arm and beckoned him inside again. He ignored me.

“I didn’t handle myself like a man? Did you handle yourself like one at Morehouse?”

“I knew that’s what this was about! I wasn’t a man, Khalil. I was a kid! I did foolish things.”

“I loved that girl!”

It stung to hear the words cross Khalil’s lips.

“So you play with Amari’s heart to prove a point?”

“Dev, I love her too.”

Devon pushed Khalil, Khalil fell back into the car, stood back up, and brushed his shoulders.

“You don’t know what love is, Devon. You never will.”

I winced at his statement. There was truth to it, but Devon loved in a way that only someone who’d lived with him for years could understand. It was not apparent. It was subtle and easily missed if you didn’t look for it intently.

I spoke up again, “Please, Devon, let’s go inside and talk.”

Devon picked up my bag and made his way towards the apartment. I waved a small goodbye to Khalil. As I turned my back, Khalil spoke again.

“Does she know about your son, Dev?”

Devon turned to look at me and then he looked at Khalil. Devon looked like a scared child.

“What is he talking about?”

Devon stuttered, “I don’t...he doesn’t…”

Khalil interrupted, “Does she know that you and Jessa gave up your son like a pair of sneakers you didn’t want anymore?”

Heart leaking something so strong they can smell it in the street.