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A Love Noire: A Novel

A Love Noire: A Novel

4.5 7
by Erica Simone Turnipseed

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When Noire, a hip, Afro-wearing Ph.D. student, walks into Brown Betty Books, her righteousness kicks in to overdrive amid the self-identified "talented tenth" who wear their double degrees and five-hundred-dollar shoes like badges of honor. And then Innocent, a well-heeled investment banker from Côte d'Ivoire, West Africa, walks in and turns her on her head.


When Noire, a hip, Afro-wearing Ph.D. student, walks into Brown Betty Books, her righteousness kicks in to overdrive amid the self-identified "talented tenth" who wear their double degrees and five-hundred-dollar shoes like badges of honor. And then Innocent, a well-heeled investment banker from Côte d'Ivoire, West Africa, walks in and turns her on her head. Innocent seems interested in her -- but he's one of them.

Before meeting him, Noire shunned the "bourgie" world of black-moneyed cosmopolitans like Innocent, opting instead for socially conscious (but economically challenged) artists and urban intellectuals. Their mutual attraction blossoms into lust -- and eventually love -- but it lives in the shifting sands of personal beliefs and professional ambitions that are often at odds.

Set in New York City with jaunts to Africa, Europe, and the Caribbean, A Love Noire is the story of an unlikely couple that transcends all they've known to learn the redemptive power of love.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Love blossoms for an unlikely couple in this provocative debut, a romance embroidered with outspoken treatment of issues of race and class. Noire Demain is a brilliant and socially conscious Ph.D. student in comparative literature with a tendency to criticize those who may not share her ideals. The last person she expects to fall in love with is Innocent Pokou, an investment banker from Cete d'Ivoire whom she considers part of "the black bourgeoisie." But sparks fly and, as each realizes that the other is more than a mere stereotype, their relationship deepens. Turnipseed's take on star-crossed lovers breaks no molds, but her voice is strong and confident. She sets convincing and complex characters within the disparate neighborhoods of New York's Harlem and SoHo, the "historic locales in and around black Charleston" and the politically unstable climate of Cete d'Ivoire. Turnipseed's other great strength, much like Noire's, is her fearlessness in tackling touchy subject matter, whether it be spicy sex scenes or exploration of identity politics. Turnipseed's earnest treatment of social issues sometimes becomes heavy-handed and slows the narrative momentum. That, and occasional lapses into melodramatic prose ("The subway was a curious place where bodies touched even when lives did not. Was this a metaphor for life?") are the novel's weaknesses. But its many strengths, including frank dialogue and a fierce intelligence, make this a vibrant, engaging debut. Agent, Nicholas Roman Lewis. (July) Forecast: Though Turnipseed's protagonist rails against buppies, they are the likely audience for the novel. Four-city author tour. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Buppie love. Noire, a semiradical Amherst grad pursuing a doctorate at Columbia, has mixed feelings about academe and its privileges. And that's on top of her struggle to find herself: Who is she and where is she going? And what should she do about all the double-degree brothas with $500 shoes and no social conscience who want her body but not her mind? Enter Innocent Pokou, a handsome, studly investment banker from the Côte d'Ivoire, who e-mails his beloved Maman regularly, makes a ton of money, and treats Noire like a lady. But she still isn't sure she should commit to him-or any other man. Meanwhile, a rich social life keeps Noire busy: intellectual soirées, Harlem book parties, East Village poetry jams, etc., all providing opportunities to explore the ever more contemporary issues that interest Noire (not that she doesn't find time for romantic evenings with Innocent). African-American perceptions of class and color are touched upon repeatedly, as exemplified by Noire's New Orleans cousins, who drew troubling lines between one shade of brown and the next (the lighter the better, and black not admired). Noire still wears her hair in a nappy 'fro, seeing political ramifications in the ever-changing requirements of black fashion as well. Innocent's strong ties to his homeland bring back memories of her student trips to Africa, which opened her eyes to the diversity of black identity and taught her a thing or two about the limits of her American upbringing. If only she could speak so many languages! And move so readily between different cultures! Like Cudjoe, her half-Jamaican, half-Ghanian lover who spoke so movingly of the centuries of black history and his ancestors' struggle to enduredespite slavery. Noire and Cudjoe were together years ago, but she remembers every word. When Innocent and Noire travel to Jamaica, the two men meet-triggering many more ruminations from Noire on the Meaning of Life. Earnest debut, long on consciousness-raising, short on plot. Agent: Nicholas Roman Lewis
“Anyone looking to add a litte spice to their vacations should pick up...A Love Noire...an intelligent romance.”
Black Issues Book Review
“Splendid.…[It] offers hope that a new class of black fiction will take root.”
Honey magazine
“A funny, analytical novel. . . . . ”
Heart & Soul
“This tumultuous emotional journey ultimately offers a deeper understanding of love and loss.”
Go On Girl! Book Club
“An assured debut . . . . A Love Noire explores the intricacies . . . with vibrancy and grace.”
The Blackboard Times
“Enthralling . . . An intelligently written, brazenly breezy blissful tale . . . Brilliant . . . A winner, a triumph.”

