Posts Tagged ‘raw’

Mama Black Widow

August 15, 2012

Author:  Iceberg Slim

Title: Mama Black Widow: A Novel

Genre: African-American, Urban Lit, GLBTQ

Publisher/Publication Date:  Old School Books, 1998

Number of Pages:  240

Geographical Setting:  Southside Chicago

Time Period:  1930s-1970s

Plot Summary:  Mama Black Widow tells the tragic tale of Otis Tilson, a 40-year-old gay drag queen living on Chicago’s south side during the racially turbulent 70s.  Much of the novel is told in a realistic way by Otis about how his family moved to Chicago from the south in the 1930s, and the hard times they had to endure from then on.  Most of the novel is spent examining Otis’s mother “mama,” a vile, manipulative, downright evil woman who basically destroys every member of the Tilson family.  She drives her husband away, coerced one of her daughters into prostitution, and a lot of innocent people suffer greatly by her hands.  The author of this novel, Iceberg Slim (former pimp) writes in a way that is both shocking and insightful.  The language is often blunt, candid, and very, very offensive.  Sex scenes are described in explicit detail, and tone often changes from jovial to deadly serious.  Issues such as integration, trade unions, Chicago’s underground gay scene, police brutality, and hatred for the white man are discussed at length throughout the novel.  Slim even admits in the introduction that he is not the greatest writer, but he writes for the common people, and “tells it like it is.”

Subject Headings: Chicago (Southside)–Police (Brutality)–House of Corrections–Plantations–Trade Unions–Black Power–Bars (Gay)–Drag Queens–Cross-dressing–GLBTQ–Pimps–Drugs–Guns–Prostitution–Religion–False Preachers–Sex–Erotica–Rape–Pedophiles–Martin Luther King, Jr.–Street Cars–The El

Appeal: Realistic, Shocking, Character-Driven, Blunt, Candid, Erotic, Frantic, Intense, Dramatic, Serious, Political, Steamy, Graphic, Comical, Gut-Wrenching, Tragic, Sad, GLBTQ, Sexy

3 Appeal terms that best describe this book:  Serious, Steamy, Graphic

3 Similar Non-Fiction works and authors:

Soul on Ice, Eldridge Cleaver

This non-fiction memoir by Eldridge Cleaver will appeal to Iceberg Slim fans for its ability to shock, outrage, and question the readers’ ideas of what it means to be black in America.  His memoir is both sincere, raw, and very engaging.  He says at one point, “I’m perfectly aware that I’m in prison, that I’ve been a rapist, and that I have a higher Uneducation.”  Cleaver made indeed be too offensive to some, but he always savagely honest.  He tells the truth and he knows it.

Manchild in the Promised Land, Claude Brown

Claude Brown is a young, streetwise criminal growing up in Harlem in the 1940s and 50s.  This novel does an excellent job of describing northern black ghettos in New York in a turbulent, thrilling way.  Everything from pimps, drugs, street vendors, local shop owners, police brutality, gangs, sex and violence, and the gay underground are discussed in this book.  This book is however, quite inspiring and affirmative because Claude Brown is one of the lucky few who “made it” in this brutal world.

Out and Proud in Chicago: An Overview of the City’s Gay Community,  Tracy Baim

This handy reference book guides the reader through Chicago’s long and rich history of the gay community.  Those interested in Slim’s descriptive scenes of obscure bars and drag clubs will enjoy the multiple photographs presented within these pages (both in color and black & white).  The book draws on many scholarly, historical, and journalistic sources and covers time periods from pre- WWI to WWII-1960s, and 1970s to the present day.

3 Similar Fiction works and authors:

Blow Your Mind, Eric Pete

The description of the book reads,”In this erotic novel of sex and revenge, Eric Pete takes the consequences of dark sexual fantasies one step further.”  This story is about Tanner Coleman, his wife Bianca, and her wild sister, pumpkin.  When a man named Henry shows up and blackmailed Tanner, their lives are changed forever in a truly twisted way.  Not for the squeamish, this hardcore erotic, steamy, violent novel will appeal to Slim fans for its challenging dialogue, absurd situations, and the pessimistic world view that “we all die, and it will probably be sooner rather than later.”  Very popular!

