Essence Magazine’s book selections for June 2014, featuring their “Summer Reading Challenge” (Wendy Williams’ “Hold Me in Contempt,” Walter Mosley’s “Debbie Doesn’t Do It Anymore,” Morowa Yejide’s “Time of the Locust,” Cynthia Bond’s “Ruby,” Lauren Francis-Sharma’s’s “‘Til the Well Runs Dry,” and Elizabeth Nunez’ “Not for Everyday Use”), Toni Braxton’s memoir “Unbreak My Heart,” and T.D. Jakes’ “Instinct”:
Hold Me in Contempt: A Romance by Wendy Williams
Move over 50 Shades, there’s a new romance in town. Superstar Wendy Williams brings on the heat in her first ever, no-holds-barred, down and dirty, romance novel.
Kimberly Kind is trying to get beyond her roots. A successful, beautiful, smart lawyer, she’s finally finding direction in her life and getting out of the streets. But a terrible accident threatens to throw her carefully laid plans off course. Now Kim’s hiding a huge secret — one that could threaten everything.
Enter King. A perfect mix of Justin Timberlake and David Beckham, the man oozes sex and has more swagger than anyone Kim’s ever met. Their chemistry is off the charts. But after passion-filled nights, the intensity of their emotions takes both of them by surprise.
Love was not supposed to be an option. Now it’s the only thing holding them together. When their pasts come back with a vengeance, can love possibly be enough?
Debbie Doesn’t Do It Anymore: A Novel by Walter Mosley
In this scorching, mournful, often explicit, and never less than moving literary novel by the famed creator of the Easy Rawlins series, Debbie Dare, a black porn queen, has to come to terms with her sordid life in the adult entertainment industry after her tomcatting husband dies in a hot tub. Electrocuted. With another woman in there with him. Debbie decides she just isn’t going to “do it anymore.” But executing her exit strategy from the porn world is a wrenching and far from simple process.
Millions of men (and no doubt many women) have watched famed black porn queen Debbie Dare — she of the blond wig and blue contacts — “do it” on television and computer screens every which way with every combination of partners the mind of man can imagine. But one day an unexpected and thunderous on-set orgasm catches Debbie unawares, and when she returns to the mansion she shares with her husband, insatiable former porn star and “film producer” Theon Pinkney, she discovers that he’s died in a case of hot tub electrocution, “auditioning” an aspiring “starlet.” Burdened with massive debts that her husband incurred, and which various L.A. heavies want to collect on, Debbie must reckon with a life spent in the peculiar subculture of the pornography industry and her estrangement from her family and the child she had to give up. She’s done with porn, but her options for what might come next include the possibility of suicide. Debbie . . . is a portrait of a ransacked but resilient soul in search of salvation and a cure for grief.
Time of the Locust: A Novel by Morowa Yejide
Travel into the heart and mind of an extraordinary autistic boy in this deeply imaginative debut novel of a mother’s devotion, a father’s punishment, and the power of love.
Sephiri is an autistic boy who lives in a world of his own making, where he dwells among imagined sea creatures that help him process information in the “real world” in which he is forced to live. But lately he has been having dreams of a mysterious place, and he starts creating fantastical sketches of this strange, inner world.
Brenda, Sephiri’s mother, struggles with raising her challenged child alone. Her only wish is to connect with him — a smile on his face would be a triumph. Meanwhile, Sephiri’s father, Horus, is sentenced to life in prison, making life even lonelier for Brenda and Sephiri. Yet prison is still not enough to separate father and son. In the seventh year of his imprisonment and the height of his isolation, Horus develops supernatural mental abilities that allow him to reach his son. Memory and yearning carry him outside his body, and through the realities of their ordeals and dreamscape, Horus and Sephiri find each other — and find hope in ways never imagined.
Deftly portrayed by the remarkable and talented up-and-comer Morowa Yejide, Time of the Locust is a brilliant narrative about the psychological realms of solitude, youth, and wonder. At its heart, this is a harrowing, surreal, and redemptive journey to the union of a family.
Ruby: A Novel by Cynthia Bond
The epic, unforgettable story of a man determined to protect the woman he loves from the town desperate to destroy her — this beautiful and devastating debut heralds the arrival of a major new voice in fiction.
Ephram Jennings has never forgotten the beautiful girl with the long braids running through the piney woods of Liberty, their small East Texas town. Young Ruby, “the kind of pretty it hurt to look at,” has suffered beyond imagining, so as soon as she can, she flees suffocating Liberty for the bright pull of 1950s New York. Ruby quickly winds her way into the ripe center of the city–the darkened piano bars and hidden alleyways of the Village–all the while hoping for a glimpse of the red hair and green eyes of her mother. When a telegram from her cousin forces her to return home, thirty-year-old Ruby Bell finds herself reliving the devastating violence of her girlhood. With the terrifying realization that she might not be strong enough to fight her way back out again, Ruby struggles to survive her memories of the town’s dark past. Meanwhile, Ephram must choose between loyalty to the sister who raised him and the chance for a life with the woman he has loved since he was a boy.