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Read an Excerpt

A Love Noire

A Novel
By Erica Turnipseed

Harper Collins Publishers

Copyright © 2003 Erica Turnipseed All right reserved. ISBN: 0060536799

Chapter One

See No Evil ...

Noire was in the wrong place at the wrong time, an Afro in a sea of perms. Regretting her decision to wear a thong that rubbed her cheeks like industrial-strength dental floss, she adjusted herself surreptitiously and cut her eyes at her lacquered, perfumed, and coiffed business-casual brethren and sistren at Brown Betty Books clutching copies of Marcus Gordon's bible on black folks and finance.

First, Jayna lied. Second, Jayna was late. Noire rammed her hand into the pocket of her waterlogged overcoat, crumpling the copy of Jayna's e-mail message that disingenuously proclaimed the evening to be about black empowerment and a magnet for progressive brothas. Instead, she was stuck trying to amuse herself amid a swarm of coffee-colored men whose tailored trousers and five-hundred-dollar shoes attracted equally well-heeled women with hungry eyes. Noire hated the pose.

Even Brown Betty herself - her head a cascade of golden dreadlocks and her body awash with purple fabric and musk-scented cowrie shells and crystals - looked at, through, and past Noire in the time it took her to say hi. Clearly, her hair was not political tonight.

Her disdain mounting, Noire railed against the ready display ofbrand-name degrees, six-figure salaries, and gentrified addresses that smacked of a latter-day slave auction. Was this what the Civil Rights Movement was all about?

"Don't hate, congratulate!" she heard one of her sistas tell an empathetic friend. She imagined they were corporate lawyers.

Noire made a plastic cup of white wine her temporary companion. She sipped it too fast and scanned the bookshelves lining the walls. Her eyes flitting over the haphazardly stacked volumes, she consoled herself with the presence of books by Maya Angelou, Ben Okri, Toni Morrison, and Edwidge Danticat. She jotted down a few titles in her Filofax, crammed it into her mini-backpack, and refilled her cup with seltzer before reclaiming her mantle of righteous indignation at the scene. Measuring the smugness of those around her with the yardstick of her own discomfort, Noire wondered about Jayna. Where was homegirl?

Jayna was straight-up wrong. She just was. Fifteen years of friendship with Noire should have taught her that, at twenty-eight years old, Noire had no time or interest in the self-congratulatory games of "name-that-Negro" that the newest generation of the talented tenth had a particular fondness for. Wasn't the biggest argument that Jayna and Noire ever had over love and money? Then high school seniors, they had fanatical obsessions with Terrence Trent D'Arby (Noire), Blair Underwood (Jayna), LL Cool J (both), and half the boys in their Queens neighborhood. At seventeen, Jayna was then a recent nonvirgin and reflective.

"Sex is no big deal. Mama says it's as easy to love a rich man as a poor man. I plan to marry rich!"

"Jayna: Sold to the highest bidder!"

"Let's hear you say that when you're shacked up on skid row!"

"Fuck you!"

"At least someone does want to fuck me! And, Nicholas is going to Stanford, too! I suggest you check your attitude."

Noire remembered the sting of Jayna's words. She had masked her hurt with anger over the Jayna-Nicholas hookup; she would have done anything for just a kiss from him. Shrugging off her thoughts, Noire became annoyed with her unplanned solitude at the bookstore and resolved to pass the time near a ripe discussion between Brown Betty's yards of purple fabric and a buppie poster boy. Amusing herself with her role of infiltrator, Noire nodded at both parties who, as recent Harlem residents themselves, vigorously debated the effects of the latest wave of multicultural homeowners into "their neighborhood." Her interjected comment about the displacement of longtime Harlemites because of the steep increase in rents received a cool glance from Buppie Poster Boy and a huff from Brown Betty. She wondered if they bought their groceries in lower Westchester.

