Single Mom: A Novel [NOOK Book]

Overview

"I had become something else, some different kind of woman, and a different kind of human. What kind of a woman could not cry? I even tried to force myself to cry again, and could not do it. I shed not one tear."

After more than ten years of raising her two sons alone, Denise Stewart finds herself again involved with both of her sons' fathers as well as in a relationship ...
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Single Mom: A Novel

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Overview

"I had become something else, some different kind of woman, and a different kind of human. What kind of a woman could not cry? I even tried to force myself to cry again, and could not do it. I shed not one tear."

After more than ten years of raising her two sons alone, Denise Stewart finds herself again involved with both of her sons' fathers as well as in a relationship with a new man.

Jimmie, the father of her older child, suddenly wants a major role in his son's life. After being an absent father for thirteen years, he discovers his teenager is a top basketball prospect. That's when Jimmie decides to make some time to spend with his son.

Walter, the father of Denise's second son, is trying to gain custody of his twelve-year-old. After attending the Million Man March in Washington, Walter believes he should assume full responsibility for his son instead of just for two weekends out of each month.

And truck driver Dennis is failing in love with Denise, and is fond of her boys. Although he is uncertain whether he wants the burden of a ready-made family, he also feels insecure in an intimate relationship with a white-collar woman who earns more than he does.

All this as Denise runs her own thriving business, co-chairs a single mothers' organization with her best friend Camellia, and struggles to keep faith in her family. Suddenly, for this single mom, success takes on an all-new meaning in her increasingly complex life.

Omar Tyree offers a provocative look at the emotional lives of three black men as they grapple with their roles and changing views as fathers and lovers. And, at the center of this compelling novel, Tyree creates a single mother of striking character and independence.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Endearing earnestness and a promising setup can't save Tyree's latest (after A Do Right Man) from a terminal case of the blahs. After 10 years of raising Walter and Little Jay, her sons fathered out of wedlock by two different men, self-made businesswoman Denise Stewart finds herself increasingly, though platonically, involved with their fathers, each of whom has suddenly taken an interest in his offspring--just as Denise is embarking on a new, serious romance with a third man, a truck-driver named Brock. A more imaginative writer would have made comedy or light drama of the improbable premise, but Tyree plows ahead, straightfaced, through soporific domestic minutiae: endless Thanksgiving dinners, sports analyses, Christmas shopping sprees and discussions of the virtues of hardwood floors. The fathers (one a failed basketball player, now a laborer, the other an upwardly mobile banker who learns to value family over money) buckle under the heavy sociological weight Tyree asks them to carry. Although there's never any doubt that Denise will marry the goodhearted, doltish Brock, Tyree never quite explains why she wants to cast her lot with him. In one way or another, each of the figures is a mouthpiece for responsible fatherhood or the difficulties of single motherhood. At nearly 400 pages, the novel will wear out its welcome even with Tyree's many loyal fans. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Black and single, Denise Stewart escaped the ghetto of her childhood for the largely white suburbs of Chicago through determination, hard work, and education. Now, after being on her own for a decade and raising two sons fathered by different men, Denise falls in love with Brock, a truck driver who seems willing to make her sons a part of the life he and Denise will share. In addition, the fathers of her sons decide that they want to take more responsibility for their children. J.D., Jimmy's ex-con father, realizes that if he wants his talented son to get a college basketball scholarship, he has to make sure Jimmy avoids the mistakes he himself made as a teenager. After attending the Million Man March in Washington, wealthy Walter believes that Walter Jr. should live with him and his wife. Perhaps because he is writing about a major issue in the black community--the responsibility black men take for the lives of their children--this second novel from Tyree (Flyy Girl, LJ 9/15/96) reads mostly like an impassioned essay or sociology textbook. His message is loud and clear, but his didactic writing and one-dimensional characters doom this novel.--Nancy Pearl, Washington Ctr. for the Book, Seattle
Kirkus Reviews
Tyree (Flyy Girl, 1996; A Do Right Man, 1997) returns with a well-intentioned if schematic tale of black men finding love and redemption as they begin to share the parenting burdens borne for too long by single moms. The tale is told by four alternating narrators over a period that begins in July 1997 and ends about a year later. Thereþs single mom Denise; then Jimmie, father of her eldest son, teenager little Jay; Walter Perry, father of her other son, Walter; and, finally, Brock, the man who loves her. After introducing themselves, the narrators chronicle their reactions to the events that have linked them. Denise recalls her teenage romance with Jimmie, her affair with Walter, and her successful struggle to go to college and own a business. Jimmie recalls his failed basketball career and his association with a gang that landed him in jail. Walter Perry, the only son of rich but unloving parents, remembers how he avoided Denise and his son after the affair, concentrating instead on his career. And Brock, a divorced truck driver with style and a loving heart, wants a þgood womanþ in his life. As the story begins, all four are ready for a change: Jimmie wants to get to know his son; Denise is tired of trying to manage alone; Walter wants to be a better father than his own has been; and Brock, soon after meeting Denise, feels smitten. As the months pass, the fathers learn some of the rewards of fatherhood; Denise, still suspicious of their intentions, begins to appreciate the positive way in which her sons are responding to their presence; and Brock, liked by all, finally persuades Denise to marry him. There are no major events, just an accretion of hours spent inthe company of family and friends. An earnest plea for commitment with all the subtlety of a sermon from the bully pulpit.
From the Publisher
Lolita Files author of the bestselling Scenes from a Sister With Single Mom, Omar Tyree shows America that he truly has his finger on the pulse of society. His ability to delve into the issue of single parenting with such keen, dynamic insight is indicative of extraordinary talent. Single Mom is a must-read for everyone. This is a book for all those who understand and, most importantly, don't understand the plight of the single mother.

