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“Miss Black America”

Well?  What did y’all think of our latest foray into the literary world?

Meh.  I was pretty underwhelmed by the whole book.  I think it was well written, but it wasn’t a gripping page-turner and that’s how I like my books. 

I think one of the main reasons I took issue with the book is because I didn’t feel strongly – one way or the other – about any of the characters.  The mother left, but she wasn’t terrible (well, except for when she slapped Angela) so I couldn’t “hate” her.  Teddo was just a strange bird to me.  A revolutionary magician?? And Angela.  Where to start?  Her character confused me.  Nothing about her suggested to me that she’d react to her molestation the way she did.  Just me?  The sub plots with the aunt visiting and them camping out with Muh.ammad A.li were just strange to me.  The A.li story did read quite “real.” Now that I’m typing this up, I realize I really didn’t like this book much at all.  I thought I was neutral about it, but obviously not…I have noticed that in my reading – and television watching for that matter – I need to root for or against someone/thing.  If the element of good v. evil is absent, my interest wanes rather quickly.

One more thing before I let go of this thing – I was surprised that Teddo would allow Angela to be around his friends as much as he did particularly at her age.  I think we’ve discussed this in blogland before – there’s no way I’d have my girl child around grown men like that – friend or not.  But when I think about it, I don’t know if Smoochy would have those same thoughts and concerns.  Maybe they’re more maternal in nature??

Anyhoo, let’s go ahead and open up the discussion.  Here are a few of the book club questions at the back of the book that you may – or may not – want to respond to: 

1.  Angela links Melanie’s abandonment with Assata Shakur’s prison break.  How are the two women similar?  How are they different?  Is there anything revolutionary about either woman’s desire and means of escaping the restraints that hold them back?

2.  Melanie talks about the legacy of women in her family.  How does her abandonment of Angela and Teddo echo her family’s history?

3.  Discuss Angela’s encounters with Edward and Sammy.  How is her reaction to each of these men shaped by her relationship with Teddo?  By the absence of Melanie?

4.  Teddo eventually finds a way to send Angela to an upstate prep school.  Is this also a form of abandonment?  A way for him to escape?  Is it a way to also free Angela?

Alright – you know what to do.  Hit it!

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12 thoughts on ““Miss Black America”

  1. So I didn’t read the book, but I think it sounds kind of interesting (Assata Shakur, Ali). I’ll have to pick it up when I get a moment!

    • I know your moments are few and far between…Shakur and Ali are very small subplots – I just don’t want their presence to be a deciding factor in whether or not you read it. If I had a hard copy, I’d send it your way, but I read it on my iPod.

  2. I completed the book and then I felt unfinished, incomplete. The characters were all in place but lacked a needed degree of authenticity.

    Why did Angela’s mother leave? I really needed an answer to that question. Was she being held back by Angela? By Teddo? Were there too few maternal and deomestic rewards for her? Melanie, the mother, seemed torn between being the mother and being a movie star or something. Her attitude toward “success”, and beauty seemed rather juvenile.

    Teddo and his (worthless) friends seemed to play at life when together. Although they were together, their character-building qualities and support system for and with each other seemed limited. Teddo needed to realize tht the time for the “revolution” had come and gone. He was fighting a battle that was a throwback. I know some people who learned about themselves during the 60s, threw up a clenched fist and could resolve all issues philosophically while referencing Nietsczhe, Rogers and/or Malcolm. The challenge is always putting those concepts into action with relevant outcomes.

    Angela had the the innocence I would imagine for a young girl suddenly being without her mother. She lamented because she had no satisfactory answers. She adjusted because she had no choice. Teddo did a good job of instilling self-pride and a value for education. He emphasized that learning is not confined to the classroom. Although Angela protested. The motivation for Teddo’s teachings were genuine. The information he imparted will always stand and can be verified. But Angela was looking for a complete picture of love, family and accceptance.

    You can tell from how the story ended that she was able to use her education and learning to achieve a certain amount of recognition and peace. I believe that she willalways wonder what happened to her mother. I also believe she will always be one case away from looking for her mother. She still wants an answer to the question “Why did you go and leave me?”