Drag Queen, Robert Rodi

Considering the titles mentioned above, Rodi’s novel Drag Queen is a bit more light-hearted and comical, but also very engaging.  One review describes it as “The Parent Trap meets Priscilla, Queen of the Dessert.”  Gay attorney Mitchell Sayer has just found out from his mother that he has an identical twin, who happens to live not far from him in Northern Chicago.  The thing is, Mitchell’s brother is now named “Kitten Kaboodle,” gown-wearing, stillet0 strutting star of Tam-Tam’s “All-girl” review.  Furious, Mitchell tries to force Kitten into “the real world,” but Kitten feels she has a few lessons to teach as well.  Comical, insightful, and full of the Chicago landmarks Slim famously paints throughout his books.

Last Exit to Brooklyn, Hubert Selby, Jr.

This graphic, brutally raw novel of characters living in Brooklyn during the 60s and 70s examines the anger and rage of many diverse individuals in a time where justice seemed non-existent.  Considered a classic of modern American writing, this book, as Slim would describe it, “tells it like it is.”  There are crooks, hoodlums, pimps, prostitutes, drag queens, gay men and women, police riots, and strikes galore.  Gritty and serious, blunt and brutally honest.  Truly essential.

Chyna Black by Keisha Ervin

August 13, 2012

 Author:  Keisha Ervin

Title:  Chyna Black

Genre:  African American, Urban Lit

Publication Date:  2004

Number of Pages:  259

Geographical Setting:  St. Louis, Missouri

Time Period:  Contemporary

Series (If applicable):  N/A

Plot Summary:  Seventeen-year-old Chyna Black catches the eye of Tyriek James, a handsome 22-year-old drug dealer living a life filled with fast cars, expensive jewelry, and designer name clothes.  Unheeding her girlfriends’ advice that Tyriek is nothing but trouble, Chyna is blinded by her passion and pursues a relationship with him, forsaking everything else.  Chyna, infatuated and caught up in his lifestyle, goes from straight-A student to high school dropout, begins to isolate herself from her friends, and gets thrown out of her mother’s house.  Although things go well for a while between her and Tyriek, their relationship soon becomes fraught with jealousy, infidelity, violent physical and emotional abuse, passionate make-up sex, and insincere promises of devotion.  Chyna learns all too late the unhealthiness of their relationship, returns to her mother’s house, and begins dating an old boyfriend, LP, who gets her pregnant.  Without LP’s support, she decides to keep the baby and get her life back on track by getting a job and her GED.  One year later, at her daughter’s first birthday, Tyriek reappears with new promises of devotion.  Chyna Black is a fast-paced, gritty tale of urban fiction written in a raw, conversational style that is heavy with dialect and loaded with profanity.  Chyna and Tyriek’s relationship is a maelstrom of drama and passionate eroticism that is sure to engage readers who enjoy these elements.

Subject Headings:  African American Teenage Girls; Inner City Life; Teenage Pregnancy; High School Dropouts; Drug Dealers; Unhealthy Relationships; Responsibility; Coming-of-Age Stories

Appeal:  Conversational, informal, unpretentious, authentic, raw, gritty, dialect-rich, sexually explicit, strong language, erotic, romantic, melodramatic, hopeful, inspiring, fast-paced, open-ended

3 terms that best describe this book:  Dialect-rich, raw, and strong language

Similar Authors and Works (why are they similar?):

            3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

1)  Dear Diary, I’m Pregnant: Ten Real Life Stories by Anrenee Englander

This book is a collection of candid interviews with ten teenage girls from various socioeconomic backgrounds, ethnicities, cultures, and faiths about their experiences with pregnancy.  The girls’ stories also touch on topics such as abortion, adoption, and deciding to keep their babies.  This title is suggested to those who want to read true-life stories about teenage pregnancies after reading about Chyna’s experiences.

2)  A Piece of Cake by Cupcake Brown

A harrowing yet inspiring memoir of how the author overcame her history of childhood neglect, abject poverty, trauma, rape, prostitution, gang affiliation, and substance abuse and became a California attorney and motivational speaker.  Like Chyna Black, this is a gritty, raw, and inspiring story of an African American woman taking back control of her life.

3)  Brothers (and Me): A Memoir of Loving and Giving by Donna Britt

An honest and introspective memoir about how the author, growing up as the only daughter in a middle-class African American family, sacrificed her own ambitions and self-identity for the men in her life: her three brothers, her father, her boyfriends, and her husband.  After the police shoot and kill one of her brothers, she reflects on the ways in which she has continually given of herself to others at the expense of her own individuality.  Chyna Black comes to a similar realization when she breaks things off with Tyreik and begins to take responsibility for her future.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

1)  Every Thug Needs a Lady by Wahida Clark

Roz puts her personal aspirations of becoming a physical therapist aside when she meets and gets involved with Trae, a drug dealer.  She soon realizes the cost of getting into a relationship with a gangster.  Every Thug Needs a Lady and Chyna Black are similar urban tales of young African American women blinded by their passion for handsome, wealthy thugs at the expense of everything else.

