Thursday, December 8, 2011

Missing Me: A Book Review for “A Belle in Brooklyn” by Demetria Lucas

Caution Readers: Spoilers after the divide. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Simplicity provides a fine line between elegance and plainness.Dre; quoting Sydney’s first article in the movie “Brown Sugar.”

I yearn for a simple elegance. In fact, my sophomore year of high school, I roamed the library shelves for it. For black women and literature, it was a rare existence.
My friends, at fifteen, were immersed in “The Coldest Winter Ever”, ”Flyy Girl” and Zane’s numerous texts. These were my generation’s sneak books: Texts we knew we weren’t supposed to be reading, but ones that carried the intense and pervasive drama that you couldn’t pull your eyes from. I couldn’t relate.

We were black suburban girls. Girls who had enough cousins in the hood to understand it, but didn’t have enough street smarts or residence for inception. The teenagers in these texts had baby mama drama, drug dealer boyfriends, illiteracy and sex galore. No diss to the ones that could relate, but I was looking for me. Where were the reflections of black girls who led normal lives? Regular Jackie’s that silently crushed on Jamal next door? Block party loving, book reading and Kool-Aid smile girls. Girls that become college women and engaged in red cup and stereo love. College women that bloom into strong work forces and fight awkward co-worker flames.

I finally found all of this in one book: Demetria Lucas’ “A Belle in Brooklyn.”:

Ms. Lucas, your publishers betrayed you. They slapped on the subtitle, “The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life.” At first glance, without appropriately reading the context and title arrangement, one assumes they’ve happened upon a dating guide through the mishaps of the writer. Something we’ve all read time and time again. This is the furthest thing from the truth.
Sure, I’ll admit, there are a few chapters with bullet point guides on dating. However, Lucas lends us her FULL story with no regrets.

Black women, on the topic of dating, are rarely completely honest when it comes to their experiences. With Lucas’s book, it felt like I was talking to a home girl who was finally telling me the entire truth. A flurry of the variety of emotion of every woman slashed across her pages. In ever chapter I found a chronological phase I’d pushed through. She was personable, awkward, quirky and could care less who paid judgment.

Some of my best friends have a blurry way of relaying stories for fear of this same judgment:
“Oh how did I meet him? Um, well we knew each other from around the way. He’s cool. I liked him. We hooked up. It was alright. Now it’s over.”

Say what now?

Lucas talks about the things we keep silent. The moments that don’t quite smell of violation, but reek of harassment. She relays the something-ain’t-right-here moments I’ve always feared someone might find out about. I found myself enthralled at the audacity of the brother from Atlanta, I pitied Lucas during her tantrum on the steps of my favorite museum and I threw my copy at the gall of the guy on the European journey. 
She also talks about the good moments:
  • The glow of white smiles against brown and firm melanin.
  • The incomparable buzz of mixed liquor and love.
  • Slurring all the right words.
  • Falling for your “best friend.”
  • Getting over goodbyes.
  • Watching them boomerang back like good karma.
I sprawled out on my sofa and in one night I devoured Lucas’s book. I haven’t pulled an all-nighter and spewed every emotion possible since Ernessa T. Carter’s “32 Candles.” I was mesmerized.
Lucas is a compartmentalizer. Upon initiation and the deflowering of any situation, she categorizes the experience and files her emotions. In one chapter, she employs a golden rule from her dating code of honor:

“…under no circumstances do you date an associate’s former flame. That broad definition of a man who was once important but is no longer includes anyone who paid for dates for a woman in my wide-reaching circle, all of their exes (of course), jump-offs, one night stands, and any person that a current associate was crushing on, whether he expressed mutual interest or not.”
She then goes on to explain how social networking expanded her network and states that it was difficult to meet anyone that she didn’t know. A few paragraphs later, we’re given amendments to this infamous girl code rule! A rule that women have debating amongst their friends for years. How ridiculous does your “off-limits” get? When is it okay to step over the line? These questions are all answered in the “Dating Code of Honor” chapter.

Another chapter that raised a ton of “mhmms” and yesss girls” from me was “An A/B Conversation".” Lucas meets a handsome stranger at a party that drops the most applicable who-your-man-is philosophy I’ve ever heard. He states:
“The people you seriously date only come as A’s or B’s. Anything else like a C through a Z, is a time killer. It’s not the real thing, so why put forth the effort?”
A man is defined as: “….the nice man your parents would like to see you dating or married to. He is reliable, rational, dependable, honest, humble, considerate, and goal oriented...(You see where this is going.)”
But B? Oh B man: “There is something about B. You can’t ever really put your  finger on why. He doesn’t do half of what A does, but you will do twice as much for him. He’s not really reliable. He’s definitely inconsistent and usually not entirely honest. He might not be conventionally attractive, but he’s hypnotized you into believing he is the finest man you will ever encounter. He is, however, drama.”
The argument?:
  • gets way more interesting around B.
  • Your emotions run the full gamut.
  • You might coast with a variation of forty to fifty mph with A, but B is zero to ninety in six seconds flat.
Sound familiar? Yes! Amen.
Trying to figure out who to choose when it comes to these two brothers? Get the book!
Ms. Lucas, you’re a new age wordsmith. This memoir-esque, blogger style, acronym filled text kept me on the edge of my seat. It is the journal I was afraid to keep all my life, for fear someone might find it. It’s the details I didn’t tell my friends, for fear they’d raise an eyebrow. Most importantly, it’s me over and over again. Within each chapter, I laughed and cried as my memories collided with your world.
Although you aren’t the fiction I usually adore, your stories weighed just as heavy on my reading heart. If there is a fine line between simplicity and elegance, you’ve drawn it clearly. Looking forward to your next Picasso.


Temika Imani said...

An amazing review for an amazing book! Job well done ladies!!

BrookeAmor said...

wonderful review! on point!

Miss Dunnie O. said...

Fantastic Review I couldn't agree more lady! I had the opportunity to attend Ms. Lucas "Cocktails with Belle" Series; highlighted here: on my Blog. I recommend this book to all of my girlfriends its a must read!

the world according to Terri said...

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. Funny, it seems everyone knows how to explain my feelings but me. U gave great review. The best I've read. I can remember every chapter cleary. For the lazy thst don't like to read this is where they would start. Much love.

Avie said...

You took everything I felt about ABIB and put them on paper. Great review!

riva. said...

Thank you guys! I appreciate the love. It's good to know that there are women who also appreciated the book.

@MsDunnieO I took a look and it looks like you guys had a ball! I haven't had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Lucas yet, but bravo on the event. :)


Erika D. Coldman said...

This is, this IS the best review i've read of ABIB's book. It is as if you put all of the feelings I had of this book, as well as Lucas, that I couldn't find the words for in this post.

I love the tone in which you write as well. Adding your blog to my RSS reader as soon as I post this comment. =)

kiesh said...

I just finished the book last night and I LOVED it. Awesome review. I totally agree with your assessment about the "advice" blurb on the front cover. The book is so much more than that and frankly if it was just another advice book I would've been disappointed.