    • I’m almost inclined to agree with your assessment that Melanie’s “obsession” with fame and beauty was juvenile. Almost. I am surprised at how many women – G.A.W. – are obsessed with things I consider superficial. But I suppose that just because I find them superficial doesn’t mean that they are…

      I think Teddo was the least realistic character for me. I really could not process the fact that he was a revolutionary performer. Just couldn’t do it. Or the fact that he had enough sense to be concerned about Angela’s education but not enough to know that leaving her with drunk/high dudes might not be the best idea.

      I do wonder why Melanie left and how her life turned out.

  3. I am going to have to add this book to my “to read” list. I am currently hosting a read-along this summer and we are reading ROOTS. Stop by and join the discussion. Actually we start today so you would not be behind at all! Have a great Monday and Congrats on the new job!

  4. I liked most things about this book. I liked those moments of longing. I liked that she would lead you down a road, then abruptly change course. I liked that there were some things that were never answered. It’s like life. Sometimes you never get to learn why. I didn’t like that the mother didn’t atone but I also realize this wasn’t really her story. It was Angela’s. I was really hoping her aunt would come and somewhat normalize her life, even if only briefly. She was a huge disappointment. You knew it was coming with Sammy but when Edward showed up, you just knew Teddo was going to wake up and pay attention. His disappearance was another one of those loose ends that I can’t say I really minded. Did he never return? The transition from her as a little girl to an adult was abrupt. And I did mind that. But not enough to be able to say I didn’t like the book. It did feel a bit incomplete, though. I wouldn’t mind hearing more from Angela.

    • True, it wasn’t a “neat” story – and that did ring true to life. But there were still just too many unanswered questions for my taste. And it ended abruptly – for me. You mention the aunt being a huge disappointment – I think most of the characters were disappointing to me. I wasn’t expecting super heroism from anyone, but come on…

      In the end, I felt sorry for Angela. And that was about it. I wasn’t as vested in these characters as I wanted to be.

  5. Tell me how you feel about the author’s OBVIOUS interjections of date, songs, names and event that were supposed to unify the tales and times. I found them to jarring instead of a flowing interjection.

    • I don’t know…I was okay with her using Shakur’s escape to provide context – kinda. But throwing in Ali was just strange to me. I missed the song references I guess. Really, I think the author had several ideas in her head and decided to just marry them all in this novel.

  6. This book was ok to me. A light nonthinking read. I wish they explained why Melanie STAYED away! Once she failed making it as an actress, you would think she would have contacted her? And I know Angela was hurt but explain why she didn’t find out where her mother was…that was very strange to me. I know everyone processes things differently but I just felt that someone should have reached out, especially all those years later.

    The Ali summer was really the best part of the book for me…but that is because I am fascinated by him. He has had quite a life journey and even though it was a fictionalized account, I liked being on the fringes of it.

    What was the point of the aunt? To show Teddo was sleeping with her? To show another woman disappointing Angela? I could have done without those scenes.

    I do think Teddo sending Angela to boarding school was a escape but also the best thing that could have happened. Teddo was not equipped to raise a daughter alone.

    • I did think that Angela – especially as a successful, grown woman – would’ve sought her mother out but I guess that’s just me projecting.

      I enjoyed the Ali part too! I thought it was an odd addition, but I enjoyed it and it was very realistically written – or so I imagine.

      Yeah, the aunt seemed pretty random. She came in, cooked, abused Angela, slept with Teddo and rolled out. Um, okay.

      Agreed. She needed the structure that I guess boarding school provides as well as an escape from her father and all his random foolishness.

      Any thoughts on what we should read next?? I really enjoy these discussions!

  7. Hi, I just read a new book by U.L. Harper called “In Blackness” it was an excellent read. It was suspensful and unpredictable.I HAD to read to the end and then when I did I was extremely pleased and for 2.99 on Amazon its a steal.I promise you won’t be let down. I’d consider it to be in the science fiction/ drama genre if that’s a deciding factor on the books that you read. I was hoping you might be interested in considering reading it as one of your book club books. Thanks for your time.

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