When Kordale Lewis and Kaleb Jones, two black men in a loving relationship rearing three young children in Atlanta, casuTHAT WHICH DOESN'T KILL YOU...
When Kordale Lewis and Kaleb Jones, two black men in a loving relationship rearing three young children in Atlanta, casually posted a selfie on Facebook of them combing their daughter’s hair and preparing the toddlers for school, the twenty-something-year-old gay daddies had no idea the photo would go viral and become both a positive and negative media sensation. Thousands of helpful and hurtful comments were left by folks from all parts of the world. News and human interest stories on this modern family appeared in magazines and online periodicals. Talk shows sought them out.
Because of the stinging homophobic vitriol, the men, for a moment, thought about taking down the photo. But the encouraging responses from so many friends, families and members of the LGBT community, particularly the black LGBT community, changed their minds. They realized so many had found hope, joy, inspiration and validation in their now iconic picture, a picture that speaks more than a thousand words, and has touched thousands and thousands of hearts.
And yet the full story behind the perfect picture, the darker story of a young black gay man’s horrific life struggle against near insurmountable odds, had not been told…until now.
Kordale Lewis’ gut-wrenching memoir is not so much about his idyllic world with his life partner and children. It is the preamble; a harrowing, heart-breaking and important recollection of a Dickensian life, a relentless thunderstorm of an existence that was a long and tortuous deluge that scarred, scabbed over and rudely educated before graduating its author onto the rainbow side of life.
With a clear-headed dispassion Kordale describes how, at the age of five, he was routinely sexually abused by his mother’s boyfriend for months (his father went to jail when Kordale was two, and was serving a life-sentence for murder). After his mother and her abusive boyfriend broke up, a new boyfriend moved in. In no time at all, Kordale’s mother became a crack head and drug dealer who, once her new boyfriend moved out, began bringing men home and prostituting herself to support her habit.
There were few bright spots in Kordale’s adolescent and teen years. Trying to care for his younger siblings in light of his father’s incarceration and his mother’s emotional absence and destructive presence, and suffering a pre-teen beating from his mother so vicious that he was hospitalized, he eventually succumbs to drug abuse. Even his platonic bonding with a kindred spirit in high school—a white, effeminate rebel—ends in tragedy.
Never doubting his homosexuality, he nonetheless becomes a teen father who sacrifices his dream of higher education to do the right thing when the baby momma abandons ship.
At times, things are so bleak that he seriously considers and attempts the ultimate exit from life.
With absolutely nothing in his life that seems worthwhile except his children, he eventually determines to survive, for the sake of his children. But as a young gay father rearing three children on his own, his romantic life is nil as his family situation scares off one potential suitor after another. That is, until he meets his Prince Charming, Kaleb Jones. And like Cinderella Kaleb’s life is as storybook perfect as Kordale’s past was bleak. Kaleb even has his own house which was given to him by his well-to-do family.
The romance of these two black young men is a cautiously happy ending to Kordale’s life of despair, and it says much about Kaleb that he falls as much in love with Kordale’s three children as he does with Kordale.
The two gay daddies pool their resources and buy a new, bigger house to accommodate their family. And yet even this family portrait is not the perfect picture, as Kordale candidly confesses to still suffering from the demons of his past.
Still, the story seems to say that love can conquer, if not all, a great deal. And it is a book worth reading by anyone who feels hopeless and cannot imagine a light at the end of the tunnel.
Kordale kept forging ahead, even when he nearly gave up. But he eventually found the light, a light that shines brightly in the hearts, minds and souls of his love-mate and his children.
I really liked this book a lot, in spite of its many editorial challenges. But in consideration of the great story being told and its indomitable theme of survival, a few typos are totally forgivable. Picture Perfect?, like life, is not perfect. It’s beyond perfect. It’s honest, educational and inspirational.
There's more than a little drama in J.S. Lewis' fast-paced and emotionally heart-wrenching novel. This is one cold-A COMPELLING TALE OF DANGEROUS LOVE
There's more than a little drama in J.S. Lewis' fast-paced and emotionally heart-wrenching novel. This is one cold-blooded love story percolating dangerously under the dark cloud of Jamiaca's rabid homophobia.
Our main narrator is Jevaughn, a handsome young 19-year-old Jamaican homosexual who dares to fall in love with his neighbor Dre, a violent drop-dead-gorgeous 23-year-old American thug adonis relocated from Harlem to Jevaughn's Jamaican neighborhood ruled by Dre's gangster Uncle Biggs.
