Graduating from college in 1971, the tough-talking Stevie enthusiastically dives into the San Francisco scene, where she shares an apartment with a disco queen and joins a woman's consciousness-raising group.
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April Sinclair's debut novel, Coffee Will Make You Black, was named Book of the Year (Young Adult Fiction) for 1994 by the American Library Association and received the Carl Sandburg Award from the Friends of the Chicago Public Library. A Chicago native, she now lives in Berkeley, California.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
"You meet the same peoples over and over again in life," Grandma warned from the doorway.
I didn't give her my full attention. I was too busy cramming wool sweaters into a suitcase full of jeans. Despite my sweaty, well-toasted skin, I knew I'd need warm clothes in a month or so.
"They names and they faces might be different. But they will be the same peoples, " Grandma insisted. Her words hung in the humid Chicago air like the smell of chitterlings cooking on a stove. She pulled a paper towel from her apron pocket and wiped the sweat off her fudge-colored forehead. Grandma wore one of those serious aprons that you had to stick your arms through. There was nothing prim and proper about her.
I was the first person in my whole family to go away to college, and I was excited. But I knew that "book learning" wasn't everything. Grandma says experience is the best teacher. And she is no one to take lightly.
Mama joined Grandma in the doorway. The two of them could barely fit. They were both big women. Neither of them were fat, just big in the way grown women are supposed to be, according to Grandma. She'd often say, "Chile, don't nobody want a bone but a dog." But I was content with my slim figure. Thin was in, especially in white America, where I was headed. After all, Twiggy was the model of the hour. And besides, I certainly wasn't anywhere near that skinny. I did have titties and booty to speak of.
There sure were a lot of memories in this bedroom. The walls had been yellow, pink, and finally blue, my favorite color. I shook my head at the now worn-out-looking white bedroom furniture that had looked so magnificent the Saturday afternoon they carried it home in my uncle's truck. Mama and Daddy bought it used from a house sale in Lake Forest, a rich northern suburb. I'd thought I'd died and gone to heaven. Aunt Sheila took one look at the gleaming white furniture and declared that we'd arrived.
I gazed at my bed. The quilt that Grandma made me years ago was almost in tatters now. I'd bought a brand-new, lime-green corduroy bedspread with some of the money I'd made this summer helping Grandma at her chicken stand.
Mama looked sad, like she hated seeing her only daughter go. You'd never know by her puppy dog expression that Mama had swung a mean switch in her day. She'd also done a lot of preaching over the years. And I'd been the mainstay of her congregation. My two younger brothers could never be held hostage long enough to listen to her sermons. Boys were "outside children," they "liked to go," as Mama would say. I wondered if David and Kevin would finally have to help her out in the house. She might make them wash a few dishes, but that would probably be about it.
"Well, Mama, you won't have me to kick around anymore," I teased.
"Just don't let some man make a fool out of you and you'll be all right. " She sighed. Her smooth pecan complexion only showed wrinkles when she frowned.
I didn't have a boyfriend right now. I'd gone to the senior prom with a dude from the school band who'd asked me at the last minute. I'd barely known the shy, husky trumpet player drew breath until he'd mumbled, "Stevie, will you go with me to the prom?" They call me Stevie at school. My family calls me Jean. My name is actually Jean Stevenson. I'd swallowed and answered, "Yeah, I'll go with you." Paul was shy and quiet, but kind of cute. At least he wouldn't expect me to put out, I figured.
Our date had been pleasant enough. I even had fond memories of resting my head on Paul's shoulder as we slow-danced to the prom's theme song, "We've Only Just Begun." It was a white tune by the Carpenters; and our class of 1971 was all-black, except for a couple of Puerto Ricans and a Chinese girl. Some people had complained about the honky theme, but the prom committee prevailed. Only three other white songs were played during the prom, Carole King's "It's Too Late" (which everybody agreed was hot, white girl or no white girl); Bread's "I'd Like to Make It with You"; and Bob Dylan's "Lay, Lady, Lay." Of course no dudes could complain about the last two.
Paul and I had gone to the Indiana Dunes for the senior class picnic the day after the prom. And Paul had been a perfect gentleman, lightly brushing my lips only when he'd said goodbye. It would give me a sweet feeling, just thinking about it. Something might have come of our connection if we'd had more time to get to know each other. But we didn't; Paul's draft number was pulled. He jumped up and joined the navy and shipped out right after graduation. Paul figured if he was in the navy, he'd have a better chance of staying out of Vietnam.
"Jean," Grandma said, interrupting my thoughts. "We're expecting great things outta you."
I chuckled as I stuffed underwear in the inside pocket of the large suitcase. "Grandma, I'm just going away to a state university, so don't y'all expect me to come back a Rhodes scholar. "
"I know you'll do us proud," Grandma said, dabbing her eyes.
Suddenly, I felt a lump in my throat. I was sad to be leaving everything familiar, even Mama.
"You just keep your head in your books," Mama admonished. "And don't let men distract you. Men are nothing to get excited about, remember that. " It was obvious that Daddy no longer excited Mama. The two of them reminded me more of business partners than lovers. She often passed Daddy like a vegetarian walking by a steak house. I wondered if the earth had ever moved...
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Book Description Hyperion, 1996. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. New Hardcover! Signed by Author. Unmarked pages, may have very slight cover wear, no remainder marks, sealed in plastic, exact artwork as listed, Bookseller Inventory # 155160713036
Book Description Hyperion, 1996. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. New item. May have light shelf wear. Bookseller Inventory # BK0144291
Book Description Hyperion, 1996. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M0786860693
Book Description Hyperion, 1996. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110786860693
Book Description Hyperion. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. 0786860693 New Condition. Bookseller Inventory # NEW7.0349799