From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun by Jacqueline Woodson (Aug-Sept. 2006 Pick of the Month)

Publisher/Date:  Puffin, July 2010
Genre(s):  Young Adult, Family, Lesbian Parents
Pages:  160

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Black lesbians with children take note: FROM THE NOTEBOOKS OF MELANIN SUN is a must-read book. The compelling novel follows Melanin Sun, a 13-year-old dealing with the complexities of adolescence and his mother’s newfound sexuality.

It’s summertime, and Melanin is looking forward to the finer things in life: hanging with friends Ralphael and Sean, pursuing his crush on Angie, and writing his innermost thoughts in his treasured notebooks.

But what he looks forward to and treasures most is spending time with his mother Encanta, a single mother working hard to make a living for her child. The two are inseparable, leaning on each other through the best and worst of times and having a mother-son bond so deep they know each other’s moods and the simplest of facial expressions.

Melanin’s perfect relationship is demolished, though, when day at the beach ends with Encanta revealing she’s gay—and in love with a white woman. This piece of earth-shattering news devastates Melanin to no end. He can’t imagine that his mother could ever fall in love with a woman, and a white woman at that.

The one thing that helps him is his notebook. There Melanin pours out his heart, recording every emotion he’s feeling: from anger to shame, from frustration to understanding. It helps him slowly work out the issues with his Encanta, the shyness he feels over approaching Angie, and the ruined friendship with Sean once he finds out his mother’s a lesbian. As the story concludes, Melanin realizes that life doesn’t get easier as you grow up, only more complicated as the days go by.

Woodson approaches From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun with a great understanding of what it’s like to be a young black male and the sentiments of dealing with a gay parent. She makes you see the issues a child can have with your coming out, and how to survive it. As always with Woodson, the writing is superb, and the novel is heartwarming and real, a story with even a small page number manages to have an impact. Children and parents alike should read this with open eyes and an open heart – they both could learn more than they realize.

Reviewed Aug-Sept 2006

Keeping Secrets: A Gianna Maglione Mystery by Penny Mickelbury

Publisher/Date:  Kings Crossing Publishing, 2003
Genre(s):  Mystery, Crime
Pages:  193

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Girl, watch out!!!

There’s a killer hunting the gay community in KEEPING SECRETS, the first in the Gianna Maglione series from mystery writer Penny Mickelbury.

But no worries, Gianna is on the case. A top-notch lieutenant in the Hate Crimes Unit with the Washington, D. C. police department, she’s trying to find out who’s been targeting prominent, in-the-closet inhabitants of the nation’s capital.  Not only is it a matter of who’s been killed but how, as the victims are shot in the gruesome fashion. It’s racking Gianna’s brain and what’s worse is that could be only a matter of time before she or someone she knows could be on the hit list.

On the other side of the case is Mimi Patterson, a black investigative reporter. Gianna won’t let Mimi get anywhere near the case, for fear that the journalist will turn the investigation into a media frenzy. All Mimi wants is some answers, and with good sources on a high-profile case like this, she won’t rest until she gets discovers who’s behind the crime. Even if it means dealing with hard-nosed Gianna.

At odds, the two women are just trying to do their jobs—and trying to fight their growing attraction to one another. Their blossoming romance can’t be good for the case. Especially when they know that one false move could jeopardize any luck they have in trying to find the serial killer.

Mickelbury has created an excellent first novel in a series you will want to read more of. Keeping Secrets kept me on the edge of my seat, and the romance between the two enhanced the story of a cop and a reporter trying to do good. I must admit I had a clue about the killer half-way through, but it was still gripping to see how they would get the sick bastard. And I enjoyed the behind-the-scenes work of the detectives, as well. I definitely plan to read more of the Gianna/Mimi mysteries.

Cause it also doesn’t hurt that the women are hot, too.

Reviewed Aug-Sept 2006

The Sista Hood: On the Mic by E-Fierce

Publisher/Date:  Atria, July 2006
Genre:  Young Adult
Pages:  209

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Move out the way, Jay-Z!

