I'm a book snob. I'm a Toni Morrison, Malcolm Gladwell, Manning Marable reading chick. But recently, I stepped out onto the wild side and read some "urban lit" courtesy of author Meesha Mink. The book is called Real Wifeys: Get Money, it's the second book in what will be a Real Wifeys trilogy. The first book was called Real Wifeys: On the Grind. Between the author's name, the book's title and the cover art, which features a black woman with red lips, a long weave and a knock-kneed pose in fishnet stockings -- you pretty much know what kind of story is inside without reading the back cover. But just for the heck of it, I'll tell you that book is about. The story follows Luscious Jordan on her quest to exact revenge upon friend-turned-foe Goldie, a fellow stripper from back in the day. Luscious lives with her man, a big-time rapper, in a fancy condo in New Jersey. As you might expect in a story about rappers and strippers, there's some sex and violence to be had in these pages.
Before I go into my thoughts on that particular book though, here are a couple reasons why I have not indulged in urban/street/whatever-you-want-to-call-it lit more often.
89 Million Grammatical Errors
I'm not saying that all street lit is filled with grammatical errors, but that is a common feature among some of the real street lit and by "real" I mean those self-published books that you can literally buy on the actual street. This is most likely due to a lack of money to hire an editor and well, that's just the end for me. Even well-known authors at huge publishing houses miss grammatical and spelling errors on occasion. It just happens sometimes. But if I can turn to any random page and spot an error, that's a problem. Plus it makes reading cumbersome when you aren't able to lose yourself in a story because the egregious grammatical errors keep snapping you back into reality.
Sex/Violence vs Solid Writing
As a born and bred Detroit girl, I can appreciate a good gritty story set in some hood strewn with abandoned houses and broken dreams, but graphic descriptions of sex and violence are no replacement for good writing. Pretty much anybody can write a "page-turner" that has juicy scenes in bedrooms and dark alleys on every other page, but a super predictable plot, one-dimensional characters and names that sound like they came from soap operas or pornos make those books ultimately boring. I don't want to feel like I lost brain cells after I read a book.
Why Real Wifeys: Get Money is Different (Sort of)
Now back to Meesha Mink's Real Wifeys: Get Money. What I love about Meesha is that on her website , she actually takes the time to address people who gripe about urban fiction. Among other points, she writes:
• If you believe that an author should work on their craft-regardless of the genre-then say that.
• If you believe self-published authors should hire editors to fine tooth books before they hit the stands-then say that. (trust, this is an issue not only in urban fiction's "street-lit" books and God help MANY well known and successful authors with major publishers whose works would miss and hit the streets without the eye of an editor. )
Well, alrighty then. She has a point and hey, you like what you like. Meesha and her editor do a great job of keeping the book free of grammatical errors. Seeing as how the book is published through Touchstone, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, I'd expect nothing less anyway.
As mentioned before, the story is filled with sex and violence and a little drug use too. Luscious Jordan's life is exciting if nothing else. Readers tag along for the ride as Luscious goes into insane revenge mode after her soon-to-be incarcerated man cheats with her former bestie and this stripper turned kept-woman turned bad ass seeks nothing less than the complete ruin of her rival. Some parts feel like an x-rated, updated, Blaxploitation screenplay. But all is not lost in this story. Meesha throws in a couple unexpected storylines and the twists are interesting, they're not stupid twists like a talking dog appears or something else that is as unexpected as it is unnecessary. Of course I won't do spoilers, but there's a little meat to the plot. It's not Beloved deep by any means, but it's not completely shoot 'em up, bang bang either.
Another thing that I like about this book is the dialogue between the main character Luscious and her two best friends. It's very realistic, not the least bit over the top and quite funny. In fact, I would love to see more from the best friends. Perhaps the final book in the trilogy will have that.
Has Meesha Mink turned me into a street lit or urban lit fan? Not really, but I did enjoy this book more than I thought I would. It was a quick read with an engaging main character and I genuinely laughed at some parts. If nothing else, from now on I'll think twice about dismissing a book based on the title and artwork...maybe.
Real Wifeys: Get Money (Touchstone/Simon & Schuster, $14.99) is available in paperback starting January 10, 2012.