Do you ever read a title of a book, think it sounds delicious and pick it up just because of that?
Well, that’s how I came to read this novel. I didn’t even read the script on the front describing it as a novel about “a woman’s journey to find her own heart and home” and as usual I didn’t read the back. So, it took me into the second chapter before I realized that the central characters were African-American even though the ever-returning phrase What Would Nina Simone Do? (WWNSD) hit me in the first chapter.
The novel is an emotional mother – daughter story about forgiveness and if I had known that I wouldn’t have picked it up. Why? Because I have my own hang-ups and I’m not ready for forgiveness. But then I would have missed out on a very good read. I just wanted a story that wasn’t as dark, depressing, and miserable as the past few I have read, and though there is a lot of emotional turmoil and depression in these pages, the book overall lifted my spirits.
The central character is Shay Dixon who from the outside appears to have it all together yet inside she is such a mess, feels like an anomaly, is extremely lonely, and is heading towards a nervous breakdown.
I identified so much with her and the book that I quite enjoyed it and felt scared simultaneously but in the end it made me feel better about my own insecurities, demons, and short-comings.In reality, this work of fiction could probably have served as a self-help book for me several years ago, but as it is now that phase in my life mirrored by the protagonists’ story is mostly behind me. Mostly!
…In A.A., we say HALT. Never get too hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. That’s when people slip. And as black women, we’re especialy vulnerable. That strong-black-woman-die-before-you-admit-weakness thing is foolish and deadly…There’s no shame in needing to rest from time to time.
In A.A we say ‘Fake it till you make it’…Maybe if you stop acting depressed, you’ll stop feeling depressed.
“Fine” means fucking insecure, neurotic, and emotional.
Above are quotes inspired by the protagonists’ recovering alcoholic mother and her friends. Life lessons. Love them
Below are quotes from the protagonist herself. Quotes that I have probably uttered or at the very least thought at some point in my life. So funny how we go through life thinking our own experiences are unique.
What is it with guys that think their interest is such a compliment, that when they hit on you, no matter how crudely, they think they’re doing you such a big fat favor? No matter how young or how old or how ugly or broke down they are, they all seem to think they are the sun and truly expect any woman to bask in their glow.
Tell me about it!
Whenever Black folks see one another we must acknowledge one another. I didn’t know that until I was in high school and had a reputation for being stuck-up, siddity. I didn’t know that I was supposed to say hi or What’s up? or just nod my head at any other black person, friend or stranger.
Now why is that? I didn’t “learn” this unspoken rule until college. Turned out, a lot of the African women didn’t know the rule either and this served to stir the embers of the African vs. African-American arguments that never seemed to go away. I will acknowledge though, there was something to my “stuck-up” label, because after I learnt that that was what I was supposed to do, I staunchly refused. If I’m not going to say hello to a random Asian-American or White-American woman on campus, why should I to a random African-American one?
Moving on to more personal revelations, when she learns her best friend in high school is getting married, she states
I knew I should be happy for her, and I was. I was happy. But I was also feeling the familiar sensation of being incompetent at life. It always seemed like everyone else knew what was going on and how to be in the world, and I didn’t. I was twenty-five and didn’t know how to do the things that very other girl seemed to be born knowing.
And when she’s being set up on a blind date and her friend asks if she is still bashful:
Bashful was a nice word for what I was. Socially retarded was more like it. I didn’t go through the normal developmental stages like you’re supposed to…When I got to high school, I was painfully behind the curve, and I was determined not to end up with a baby daddy and daiper bag full of lost dreams, so I stuck my head in my books and dodged boys like bullets. By college, …I was so standoffish, guys thought I was stuck-up. It was easier to let them believe I was a snob than for them to know I was petrified.
And when she actually goes out with said date but rather not go out with him any longer:
Because I knew how this would end up. We would go out a few times and he’d start looking at me like a pork chop and I wouldn’t be able to go through with it and he’d start wondering what was wrong with me and I’d just end up feeling more like a freak of nature…I was hopeless. [He] liked me now, but it was easy to like someone before you got to know them, before you found out how weird they were. Even though I was lonely and longed to say yes, I couldn’t. I did have a secret, and it was too messed up and bizarre to ever give away, especially to someone as confident and cool as [him]…I wanted [him] to be my boyfriend. But I was frozen, stunted, a little girl trapped in a twenty-five-year-old’s body.
Oliver insisted I try some of his tofu….I took a small bite and was extremely pleasantly surprised. “Told you”, he said. “One of these days you’re going to have to listen to me.” “What does that mean?” “You didn’t believe that what we heard in the park was a peacock. You didn’t believe that this tofu would be good.” “Well, I barely know you.” “You’re saying you begin from a position of distrust. Why not believe me and see if I ever give you a reason not to?”
I don’t know. I’m with Shay here. I’m not going to believe every Tom, Dick, and Harry just because. They do have to earn my trust, so if I begin from a position of mistrust, what’s so wrong with that? Hmmm, I hope I find the answer to that [soon] in a life lesson be it experienced or gleaned from the pages of another awesome book.