Ethel Johnson Upscale In Single Mom...[Tyree] offers a provocative look at the emotional lives of three African-American men as they struggle with their roles and changing views as fathers and lovers. Tyree is keeping it real.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781439128206
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 6/30/2008
  • Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 370,559
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

New York Times bestselling author Omar Tyree is the winner of the 2001 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work—Fiction, and the 2006 Phillis Wheatley Literary Award for Body of Work in Urban Fiction. He has published more than twenty books on African-American people and culture, including five New York Times bestselling novels. He is a popular national speaker, and a strong advocate of urban literacy. Born and raised in Philadelphia, he lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. Learn more at OmarTyree.com.
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Read an Excerpt

July 1997: Another Sunday

I don't know what the problem is with black men and church, but I have to fight every Sunday morning to get these two boys of mine dressed and ready to go. It's as if the Bible was only talking about Eve in Genesis, and there was no Adam. The funny thing is, the Muslim brothers don't seem to have that problem at all. You see hundreds of brothers attending Louis Farrakhan's mosque on the South Side.

"I can't find my socks!" Walter hollered from his room.

Every Sunday it was the same thing, either his socks, his tie, his suit jacket, or his dress pants were missing. I guess he thought he could actually get out of going to church by deliberately misplacing his things, but I had news for him.

I pulled out a pair of brand-new dress socks I bought just for the occasion. I had a few extra ties in my closet just in case he misplaced them, too. I was planning on buying a couple of extra suits for him and keeping them in my closet as well.

"Wear these," I told him, tossing the socks on his unmade bed.

Jimmy walked by and laughed. He was dressed and ready to go, with his hair brushed, and he was smelling like cologne. I turned and stared at him as he headed through the hallway toward the stairs.

"Ah, Jimmy, is something going on at church that I don't know about today?" I asked him.

Walter started to laugh. "He thinks this girl likes him," he said, dropping a dime.

Jimmy looked shocked for a minute, then he just shook his head and went on about his business. I immediately thought again about having that conversation concerning sex, responsibility, and condoms with him.

I really didn't want to bother Jimmy about it that morning, nor did I have the time, but I was curious. I walked down the stairs and into the kitchen where my giant of a son was having a quick glass of orange juice. He tried his best to avoid eye contact with me.

"So, ah, which girl is it?" I asked him. The boy was only fifteen, and I had been looking up to talk to him for three years already. I wasn't exactly short myself, especially with heels on.

Jimmy sighed and shook his head again. "Come on, Mom. He don't know what he's talkin' about. Why you listenin' to him?"

I thought about that question for a minute. "Well, first of all, I never remember you being so eager to go to church on Sunday. You got your hair greased and brushed this morning, you're all ready to go, and ah, is that some kind of cologne that you're wearing?" It was obvious that something was going on inside that teenage mind of his.

He set his glass on the counter and said, "I'm just trying to help you out, Mom. Since you want us to go to church every week, I figure I might as well stop fighting it."

I smiled, and that quickly turned into a laugh. "Is that right? You're trying to help me out? Well, I don't know if you know it or not, but the Lord don't ask for you to wear cologne," I told him.

"He don't ask for us to wear suits and ties either," Jimmy countered with his own smile.

He had a point, but I wasn't through with my interrogation yet, so I pressed him for answers. "So, you're telling me that you're absolutely sure there's no girl in this church who you would like to see today?"

His smile got even wider. "It's a lot of girls in there that I would like to see. But that don't mean nothin'. I'm going because you wanted us to go."

"So, in other words, if I said that we're going to a different church today, that wouldn't bother you at all? Is that what you're telling me? Because you're going to church for me, right?"

He hesitated and started to laugh. "But why would you want to go to a different church? All of your friends go to this one."

I grinned. The boy must have thought that I was born yesterday. "Mmm hmm, that's just what I thought," I told him. It was definitely time for our talk. I stepped close to my giant son and asked, "Jimmy, have you, ah, done the do with any girls yet?"

Walter must have snuck up on us and heard my question, because the boy laughed so hard I thought he would break his rib cage.

"What is your problem?" I turned and asked him. He was plenty immature to want to get in trouble in the streets. It was a godsend to have Walter out in the suburbs! The West Side of Chicago would have chewed him up and spit him back out.

"Nothin'," he answered.

I decided I would talk to Jimmy again later on that evening, while Walter was over his father's house. I had agreed that his father could pick him up after church and drop him off at summer camp that Monday. I had Walter pack two extra sets of clothes and underwear with him to take to church.

When we arrived at church that morning, back on Chicago's far West Side on Augusta Boulevard, I watched to see who was watching my oldest son. It looked like every girl over twelve and under nineteen was eying Jimmy, and my mind was not playing tricks on me.

Walter noticed it himself and got to laughing again. I was getting tired of his silliness, so I quickly grabbed his left arm and pinched him through his suit jacket.

"Cut it out."

"Oww, Mom!"

