To some she's intelligent and beautiful.
To others she's proud and dangerous.
At the historically black college of Dillard University in the lush mystical city of New Orleans, the beautiful and serious Leslie Beaudet is struggling with a dark secret of power in a world that is pulling her in many different directions.
In the eyes of her Haitian immigrant father, Leslie is a queen who deserves more than the broken dreams and carnage of poverty. To her Black Indian mother, she is a source of pride and strength, a reason for carrying on. To her younger sister, already a mother of two and a high school dropout, Leslie is the only person who cares enough to share her woes. To her brother, she is the victim he failed to protect. To her college peers and teachers, Leslie is a determined, resourceful student, most likely to succeed, yet impenetrably private.
When a series of murders befall her New Orlean's community they point in Leslie's direction. Slowly, her friends and relatives realize they've never really known Leslie -- a complicated young woman terrified of failure, struggling with painful family secrets, praying for security that has eluded everyone around her, and craving the power to change her fate, a power that was hidden from her until now...when it's too late to stop her.
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Omar Tyree is a New York Times bestselling author, a journalist, lecturer, poet, and recipient of 2001 NAACP Image Award for the best work of fiction. His bestselling novels include Flyy Girl, A Do Right Man, Single Mom, Sweet St. Louis, For the love of Money, and Just Say No! He lives in Charlotte, North Carolina.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Chapter One: The Chocolate Crew
New Orleans, Louisiana. The view of a handheld video camera widened. The date on the small view screen read THURS JAN 11-01. The color was vivid and clear with the sun still up at 3:36 P.M. The picture enlarged to capture the full front view of the light-blue-painted two-story house. The paint job was bright and striking, with white trim that outlined the windows, the roof, and the one-car garage. There were three new wooden steps that were still unpainted, which led to a light-blue-and-white front porch. Four plastic white chairs sat out on the porch for lounging. And a white screen door shielded the heavy, light blue front door, which led into the house.
"This is our home, sweet home, or at least for the meantime."
The camera zoomed in on the pleasant brown face of a college girl. Her hair was done in tight shoulder-length braids. She spoke right into the lens of the camera with poise and confidence as the focus locked in and followed her.
"Okay, that's the outside. Now we'll walk inside to meet my girls. They're also my housemates."
The girl smiled wide for the camera with bright white teeth and smooth skin.
"We call ourselves 'the chocolate crew' because we're all chocolate brown. But it's not like we planned it that way, like we had color favoritism or anything. That's just how it happened.
"But anyway, let's walk inside..."
The lens zoomed in as the camera moved forward and followed her through the front door. The view widened again inside the living room. The room had a plain white paint job, with no artwork or family portraits on the walls. It was a rented student house with a marble fireplace and shiny hardwood floors that were covered by large Oriental rugs. Two girls sat on the sofa to the left, with a third girl sitting inside the dining room that was straight ahead.
"Okay, let me introduce myself first, since I'm giving the tour here," the host in braids spoke into the camera. She was excited and straightforward with her introduction.
"My name is Bridget Chancellor, and I'm from Ann Arbor, Michigan. I came here to Dillard University to enroll in the nursing program while experiencing the city of New Orleans."
"It's N'awlins, girl. Not New Or-leans. You don't know that by now? You've been here over a year already. Get that proper shit out ya' voice."
The camera angled left to the two girls who sat on the sofa. The first one, who was closest to the camera, was plump, with short pressed hair that was curled at the edges. She hid her face to laugh when the bright light of the camera focused on her.
The second girl, who had interrupted Bridget, wore a black bandanna around her head, with twisted hair that poked out in twenty different directions. She had all of the mouth in the world, and she hid it from no one.
Bridget grinned and said, "That's Yula Frederick and Ayanna Timber."
The camera zoomed in on Ayanna Timber, with the twisted hair and loud mouth. She responded accordingly, with her hands swaying, head bobbing, and mouth running to her own beat.
"Yeah, I'm the A-to-the-Y-A-double-N-A, and if you wants to play, then don't swing my way, 'cause I'll send you to a grave like a thug from the boulevard for trying to act hard. So don't pull my card unless you're ready to go, blow for blow, flow for flow, and now you know.