Jayna was still missing in action when, at seven-thirty, Brown Betty asked everyone to sit for the start of the reading. Buppie Poster Boy glared at Noire before revealing himself to be the center of attention by propping himself against a stool at the front of the room and holding a much book-marked copy of his tome. His face looked important and solemn, his thirty-two privileged years filling the air. Five rows of mismatched chairs ringed him in a tight arc. Noire claimed a place toward the back of the store and attempted to hold the aisle seat to her right for Jayna. She figured that Jayna was trying to be slick, timing her arrival so as to miss the start of the reading and thus the brunt of Noire's venomous response to her. Planting her bag on the chair, Noire surveyed the assemblage of about forty-five people and caught the eye of Jayna's friend Alan. He was too far away to say anything so she mouthed a tepid hello.

Marcus Gordon had already shared five of his ten commandments of creating wealth in the black community when someone approached Noire. "Is this seat taken?" he whispered, handing Noire's bag back to her and lowering himself into the chair. He raised his right fist in an abbreviated black-man salute to the pontificating Marcus and settled into immediate concentration upon his words.

Arrogant, she thought, settling her bag onto the floor in front of her. She stared ahead but noticed his well-defined profile in her peripheral vision. Probably full of himself.

"Number Five is 'Own instead of rent.' Too many of us have spent too much money on our sound system, our silk sheets, and our summer vacation without first investing in our futures. If you don't own your spot, you're just making someone else rich."

Noire thought about the late rent check she had put in today's mail and the vacation she and Jayna were taking to New Orleans in a couple of days ...


Excerpted from A Love Noire by Erica Turnipseed
Copyright © 2003 by Erica Turnipseed
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Meet the Author

Erica Simone Turnipseed's debut, A Love Noire, won the Atlanta Choice Author of the Year Award from the Atlanta Daily World. A philanthropist, Turnipseed founded the Five Years for the House Initiative, a fund-raising drive for the Afro American Cultural Center at Yale. She lives with her husband in Brooklyn, New York.

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A Love Noire 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was excellent and a breath of fresh air in the midst of the burgeoning hood novel phenomenon. Not to knock hood fiction but I just have a different reading taste and this one is perfect for those who are interested in well developed characters, settings, and reading for reading sake. I do agree that the plot was slightly drawn out but I respect the authors ability to capture emotion. I haven't read the second one 'Hunger' but I plan to pick it up today.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read some great books, but I do not know if I would put this book among the greatest literature. The plot was long and drawn out, where she could loose you in some places. The characters did feel very 'real' but hard to relate to at times. I read this book in one day, so it is fairly easy reading, if you really want to sit that long and read it. To be great book dosen¿t mean it has to be boring, and I really think this book was just boring and long-winded. I say check it out at the library, or just keep looking.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It was a lot going on with the two main characters. It made me think, 'Wow, do african americans argue that much and on childish things'. Overall, an okay book, it does make you think about modern love. Also, the ending is different from what I am use to.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I actually had to force myself to put this book down at times, because it was so engaging! This is a great example of modern-day LITERATURE. In the face of poorly developed stories and rudimentary vocabulary, Ms. Turnipseed dares to be different. A beautifully crafted tapestry of creative language, characters and history, A Love Noire is truly a great story, proving that love does conquer all.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I actually had the opportunity to meet and discuss this book with the author when it was first released. This book was like a breathe of fresh air! Turnipseed should be added into the ranks as an author of LITERATURE, and not just another author. She exposes/educates the reader to culture. Yes! you will actually learn something from reading this novel! The storyline was innovative and attention grabbing. The characters are vivid, the scenes are alive! I was so tired of reading the stereotypical black novel. Which I do not knock! If my people are reading I am happy! But thank you Erica! Thank you for breathing life into our genre!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a beautiful and passionate story for anyone who likes to feel touched by the characters in stories. I finished it in one night.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just finished this book yesterday, and thoroughly enjoyed this modern-day depiction of Black love. A must read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Maybe some people enjoyed this book, but it wasn't compelling enough to hold my interest. Too much detail about exotic foods, or foods I never heard of before. The characters failed to make me feel anything for them. It's sad that people are criticized just because they didn't like this book, but believe me, everyone will not like this book, or any other book for that matter. Some folks will like and understand this one, and others won't. The writer can write, but this story was not for me.