Girls can rhyme, too, and nothing proves this more than author E-Fierce’s THE SISTA HOOD: ON THE MIC, the first in a series about four young women united through hip-hop.

Fourteen-year-old Mariposa (or MC Patria) is the narrator of this tale, a Puerto Rican tomboy whose skills and lyrics are tight. The only issue she faces is to make her best friend and fellow rapper Ezekiel (aka MC EZ1) realize that and fall in love with her. The only thing that stands in her way is his white girlfriend, Jessica, another MC known more for her sex appeal than her rhymes.

Her plan to win his heart? Win her school’s talent show and win his heart, and she has three friends that will help her make it happen: Sadie (Soul Siren), Liza (Pinay-1) and Evita (DJ Esa). The girl become fast friends and help each other through rough times, such as abusive boyfriends, dysfunctional home issues, and discovering sexual preferences. Although Mariposa’s intention is to impress the boy she loves, she realizes that her deep friendships with her homegirls are what really counts.

Author E-Fierce (aka Elisha Miranda) is an excellent writer, and The Sista Hood: On the Mic is definitely hot stuff for the younger crowd. It’s real without being preachy, and true to the stuff young people face today. This is a book your daughter will be excited about, and you could read yourself. The Sista Hood does a terrific job of portraying girls of varying ethnicities working together despite their differences. It also has a great message for girls that they can be anything they want to be with a little hard work.

That’s a song worth listening to.

Reviewed Aug-Sept 2006

A Taste of Sin by Fiona Zedde

Publisher/Date:  Kensington Publishing Corporation, July 2006
Genre:  Romance
Pages:  280

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Indulge yourself in A TASTE OF SIN, author Fiona Zedde’s appropriately-titled second novel, a veritable smorgasbord of sexual pleasures with protagonist Desiree Nichols as your guide through the culinary delights of women.

Since declaring herself a lesbian at 14, Dez has had them all—women of varying shades and hues, proportions and personalities. Her acquired wealth has afforded her a life of leisure, and because of it she’s treated herself to a fair share of sexual encounters throughout her college years. Everything changes, though, when Dez falls for Ruben, a man she finds absolutely irresistible, and deserts everything to follow him. Two years later, she finds herself abandoned by Ruben and facing a family emergency that calls her back home to Miami.

When she arrives in the sunny city, Dez finally confronts the people she left in her wake years ago—Claudia, a worried mother and Derrick, her twin brother—who were left to pick up the pieces she shattered with her coming out and hedonistic behavior. Though Dez’s old friends, once devastated when she took off with a man, welcome her back with open arms and help her seek other pleasures to take her mind off things.

Like her mother’s cancer scare.

And the fact that she and her brother have never really gotten along.

Both smart and attractive, Dez and Derrick could never see each other as more than rivals, especially when it came to the ladies. He doesn’t care for her self-indulgent lifestyle, and when he introduces her to his friend Victoria, he quickly declares her off limits to Dez.

That proves difficult because Dez finds Victoria so tantalizing with her gorgeous face and shapely figure. She’s never met a woman she couldn’t have, and Victoria proves to be no exception. And despite her hesitations about Dez’s love-em-and-leave-em persona, Victoria initiates a no-strings attached affair, making the sex all the more exhilarating.

It’s all fun and games for both women—romantic getaways by day and hot sex by night—until Dez finds herself caring more than she ever thought she would. This is all new for the heartbreaker who’s never found herself in anything more serious than one-night affairs. Victoria’s fallen hard as well, but doesn’t want Dez to destroy her heart.

As the title implies, A Taste of Sin is chock full of the delicious sex scenes one would expect from Ms. Zedde. After all, she gave us the debut novel Bliss, a tour de force in black lesbian literature. Sin is not as captivating as her first, but it is a page turner nonetheless. Dez, as the bad boy you always wanted in your bed, is a character that grows on you, a woman whom Zedde swiftly paints into a stud with heart finally taking a chance on love.

And don’t we femmes wish we had that?

Reviewed Aug-Sept 2006