Jimmy looked at his younger brother and grimaced. "Sound like a little girl," he commented.

"What?" Walter protested loudly.

I stopped walking down the aisle and grabbed both of them right there and whispered to them very sternly, "Look, I don't need this from either of you. Okay?"

Jimmy started to smile, but Walter was still pissed at being called a girl. I couldn't argue with it myself. I was used to seeing much more physical and tough-minded boys, but that's not the kind of thing a mother could tell her son. I just hoped that he would pass through his many developmental stages and turn out all right. One thing was for sure, Walter would not last one minute in Chicago. I was almost certain of that. I sheltered him as much as I could and he didn't have the street smarts that most city kids have. Jimmy, on the other hand, knew how to conduct himself in the streets, and since the skill of playing basketball was so well respected in Chicago, so was he.

We sat in our usual seats on the left side of church, next to Camellia, Monica, and Levonne. I wondered if Jimmy ever thought of Monica as a girlfriend. She was only a year older than him, and most young guys considered her attractive. She was already wearing the fancy hats and matching gloves to church, and getting the extra attention that it afforded her. However, I realized that Monica and Jimmy were too close to being cousins to seriously think about dating each other.

Anyway, Jimmy sat down right next to Monica, and they immediately started acting giddy and secretive. I didn't hear a word Reverend Gray said that morning. He was usually pretty loud, but I was busy eavesdropping on Monica and my son.

I was planning to ask Camellia all the details about the chat she had with her daughter. Usually, I stayed out of their business, but after I saw how Jimmy and Monica were carrying on, I was dying to know what they thought they knew. Fortunately, we attended the early, shorter service. Otherwise, we could have been in church for three hours or more.

"You know, you two were really carrying on today," I told them after church.

"Mmm hmm, and the church ain't the place for gossiping," Camellia grunted with a frown.

I gave her a look. She knew better than that. It was more gossiping going on in church than at your average high school. The bigger the church, the more the gossip. But that would never stop us from going.

When we walked out, Walter's father was double parked out in front, and on time as usual.

"What do you think about his wife?" Camellia whispered to me.

I gave the tall, thin sister a nod while she sat in the passenger's side of Walter's silver Lincoln. The car was too big for the man if you asked me, but it was perfect for a Napoleon complex. "I have nothing against her," I answered Camellia. I couldn't lie to myself and say that I wasn't at all jealous of her, because I was. Nevertheless, my jealousy had more to do with the fact that she was married than anything regarding Junior. She would have her hands full with him. I didn't envy that liaison at all.

Then my son started with his usual pouting. "I hate going over his house," he mumbled with his overnight bag in hand. "It's always boring over there."

"Yeah, well, that's just what you need, some quiet time to calm your behind down and think," I told him. "Now give me back my car keys."

"How was church?" his father asked me as he walked over. He and his wife were dressed for church, too. I never bothered to ask, but they probably went to some white Catholic church on the North Side that let out after only an hour of service.

"It was fine," I told him. I'm not saying that it was right, but I rarely had many words for the man. I just didn't know what to say to him half the time.

He spoke to Camellia, her two kids, and then to Jimmy.

"How's basketball coming, Jimmy? I know you can dunk by now, right?"

Jimmy nodded to him and smiled. "Yeah, I can dunk."

Too bad you can't, I was too mature to comment to Walter. I did think it though, and that was bad enough. At only five foot nine, he was easily the shortest brother I ever dated. Everything about him was unusual for me. I had always been attracted to tall, rugged men. Walter Perry Jr. was short, well-groomed, and extremely pretentious. I hated to think it, but his son was following right in his footsteps, no matter how hard he tried to rebel. Maybe Walter III knew that better than anyone, which made his rebelliousness more meaningful to him.

"I'll see you tomorrow, Mom," he said to me as he climbed into the backseat of his father's car. It was his little joke to always let his father know that he would be coming back to me.

I smiled at my son and watched the silver Lincoln as it pulled off, heading east on Augusta.

"You're thinking about the custody thing, aren't you?" Camellia asked me. She knew me too damn well.

I nodded to her and said, "Yeah. I'm just wondering how he would turn out."

"Probably just like his father," Jimmy said with a chuckle. "He already act like him now. Look like him, too."

"Yup. He does," Camellia's son Levonne agreed.

Camellia said, "Yeah, and you don't act or look anything like your father, Jimmy. The only thing you got from him is his height," she responded to my son.

I said, "His father played basketball, too. He almost made it to the state championship during our senior year," I told Camellia. I don't believe I ever mentioned it to her before. It wasn't one of my priorities.

Camellia gave me a devilish grin. "Don't tell me you're reminiscing."

I shook my head and said, "Not hardly." Then I looked to my son. "No offense, Jimmy, but I loved your father a lonnng time ago. It almost seems like another lifetime."

Camellia laughed and rumbled all over. "Erykah Badu," she responded. "That's my girl!"

"Mmm hmm," Monica hummed with an eager nod. "I like her songs, too."

Levonne was ready to go home. He hadn't said much all day. He was thirteen and a frail boy who had been suffering from sickle-cell anemia, so I guess I was always concerned about his health.

"Are you all right, Levonne?" I asked him.

He nodded and said, "Yeah, I'm just tired."

"That's because he was up late last night, watching videos," Camellia snapped. "He knew he had to go to church in the morning. He'll know next time."

