Coffee Will Make You Black

Coffee Will Make You Black

by April Sinclair


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I still thought breasts might be more trouble than they were worth. Growing up reminded me a little bit of Hide and Go Seek. When it was your time to grow up, Natrue said, "Here I come, ready or not." And Nature could always find you.

Author Biography: April Sinclair is the author of Coffee Will Make You Black and Ain't Gonna Be the Same Fool Twice. She has been a fellow at the Djerassi, Yaddo, MacDowell, and Ragdale artist colonies. Coffee Will Make You Black was named Book of the Year (Young Adult Fiction) for 1994 by the American Library Association. Sinclair also received the Carl Sandburg Award from the Friends of the Chicago Public Library for Coffee Will Make You Black. She is a Chicago native and now lives in Berkeley, California.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780785757214
Publisher: Turtleback Books: A Division of Sanval
Publication date: 02/28/1995
Pages: 239
Product dimensions: 5.36(w) x 8.12(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

April Sinclair is the acclaimed, award-winning author of three novels. Her debut, Coffee Will Make You Black, was named Book of the Year (Young Adult Fiction) for 1994 by the American Library Association, and it received the Carl Sandburg Award from the Friends of the Chicago Public Library. The sequel to Coffee Will Make You Black, titled Ain’t Gonna Be the Same Fool Twice, was published in 1995 followed by the novel I Left My Back Door Open. Sinclair has been a fellow at the Djerassi, Yaddo, MacDowell, and Ragdale artist colonies. She worked for fifteen years in community service programs, and has taught reading and creative writing to inner-city youth. Born and raised in Chicago, she currently lives on an island connected by bridges and a tunnel to Oakland, California.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

"Mama, are you a virgin?"

I was practicing the question in my head as I set the plates with the faded roosters down on the shiny yellow table. When Mama came back into the kitchen to stir the rice or turn the fish sticks or check on the greens, I would ask her.

This afternoon at school a boy named Michael had passed a note with "Stevie" written on it; inside it had asked if I was a virgin.

My name is Jean Stevenson but the kids at school all call me Stevie counta there's been this other Jean in my class since the first grade. Now I am eleven and a half and in the sixth grade.

So, anyhow, I was really surprised to get this note from a boy like Michael Dunn, who's tall with muscles and has gray eyes, curly hair, skin the color of taffy apples, and wears Converse All-Stars even though they cost $10 a pair.

I'm not saying I look like homemade sin or anything. It's just that I'm taller than most of the other girls in my class and half of the boys. Mama says I'm at that awkward age, and that soon I won't just be arms and legs; I'll need a bra and a girdle. I can't picture myself needing a bra, as flat-chested as I am now. And to tell you the truth, I'm not too hot on having my behind all hitched up in a girdle. I have to help Mama into hers on Sunday mornings, and I feel sorry for her, all squeezed in so tight you wonder how she can even breathe.

I stirred a pitcher of cherry-flavored Kool-Aid. I loved Daylight Saving Time; it was after six o'clock and still light outside. The sunshine pouring in through the ruffled curtains made the flowers on the wallpaper look alive.

I studied my reflection in the pitcher ofKool-Aid. It wasn't like I wasn't cute. I had dimples and my features seemed right for my face. My straightened hair was long enough to make a ponytail. My skin was the color of Cracker Jacks. But most negroes didn't get excited over folks who were darker than a paper bag.

"Jean, turn off the oven!" Mama shouted from her bedroom.


I stared out the kitchen window at the row of gray back porches and dirt backyards. We had been in the middle of Social Studies when I had gotten Michael's note. I had lifted the lid of my wooden desk and felt behind the bag of old, wet sucked-on sunflower-seed shells and pulled out my hardcover dictionary. I'd snuck a peek inside and looked up the word "virgin." I'd seen the words "pure" and "spotless" and "like the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus." I thought I was a good person for the most part. I didn't steal and I tried my best not to lie. I went to Sunday school, and when I stayed for church, I always put my dime in the collection plate. But I wasn't about to put myself up there with Jesus' mother. It seemed like Michael was asking me if I was a goody-two-shoes or something.