2)  Black: A Street Tale by Tracy Brown

When her mother throws her out of the house, 17-year-old Kaia is forced to live on the streets.  Trying desperately just to survive, she meets and gets involved in relationship with a local hoodlum named Aaron.  Although this relationship changes her life, she questions whether it has changed for the better or if it is stifling her freedom.  Suggested to readers looking for another story about a young African American teenage girl who is thrown out of her home and becomes romantically involved with a dangerous man.

3)  Push by Sapphire

Sixteen-year-old Precious Jones lives in a severely abusive household where her father routinely rapes her and her mother emotionally and physically abuses her.  When she finds herself pregnant with her father’s child for the second time, she enrolls in an alternative school in Harlem to overcome her illiteracy.  Her teacher, Blue Rain, encourages and pushes her to learn how to read and write.  By learning these skills, Precious is able to find an outlet for communicating her tragic existence.  Push is suggested to readers looking for a grittier, bleaker, and more harrowing tale of a pregnant African American teenage girl gaining the confidence she needs to confront the adversity and trauma she has suffered.

Name:  Zach Musil

Push: A Novel

April 21, 2010

Author: Sapphire

Title: Push: A Novel

Genre: Urban

Publication date: 1996

Number of pages: 140

Geographical setting: Harlem, New York City

Time period: 1980s

Plot summary: Obese, failed student, physically and sexually abused, pregnant with second child, and 16 years old. A nightmare life, but this is Claireece Precious Jones’ life. Precious is still in junior high and struggling with a father who has raped her and fathered her two children and a mother who yells at her, beats her, and sexually abuses her. All seems lost for Precious, another victim of the ghettos of New York until she meets Blue Rain, an energetic, determined young teacher who has radical ideas about how to educate troubled youth. Precious finds a mentor in Ms. Rain and friends in her class. And she might just find her lost life and a lasting purpose.

Subject headings: Urban fiction — 20th century; Single African-American mothers; Child abuse victims — New York City

Appeal: compelling; dramatic; evocative; vivid; cinematic; violent, raw, sexually explicit; dark; jargon; lyrical; frank

3 terms that best describe this book: arresting; poetic; emotional

Similar works:


Sugar: A Novel by Bernice L. McFadden | Raised by prostitutes and turning tricks herself from the age of twelve, Sugar Lacey has a reputation and a past from which no redemption is possible. When she moves into a new town, the local women rise against her. All except her neighbor, Pearl, who gives Sugar a chance at creating a future for herself.

The Color Purple by Alice Walker | Celie, a poor black woman in the South in the 1920-50s is raped by her father, and then married off to an abusive husband and seperated from her sister. Through her letters to her lost sister, Celie tells her story of her rise from marrital oppression to independence.

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck | Okie farmers are forced by the Depression and drought to abandon their homes and migrate to California to be fruitpickers. Despite crushing poverty and oppression by landowners, they struggle to create new lives and a future.


Women’s Ways Of Knowing: The Development Of Self, Voice, And Mind 10th Anniversary Edition by Mary Belenky | Interviewing over 100 women, Belenky investigates the development of knowledge in women. The book defines five categories of how women you what they know.

Dreams from my Father by Barack Obama | Born of a Kenyan father and American white mother, and raised by his white grandparents in Hawaii, Obama struggles to find his identity and a lasting purpose.

Black, White, and Jewish by Rebecca Walker | Through difficult friendships, drug problems, and mixed race parents, a woman works toward finding an identity and future.

Name: Jason J. Lamb


March 17, 2010

Finn: A Novel

Author: Jon Clinch

Title: Finn

Genre: Literary Fiction

Publication Date: 2007

Number of Pages: 283

Geographical Setting: Mississippi River; Lasseter, IL (Adams County); St. Petersburg, MO; Alton, IL

Time Period: Pre-Civil War

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: Pap Finn is a drunk.  Pap Finn is also a murderer, kidnapper and thief.   Jon Clinch offers a realization of Pap Finn from Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  Finn is his story.   This volatile character is measured by crisscrossing the span of his life to reveal twisted endeavors and tender motives.  Clinch meticulously dovetails Finn into the tapestry of Twain’s enduring yarn while providing something whole and discrete:  a study of a vicious riverman caught is a swirl of misdeeds that conspire to ruin and extinguish him.