Levonne didn't want to go to church in the first place, just like my sons and millions of other sons around the country. Church was no thing to his sister Monica, though. In fact, I think she enjoyed churchgoing more than Camellia and I did.

I thought about Jimmy and Monica growing up so fast. I looked to Camellia and I said, "I'll definitely be calling you tonight, because we have to talk. You know what I mean?"

She looked at her daughter and my son and nodded. "I know exactly what you mean."

Jimmy looked away, embarrassed.

Monica said, "What did I do now?"

Her mother answered, "Whatever you did or ever do, I'm gonna find out."

Monica sighed, shook her head, and walked off.

"And I'm not joking about that either," Camellia said behind her.

I said my good-byes and started walking in the opposite direction, toward my Honda. I couldn't wait to get one-on-one with Jimmy. He sat inside the car and looked out the passenger-side window. Before I even started the engine, I asked him, "Do you have anything to tell me, son? I want you to know that I love you very much."

I didn't want to be too hard on him, I only wanted to know if he needed to begin protecting himself.

He sunk his face into his hands and began to shake his head. "What do you want me to tell you, Mom?"

"I want you to tell me if you've been doing something."

He shook his head inside of his hands again. "Not yet."

"Not yet?" It was the wrong answer! "Look at me when you talk to me, Jimmy. Now you're about to start high school this year, and you need to stop dropping your head so much. You're too damn tall for that! If it's one thing I hate it's big, tall basketball players hanging their heads low and not knowing how to talk to people."

I couldn't help it. I was beginning to get hyper. But I knew that Jimmy could take it. It wasn't right, but I had been very hard on him before I learned how to be a more sensitive mother.

Jimmy's response to my yelling at him as a child was probably why he acted so reserved half the time. He just wasn't going to let anything get to him. I read a book before called Cool Pose that talked about the reserved behavior of young black men, and Jimmy fit the book to a tee.

He raised his head and looked into my face. He had such a delicate face to be so damn tall. And he looked just like my father, chocolate brown and extra handsome. "I mean, I'm not gay, Mom, so of course I'm gonna start being attracted to girls. What do you want me to do?"

I started up my engine and said, "First of all, I want you to respect the rights of women. And just because you think that you're ready to begin having sex, that doesn't mean that you have the right to force yourself on anyone."

"Mom, I wouldn't — "

"I'm not finished yet," I said, cutting him off. "I want you to protect yourself from these little hot girls out here, running around with no common sense, getting diseases and pregnant and everything else. And I want you to be honest with yourself about whether you really like a girl, or whether you just want to sleep with her because she likes you. I'm not gonna stand for that! You hear me? If you don't like her, then just be friends with her or leave her alone completely.

"That's why so many of these basketball and football players are having so many problems with these women out here now. They think they can just sleep with anybody who says they like them and do whatever they want to with them," I ranted. I was really going overboard. After I gave my oldest son another look, I could see that I was scaring him to death, and that he would probably not tell me anything again in his life. I needed to calm myself down, get a grip, and even apologize for blowing up at him if I needed to. I just didn't go about things the right way.

Jimmy shut his mouth and began to stare out the window again.

After a few long minutes of silence, I decided to pull over and apologize.

I touched my son's left arm, slid my hand down to his, and squeezed it as tightly as I could. "Jimmy, I am so sorry for that, honey. I didn't mean to go off on you like that, it's just that...a lot of things have been on my mind lately, and this conversation just really caught me off guard, so I didn't get a chance to prepare myself for it and control my emotions a little better.

"Actually, we really should have had this talk a long time ago, but it's my fault because I wasn't even thinking about it," I told him. I smiled and said, "I guess that, since you spend so much time playing basketball, I forgot all about the social aspect of your life. Of course, girls would start noticing you. You're handsome with your height. A lot of tall guys are goofy and uncoordinated at your age."

Jimmy immediately lightened up with a smile that turned into an easy laugh. It wasn't fair, but his personality allowed me to get away with a lot more than I should have been able to. That same easygoing nature of his could make a girl believe that he liked her more than he really did. Jimmy was most likely going to be a Chicago "playa" whether I liked it or not. And if I pushed him too hard, he would only learn to ignore me. Even so, I planned to do all that I could to stir him away from using women as scoring boards and as trophies.

"Baby, I just ask you to do me one favor, okay? When you start to go out and date and all, I just want to meet the girl," I said to him. "And I promise not to blow up again. Can we agree on that?"

Jimmy hesitated. "I mean, what are you gonna say to her?"

"Just regular talk. You know, 'How do you do,' 'I like your shoes,' that kind of thing."

He started to laugh again. "What if you don't like her shoes?"

I shook my head and smiled. "That was just an example. Maybe I might like her hairstyle instead," I told him. "Or maybe she may play basketball, or run track, or something, and I can ask her about that. You know, just normal stuff."

He thought about it.

Then I said, "The bottom line is that you really shouldn't go out with a girl who you're going to be afraid to bring home to your mother. That should be one of your rules of selection. And that includes white girls, too," I added with a look.

Jimmy shook his head. "Nah, it won't be no white girls coming home with me."

"Well, you know there's gonna be plenty of them at this high school you're going to in September."

"Yeah, but that don't mean I have to talk to 'em."

"So it's a deal?" I asked him again.

