Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
"I always get what I want," says brazen Babysister, an L.A. bank teller and heroine of Swindle's debut novel, a confection that follows a sassy, single black woman's cutthroat, even ruthless adventures in dating. The minute she lays eyes on handsome architect Darren Forrest Wilson, she's got to have him. There's one tiny hitch: she already has a boyfriend. Rob is an easily dismissed inconvenience, considering that the real obstacle is that Darren ("Prince Charming, Superman and Superfly") is the beau of her loyal best friend and bank teller colleague Deborah. This gives Babysister pause, for about one minute, before she's aiming for Darren's bed while trying to talk him out of dating Deborah. Soon she does seduce him, and hides their affair from everyone while rationalizing her betrayal. To her surprise, Darren dumps her and proposes to churchgoer Deborah; undaunted, Babysister comes on to Darren at the wedding, a ploy that may seem outrageous even for a player like Babysister. She stops scheming for a few moments while she provides readers with a little background: her mother died when she was four and she became her father's adored little princess, while her older brother, Malcolm, kept his distance. Babysister gleans some insight into her family, and her community, when she trades her position at the bank for a waitressing job, and gets to know Malcolm's ex-model girlfriend, Sharice, and her young son, Prophet. The entire cast inhabits an Afrocentric world, with references to Nation of Islam, traditional hair-styling rituals and contemporary, laid-back vernacular. The narrative coheres more energetically as Swindle veers away from the somewhat implausible love triangle and focuses more on Babysister's extended circle of family and friends. This is a slight story with mostly comic nuances and simple characters; readers won't be surprised to learn that Deborah spinelessly, though spiritually, forgives her best friend's betrayal, that Darren's a dog and that Babysister's impudence remains unchecked. First serial to Essence; Literary Guild selection; author tour; foreign rights sold to Germany and Japan. (July) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
The sophomoric intrigues of a young African-American bank teller-waitress-bookkeeper.
From the Publisher
"Move over, Bridget Jones. Watch your back, Terry McMillan. Babysister has got your number, and she won't be satisfied till she's broken every heart in town."
Mark Childress, author of Crazy in Alabama
"Whew!!! 'Please Please Please' give me more! A huge applause and thank you to Renée Swindle for a fun juicy ride with Babysister."
Rita Ewing, co-author of Homecourt Advantage
"This novel reads like a good piece of gossip, intense and dramatic....Highly entertaining."
Black Issues Book Review
"A lusty tale...Swindle is funny, perceptive...she makes Terry McMillan look tame."
"A revealing story about friendship, family and love."
"Renée Swindle's first novel succeeds wonderfully."
Jervey Tervalon, author of Understand This
"Don't miss this funny debut novel by a daring new writer."
Beyond the Cover
Read an Excerpt
Don't let anyone tell you any different, sometimes love isn't about nothing but a crooked tooth, the curl of an eyebrow, the hairs on a wrist, a gold chain, or one small mole. For me, it's boots. Have you ever seen a black man in boots? Well, there you go. So when Darren sort of leaned into me and said my name, and I turned around to see his six-foot-three-inch body pressed firmly into two perfectly polished black boots, I'm sorry, but I was gone. Later. Goodbye. Adiós.
It wasn't like I'd never been with a man who wore boots before. But the thing with most of them was, once they took off their boots, they became that much shorter, that much fatter. At least that's the way it went with Greg and John and Roger too. No boots, no magic. Just like that, and they were reduced to this person walking around looking entirely lost. I tried. Believe me, I tried: Listen, baby, why don't you put your boots on. You look so fine in your boots. But sooner or later we had to go to bed, and poof, the magic was gone.
But not with Darren. Boots or no boots, he couldn't get on my nerves if he tried. Darren was it. The first time the combination was right: fine and intelligent. I've been out with fine men before but usually after two weeks it's like, Oh, you don't have a brain. Now why didn't I notice that before? Or the guy will be intelligent but get him in bed and he only knows one position: You on the bottom, him on top. A drop of sweat dripping in your ear every ten seconds. And don't even get me started on the pseudointelligent pro-black types. "My sister, my sister. Mother Africa, I see you have bought into the white man's lie.You must understand that it would be a mistake for me to go down on you. I refuse to partake in the white man's nasty habits. I can't believe that you would disrespect your man by asking him to do something like that."
Men are a mess. A complete mess. There's a communication problem going on that they don't want to discuss. So while he's going at it, you're left thinking, Hello??!! It sure would be nice if you kissed me on the lips now and then. Or, Hello??!! There is a thinking, feeling human being underneath you.
See, you touch a man anywhere and you've got a direct line to his dick. With a woman, a kiss on the ear might send a charge to her breast, kiss her breast and she feels something in her heart, suck her nipple and a dampness swells between her legs.