Hopelessly romantic and aching with desire, Jevaughn poetically and passionately shares with us, the readers, his powerful boy-to-man saga. When Dre assualts his girlfriend and police arrive, Jevaughn hides Dre in his house. Dre can't help but notice Jevaughn's longing glances and perusal of his sumptuous package. Under normal street justice this would call for an automatic 'batty boy' beat-down. But Dre is grateful to Jevaughn for saving him from a jail sentence, and giving him some sound advice. A genuine friendship developes.
But when the friendship turns intimate, the forces of the culture come crashing down on Jevaughn. The hypocrisy of the system spares the thug nephew of the neighborhood Don and puts the blame squarely on the softer, gentler Jevaughn. The atrocities he endures are devastingly cruel, viscious and inhumane. A scene of torture is disturbing but vital. At the rescue, even in great pain, is Jevaughn's eloquent voice, steadily becoming stronger, more mature, colder, and emotionally armored, channelling the mantra: what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger.
J.S. Lewis is a terrific writer. There were moments when I was moved to tears and wanted to just stand up and cheer for Jevaughn as he found his soul, his heart, and his muscle.
I also wanted to stand up and cheer this unique literary voice. I didn't want this story to end. I read it in one sitting. Can't wait to get to book 2. And can't wait to see what J.S. Lewis comes up with next. ...more
The dubious adage 'lovers come and go, but friends last forever' is given a provocative test drive in author Armani Williams sophomore urban pop fictiThe dubious adage 'lovers come and go, but friends last forever' is given a provocative test drive in author Armani Williams sophomore urban pop fiction release, HARLEM BOYZ. This is one drama-filled tale. It gives us a challenging peek into the lives of four black gay platonic best friends on a search for love (more often in all the wrong places) and happiness (once one realizes the difference between happiness and gratification).
Studious and level-headed Shawn is a dedicated high school teacher in a live-in relationship with an on-the-rise music industry singer/songwriter. But when his partner's career becomes demanding and the intoxicant of showbiz fast, loose and fidelity-lite rears its gilded head, Shawn's level-headedness explodes.
Fly, 6' 6" Malcolm, with "smooth sable skin, a movie star smile and piercing brown eyes," never had to be told how hot he is. And being the magnanimous type, he's always willing to share his sexual goods. Sure, he sags, but it's less for the swagger than the accessibility because Malcolm is an unapologetic male whore. But when he meets the man of the dream he didn't even know he was dreaming--a drop dead dred loc-sporting gorgeous and savvy young entrepreneur, he attempts to put away his whoring ways and settle down. Can he rise to the challenge? Or will the rise of his nature threaten to destroy something as beautiful as what his widowed mother now has with her new boyfriend?
If only Kevin, a Financial Aid executive at a local university, would apply his business instincts to the palpitations of his heart. His relationship with his wealthy and powerful Prince Charming devolves into something so devastating and ugly that we are on the edge of our seats for a resolve and an intervention from the brotherhood.
And then there's multimillionaire realtor Damon who seems to have it all. But his 'all' is not complete without the love and acceptance of his father who rejected him and his sexual nature a decade ago. Throw in the mix Damon's effort to wean himself off a certain married man, and you've got an example of what money can't buy.
Even though the writing is unadorned, the story-telling is lively and engaging, pulling us into the travails of this queer quartet of educated fools whose tears you'll want to wipe, whose aching hearts you'll pain to sooth and whose asses you'll be anxious to kick. These urban millennial body-by-Fischer-brains-by-Mattel Harlemites work, play and love fast and hard, dodging one emotional bullet after another, thanks to their mutual and very genuine support system; their brotherhood.
For the most part, our boyz give romantic love lip service. They trudge through lives peppered with infidelity, domestic abuse, self-esteem issues, misplaced values, and even a hysterical attempted murder. None of them seem dedicated to go the extra mile to make sure something as sacred and difficult as a genuine relationship is the pot of gold at the end of their rainbow.
Bad choices abound as frequently as good intentions. And since none of the boyz is a complete whole, it is truly the friendship that brings them mutual fulfillment. It is to the author's credit that he makes us care for these emotionally romantic losers.
And so, in the final analysis, the old adage about love verses friendship is not so dubious after all, especially for these Harlem boyz. For as they lick each other's wounds, fight each other's battles and are there for each other through thick and thin and incredibly stupid choices, friendship proves to be their constant save. This is what makes us love them, in spite of themselves. And this is what makes HARLEM BOYZ a strangely endearing read.