He grinned and slowly nodded. "Yeah, it's a deal."

"And if I make you feel uncomfortable about it, then I want us to be able to talk about that, too. Okay?"

"Yeah, okay."

I leaned over and kissed my son on the cheek and said, "I love you," like a young girl in love. And I was in love, with both of my boys, and I wanted them to always do the right things.

Copyright © 1998 by Omar Tyree

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First Chapter

July 1997: Another Sunday I don't know what the problem is with black men and church, but I have to fight every Sunday morning to get these two boys of mine dressed and ready to go. It's as if the Bible was only talking about Eve in Genesis, and there was no Adam. The funny thing is, the Muslim brothers don't seem to have that problem at all. You see hundreds of brothers attending Louis Farrakhan's mosque on the South Side.

"I can't find my socks!" Walter hollered from his room.

Every Sunday it was the same thing, either his socks, his tie, his suit jacket, or his dress pants were missing. I guess he thought he could actually get out of going to church by deliberately misplacing his things, but I had news for him.

I pulled out a pair of brand-new dress socks I bought just for the occasion. I had a few extra ties in my closet just in case he misplaced them, too. I was planning on buying a couple of extra suits for him and keeping them in my closet as well.

"Wear these," I told him, tossing the socks on his unmade bed.

Jimmy walked by and laughed. He was dressed and ready to go, with his hair brushed, and he was smelling like cologne. I turned and stared at him as he headed through the hallway toward the stairs.

"Ah, Jimmy, is something going on at church that I don't know about today?" I asked him.

Walter started to laugh. "He thinks this girl likes him," he said, dropping a dime.

Jimmy looked shocked for a minute, then he just shook his head and went on about his business. I immediately thought again about having that conversation concerning sex, responsibility, and condoms with him.

I really didn't want to bother Jimmy about it that morning, nor did I have the time, but I was curious. I walked down the stairs and into the kitchen where my giant of a son was having a quick glass of orange juice. He tried his best to avoid eye contact with me.

"So, ah, which girl is it?" I asked him. The boy was only fifteen, and I had been looking up to talk to him for three years already. I wasn't exactly short myself, especially with heels on.

Jimmy sighed and shook his head again. "Come on, Mom. He don't know what he's talkin' about. Why you listenin' to him?"

I thought about that question for a minute. "Well, first of all, I never remember you being so eager to go to church on Sunday. You got your hair greased and brushed this morning, you're all ready to go, and ah, is that some kind of cologne that you're wearing?" It was obvious that something was going on inside that teenage mind of his.

He set his glass on the counter and said, "I'm just trying to help you out, Mom. Since you want us to go to church every week, I figure I might as well stop fighting it."

I smiled, and that quickly turned into a laugh. "Is that right? You're trying to help me out? Well, I don't know if you know it or not, but the Lord don't ask for you to wear cologne," I told him.

"He don't ask for us to wear suits and ties either," Jimmy countered with his own smile.

He had a point, but I wasn't through with my interrogation yet, so I pressed him for answers. "So, you're telling me that you're absolutely sure there's no girl in this church who you would like to see today?"

His smile got even wider. "It's a lot of girls in there that I would like to see. But that don't mean nothin'. I'm going because you wanted us to go."

"So, in other words, if I said that we're going to a different church today, that wouldn't bother you at all? Is that what you're telling me? Because you're going to church for me, right?"

He hesitated and started to laugh. "But why would you want to go to a different church? All of your friends go to this one."

I grinned. The boy must have thought that I was born yesterday. "Mmm hmm, that's just what I thought," I told him. It was definitely time for our talk. I stepped close to my giant son and asked, "Jimmy, have you, ah, done the do with any girls yet?"

Walter must have snuck up on us and heard my question, because the boy laughed so hard I thought he would break his rib cage.

"What is your problem?" I turned and asked him. He was plenty immature to want to get in trouble in the streets. It was a godsend to have Walter out in the suburbs! The West Side of Chicago would have chewed him up and spit him back out.

"Nothin'," he answered.

I decided I would talk to Jimmy again later on that evening, while Walter was over his father's house. I had agreed that his father could pick him up after church and drop him off at summer camp that Monday. I had Walter pack two extra sets of clothes and underwear with him to take to church.

When we arrived at church that morning, back on Chicago's far West Side on Augusta Boulevard, I watched to see who was watching my oldest son. It looked like every girl over twelve and under nineteen was eying Jimmy, and my mind was not playing tricks on me.

Walter noticed it himself and got to laughing again. I was getting tired of his silliness, so I quickly grabbed his left arm and pinched him through his suit jacket.

"Cut it out."

"Oww, Mom!"

Jimmy looked at his younger brother and grimaced. "Sound like a little girl," he commented.

"What?" Walter protested loudly.

I stopped walking down the aisle and grabbed both of them right there and whispered to them very sternly, "Look, I don't need this from either of you. Okay?"

Jimmy started to smile, but Walter was still pissed at being called a girl. I couldn't argue with it myself. I was used to seeing much more physical and tough-minded boys, but that's not the kind of thing a mother could tell her son. I just hoped that he would pass through his many developmental stages and turn out all right. One thing was for sure, Walter would not last one minute in Chicago. I was almost certain of that. I sheltered him as much as I could and he didn't have the street smarts that most city kids have. Jimmy, on the other hand, knew how to conduct himself in the streets, and since the skill of playing basketball was so well respected in Chicago, so was he.