"So who you wanna step to with your weak-ass crew, it ain't the A-to-the-T from the chocolate girl crew, you'll get your ass spiced up like a Leslie stew."
Laughter filled the room, including a grin from the fourth housemate, who sat alone in the dining room, before Bridget took control of the camera again.
"Anyway, Ayanna's from Houston -- "
"The southwest si-i-ide!" Ayanna hollered.
" -- and I forgot what she's supposed to be studying because she changed her major three times already," Bridget continued.
Ayanna said, "It's sociology."
"Whatever," Bridget said. "You need to keep your mind on your work instead of your rapping."
"Shit, B, you need to keep your mind off your little Creole boyfriend who be over here every other night."
The camera angled left and right to keep up with their rapid conversation. When the view stopped on Bridget, she looked embarrassed. Ayanna was giving unscripted information.
Bridget said, "Well, at least I still get my work done. And he doesn't call himself a Creole."
She faced the camera to explain things further. "Um, Ayanna didn't mean B like in, you know, a B or anything like that. She just meant it, like, B for Bridget."
Laughter filled the room again.
Ayanna said, "Girl, stop trying to explain everything. You need to be a damn anthropologist or something with the way you always try to explain shit. Some things ain't meant to be explained."
"And some words are not meant to be used all the time," Bridget responded. "Well, anyway," she said, moving on, "Yula Frederick is from Mobile, Alabama, and she's a nursing major like I am. That's how we met in our first semester, freshman year."
"Why don't you shut up a minute and let Yula introduce herself?" Ayanna snapped.
Bridget sighed and didn't say another word. What use was it? Ayanna was unruly. She was a disruptive force, where Bridget was raised on civility.
The camera zoomed in and focused on Yula's wide frame while she sat on the sofa. She watched it apprehensively. Then she dropped her reservations. She said, "Well, you know, we're the chocolate girl crew or whatever, but it's not just because we're brown; it's also because we're tasty."
They laughed again. The camera zoomed out and focused on the fourth housemate, sitting alone at the dining room table. She was doing homework. She looked up from her book and shook her head, above the playfulness.
The camera angled back to Yula. She said, "I can't speak for everyone else, but I know I gets mines." Yula had no shame, and she liked to shock people, like at that moment.
Bridget stopped the tone of the conversation. "No one asked you that, Yula. You don't have to share that. I mean, keep some decency."
Ayanna said, "Girl, she can say she gets her man if she wants to. What's wrong with that? I know I get mine."
"Yeah, you hang out with enough of them," Bridget responded.
Ayanna frowned and said, "Bridget, don't try to act like you don't be gettin' yours. Don't even front for the camera like that. Be real about it."
Yula agreed with Ayanna. "I know. She's trying to be all Goody Two-shoes up in here."
Finally, the fourth housemate spoke up from the dining room table. "Y'all all in here tellin' y'all business. You don't even know what she's gonna do with this stuff."
"That's what I'm trying to say," Bridget added.
"It's a documentary on the life of college students, right?" Yula asked.
Bridget said, "Yeah, but still..."
"A documentary for who?" the fourth housemate questioned.
The camera zoomed in on her dark brown face of symmetry. Her eyes, nose, lips, and chin were all defined in smooth arcs and were lined up perfectly. Her long, straight black hair was pulled back in a ponytail and held in place with a red scrunchie.
Bridget said, "That's Leslie Beaudet. She's from New Orleans, and she tells us what time it is down here. Go ahead, Leslie, say something for the camera."
The camera didn't budge from her while she sat calmly at the table. It zoomed in closer to her. Leslie's face filled up the screen. The stillness of her eyes was just as perfect as everything else about her. They peered straight ahead with serious intent.
Leslie asked them, "What do you want me to say?"
"Say anything," Ayanna told her. "Tell us something extra about N'aw-lins. Talk about that voodoo shit down here. Speak in French, L. D
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Book Description Simon & Schuster Audio, 2002. Audio CD. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 074352487X