Sheneska Jackson Blessings

ISBN 13: 9780743482462

Blessings

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9780743482462: Blessings

There is no place quite like the local beauty salon, and Sheneska Jackson deftly uses this intimate setting as a backdrop for four women and their concerns about men, motherhood, and parenting. Patricia, the owner of Blessings, has come to terms with her infertility only to discover that her attempt to adopt a child brings its own pains and disappointments. Zuma, independent and financially secure, is plagued by regrets about an abortion in her past and, with her biological clock ticking, resolves to become a mother through artificial insemination. Faye, a widow and single mother trying her best to provide for her family, struggles to control a wild daughter on the brink of womanhood. For Sandy, motherhood is an unwelcome burden, and she blatantly mistreats her children -- until a crisis leads her to make a mother's ultimate sacrifice.

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About the Author:

Sheneska Jackson was born in South Central Los Angeles and currently lives in the San Fernando Valley. She teaches fiction writing for UCLA's extension program. She is the author of Caught Up in the Rapture and Li'l Mama's Rules.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter 1
In this life there are mysteries that will never be fully understood by mere mortals. Questions that when pondered extensively can leave the average human psyche in such a state of disarray that normal brain activity stalls, leaving the ponderer of such questions wallowing in a mass of confusion, aimlessly searching for the unknown, and ultimately leading to a state of mental chaos and cerebral shut-down. Unfortunately, as we all know, there are some questions that are better left unanswered. Questions such as Does God really exist? Is there life after death? Which came first? The chicken or the egg?
Indeed these questions can certainly leave one's mind hopelessly frazzled and disheveled. But there is an even larger question at hand today. A mystery that has eluded the genius of scholars, scientists, and political pundits alike. A question that has dogged the earth for hundreds of years, and even to this day we are nowhere near a breakthrough in this timeless riddle. The question is a serious one. The question is mind boggling. The question is this: Why? For the love of God! Why does it take so long for a woman to get her hair done at the beauty shop?
Many have tried to unravel this mystery, but none have succeeded. Some of the theories to explain this phenomenon include tardiness on the part of the client, overbooking of appointments, and a general lackadaisical attitude on the part of the beautician. Still, the answer to this question has escaped us. We may never get to the bottom of this dilemma, but if we are truly committed to bringing about change we must first tackle the obvious, most irritating, and most unscrupulous element of the equation. And that is this: Beauticians talk too damn much.
Oh yes, it is a natural fact that beauticians love to run their months. No matter where you live, be it North, South, East, or West, it doesn't matter. Where there are beauticians there is chatter. And on this day, in the bustling city of Inglewood, California, inside the small but well-kept beauty salon on the corner of Centinela and LaBrea, the natural facts were in effect.
***
"I just can't believe he could do something like that," Faye said, shaking her head as she ripped open a bag of silky straight weaving hair. "Do you think he did it?"
"Hell no, I don't think he did it," Zuma answered as she meticulously pulled the end of a rat-tail comb through her client's thick hair, creating a perfect one-inch side part. "I know he did it."
"Don't say that," Faye said, pulling the one hundred percent human hair from its bag and shaking it out. "I believe he's innocent. You saw the trial. He didn't look like a killer."
"Well I don't know what trial you were watching, but all I know is this: His blood didn't just get up and walk over to that crime scene. He was there, he did it, he's guilty as sin, and that's all I have to say about that."
"Stop it!" Faye squeaked, the words stinging her ears as if she was the one accused of murder. "He was set up! And to be perfectly honest, I for one am glad that he got off. It's about time we won something around here. We didn't get any justice with Rodney King," she said, a bit surprised by the rising tone of her voice. She paused and brought it down a notch. "That not-guilty verdict was a victory for all of us. We won this time."
"We won?" Zuma said and stuck the comb into her client's hair. She turned to face Faye head-on and put her hands on her hips. "What did we win?" she asked, flinging her hand through the air. "I have yet to see my O.J. prize, honey. Please. We won?" She sucked her teeth. "I've just about had it up to here with everybody assuming that all black people think O.J. Simpson is innocent. Unh-uh, not me. I know he did it. He did it. He did it. He did it!"
"Well, you weren't looking too unhappy when the verdicts came down," Faye reminded Zuma and raised her hand in the air, rationally. "You were sitting right here in this shop jumping up and down with everybody else when we found out O.J. had been set free."
"Hell yeah, I was jumping up and down. But I wasn't jumping for O.J.," she said, and smirked. "I was jumping for Johnnie Cochran. Now that's one bad man. People may not like his tactics, but he was just doing what any other good attorney is supposed to do -- support his client at all costs and win. Shoot, Johnnie Cochran is a damn hero and if he had been white, people would have been begging for him to run for president by now," she said, and pointed a finger for emphasis. "Shit, Johnnie Cochran is the man, but O.J.?" she said, and curled her lips. "Fuck O.J."
