Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sister Souljah, Part III: The Creative Side

Sister Souljah, Part III: The Creative Side

I closed the final page of Midnight: A Gangster Love Story the other day and though it left me with a million and one questions, I have to give Sister Souljah her props. If it was her intention to grab the reader and give one a walk through a cultural landscape, she accomplished it with me. If she wanted to give us an intimate view of how people live, die, work, play, love, and make money in New York and how a city can become a character itself, she did it for me. If it was her desire to impart the importance of a sense of values in a society that has declining values, mission accomplished. Sister Souljah WROTE this book. Did she need to take nine or ten years to do so? I don’t know, but I ain’t mad at her. That is not to say the book was perfect; it was not. There were holes, flaws, and nicks in some of the logic going through Midnight’s fourteen year-old man-child constant stream of consciousness. There was stuff that even had me slightly pissed off, until I remembered, hey, this is fiction; or is it? The pen is a mighty sword and I suspect that a lot of Sister Souljah’s beliefs and feelings were spoken through the character of Midnight. She said at her book signing that this is her favorite book. Pieces of her heart went into the writing of it.

How did Sister Souljah create this book? She was asked the question every author is asked: What is your writing process? She said that you hear over and over that a writer is supposed to write every day; her process though is that she might write twenty pages and then write nothing for two weeks. She might get up in the middle of the night to use the restroom and end up writing until morning and then not a word for several days. She also writes everything in long hand first. Now with 498 pages that sounds like a serious case of carpal tunnel, but that is her process.

Sister Souljah wanted readers to get a feel for the characters and she wanted creative control and so she had pictures in her book. She was told that fiction books do not have pictures and her response was well, I want pictures, I am a leader and I will set a precedent. The model for Midnight was a teen she saw at the mall and approached him with her husband and asked if she could have him professionally photographed. After talking with his mother, everything was set up. For the character of Akemi, she advertised and the model in the book is her perception of that character. Umma’s model was referred to her by a neighbor who she had asked to find her someone who could instruct her in the Sudanese culture.

Sister Souljah was a curious, intelligent child who was always asking questions and was teased by her brother’s friends who said things like, “When is your sister meeting with the President?” or “ Is your sister having tea with China officials?” She said she had a lot of male friends; there was nothing sexual, but that they were into her mind. Sister Souljah was able to write in a male voice because of her ability to get into their minds from being around men and being able to talk with them and understand how they think.

Everyone wanted to know about the movie version of The Coldest Winter Ever, so here is the deal. She met Jada Pinkett at the Million Woman March and Jada told her she wanted to produce TCWE. HBO bought the rights, (BTW, Jada was never the intended actress for Winter as that character’s age ranges from 13- 18) they talked, negotiated back and forth, etc and then basically HBO faked on them; they backed out of the deal. In order to get her rights back, she had to pay $250,000.00 dollars. It is back in her possession and she insists it will be made but ONLY when the business is right. And Sister Souljah is a business woman; you just know she don’t play when it comes to her business.

So, there you have it; the creativity behind Midnight. And that concludes the Sister Souljah series.

Peace out--


Niambi Brown Davis said...

Dera, your series on SS and Midnight have been wonderfully thorough and insightful (as usual). One TV news shows bills itself as "going beyond the surface." You did that and much more for Midnight and Sister Souljah. I hope she reads your blog posts :)

Dera Williams said...

Wow, thanks Niambi. Jst trying to give the people a little of SS flavor, a taste of what I saw and heard.

Phyllis said...

Your blog was very informative and enlightening for both the book and the author. I'm sure SS will appreciate your views and effort to raise and answer questions re: the issues. Thanks again for taking the time to do this.

Beverly said...

Hi Dera -

I held off reading your blog until I was close to finish with Midnight so your comments would be more meaningful to me. This has been a great series of blogs and I am sad to see them end.
Sister Souljah has written the book that we have us talking and discussing for some time.
I really enjoyed the pictures and they enhanced my reading pleasure.
I too had to remember that this is fiction and to enjoy the story and concentrate on the messages.

Angelia... said...

I am still not done with Midnight, for a variety of reasons, but I have to agree with your summation...wonderful blog series...


Lena said...

Thanks for blogging about this event that I so wish I could have been at. In my opinion, she did such an excellent job of giving us a picture of life in a Sudanese household that the holes didnt' bother me all that much. Sure there's things I wondered about, but they didn't take away from the story. Great synopsis, as usual!

Dera Williams said...

Phyllis, thanks for the support. Glad you enjoyed it.

Beverly,yes SS gave us a lot to discuss and debate. Definitely a good read.

Angelia, I hope you get to finish the book soon. I believe you need to read the entire book in order to have a thorough, informed discussion.

I think SS designed it that way, that the fulfilling parts "fill in the holes." No, they don't take away from the story.

Carleen Brice said...

Very interesting--2bad HBO faked on them!