Let me put it this way: Have you ever seen a piano getting tuned? I was in the high school auditorium once and there was a man there tuning the piano. He'd barely tap a note, then he'd listen. Tap a note. Listen. Tap a note. Carefully. Gently. You could hear that piano loosen up just as nice. And that's the way it was with Darren.
He'd lick my earlobe. "Do you like that?"
He'd hold the back of my neck in his hand and barely touch my breast. "Do you like that?"
He wouldn't touch any harder until he felt my hip rise or until I pulled his head closer. "Do you like that?"
I'd moan and scream and sigh and after two, sometimes three orgasms I would just stare at the man in some kind of soap opera awe. "I've been reading the Tao of Love and Sex," he'd say. And I'd say, "I have no idea what that is, but you just keep on reading it."
Prince Charming, Superman, Superfly, all in one. I'm a believer because I have been there. Darren would reach down with his finger and move my panties aside, and I would be wet every time. Every time.
So what if the first time we met I was working at the bank, and when he said my name he was only asking me if I could make sure my best friend got the flowers he was leaving for her.
"Babysister? You're Babysister, right?" He had on boots, jeans, and a soft white shirt that I would have loved to unbutton. He had thick black hair cut short and neat, deep brown eyes, and a warm generous smile that made you feel that you were the only woman on the entire planet.
"Well listen, would you do me a big favor and make sure Deborah gets these flowers? I sort of want them to be the first thing she sees when she gets here."
You are the finest, most drop-dead-gorgeous motherfucker I have seen in a long, very long time, and would you please prop me up on this counter, brush the pens aside, and do whatever it is you want to do?
But "Uh-huh" was all I said. "No problem."
Then he said, "Deborah said you were nice."
And I watched him jerk his keys, put on his sunglasses, push open the door with one elegant hand, and walk out.
When all that was left of him was the faint smell of Afro Sheen, I took a peek at the card.
Thank you for a marvelous dinner.
I thought again about how he said my name. Babysister, he said, and just like that, my name sounded as familiar as two dimes hitting the floor. Ting. Ting.
I always get what I want. My father spoiled me as a child because I lost my mother. She died when I was four. We had just been to the store and she was carrying a large bag of groceries. We were headed to our car, which was parked across the street in front of a Baskin-Robbins. My mother took my hand before she stepped off the curb. I remember she cried out "Oh" just as an orange car pushed into her side and made her body fold like the flap on an envelope. "Oh" was all she said. I remember the hood of the car was shaped like the mouth of a shark, a large silver tooth near each front tire. I remember she said at the stoplight, "Maybe we should treat ourselves to a couple of ice-cream cones."
I hit the ground too, but as soon as I started to stand up, some woman screamed, "Somebody take the baby! Take the baby! She shouldn't ought to see this!" A man picked me up and took me to the corner. "Are you all right?" He squeezed my arms to make sure my bones were straight.
You'd think it would be a complete tragedy to see your mother die, but sometimes it doesn't seem like I was there at all. The accident happened so long ago it's become more like a dream. I consider myself lucky that I was so young when it happened. I mean, even though my mother pushed me out of the crosswalk and died under a car, all I have left from the accident really is a dark-brown scar on my right knee shaped like a bow on a gift.
I am my father's baby girl. I have an older brother named Malcolm, but I'll be honest with you, he doesn't get nearly as much attention as I do. I get so much attention not only because Malcolm gets on everyone's nerves, but because I was there when my mother died. It seems to me like the day after the funeral I started getting whatever I wanted. I mean, I had so much shit. My yellow skateboard with red wheels, my Flip Wilson doll with Flip Wilson on one side and Geraldine on the other--pull the string and he'd say, The devil made me do it! My Betty Crocker You-Can-Bake! Oven that made chocolate cake--only with the help of Mom, but who cared because it tasted nasty anyway; my pink bicycle, my red wagon, my skates that looked like tennis shoes with wheels. Later I had Barbie dolls. Barbie dolls everywhere. Barbie town house, Barbie mobile home, Barbie Corvette, swimming pool, beauty salon, and horse. Black Barbies, white Barbies. I got a VW Bug for my sixteenth birthday and after I wrecked it, a used Toyota. After the Toyota broke down I got a Honda Civic. I went with the finest man in high school to the senior prom and was named homecoming queen. Remember tag and having to decide who was it? Stuff like one potato, two potato, and Johnny ate a booger and it tasted like sugar, you're it? Well, this might sound a bit strange, but I never had to be it. I made sure that I wouldn't have to be it even if it meant holding my breath until I might pass out.
All I'm trying to say is this: I don't remember a time when I didn't get what I wanted. And I wanted Darren like nobody's business.