We sat in our usual seats on the left side of church, next to Camellia, Monica, and Levonne. I wondered if Jimmy ever thought of Monica as a girlfriend. She was only a year older than him, and most young guys considered her attractive. She was already wearing the fancy hats and matching gloves to church, and getting the extra attention that it afforded her. However, I realized that Monica and Jimmy were too close to being cousins to seriously think about dating each other.

Anyway, Jimmy sat down right next to Monica, and they immediately started acting giddy and secretive. I didn't hear a word Reverend Gray said that morning. He was usually pretty loud, but I was busy eavesdropping on Monica and my son.

I was planning to ask Camellia all the details about the chat she had with her daughter. Usually, I stayed out of their business, but after I saw how Jimmy and Monica were carrying on, I was dying to know what they thought they knew. Fortunately, we attended the early, shorter service. Otherwise, we could have been in church for three hours or more.

"You know, you two were really carrying on today," I told them after church.

"Mmm hmm, and the church ain't the place for gossiping," Camellia grunted with a frown.

I gave her a look. She knew better than that. It was more gossiping going on in church than at your average high school. The bigger the church, the more the gossip. But that would never stop us from going.

When we walked out, Walter's father was double parked out in front, and on time as usual.

"What do you think about his wife?" Camellia whispered to me.

I gave the tall, thin sister a nod while she sat in the passenger's side of Walter's silver Lincoln. The car was too big for the man if you asked me, but it was perfect for a Napoleon complex. "I have nothing against her," I answered Camellia. I couldn't lie to myself and say that I wasn't at all jealous of her, because I was. Nevertheless, my jealousy had more to do with the fact that she was married than anything regarding Junior. She would have her hands full with him. I didn't envy that liaison at all.

Then my son started with his usual pouting. "I hate going over his house," he mumbled with his overnight bag in hand. "It's always boring over there."

"Yeah, well, that's just what you need, some quiet time to calm your behind down and think," I told him. "Now give me back my car keys."

"How was church?" his father asked me as he walked over. He and his wife were dressed for church, too. I never bothered to ask, but they probably went to some white Catholic church on the North Side that let out after only an hour of service.

"It was fine," I told him. I'm not saying that it was right, but I rarely had many words for the man. I just didn't know what to say to him half the time.

He spoke to Camellia, her two kids, and then to Jimmy.

"How's basketball coming, Jimmy? I know you can dunk by now, right?"

Jimmy nodded to him and smiled. "Yeah, I can dunk."

Too bad you can't, I was too mature to comment to Walter. I did think it though, and that was bad enough. At only five foot nine, he was easily the shortest brother I ever dated. Everything about him was unusual for me. I had always been attracted to tall, rugged men. Walter Perry Jr. was short, well-groomed, and extremely pretentious. I hated to think it, but his son was following right in his footsteps, no matter how hard he tried to rebel. Maybe Walter III knew that better than anyone, which made his rebelliousness more meaningful to him.

"I'll see you tomorrow, Mom," he said to me as he climbed into the backseat of his father's car. It was his little joke to always let his father know that he would be coming back to me.

I smiled at my son and watched the silver Lincoln as it pulled off, heading east on Augusta.

"You're thinking about the custody thing, aren't you?" Camellia asked me. She knew me too damn well.

I nodded to her and said, "Yeah. I'm just wondering how he would turn out."

"Probably just like his father," Jimmy said with a chuckle. "He already act like him now. Look like him, too."

"Yup. He does," Camellia's son Levonne agreed.

Camellia said, "Yeah, and you don't act or look anything like your father, Jimmy. The only thing you got from him is his height," she responded to my son.

I said, "His father played basketball, too. He almost made it to the state championship during our senior year," I told Camellia. I don't believe I ever mentioned it to her before. It wasn't one of my priorities.

Camellia gave me a devilish grin. "Don't tell me you're reminiscing."

I shook my head and said, "Not hardly." Then I looked to my son. "No offense, Jimmy, but I loved your father a lonnng time ago. It almost seems like another lifetime."

Camellia laughed and rumbled all over. "Erykah Badu," she responded. "That's my girl!"

"Mmm hmm," Monica hummed with an eager nod. "I like her songs, too."

Levonne was ready to go home. He hadn't said much all day. He was thirteen and a frail boy who had been suffering from sickle-cell anemia, so I guess I was always concerned about his health.

"Are you all right, Levonne?" I asked him.

He nodded and said, "Yeah, I'm just tired."

"That's because he was up late last night, watching videos," Camellia snapped. "He knew he had to go to church in the morning. He'll know next time."

Levonne didn't want to go to church in the first place, just like my sons and millions of other sons around the country. Church was no thing to his sister Monica, though. In fact, I think she enjoyed churchgoing more than Camellia and I did.

I thought about Jimmy and Monica growing up so fast. I looked to Camellia and I said, "I'll definitely be calling you tonight, because we have to talk. You know what I mean?"

She looked at her daughter and my son and nodded. "I know exactly what you mean."

Jimmy looked away, embarrassed.

Monica said, "What did I do now?"

Her mother answered, "Whatever you did or ever do, I'm gonna find out."

Monica sighed, shook her head, and walked off.

"And I'm not joking about that either," Camellia said behind her.