So I'd had no choice but to answer the note with the words "Not exactly" and pass it back to him. I wondered what Michael thought of my answer, I hadn't seen him after school. I hoped he would say something to me on Monday. I knew it wasn't my place as a girl to say anything to him. I would just have to wait and see what happened, I told myself.

Mama returned to the kitchen. She looked glad to be out of her girdle and work clothes. She was wearing her oldest print housedress, and the extra pounds showing around her waist didn't make her look fat, they just made her look like somebody's mother. Mama had tied a scarf around her hair so she wouldn't sweat it out, and she was wearing Daddy's old house slippers. It struck me how different Mama looked from June Cleaver or Donna Reed on TV, not just because of her pecan-colored skin but because they practically did their housework in pearls!

I turned facing Mama, and folded my arms across my chest. I watched her take the pan of fish sticks out of the oven and set them on a plate.

I cleared my throat. "Mama, are you a virgin?"

Mama lifted the top off the pot of collard greens and breathed in the steam. She glanced at me and turned off the gas. I could tell by the look on her face that she was trying to think up a good answer.

"Jean, where did you pick up that word, at church?" Mama asked, rearranging the pressing comb and the can of bacon grease on the stove.

I stared down at the yellowed gray linoleum.

"Well, no, not exactly ... at school."

"Mrs. Butler brought it up?"

I pulled on the tie of my sailor blouse and twisted it around my fingers.

"No, Mama, Mrs. Butler ain't brought it up, this boy asked me if I was a virgin."

I had the nerve to glance up at Mama. Her large dark eyes were arched up like she had seen a ghost.

"Don't say 'ain't'! Didn't I tell you to never say 'ain't'? I can run from 'ain't.' "

In my opinion, this was not time for an English lesson, so I just hunched my shoulders. "Mrs. Butler didn't bring it up, this boy asked me if I was a virgin." I repeated, correcting my English.

"Well, Jean Eloise, you should have told him he'll never get the chance to find out." Mama frowned as she stirred the rice. "Humph, you stay away from that boy; he's got his mind in the gutter." Mama pointed her finger in my face. "All men are dogs! Some are just more doggish than others. Do you hear me?"

"Mama, the dictionary said something about the word 'virgin' meaning pure and spotless, like the Virgin Mary. I don't understand why you say Michael's got his mind in the gutter then."

Cause he's a dog, that's why! I just got through telling you that.

I stuffed my hands into the pockets of my blue pedal pushers and looked Mama in the eye. "Mama, am I a virgin or not?"

"Lord, have mercy, I forgot about the cornbread!" Mama opened the oven door and took out the pan of cornbread. It looked fine.

Mama let out a big breath. Maybe it was hard having a daughter at an awkward age, I thought. "Jean, all unmarried girls should be virgins."

Mama, Michael knows I'm unmarried."

You haven't even started your period yet, of course you're a virgin."

I stared down at my brown penny loafers. "Mama, what happens when you start your period?"

Mama patted her cornbread. "I don't think you're ready for this kind of discussion."

"Mama, I'll be twelve in four months."

"Jean Eloise, I'll tell you everything I want you to know when the time comes. Now, call your daddy and the boys for dinner, the fish sticks are gettin cold."

I groaned as I left the kitchen. Boy, I could've gotten more out of Beaver Cleaver's mother...

