Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Sister Souljah: Part I, A Commentary

They came in anticipation to the East Bay Church of Religious Science in Oakland Saturday evening, December 6. And they got everything they expected and more. Sister Souljah, activist, former rapper, and best-selling author of No Disrepect and The Coldest Winter Ever, was in town, and she did not disappoint. Sponsored by Marcus Book Store of Oakland, the event was well attended and despite the competition of the De La Hoya fight and several football game playoffs, the brothers were in the house representing. Sister Souljah was ready. She started off saying that she would answer all questions; she is a big girl and she can take it and hopes we can do the same. Brown-skin, face devoid of make-up, a pug nose, she had two pony tail puffs, very young looking, belying her claim of being the mother of a 15-year old son; black long sleeved tee and black slacks, very unpretentious

We sat mesmerized for almost two hours as this Sister preached, philosophized, and prophesied about life as she saw it and of course, talked about her new book, Midnight: A Gangster Love Story. Let me back up a little. The book, Midnight, is a bit of a controversy. You see, what happened was…. Sister Souljah wrote The Coldest Winter Ever almost ten years ago, which was one of the most phenomenal literary occurrences in history. It was particularly popular in the black communities across the U.S touted. as the new re-emergence of what is called street or urban literature. Literature that speaks to the hearts and minds of the hip hop youth, the disenfranchised, and those who are living on the edge of society. TCWE and the copy cats that followed has been touted as responsible for bringing a whole generation of formerly nonreading teens into the literary arena. While TCWE opened the doors for a lot of authors to write stories that “kept it real”, surprisingly or surprisingly not, Sister Souljah does not want to be labeled a street/urban writer. She wants to be a writer that appeals worldwide. But let me tell you about the book signing event; I will go into detail on some points SS made so this might take two or three blogs. There is a lot to talk about.

My online book group, APOOO (A Place of Our Own) chose Midnight as our December book of the month. Now we are a group that gets down to the nitty gritty when discussing and dissecting a book. So, I will be referencing some comments as well as conversations with others about this new release.

Somewhere along the way, something got misconstrued. We had been hearing for almost a year that SS was writing a sequel to The Coldest Winter Ever. So, and because almost everything promoting Midnight, including the publisher of the book, Simon & Schuster sending out material indicating it so, that is what readers were expecting. It was not until Sister Souljah gave an interview with Publisher’s Weekly, when she adamantly emphasized that Midnight was a prequel, not a sequel Unhun, um. Well, the book was one of the all time best-selling of pre-ordered books on and a lot of those people did not get the memo, according to many of the reviews on that site. Not only is the book getting mixed reviews, Sister Souljah has been getting hot emails, folks complaining about many things among them, not having Winter (the main character in TCWE) in the book to what they perceive as blatant disrespect to Black Americans.

So let me school you on what Sister Souljah has to say about all that noise you all are out there making.

To the charges that she, as a proud black woman, is disrespecting black people, she finds ludicrous. The angry, passionate letters and emails she is getting has her scratching her head. She is writing from a point of view of a young boy from the Sudan in the character, Midnight. This is the way he sees things in his young mind, having grown up in Africa where men are taught to be men and take responsibility. Besides, Sister Souljah wants to know if these same people who are writing to her, would they write to the sister who sold millions of books by telling the world how she slept with some of hip hops most respected artists.

In speaking with one of my Marcus Book Club members Saturday, she said she read the book and was not the least bit offended by the things the character, Midnight, had to say about black people. She said something to the affect, “What is being said, is for the most part true and the truth hurts.” Ouch! So, I leave you with this, for those who have read Midnight: A Gangster Story, do you feel American born blacks are displayed in a negative light? For those who have not read the book, do you think Black Americans/African Americans are in competition with other blacks from the Diaspora (African natives, West Indians, South American blacks, black Brits and other black Europeans)? Are black Americans unfairly compared to these others?

More on this and much more about Sister Souljah and Midnight: A Gangster Love Story.


Angelia... said...

wonderful blog, I would have loved to been there. I just started reading Midnight last night, so I will come back with my thoughts later...


Phyllis said...

Hi Dera:

I'm about 50% complete with the novel and have no issues with what has been presented so far -- I "get" what she set out to accomplish with this novel and agree that there really wasn't anything offensive or demeaning presented in the book. At completion, I'll return to finish my assessment.

Uranie said...

Great Blog Dera. I don't know if I'm going to read the book.

Yasmin said...

For those who have not read the book, do you think Black Americans/African Americans are in competition with other blacks from the Diaspora (African natives, West Indians, South American blacks, black Brits and other black Europeans)?

As a black person, I believe I'm in competition with EVERYONE not just black folks. Besides, in the US, I'm considered a minority so I can't just limit my world to being black when this country is so OBVIOUSLY NOT. As far as folks from other countries, hmmm all groups have trifling folks, African-Americans don't have a lockdown on being trifling, lazy, slothful or any other negative adjective. And, another thing about folks from other countries, generally only the 'creme de la creme' come to the US. So, just imagine how many folks are left behind who look just like the 'lazy, slothful, trifling' black folks in America.
If Africa and Africans are as good as Sister Souljah makes them out in Midnight...then I ask why does female genital circumsion, rampant HIV/AIDS, Darfur, civil unrest, and the host of other problems exist in Africa? Better yet, why did Midnight's father send him and his mother to America? And how come they're still here.
Bottom line...the grass ain't always green on the other side...but more importantly I have to remember when reading this book that i's based on the mindset of a 14-year old...and just as I take my teen kids with a grain of salt sometimes I will have to be intelligent enough to do the same thing with this book...because afterall it's fiction and not really a 'TRUE'

Dera Williams said...

Thanks Agelia, Phyllis, and Uranie for your comments. Waiting to hear your comments.

Yasmin, you have hit the nail on the head. The grass is always appears to be greener. What I meant about in competition with Blacks from other countries is the comparisons we get from "others". The dynamis are many and complex.

Beverly said...

Hi Dera -

Thanks for the blog and the information.
Wow - she spoke for two hours that must have been great!
I am hoping to start Midnight soon (like tonight).

I do understand how people of the Caribbean, African and other places view African Americans. But why is this so unusual - at times people form stereotypes of others. This is based on the news/information that is filtered to them, one experience some had and they take that to apply to a whole group of people.
We also should understand that most people who immigrate to the US from other countries are usually the driven ones who have goals they want to achieve - so the few that make it here can succeed because they actively made that choice before they came to the US. So if a few people are in the US of a specific culture - and a couple of them succeed people - apply that to the entire group.
But most cultures will embrace their entire group when attacked from the outside by another group. And I have found that all groups of people have their own discriminations withing their groups - whether it is religion, clan/tribe,language, skin color, hair color. At times it seems that people always want to feel superior to other groups of people.

Donnica said...

I can not say that I was offended at all by what she said. I was just taken back...I wasn't expecting this! I may have gotten it too early! I was looking for a sequel. And then finding out it was a prequel I was still looking for a connection.

All in all the story of a 7-14 year old boy just being a MAN was hard to believe. I do understand that in other cultures this is true.

Not sure why I just didn't like the story! LOL!!!

Lena said...

I have to say that I took no offense to Midnight's views of African Americans and even though I knew what to expect, it wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be.