I said my good-byes and started walking in the opposite direction, toward my Honda. I couldn't wait to get one-on-one with Jimmy. He sat inside the car and looked out the passenger-side window. Before I even started the engine, I asked him, "Do you have anything to tell me, son? I want you to know that I love you very much."

I didn't want to be too hard on him, I only wanted to know if he needed to begin protecting himself.

He sunk his face into his hands and began to shake his head. "What do you want me to tell you, Mom?"

"I want you to tell me if you've been doing something."

He shook his head inside of his hands again. "Not yet."

"Not yet?" It was the wrong answer! "Look at me when you talk to me, Jimmy. Now you're about to start high school this year, and you need to stop dropping your head so much. You're too damn tall for that! If it's one thing I hate it's big, tall basketball players hanging their heads low and not knowing how to talk to people."

I couldn't help it. I was beginning to get hyper. But I knew that Jimmy could take it. It wasn't right, but I had been very hard on him before I learned how to be a more sensitive mother.

Jimmy's response to my yelling at him as a child was probably why he acted so reserved half the time. He just wasn't going to let anything get to him. I read a book before called Cool Pose that talked about the reserved behavior of young black men, and Jimmy fit the book to a tee.

He raised his head and looked into my face. He had such a delicate face to be so damn tall. And he looked just like my father, chocolate brown and extra handsome. "I mean, I'm not gay, Mom, so of course I'm gonna start being attracted to girls. What do you want me to do?"

I started up my engine and said, "First of all, I want you to respect the rights of women. And just because you think that you're ready to begin having sex, that doesn't mean that you have the right to force yourself on anyone."

"Mom, I wouldn't -- "

"I'm not finished yet," I said, cutting him off. "I want you to protect yourself from these little hot girls out here, running around with no common sense, getting diseases and pregnant and everything else. And I want you to be honest with yourself about whether you really like a girl, or whether you just want to sleep with her because she likes you. I'm not gonna stand for that! You hear me? If you don't like her, then just be friends with her or leave her alone completely.

"That's why so many of these basketball and football players are having so many problems with these women out here now. They think they can just sleep with anybody who says they like them and do whatever they want to with them," I ranted. I was really going overboard. After I gave my oldest son another look, I could see that I was scaring him to death, and that he would probably not tell me anything again in his life. I needed to calm myself down, get a grip, and even apologize for blowing up at him if I needed to. I just didn't go about things the right way.

Jimmy shut his mouth and began to stare out the window again.

After a few long minutes of silence, I decided to pull over and apologize.

I touched my son's left arm, slid my hand down to his, and squeezed it as tightly as I could. "Jimmy, I am so sorry for that, honey. I didn't mean to go off on you like that, it's just that...a lot of things have been on my mind lately, and this conversation just really caught me off guard, so I didn't get a chance to prepare myself for it and control my emotions a little better.

"Actually, we really should have had this talk a long time ago, but it's my fault because I wasn't even thinking about it," I told him. I smiled and said, "I guess that, since you spend so much time playing basketball, I forgot all about the social aspect of your life. Of course, girls would start noticing you. You're handsome with your height. A lot of tall guys are goofy and uncoordinated at your age."

Jimmy immediately lightened up with a smile that turned into an easy laugh. It wasn't fair, but his personality allowed me to get away with a lot more than I should have been able to. That same easygoing nature of his could make a girl believe that he liked her more than he really did. Jimmy was most likely going to be a Chicago "playa" whether I liked it or not. And if I pushed him too hard, he would only learn to ignore me. Even so, I planned to do all that I could to stir him away from using women as scoring boards and as trophies.

"Baby, I just ask you to do me one favor, okay? When you start to go out and date and all, I just want to meet the girl," I said to him. "And I promise not to blow up again. Can we agree on that?"

Jimmy hesitated. "I mean, what are you gonna say to her?"

"Just regular talk. You know, 'How do you do,' 'I like your shoes,' that kind of thing."

He started to laugh again. "What if you don't like her shoes?"

I shook my head and smiled. "That was just an example. Maybe I might like her hairstyle instead," I told him. "Or maybe she may play basketball, or run track, or something, and I can ask her about that. You know, just normal stuff."

He thought about it.

Then I said, "The bottom line is that you really shouldn't go out with a girl who you're going to be afraid to bring home to your mother. That should be one of your rules of selection. And that includes white girls, too," I added with a look.

Jimmy shook his head. "Nah, it won't be no white girls coming home with me."

"Well, you know there's gonna be plenty of them at this high school you're going to in September."

"Yeah, but that don't mean I have to talk to 'em."

"So it's a deal?" I asked him again.

He grinned and slowly nodded. "Yeah, it's a deal."

"And if I make you feel uncomfortable about it, then I want us to be able to talk about that, too. Okay?"

"Yeah, okay."

I leaned over and kissed my son on the cheek and said, "I love you," like a young girl in love. And I was in love, with both of my boys, and I wanted them to always do the right things.

Copyright © 1998 by Omar Tyree

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Customer Reviews

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 31 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 29, 2007

    Single Mom: A Novel

    I loved this story. yes, there are strong black sisters holding down the household. Yes, it is extremely difficult but it can be done. What I loved most about this story was how the children was always the first thought. No matter what situation you find yourself facing, your children should always come first. And everything else will follow believe that. Stay strong.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 25, 2013

    I enjoyed it. I got a little tired of Denise's ''He loves me , H

    I enjoyed it. I got a little tired of Denise's ''He loves me , He loves me not, but it was a good love story. Loved the character Brock. He gave a good sense of hope for a black man loving a black women and being what I call a good black man.