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Coffee Will Make You Black 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 34 reviews.
fingerpost on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was really surprised that I (white male) enjoyed a book so much whose target audience was definitely black women. There is no one single plot that carries the book. It is more of a vignette of events and episodes, both cultural and personal about a young black teen girl growing up in Chicago in the mid 60s. Although told in third person, it very much had the feel of a first person narrator, and I couldn't help but empathize with her, and worry about her, and love her.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It started out crawling, didn't pick up speed but it was consistent in the story line. Actually, it was a decent read , but lacked the ability to hold my attention to the point of not being able to put the book down. Although it reminded me of my childhood days and growing up during the same era, it was easy to relate to and hearing some of the words my Mother use to tell me. All in all a fairly enjoyable read at a slow pace.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not as good as i had hoped afte reading other reviews
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book made me feel like I was in Stevie's shoes and made me remember my own childhood. Sinclair paints, to me, the perfect picture of growing up as a young girls, especially considering the time period of racism and segregation. I recommend this novel to any young girl who ishaving trouble growing up or entering into teenage years. Truly a great read -Ashley B.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Shai-Shai More than 1 year ago
when i first read this book.i just found myself interested on it and it felt like i dont wanna put it down unless im done reading it! Stevie is one of the nicest character i have ever read and the story was really perfectly original and the author has the intellectual power to make her readers more addictive!!Great job well done!
MikeTee More than 1 year ago
This is an excellent book. I bought it over ten years ago and I wanted to read it again. It is a part of my libuary. Thank you April.
Bookgirl50 More than 1 year ago
When I read "Coffee Will Make You Black," I felt very wonderful inside and emotional. It really was a wonderful book and I strongly recomend it. Once I read the first chapter, I coudn't stop reading!
na_moore More than 1 year ago
It starts off pretty funny and I cant really to relate to some of the things that Stevie was going thru. The ending was a little bit unexpected and unclear or maybe I just didnt want to believe what the author was implying.
Guest More than 1 year ago
the book was very good to me i had tears and some laughing but it was a very very nice book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is off the hook.The best book i ever read in a while. I gotta give April Sinclair her props, she did a good job on this book. I gotta get the 2nd one. A must read for girls!
Guest More than 1 year ago
i LOVED this book. i loved the main character and how she refused to be anythink but black despite what her mother said. i would recomend this book to anyone.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i'm currently 15 years old and my english teacher gave me this book to read along with my class! so far we all loved it and i just now finished the book! It's so real! everything stevie went through i did too! you gotta read this! i can't wait to read 'ain't gonna be the same fool twice!' READ THIS BOOK! it's great!
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book was very good from beggining to end i was hooked, i read it in less than a day,
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. It helped me ina sense become a repectable and socially active black woman. The times that young Stevie went through growing up into a young pre-menstral being was inspiring to me being a the baby and the only girl in the family. My only mistakeS in reading this book was reading kindos early with all the little sexuality and slight mature speach. If I had read it when I was maybe 16 I would understand it and appreciate it more. And two I should have bought it when I had the chance because now I cant find it any where... including barnes & noble!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I would diffently recommend this book to preteens going through puberty.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was so excited to find a book with a female author whose not complaining about how she has no man, a bad/good sex life, and kids. People want to read about people in their age range or about different topics and so far only Omar Tyree and April Sinclair have done that (although Eric Jerome Dickey is great too!) Anyway, this book was about a young girl growing up with streetwise intelligence, classbook intelligence, and a very curious mind. This book touched upon every question that girls usually have growing up--What's the first time like? What teachers do I like? Whose a cool friend? What's a period like? Etc. I plan to read all of her books now!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a very good book but after a while you are looking for more action and this book didn't have that. But after several dry spots in the book it overall turned out to be a good read. I am planning in reading the sequial as well.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Only one word to describe this book, it is funny and can totally be related to by anyone of any race. It is funny and at times intense. I read this in one sitting, I couldn't bring myself to put it down.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the first book I have read written by MS. Sinclair and I tell you it sure wont be the last. It felt like you could really imagine what Jean "Stevie" was going through from wanting to have sex and being funny. This was a great book it sure won't be the last by Sinclair.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a book i could relate to at that age. this book will make you laugh, and make you understand what young females feel and go through.As good as i thought this book is it ended with alot of questions.I've read this book 4 years ago but i still remember all of it. So dont sleep on this book because it's a keeper!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Great way of describing an inner city young adult. Her experiences are those of youth everywhere, I hope teens use the advice given in the book!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
this is a book that will get your mind right into the book and you will not stop reading it. Literally. i mean this is a book that interested me a lot. i am a white male that is very interested in other culture of authors and this is my favorite author of all time. 4 real you will like this book you should read.