It was not simply that Emma Jean Peace desperately wanted a daughter after giving her husband six sons. She wanted to shower on a daughter all the lovIt was not simply that Emma Jean Peace desperately wanted a daughter after giving her husband six sons. She wanted to shower on a daughter all the love, pampering, consideration and care she did not receive as the dark-skinned child of a woman who heaped unimaginable pain and suffering upon a child whose only sin was to be born black, literally.
Adolescent Emma Jean suffered indignities not dissimilar from those suffered by Celie in “The Color Purple,” only her Mister was her mother, a title cruelly unearned. So when grown Emma Jean cuts off all ties with her mother, marries a not so bad poor country laborer named Gus, who cries when the heavens do, and gives him six sons, she is sure that seven is the charm.
But alas, with the help of midwife Henrietta, Emma Jean gives birth to another son. Undaunted, she decides right then and there, to pass her new son off as her daughter, and uses blackmail to bind the midwife’s complicity.
Emma Jean names her faux daughter Perfect.
Set in the rural, cruel, but hauntingly evocative American south of the early 1940’s, this remarkable and totally credible tale of gender identity, dogged determination, family, sexuality, and unconditional love envelopes one into the complicated world of the Peace family
The six young Peace boys—James Earl, Woody, Bartmaeus, Sol, Mister and Authorly—are awed by their beautiful new sister, and are both respectful and protective of her. “I’ll be glad when she’s old enough to play with us,” Sol muses with wonder. “She ain’t gon’ play with us, fool!” the bright and knowledge-seeking Authorly says. “She’s a girl, and girls is real delicate. They not tough like boys, so they have to play with other girls.”
For eight years the lie lives flawlessly. The modesty of the times never allowed Gus and his six sons to ever see Perfect naked. Diapers were changed, and the child was bathed and dressed by mother Emma Jean only. Even Perfect, with no knowledge of anatomy, grows up completely unaware that the little appendage dangling between her/his legs is male genitalia.
And in every other sense and sensibility, Perfect lives up to her name. She is quite simply a beautiful child, and Emma Jean sacrifices much of the family resources to make sure she is dressed in the finest the family’s little money can buy, parading the child before church and community with a pride that borders on haughtiness.
It is when the truth is discovered that all hell breaks loose. And though Emma Jean is rightly blamed for the deceit, it is heartbreaking to witness the community condemnation heaped upon the innocent child, renamed Paul, who must now suddenly be a boy in the fish bowl of an unforgiving society. Even Paul’s father Gus, normally a decent guy, resorts to horrendous cruelties when trying to make his former daughter, now growing young son, be something he has no clue of being.
The great saving grace of this very moving story is the combined humanity of Paul’s six brothers. Each brother is so distinctively defined with delicate brush strokes of caring, emotion, heart and compassion that much of Paul’s survival and emotional growth is dependent upon them, who, in some ways, still protect their little brother with the same fierceness applied when he was their little sister. The full story of Perfect Peace is so rich and complicated, that there is little space here to chronicle its remarkable trajectory. Suffice it to say that this is one helluva read, and one of epic proportion. Mr. Black’s story-telling skills and prose are nearly as good as Toni Morrison’s. I am one of his newest fans. And this great and powerful book will haunt me for many years to come. ...more
These days, being out about your homosexuality is about as brave, bold and groundbreaking as being in an interracial relationship, or being a light skThese days, being out about your homosexuality is about as brave, bold and groundbreaking as being in an interracial relationship, or being a light skin black person choosing not to pass for white. Oh sure, there are many with left-over mindsets from the dark ages, and some of the so-called brightest thinkers of the twenty-first century can still find something to hate about one group or another. Hell, there are still real live people out there who believe being left-handed is demonic.
So chronological progress doesn’t rid us of prejudice. It just waters it down, drop by drop.
Having said that, and with deference to DeMarco Majors, John Amaechi and Jason Collins, Michael Donovan’s brisk and pulp-fiction-esque novel “Football Games,” chronicalling the outing of an NFL star may, in itself, be a little late to the game. But boy is it a fun read.
Handsome Brenton Freeman, a “6-foot 4, 245 pound African American with a medium chocolate complexion” is a celebrated wide receiver for the Los Angeles Buccaneers. To no one’s knowledge (except his loyal and loving sister Erica) he’s been in a four year relationship with Jason Hallohan, a model-handsome caterer, whose been desperately trying to convince the closeted footballer to come out. And this is the point of contention for these live-in lovers; Brenton passes Jason off as his cousin and Jason feels like simply a ghost in his man’s life.