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  • Posted March 22, 2013

    It took me 6 months to read this book. I usually enjoy Omar Tyre

    It took me 6 months to read this book. I usually enjoy Omar Tyree books but this one whew, usually it only takes me a week or two to read if the book is slow.I read about 6 or 7 books in between reading this. there was nothing in the story line that made me want to turn the page, so finally I skipped through and read the end.

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  • Posted May 15, 2012

    nice book!

    this book was on point! it has great realities in life as we know it. first time read by this author and will try more...definitely a keeper.

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  • Posted October 10, 2011

    nice read.

    This is nice read, not up to par with Omar's other books. It was great that it showed realistic situations of a single mother dealing with her past and her future. But fell short in digging deeper with the many characters introduced. It would go chapters on one character and barely touch on the others. It seem as if it was rush to get to the end results which also felt empty. everthing was wrapped into a nice bow without really explaining or going into much detail as to how the characters got there.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2007

    Single Mom: A Novel

    I loved this story. If you didn't know any better you would believed that this story was true. Yes, there are strong black sisters holding down the household. Yes, it is extremely hard, but it can be done. What I loved most about this book was how the children was always the first thought. No matter what situation you find yourself facing, your children have to come first. And when this happens everything else will fall into place. Believe that, and stay STRONG.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2005

    I'm A Single Momma's Child

    I really like this book, because my mom raised me and my sister on her own until she passed away. So, my father was in jail at the time and my sisters father was to. But, when my daddy got out of jail he tried to get custody of me but he couldn't. But, now he's back in jail and my sisters father is still in jail and I really depend on single momma's and they are so great to their children. They try to do so much for their children and try to do the best they can but it just want work all the time. But, I'm praying my hardest to keep on letting them try their best to do what they can.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2004

    TIGHT!!!!

    IT WAS JUST LIKE A REAL LIFE SITUATION!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 25, 2003

    BEAUTIFULLY DESCRIBED

    MR. TYREE ENHANCED MY WRITING SKILSS. OMAR TYREE IS AN EXCELLENT AUTHOR. HE INFLUENCED ME TO WRITE MY OWN NOVEL.IT IS ASTONISHING TO SEE HOW HE CAN RELATE HIS NOVELS TO REAL LIFE PROBLEMS.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 14, 2003

    A GREAT READ!!!!!

    This was a very realistic book. It shows the struggles single moms go through raising kids with 2 baby daddies. It shows that women can be strong single moms. I loved the end because Denise got what she wanted a good man, and both of her baby daddies took responsibility for their kids.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2003

    PROVOCATIVE

    This was the first book I read by Omar, and I found it to be exciting, inspirational, and very surreal. This book is so very personal and the story line is so concrete. It's a process in which an African American woman rises far an above in order to succeed as a woman, mother, student, mentor, lover, and a friend while raising two sons, and dealing with two different men with their own issues as well as not fully involving themselves in their son's lives.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2003

    Single Mom: A Novel

    This book was about a strong black woman who knew that she could make it throuhg life, even though she was going throuhg tests and trials.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2003

    Single Mom: A Novel

    This book was about a strong black woman who srtuggled through life a little, but knew that she could make it through.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2002

    Dead On

    As with all books by him, it is a slow start but once you past the first few chapters you can't put it down. This book gives you all three sides to a story; her side, his side and the truth. Even people that are not single parents can get a real sense of some of the hardships single parents go through. Also for all those single parents who feel that they will forever have to struggle, this book will give you hope.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2001

    GOT TO READ!! AWESOME LITERATURE!!!

    The book was very realistic. The book brings valuable point on single parents raising their children. It really describes the way things are today in the 2001 with 2 baby daddies! The ending is also great because both dad's handle their responsibilities and moved on with their life. And Denise got what she deserved a GOOD MAN!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 8, 1999

    WELL DONE!!

    Tyree provides an informative balance between the stuggles and triumphs of single moms, and the plight of wayward fathers.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2001

    Undecided

    I think this book was very realistic. Almost any parent would be able to relate to this title. What I believe was so realistic about it was the fact that Denise had two chidren by two diffrent fathers and Tyree wasnt afraid to say so. (Most authors aren't as raw.) Then she got caught up betwwen the two men and was involved with and another man also. A women caught up between three men? What a read! EXCELLENT book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 15, 2001

    Undecided

    I think that this book was sort of deep. It isn't for the beginner readers though. It hit home with a lot of things and told about the situaions in a very clear manner. A lot of the things that happened are very realistic and happen to many.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2000

    I am scared to read another Omar Tyree book!!!!

    I was truly dissappointed with Single Mom. I am gonna give Sweet St. Louis a try but I am very skeptical. The book just wasn't good. If anyone agrees with me about single mom, please let me know.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 18, 2000

    I think Men should read this also!!!!To Get A BETTER understanding!!!!

    This book was great and I also have two children with two different men. Only difference is that I have girls. But Omar made me realize that my feelings about my own situation were not uncommon. I have a Walter in my life, he is also married and has a baby son and every day I have to pray to God to give me strength to deal with this man's nonsense.

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