Full of life, exquisitely written, and suffused with the pastoral beauty of the rural South, Ruby is a transcendent novel of passion and courage. This wondrous page-turner rushes through the red dust and gossip of Main Street, to the pit fire where men swill bootleg outside Bloom’s Juke, to Celia Jennings’s kitchen where a cake is being made, yolk by yolk, that Ephram will use to try to begin again with Ruby. Utterly transfixing, with unforgettable characters, riveting suspense, and breathtaking, luminous prose, Ruby offers an unflinching portrait of man’s dark acts and the promise of the redemptive power of love.
‘Til the Well Runs Dry: A Novel by Lauren Francis-Sharma
A glorious and moving multi-generational, multicultural saga that begins in the 1940s and sweeps through the 1960’s in Trinidad and the United States.
Lauren Francis-Sharma‘s ‘Til the Well Runs Dry opens in a seaside village in the north of Trinidad where young Marcia Garcia, a gifted and smart-mouthed 16-year-old seamstress, lives alone, raising two small boys and guarding a family secret. When she meets Farouk Karam, an ambitious young policeman (so taken with Marcia that he elicits the help of a tea-brewing obeah woman to guarantee her ardor), the risks and rewards in Marcia’s life amplify forever.
On an island rich with laughter, Calypso, Carnival, cricket, beaches and salty air, sweet fruits and spicy stews, the novel follows Marcia and Farouk from their amusing and passionate courtship through personal and historical events that threaten Marcia’s secret, entangle the couple and their children in a scandal, and endanger the future for all of them.
‘Til the Well Runs Dry tells the twinned stories of a spirited woman’s love for one man and her bottomless devotion to her children. For readers who cherish the previously untold stories of women’s lives, here is a story of grit and imperfection and love that has not been told before.
Not for Everyday Use: A Memoir by Elizabeth Nunez
Tracing the four days from the moment she gets the call that every immigrant fears to the burial of her mother, Elizabeth Nunez tells the haunting story of her lifelong struggle to cope with the consequences of the “sterner stuff” of her parents’ ambitions for their children and her mother’s seemingly unbreakable conviction that displays of affection are not for everyday use.
But Nunez sympathizes with her parents, whose happiness is constrained by the oppressive strictures of colonialism, by the Catholic Church’s prohibition of artificial birth control which her mother obeys, terrified by the threat of eternal damnation (her mother gets pregnant fourteen times: nine live births and five miscarriages which almost kill her), and by what Malcolm Gladwell refers to as the “privilege of skin color” in his mother’s Caribbean island homeland where “the brown-skinned classes…came to fetishize their lightness.” Still, a fierce love holds this family together, and the passionate, though complex, love Nunez’s parents have for each other will remind readers of the passion between the aging lovers in Gabriel Garcia Marquez‘s Love in the Time of Cholera. Written in exquisite prose by a writer the New York Times Book Review calls “a master at pacing and plotting,” Not for Everyday Use is a page-turner that readers will find impossible to put down.
Unbreak My Heart: A Memoir by Toni Braxton
In this heartfelt memoir, six-time Grammy Award-winning artist and star of WE TV’s reality hit, Braxton Family Values, Toni Braxton writes about her personal life decisions and their impact on her health, family and career.
While Braxton appears to be living a gilded life — selling 60 million records, appearing in sold-out Las Vegas performances and hit shows like “Dancing with the Stars,” and starring in her own reality series — hers is in fact a tumultuous story, a tale of triumph over a life filled with obstacles, including two bankruptcy filings. The mother of an autistic child, Braxton long feared that her son’s condition might be karmic retribution for earlier life choices, some of which will shock fans. But when heart ailments began plaguing her at the age of 41 and she was diagnosed with Lupus, Braxton knew she had to move beyond the self-recrimination and take charge of her own healing.
Intensely honest and deeply inspirational, Unbreak My Heart is the never-before-told story of the measures Braxton took to make herself and her family whole again.
Instinct: The Power to Unleash Your Inborn Drive by T. D. Jakes
Modern life can seem like being lost in a jungle. With distractions and dangers emerging from every direction, it’s easy to lose focus. Over time, we lose touch with one of our most powerful, purposeful, God-given attributes–the desire to be fruitful and multiply, what Bishop T. D. Jakes calls our “instinct for increase.”
Combining historical, cultural, and personal examples with biblical insights, in INSTINCT, Bishop Jakes outlines how to re-discover your natural aptitudes and re-claim the wisdom of your past experiences. When attuned to divinely inspired instincts, you will become in sync with the opportunities life presents and discover a fresh abundance of resources. Knowing when to close a deal, when to take a risk, and when to listen to your heart will become possible when you’re in touch with the instincts that God gave you.
Bishop T.D. Jakes — iconic preacher, bestselling author, and entrepreneur–has inspired millions of people around the world. Here he writes from the peak of his personal power about how to experience the satisfaction of a life well lived. If you long to conquer the jungles of life, INSTINCT offers the personal and professional tools needed to navigate your course successfully and according to God’s design.