"Zuma," Faye said, wincing at her use of foul language.
"Faye," Zuma said, not giving a damn.
"Well, I still don't think he did it. He may know who did it. But he didn't do it himself"
"Hell yeah, he knows who did it. He did it!"
"A man like that cannot kill two people. It's physically impossible," Faye rationalized. "How is O.J. going to kill two people with one knife? I mean, what was the second person doing while O.J. was stabbing the first? Waiting in line talking about, 'Cut me next, O.J. Cut me'?" Faye paused, surprised by the laughter that statement had generated, but she wasn't trying to be funny. "No," she continued. "There's no way a man like that call kill two people."
"A man like that? A man like what?"
"A rich black man like O.J. Simpson has no reason to be killing anybody. O.J. Simpson is black and any black man going up against this racist judicial system in America has got my support."
"O.J. Simpson ain't black. He ain't nothing but another rich, stuck-up white boy. He ain't never used none of his money to help out black folk," she said, and pointed at Faye. "When have you ever heard about O.J. doing something to help out the black community?" she said, and waited briefly for a response, but Faye was dumbfounded. "O.J. hasn't done shit for me," Zuma said with fire. "Shoot. Where was some O.J. when I was in need? Where was some O.J. when my car was being repossessed? Hell, where was some O.J. when my broke ass couldn't pay my light bill last week? Shoot, support O.J? O.J. can kiss my black ass. And I mean that. Shiiit."
***
It had been two years since the verdicts had come down in the O.J. Simpson trial, but the Juice was still a hot topic at Blessings. Blessings was the spot, the place where everybody came for a little pleasant conversation.Never mind that Blessings was a beauty shop. The way people ranted and raved throughout the place, it could easily have been mistaken for a town hall meeting arena. While women with nappy heads waited patiently on the faux leather sofa for hours and sisters with half-wet locks bent over shampoo bowls scratching their dandruff, the conversation between the two beauticians brewed on. Once again the subject had turned to the Juice, and as usual, the conversation was heated. So heated, that even the time-conscious clients had to get in on it.
***
"I know one thing," the lady with blond-streaked hair yelled as she poked her head from beneath the dryer. "If nothing at all, O.J. Simpson is a wife beater. Y'all saw those pictures of Nicole. She didn't beat herself up," she said, then slammed the lid of the dryer back over her head.
"O.J. said he never hit that woman and I believe him," a lady with a head full of loose braids said as she sat in the corner of the faux leather sofa. Her words seemed to ignite the blond-streaked lady's nerves as she poked her head from beneath the dryer again.
"Y'all kill me," she shouted over the rumblings of the old machine she sat underneath. "You women support O.J. like he was some sorta god." She looked sideways toward the lady sitting under the dryer next to her. "I know some of y'all have had your butts beaten by a black man," she said and squinted her eyes at her neighbor, "so don't tell me that O.J. isn't capable of beating his wife. I don't care how rich he is or was, he's still a wife beater."
The lady sitting next to her gasped as she rolled her eyes and pulled her skirt tail down to hide the black-and-blue bruise that stained her round thigh. She crossed her legs and hoped the conversation would end. But it didn't.
"O.J. was framed," another lady called out from the shampoo bowl. Her brown locks were covered in conditioner and as she lifted her head from the bowl, water dripped down the sides of her face. "Those crooked, racist cops set O.J. up. It was a C-O-N-spiracy."
The woman with the loose braids jumped in again. "That's right. That damn Mark Fuhrman ain't no good. This whole thing was a setup from the get-go," she said, scooping a handful of braids out of her face. "Did you hear those tapes he made? Nigger, nigger, nigger. He didn't have no business being on the police force, let alone being a part of the trial."
The blond-streaked lady had nothing to say about that so she just pulled down the lid of her dryer and sat back. But that didn't end the conversation. Another woman with a head of freshly blow-dried hair slammed the Essence magazine she'd been reading onto the counter in front of her. As she turned around to confront the lady with the loose braids her long hair whipped across her face just like one of those girls in the shampoo commercials on TV. "Now, I'm not trying to defend Mark Fuhrman, but the man was a cop. He was just doing his job. So what if he said all that mess on those tapes? That don't mean he framed O.J. Simpson."
"Fuhrman is a red-necked racist. Anybody who could talk about black people the way he did is capable of anything."
"Oh," Shampoo Commercial said. "And I guess you've never uttered a racist word in your whole entire life, huh?" She swung her head around to confront the lady at the shampoo bowl. "I was in here last week when you walked in here bitching and complaining about the Beaner who cut you off and almost made you crash into a tree. Now, does that make you racist against all Hispanic people?"
The lady at the shampoo bowl stuttered and wrapped the white towel that was around her neck over her damp hair as she sat back and shut up.
