Black Issues Book Review
Venus Johnson's cry for freedom echoes throughout this gripping page-turner as a series of self-revealing choices. Defying the pleas of her perm-toting hairdresser, Venus shaves off her long hair after years of chemical straightening. Her shockingly sparse Afro screams, "affirm me as I ama beautiful sistah inside and out."
Nappily Ever After is not only a witty look at the trials and punishment of the singles scene, but it's also a smart examination of how much African-American women often define themselves by the appearance of their hair. With snappy dialogue and characters readers will recognize from their own lives, Nappily Ever After is unapologetically all natural a fun, thought-provoking read.
Trisha Thomas's debut novel is a fusion of humor, a fast-paced plot, and characters we care about. Venus Johnston's journey is a familiar and compelling one that will have satisfied readers craving an encore from Trisha Thomas.
Nappily Ever After is a vibrant tale of a young woman's journey to independence. The characters are real and emerge from this novel as people you actually know. It's an exquisitely passionate novel from an immensely gifted new author.
From the moment I started reading Nappily Ever After, I couldn't put it down! Trisha Thomas gives us a stellar first novel that gives new depth to the age-old relationship that we sistahs have with our hair. This is a jazzy, hip must-read!
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
African-American advertising agency executive Venus Johnston has had enough. Enough of the painful, expensive hours spent relaxing her "good" hair and enough of her four-year relationship with medical intern Clint Fairchild, which has lasted too long without a ring. She shaves her hair to a quarter-inch stubble, tells Clint to pack his bags and spends the rest of Thomas's empowering debut novel building a new life to match the new woman she's become. Clint, on the rebound, meets beautiful, longhaired and marriage-ready Kandi Treboe and proposes on an impulse, despite evidence that he's not over Venus. Meanwhile, Venus confronts issues of sexual harassment and racism in her predominantly white Washington, D.C., firm, where she begins to receive threatening notes. The crisis at work fuels Venus's fears that she's not strong enough to survive her new freedom. Has she made a mistake by abandoning the security of her boyfriend and her long, straight hair? Kandi develops into a complex character, with her own set of concerns and a sense of humor about the lovers' triangle. Her perspective provides an interesting counterpoint to Venus's obsession with the consuming culture surrounding black women's hair. Clint's confusion over his choice between the two women is treated honestly, and Venus's discovery that she has moved to new psychological territory carries emotional weight. This exploration of an African-American woman's journey to self-acceptance is not without flaws (spotty writing and loose ends tied up too fast), but Thomas refuses to let her characters slide into stereotype, and she keeps the pace fast and funny. (Dec.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
A young black woman decides to stop fussing with her hair, and changes her life in the process. Venus Johnson has a successful career in cosmetics advertising, some great girlfriends, and a live-in love who's (yes!) a doctor. But pediatrician Clint has been content with their relationship just as it is and doesn't seem any too interested in ever making a real commitment. He likes her just as she is, too, including her long, straight, processed hair. Fed up, Venus asks her very surprised hairdresser to cut it all offand promptly kicks Clint out, just like that. The handsome doctor is baffled, but there's another woman ready and waiting, of course: Kandi, whose hair is equally long, soft, and processed. Venus has second thoughts about her impulsive action, but she's got a few other things on her mind at the moment: a lecherous colleague and the poison-pen letters someone's been sending her at the office. Her friends, family, and coworkers weigh in with comments, mostly negative, about her very short hair, but Venus is thrilled to have put an end to her tedious hours in beauty salons and her general obsession with her appearance. Let Clint marry his sweet Kandi, Venus decides; she's found herselfand freedom. Irresistibly cheerful, feel-good feminism underpins this pleasant little tale, although the men are in no way villainous, and the talented author writes just as sympathetically from a male point of view. Lively dialogue and fresh characterization enrich the barely-there plot, which is all Thomas needs to make her point: It's what inside that counts. A slight but winning debut.
From the Publisher
“A smashing debut...lively and engaging.”
“Nappily Ever After is the vibrant tale of a young woman’s journey to independence. It’s an exquisitely passionate novel from an immensely gifted new author.”
—Pamela Walker-Williams, the Page-Turner Network
“Trisha Thomas’s first novel places her in a league with Terry McMillan and Bebe Moore Campbell.”
“With snappy dialogue and characters readers will recognize from their own lives, Nappily Ever After is unapologetically all-natural—a fun, thought-provoking read.”
—Tananarive Due, author of The Black Rose
Read an Excerpt
Clint took a deep breath. His mind was racing with thoughts of his soon-to-be bride, the woman he'd spend the rest of his life with. He let a sheepish grin rise on his face when he pictured hers, overcome with emotion when she pulled the silver ribbon and opened the box to the book of love poems that said all that he could not.
That was one of the things he adored about her. The simplest acts of kindness brought joy to her--toast and coffee on a morning tray, an unexpected lunch date that neither one of them really had time for. He thought about the time he'd borrowed the out-of-production Angela Bofill album from a friend and made a tape, placing it in her cassette player so that "I'm on Your Side" would be the first thing she heard when she started the car. He had watched her as she tried to ward off the impending tears. He was proud to have that kind of power over her. To know so easily how to make her fall in love with him again and again was like being the richest man in the world. She didn't need master plans with attached instructions. Like Clint, all she wanted was to be loved unconditionally and, on occasion, to be shown how much.