Subject Headings: Finn, Huckleberry, father and son, brothers, runaway children, fugitive slaves, women slaves, men—friendship, race relations, boys, paternity, dead, murder, Mississippi River, Missouri, adventure stories—American, coming of age stories

Appeal: character centered, violent, crude, compelling, measured, rhythmic, engrossing, visceral, evocative, graphic, picturesque, raw

Three terms that best describe the book: dark, lyrical, affecting

Similar authors and works:

Was Huck Black?:  Mark Twain and African-American Voices by Shelley Fisher Fishkin examines the genesis of Mark Twain’s iconic character, Huckleberry Finn.

Inspired by Huckleberry Finn, Jonathon Raban satisfies a lifelong dream in the travelogue Old Glory:  A Voyage Down the Mississippi.

Borrow from the Pap Finn diet plan, eat like a bona fide Mississippi riverman with the help of Stan Warren and his The World’s Best Catfish Cookbook.

More father-son dynamics are on display in Cormac McCarthy’s bleak and haunting The Road.

Shadow Country by Peter Matthiessen brings new perspective to Matthiessen’s Watson trilogy in this single volume re-envisioning of the everglade epic about a sugarcane farmer and alleged murderer that was famously gunned down in the swamps of southwest Florida.  Another portrait of a deadman.

David Boring by Daniel Clowes approaches the everyday tedium of a character with a larger-than-life story.


Rockabye: from wild to child

June 15, 2009

Author: Woolf, Rebecca

Title: Rockabye: from wild to child

Genre: Non-fiction (biography/memoir)

Publication Date: 2008

Number of Pages: 289 pages

Geographical Setting: Los Angeles, CA and surrounding area

Time Period: 2000’s

Series: (if applicable) n/a

Plot Summary:

Rockabye is the story of Rebecca Woolf, a young, hip, writer and blogger, who ends up unexpectedly pregnant at 23 years old. She decides to marry the father of the baby and her boyfriend, Hal in a shotgun wedding in Vegas. Woolf authentically details her journey and coming of age as she says goodbye to her chain-smoking, drinking and partying days, and hello to motherhood and the joy and responsibility of building a family without sacrificing her dreams and building a world that is wholly her own.

Subject Headings:

Mothers; motherhood


Fast-paced, detailed, engaging, familiar, intriguing, authentic, domestic, family-centered, rebellious, un-stereotypical, intimately written, detailed setting of Los Angeles, urban, candid, lively, frank, humorous, honest, insightful, unembellished, thoughtful, raw, natural, vivid

3 Terms that best describe this book:

Honest, candid, motherhood

3 Relevant Non-Fiction works and authors

Heidi Murkoff, What to expect when you’re expecting, is often referred to as the Bible of pregnancy, childbirth and child-rearing.

Rita Arens, Sleep is for the Weak, is a lively compilation of short stories from various “mommybloggers”. It is a hilarious page-turner of real-life stories about motherhood.

Stefanie Wilder-Taylor, Sippy cups are not for chardonnay, delivers empathetic dirt on parenting and modern motherhood with plenty of side-splitting humor.

3 Relevant Fiction works and authors

Laura Wolf, Diary of a mad mom-to-be, is a funny, adventurous novel that follows Amy, a kooky heroine and Manhattanite, on her 9 months of pregnancy.

Risa Green, Notes from the underbelly, Lara Stone is a guidance counselor at an elite Bel Air high school and finds herself reluctantly pregnant. The novel is a quick and funny read that details how Lara deals with the many unexpected changes of pregnancy and motherhood.

Debbie DiGiovanni, Tight Squeeze, is a delightful novel about the trials and tribulations of being a mother. The novel follows Becca’s fifth pregnancy and the ensuing feelings of self-doubt, the search for her true self and the rediscovery of the joys of motherhood. The novel has light hints of Christian and spiritual references perhaps lightly introducing readers to the Christian Fiction/Inspirational genre.

