Three girls. Three high schools. Three gotta-read stories.
In Fashion by Felicia Pride
When boho-style Nina Parker straightens her Afro, loses the long skirts and gets a total makeover for her new private school, the cutest guy notices -- yes! But so does the meanest girl, Vivica, leader of the V-Girls, who wants Jeffrey for herself.
Double Act by Debbie Rigaud
In the hood, Mia Chambers is the "smart girl," but at her prestigious new prep school, she hardly stands out. So Mia does what it takes . . . only to be accused of selling out by her old friends.
The Summer She Changed Her Name by Karen Valentin
At first, Giselle Johnson hates spending the summer with her mother's relatives in the Dominican Republic. But she soon starts loving island life and even changes her name to Yisel. But when she returns home, no one seems to know what to do with the new Giselle . . .
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August 31, 2007
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Excerpt from Hallway Diaries by Felicia Pride
"This is the most black folks you've been around in your entire life, isn't it?" That's how my Aunt Lena greeted me at the "Back to Baltimore" cookout my family threw to celebrate our homecoming.
I hadn't seen her in quite some time. Actually, I hadn't seen many of my relatives in quite some time. Aunt Lena's mouth hadn't changed much. Neither had Uncle Cleo's deafening laugh. My father's brother was still built like an ex-football player. He desperately tried to lift me into the air, although I had to remind him that I was fourteen, and no longer five.
On my last summer visit to "The City That Reads," I'd welcomed the spicy smell of crabs and the paddle boat ride around the Inner Harbor. But this was not a short summer visit. It was a permanent life-changing catastrophe. This wasn't the usual family gathering where a few of the Parkers congregated to play cards, gossip, and overeat. This was a full-blown invite to the entire clan to discuss how young Nina won't be able to adapt from the lily-white suburbs of Rainhaven, New Jersey, to the urban streets of Baltimore City.
The contrived celebration was held in the square courtyard at the six-family apartment building that A & I bought. I should mention that behind my parents' backs, never to their faces, I call them collectively by their first names, Annie and Isaiah, which I have further shortened to A & I.
Anyway, the concrete area was miserable in comparison to the half acre of grassy land our house in Rainhaven had been situated upon. There were no trees. No shrubs. Not even blades of grass growing from cracks in the concrete. No wonder it was so hard to breathe.
A & I were thrilled that they could purchase this shabby building, which they'd spent the last year or so renovating, in an "up-and-coming" neighborhood in Baltimore City. They hoped to "invest in the community" and "circulate the black dollar." These are their words. Aunt Lena told me it was a bunch of crap and that A & I needed to get off their high horse. I agreed that they were high on something for uprooting us from New Jersey, but I kept that thought to myself.
"Ninaaaa!" My mother sang my name all day to introduce me to family who I had never met. She was reconnecting me with my roots. Her words, not mine. She was wearing one of her long, multicolored African frocks and her left arm was stacked with silver bangles that clanged loudly every time she raised it. She wanted to reacquaint me with three big-breasted, curly-haired women who I learned were my father's cousins. Actually one had rollers in her hair, one was wearing a curly wig that was on crooked and one had what I believed was a Jheri curl. They were squeezed on one of the uncomfortable wooden benches my mother had borrowed from Aunt Lena.
"Hey, baby," they said in unison.
I smiled brightly but didn't dare to speak. Aunt Lena had told me earlier that I needed to leave the white-girl talk behind in Rainhaven. I wanted to tell her that I'd left more than enough in my hometown--friends, a social life, a budding academic career at the prestigious private school Clearview, a beautiful house on the hill, and a healthy distance from crazy family members. But I knew that such a response would warrant a "See, I told you she thinks she's better than us" retort.
The one with the Jheri curl remembered me when I was pooping in diapers and gave me a hug. She almost cut off my circulation between her large bosom and the gold chains that scratched my skin. She smelled like peaches and hot dogs. The other two seemed to be concentrating on something else, perhaps on when Aunt Raquel was bringing her famous potato salad.
My father, with his khaki shorts, leather slip-on sandals, Bob Marley T-shirt, and neck-length dreadlocks, resembled a preppy Rastafarian. He was combing his beard with his hand, which was beginning to gray, while receiving a lesson in the art of grilling from Uncle Cephus. My uncle was wearing one of those Kiss the Cook aprons. His belly protruded from under it like he was due to deliver twins any day.
The rest of my uncles could be found sitting around a brown fold-up table playing pinochle, which my family referred to as the little-known cousin of spades. They were supposed to be sequestered to a basement because their game playing was considered rowdy and inappropriate for young ears. But the building's bottom floor was a boiler room, so they tried unsuccessfully to tone down the cursing for the ten or so children running around playing tag.
"Oh, sh--I mean, smack," Uncle Dwayne yelled. "I didn't have a single heart and I had maybe two spades. That nig--I mean, that Negro is cheating." He looked futuristic, wearing the Robocop sunglasses that he never left the house without.
The womenfolk, as my father liked to say, were either in two places: in the kitchen, cooking too much food, or eating carbs at a picnic table covered with a red and white checkered cloth.