He looked out on the audience that was gathering to witness their unity, sisters wearing brights and pastels on their various tints of dark satin skin, brothers walking around clean and polished like a brigade of Farrakhan soldiers, everybody trying to outdo everybody else. Even the babies were wrapped up like dolls in the toy store, wearing their little bonnets and pink ruffles. And him, standing in the sweltering humidity, dressed in black tails, glossy black patent leather shoes, and a grin-and-bear-it smile, making him feel like the lone black male model in the pages of the Sears catalog.
Clint shook the hands of relatives he didn't know by sight, repeating the same thing over and over because he didn't have much else to say except "thanks for coming" and "good to see you all." Kissing aunts who still called him Baby Blue, a nickname that reminded him of the shame he used to feel for being one of the darkest little boys on Ames Street. His just reward was that now his smooth midnight skin was deemed one of his best qualities; seductive, smoldering, even the word elegant had been used to describe him. He didn't like to harp on the flattery he'd received from women over the years, but it quieted the fires that would still erupt every now and then in his mind, the childhood memories of feeling inferior because of the blackness of his skin.
Clint shifted slightly. His lean tall body stood erect like the rest of the props, the pew, the arch with the fresh flowers. As he looked across the makeshift ballroom, he scanned the neatly aligned white chairs where his aunts sat patting the moisture from their plump necks with handkerchiefs that probably had four generations of owners before them. Fans were being whipped out and waved back and forth, actually increasing the perspiration they were fretting over. The electric fans set up in the tent were blowing the same warm air that everyone was trying to escape from outside. Near the entrance Kurt and Eddie were hovering around waiting for more guests. Marcell and Clint's brother, Cedric, had just seated three guests on the bride's side and were ready to take on new escort duties. It's comical, Clint thought, while watching them tussle over who would show the decent-looking ladies to their seats, then watching them spread like wildfire when a bad gene walked in, braids too thick, skirt too tight over an ass too wide.
Kurt was the only one being an equal-opportunity player. Swinging his long arm through theirs, striding them down the aisle in assembly fashion. Clint wished they'd all act with a little more sense and maturity. They were supposed to be his representation, his dutiful guards, posted to serve and protect. These were the ones who helped get him through a grueling bout of medical school. They'd be friends for life, no doubt, like comrades of war. They'd survived while many others had not.
Kurt waved at Clint to get his attention. Now what, Clint thought. Kurt threw his eyes in a jerky movement to the right of him. Clint's eyes widened when he saw her walk in. She showed up.
He couldn't believe it. Her chiffon dress skimmed every curve of her body, stopping at the point where her legs began. She looked his way. Clint gave her a nod of acknowledgment. He knew he could do no more than that. All questioning eyes were upon him. What's she doing here? The whispers were floating through the air. Or was it his imagination?
Clint didn't know what to expect when he'd personally dropped off the invitation in her mailbox. He didn't dare take a chance on the U.S. Postal Service. He wanted to know it had been delivered. If she didn't show up, he'd know it was intentional and not an oversight. But she had taken the high road and walked in here polished, radiating happiness.
"How ya holdin' up, man?" Cedric inquired, already knowing the answer.
"I'm all right." Speaking was painful for Clint. His tongue was glued to the roof of his mouth.
"You see who showed up?" Cedric let out a small laugh and slapped his baby brother on the back. "You look like you could use a drink."
Clint could feel the shirt underneath his tuxedo jacket stick to the spot where his brother's hand landed. It clung to his perspiring skin.
"Nah, man, just water."
"That's all I'm offering, my brotha. You can barely stand now. Don't worry, man. I'll make sure no catfights go down." His older brother walked away the same way he'd come, smiling and kissing babies like a politician. Cedric hadn't worn a suit since his own wedding ten years ago and was taking advantage of his day in the sun as the best man.
He returned with the same affable expression, carrying a large crystal goblet of water. "Here you go, man."
Clint took the ice-cold water and drank, sipping slowly to loosen up the parched edges of his mouth. He felt like a dying man, and this was his last drink of water . . . as a single guy. He had to admit to himself he was scared. After this day, there would be no more choices. No more contemplating, struggling for the right answer. No one should ever have to make the choice between two women. Especially when both were everything you could ever want in this lifetime. But it was done. He had chosen.
Clint shook himself a little to stay in the here and now. He took a few more quick breaths, but he was still in the smooth arms of the past. The music started playing a nondescript tune. The last available seats had been filled with more pastel hats, suits and ties. Clint tried to focus, refocus. He lost sight of her. He couldn't tell where she was sitting, if she was still there. Maybe she had changed her mind. Told herself, "after all he'd put her through, he didn't deserve her blessing."
But when he caught sight of her standing, the coral splash of color, the right amount of spice on her tangy light brown skin, greeting Cedric with a hug, for that moment it was Clint, there, in her arms. In his mind, he hugged her back. He could smell the airy sweet perfume she always wore, feel her lips pressed against his cheek.
The sound of the loud organ gearing up threw Clint back into reality. He eyed the full expecting faces sitting in rows, all waiting for the show, the unity of man and woman till death do they part. The pounding of the three chords reverberated through his feet and rose up in his chest. This was it. If he didn't stop this thing now, there would be no turning back.