But there is so much more that haunts Brenton, so many gut-wrenching questions. Is he really afraid being open would hurt his career? Or is his career just an excuse for his real fear of being rejected and losing popularity? And what about his first love, Blake, back in college? Did his forcing Blake into the closet with him take a tragic toll? Did Brenton’s fear of being discovered and abandoning Blake result in Blake’s suicide? And did he not learn from his past mistakes?
He would soon find out a few answers as a web of jealousy, lies, cover-ups, and deceptions unravel.
Kyle Michaelson, an affable good old white boy from Texas, is Brenton’s best friend and teammate. The two of them are like brothers. But unbeknownst to Kyle, his wife Caroline, a nuveau Hollywood House Wife via Trailer Park Trashville, secretly plots with her dufus brother Davis to bring down the superstar so that her husband can ascend to the superstar status and the bigger money she longs for.
Carol had always thought the relationship between Brenton and his ‘cousin’ Jason was suspect—he was always at all of Brenton’s games, she had on more than a few occasions, caught the longing glances they shared, and due diligence on the internet revealed Brenton’s parents were both an only child.
Her plot to expose Brenton’s secret works almost too well, and though it has its desired affects, modern sensibilities prevail, almost dragging a kicking and screaming Brenton into a new sense of consciousness.
And although Brenton eventually comes into his own, he’s clocking zero on the relationship board. The suicide of Blake, the tumultuousness of his relationship with Jason, a cursory mention of a new relationship at the end of the book, that seems as insignificant as its mention, make our poor, lovable, smart-dumb jock a real romantic Neanderthal. Sometimes I wanted to just grab him and shake the shit out of him. Sometimes I just wanted to hug him. But I must say, I did care for the big lug, and he does finally see the light. Some of his final speeches are quite moving.
Michael Donovan writes with a fast pace, and never bores, and though some of his characters can be a tad bit cartoonish, it’s forgivable, for they colorize with great melodrama the very serious subject of coming to terms with loving yourself. This is a great book for any gay person afraid of his or her own truth, and for that alone, the author does a great service. ...more
Author Rashid Darden betters himself considerably with Covenant, the sequel to his debut novel Lazarus. In a story that is sweet and sexy, poignant anAuthor Rashid Darden betters himself considerably with Covenant, the sequel to his debut novel Lazarus. In a story that is sweet and sexy, poignant and though-provoking, funny and sad, the author skillfully continues the journey of our young and affable now-out-of-the-closet hero and narrator Adrian Collins as he traverses college life, fraternal brotherhood, family reconciliations, the pain of lost love and the joy of new love.
Adrian, now a sophomore and still healing from his break up with Savion, the handsome Latino poet we met in Lazarus, seems to be handling his business on campus well. He befriends other gay and lesbian schoolmates with dignity, and his frat brothers, for the most part, accept him and his sexuality, although he suffers an on-campus assault by a vicious homophobe, from which a very special friend rescues him.
His on-campus and fraternity challenges are rather lightweight this time around, including a cursory dissertation on the cruelty of hazing. But Adrian’s efforts to straighten out his relationship with a mother who seems to value his scholastic achievements over the bond most sons share with their mom, and a father who attempts to re-enter his life after a twelve-year absence, gives this tight short novel much heft.
However, the book’s great emotional daring-do is Adrian’s relationship with campus basketball star Isaiah, a gorgeous hunk Adrian’s had a crush on since his freshman year. Their friendship, a lesson in brotherhood, is simply beautiful. As we watch their relationship evolve into something much more, something both secretly desire, we admire how they both respect a covenant of restraint I suspect precious few of us are capable of maintaining.
This time around not much really happens plot-wise, and that’s perfectly okay. Most of the action is internal, lifting the story emotionally, even jerking tears with lovely human insights and personal discoveries.
Even the sex scenes are romantic and touching, although they still manage to engender considerable steam, especially a tryst that ends up in a shower.
That the author has chosen to let Adrian tell his tale nonlinearly is another plus. Adrian is a good guy facing a life whose complications any reader can empathize with. As we seldom see the segments of our life stories in chronological order, Adrian too shares with us in the order dictated not by time and place, but by the emotional highs and lows of his heart, constantly trying to make some sense of young manhood and the wonderful frustrating mumble jumble that colors the coming of age process and love’s baffling conundrums.
Covenant is a very sweet ride, simply and touchingly told, and although nitpicker me would have liked a slightly stronger ending, Mr. Darden reminded me of something I’ve always believed, and that is that love truly does conquer all.