"And you," Shampoo Commercial said, turning to the woman with loose braids again, her hair whipping through the air. "Remember last month when we were in here talking about the civil rights movement? You said all white people are devils and that you wouldn't care if they all disappeared off the face of the earth." She tilted her head to the side. "Does that make you a racist? Just because you said those words, does that mean you're capable of framing somebody just because they are white?"
The blond-streaked lady realized Shampoo Commercial was on her side and regained enough confidence to poke her head from beneath the dryer again. "I said it before and I'll say it again -- O. J. Simpson is guilty as sin," she chanted like a cheerleader and gave a thumbs-up to Shampoo Commercial. "We've got a killer on the streets," she said as she lost her grip on the dryer's lid and it smacked her on top of her head. She winced, but didn't lose a beat. "And another thing," she said as the dryer's automatic timer buzzed. "That stupid jury in the criminal trial ought to be shamed of themselves."
The bruised woman sitting under the dryer next to her gasped again, but this time she pulled the lid of the dryer from over her head and turned right around to face her opponent. "I've been silent long enough," she said, and pulled her skirt tail down again to hide the black-and-blue mark on her thigh. "Don't go blaming those black people on that jury. They did their jobs. It's not their fault that the prosecution couldn't prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt."
Shampoo Commercial stood up from her seat to walk over to the hair dryer section so she could get in on this phase of the conversation. "No," she said defiantly, "those jurors did not do their jobs."
"Oh yes they did," Loose Braids said as she too walked over to the dryer section. "Those folks ought to be commended. They were locked tip for almost a damn year. Away from their families and everything."
"Hell, I should be so lucky," Blond Streaked interrupted. "I've been looking for an excuse to get away from my family for years." She and Shampoo Commercial chuckled over that. But Loose Braids and the bruised woman were not in the mood for laughing.
"I get so tired of people coming down on that jury." Loose Braids sighed. "Just because they were black and happened to come back with a not guilty verdict, everybody wants to call them stupid. As if a black jury isn't fit to handle a case like this." Bruised nodded as Loose Braids continued. "That black jury made the right decision," she said and pointed directly at the blond-streaked woman. "O.J. Simpson is innocent."
"First of all," Blond Streaked said as she removed the dryer from above her head and stood to her feet. She was all of five foot nothing, but as she looked up at Loose Braids her stance was like that of a giant. "You best get your finger out of my face," she said, eyeing Loose Braids until the finger she pointed had eased its way down. "And second of all, I call those black jurors stupid because they are. They did not do their fucking jobs. They listened to over nine months of testimony and reached their verdict in three hours? Ain't no way in the world you can call that doing your job. They were supposed to deliberate. Have you ever looked up the word deliberate in the dictionary?"
Shampoo Commercial took over from there. "Deliberate means to slowly and methodically come to a decision," she said, moving closer to Loose Braids and speaking as if she were talking to a two-year-old. "Deliberate means to weigh all the evidence. To consider it carefully. How could that jury consider nine months' worth of testimony in three hours? They did not do their jobs," she said, stressing each and every word of her final sentence.
"Yes they did!" Bruised shouted and pushed the dryer lid away from her head again.
"No they didn't!" Blond Streaked and Shampoo Commercial said in unison.
"Yes they did!" Loose Braids groaned.
"No they -- "
"Hey, hey, hey!" a voice shouted from the other side of the shop, forcing the debaters to pause. They all caught their collective breaths as they turned to catch a glimpse of the woman walking their way. "What in the world is going on over here?" the tall, pristine woman asked as she moved between the feuding ladies. She graced the debaters with a smile so pleasant that they all began to feel a bit awkward about the way they had let their conversation get out of hand.
"Sorry," Loose Braids said as she slowly walked back to the sofa and took a seat. "I guess we got a bit too caught up in our conversation."
"Sorry," Blond Streaked said as she sat back down beneath the hair dryer next to Bruised.
"Yeah, I'm sorry too," Shampoo Commercial said as she headed back to her chair and picked up her Essence magazine. "We didn't mean to get so loud. It's just that some people have some very screwed-up ways of thinking."
"Excuse me?" Bruised said and raised an eyebrow.
"Now, now, ladies," the tall woman said calmly yet authoritatively.
"Sorry," Bruised said and faked a smile toward Shampoo Commercial. "I guess you're right. I mean you ought to know with that big ass bowling ball you call a head. With a dome that big I guess you're qualified to think for all of us."
Loose Braids snickered as Shampoo Commercial rolled her eyes, but before another word could be uttered, the tall lady with the soothing smile spoke up. "Everybody just calm down," she said. "This is a beauty shop, not a battlefield," she scolded, and frowned for a second. She looke...

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Sheneska Jackson
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