Name: Natalie Ochockyj

Shame on It All

April 15, 2009

Title: Shame on It All
Author: Zane
Publication date: 2001
Page count: 355
Genre: Urban fiction, African American
Geographical setting: Baltimore/Washington D.C. area
Series: n/a

Plot summary: This humorous, fast moving novel chronicles the lives of the three Whitfield sisters: Harmony, Lucky, and Bryce, who don’t always see eye to eye, but love each other just the same. Harmony and Bryce are highly successful career women, while Lucky is an ambitious medical school student. However, it’s not long before the sisters run into trouble. Harmony has just received news that will change her life forever;  a secret she’s deterimined to keep from her sisters and her longtime boyfriend, Zachary, whom she abruptly begins pushing out of her life. Bryce goes through a messy breakup herself, when she discovers her man has been cheating on her. Finally, while at school, Lucky meets the love of her life, Robbie. But a mistake from her not-too-distant past has the potential to put their relationship, and, in fact, her entire future in jeopardy. The sisters’ struggles to get back on track often result in hilarious and surprising twists, and their friends’ scrapes provide for some unforgettable subplots. In spite of their squabbles and outrageous predicaments, the deep friendships and unbreakable bonds amongst the sisters and their friends manage to grow even stronger.

Subject headings: African American women; African Americans; Sisters; Female friendship; Dating (social customs); Family
Appeal: steamy, erotic, unembellished, raw, multiple points of view, humorous, page turner, fast moving, strong secondary characters, romantic, contemporary, sexually explicit, graphic, gritty, racy, family-centered, drama, strong female characters

Similar works (fiction): Soul Mates Dissipate – Mary B. Morrison (relationships, steamy, plot twists, romance)
Ladies’ Night Out – Electa Rome Parks (erotic, female friendship, successful female characters)
Sister, Sister – Eric Jerome Dickey (multiple points of view, sisters, family, relationships)

Similar works (nonfiction): Sucka Free Love: How to Avoid Dating the Dumb, the Deceitful, the Dastardly, the Dysfunctional and the Deranged – Deborrah Cooper (dating, relationships, sex, African American viewpoint)
What Brothers Think, What Sistahs Know About Sex: The Real Deal on Passion, Loving, and Intimacy – Denene Millner and Nick Chiles (African American viewpoint, sex, relationships)
Having it All? Black Women and Success – Veronica Chambers (strong women, careers, community)

Name: Suzanne

Black Powder, White Smoke

March 17, 2009

Title: Black Powder, White Smoke

Author: Loren D. Estleman

Publication Date: 2002

Number of Pages: 318

Genre: Western

Geographical Setting: New Orleans, Louisiana; San Francisco, California; Galveston, Texas, Corpus Christi, Texas; Denver, Colorado

Time Period: 1885

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: This western tale about two illicit gunmen and those who seek their capture takes readers on a racially charged and fast-paced journey back to the 1880s. Freed slave, Honore “Honey” Broutrille is the owner of the House of Rest, a New Orleans bordello, flees after he kills a white man in defense of one of his girls. On the west coast, Emerson Emerson or “Twice” Emerson, a union army defect, commits a racially motivated crime and murders a Chinese man in San Francisco. In alternating chapters, readers follow Honey and Twice as they travel across the country committing crimes more shocking than the last. As their list of victims grows, the tales of their crimes become larger than life and attract those seeking their capture. Ernest Tobert, a journalist from Chicago, and Casper Box, a theater promoter, independently pursue Honey and Twice until all four men descend on Colorado for a classic western style shoot out that will leave only one man standing.

Subject Headings: African-American men; African Americans; Freed slaves; Outlaws; Murder; The Eighties (19th century); California; Louisiana; Colorado; Rocky Mountains; Western stories; Historical fiction

Appeal: fast paced, vivid, character centered, dramatic, suspenseful, multiple points of view, explicit violence, multiple plotlines, strong language, thought provoking dark, gritty, raw, tough, hard edged, rural, small town, candid, direct, frank, simple, unaffected, unembellished, unpretentious, tragic

Similar Authors and Works (Fiction): Brandvold, Peter – Once Hell Freezes Over (outlaw western, suspenseful, gritty, race against time); McCoy, Max Hellfire Canyon (likable outlaw, raw, violent, fast paced) Grey, Zane – Cabin Gulch: A Western Story (group of outlaws; hostages, dramatic, tragic)

Similar Authors and Works (Nonfiction): Jameson, W.C. – Billy the Kid, Beyond the Grave (evidence supporting the controversial theory that Pat Garrett did not kill the legendary Billy the Kid in 1881, but that he lived on as William Henry Roberts until 1948); Patterson, Richard M – Butch Cassidy: A Biography (primary and secondary accounts of the life and crimes of Robert Leroy Parker, the infamous Butch Cassidy); Taylor, Quintard – In Search of the Racial Frontier: African Americans in the American West (documentation of the history of African Americans in the American West)

Name: Joanna