In June of 2021, Tracy Brown, was our featured newsletter author. We interviewed Tracy and when asked about her upcoming release, Single Black Female, she cited that she started out trying to write a black Sex in the City, but quickly realized that there is no such thing for us. After concluding her latest work, I realized that no truer words could have been said. Single Black Female revolves around three black women, Ivy, Deja and Coco, their families, and them simply living their lives as black women. It touches on topics that may be considered taboo to some and may hit home for others. Issues that you may read about in other novels, but no author can transform a fictional read into a unimaginable reality like Tracy did with this novel. It's layered. From generational curses to the harsh reality of black people trying to create better lives for themselves. It's all mentioned in this book. The good, the bad and the ugly. "I used to sit in that big-ass house I bought and read the local newspaper. The Staten Island Advance. And I noticed the difference in how they report the stories. The white boys who crash their cars into a pole while they're high out of their minds on opioids-that's on page sixteen. And they don't release his name because he's a minor. But a black kid the same age from the projects who got caught with an ounce of weed-he's on page one. His full name, picture, and everything." The uncomfortable topics and the recurring themes in this story do not take away the enjoyability of this book. It may make you cry, it may make you angry, but you will also find joy. You'll also laugh, and hopefully when you close this book, after reading the final page, you'll add Tracy Brown somewhere near the top of your list of favorite authors.
Ivy was a former trap queen. Her "husband" Michael had once reigned supreme over the streets of Brooklyn. Ivy and Michael had lived good and loved hard, producing two sons, Noah and Kingston, while trying to create their happily ever after. That was until the other shoe dropped. "She'd told Michael she didn't need a ring to be his wife, but the truth was she'd always suspected Michael's incarceration right before their wedding was some type of omen. She had never given voice to it-not even to herself-but Ivy had been second-guessing the life she'd chosen for a long time now." Michael was incarcerated, had been for the majority of his sons' lives and wasn't coming home anytime soon. "The streets is all I know. My father was a hustler till he got killed. My uncle died in jail. I did what I was taught to do. Maybe you saw a future where I wasn't hustling. But I never saw that shit. The grind is in me. The streets is who I am." And even though the streets were in Mikey, Ivy didn't want that to be the future of her two sons. She wanted more for them. But that's usually what mothers want for their kids right? Ivy wanted more out of life than being a former trap queen, she wanted her kids to be more than statistics, which sometimes makes the people around you uncomfortable. "Ivy was a stuck-up former trap queen who was starting to forget where she came from." But one night changed everything for Ivy and her kids. Helping her realize that the American dream isn't as attainable for everyone. "I fooled myself into believing that I could have it all. As a Black woman in this country! That I could have success in my career, commas in my bank account, a nice house and car, maybe even find love. Be happy. But that shit is never really possible for us. That American Dream shit is an illusion that I allowed myself to believe in."
Coco, who is Michael's younger sister, also doubles as one of Ivy's best friends. Bred as street royalty, she wasn't easily impressed when it came to men. "Coco had been in the fifth grade when their father-a hustler also- had been killed. Mikey was in high school, and he picked up the baton he felt their father had passed to him. It happened almost immediately after their father died. Mikey hit the streets and ran headlong into the crack game, as if he felt that the responsibility to provide for the family fell squarely on his shoulders." Outside of a few hook-ups here and there, Coco had never found love. "Aunt Coco got high standards. She ain't like them hos on Instagram." When she finally decides it's time for her to settle down, her current prospect drops a bomb on her, almost making her lose hope. That is until her friend, Nikki, hooks her up with Ziggy. Ziggy isn't Coco's type, mainly because he's white. Dating outside of your race in the black community is taboo for most. "You a fool, little sister! Them cracker want to fuck around with us and all that. But they'll gun your sons and brother down without question." But Coco throws caution to the wind, stepping outside of the box in search of true love. That is until her nephew, King, has a racist encounter that leaves him fighting for his life, literally and figuratively. "What if we get serious and end up having kids together? Would you tell our son that he needed to humble himself and answer any white stranger who approaches him and asks where he's going and what he's doing?" Leaving her and readers trying to wrap their minds around a successful interracial relationship in this day and age.
Deja has been friends with Ivy for as long as she can remember. Their boyfriends were best friends, ultimately connecting them for life. When Ivy's man went to jail, so did Deja's, for the same crime. Deja knew Rashid was innocent, testified to it and all, but when it came time for Rashid to do his bid, she left. With her and her daughter's best interest in mind, Deja moved on from Rashid, in pursuit of a better life. One that didn't include locked up baby daddies. "You ran. With no warning. Stopped writing to me, stopped taking my calls, stopped coming to see me. Even though you knew I wasn't guilty. After all the shit we talked about. Six months after Bree was born, you packed up and moved out of your mother's house. Left her to tell me that you changed your mind. And you never looked back." Deja's current life resembles a Stepford wife. She's a high-profile real estate agent, married to a cop, and her daughter goes to one of the best school's money can buy. Her life is safe, but there's something missing. When her former flame, Rashid, is released from prison. She finds herself reevaluating her life. "You know what, Bobby? I'm calling Rashid and sneaking around and shit because I'm bored! With you, with my life, with all of this. And it has nothing to do with Rashid. Or maybe it does. Maybe I'm starting to feel like the fraud he keeps saying I am." With a new perspective on things, Deja is wondering if she made the best decisions in her past.
When I was preparing myself to read this book, I imagined me eating popcorn, drinking wine and laughing with my friends about how great this book was. Usually, my reading choices are an escape from the real world. Single Black Female was still technically an escape, but it was attached to very harsh realities. Forcing me and my friends to hold conversations I usually would avoid. I cried multiple times reading this book (I'm getting soft). Tears of sadness and tears of joy. Tracy gave us something that the real world often can't, a rainbow after the storm. "Finally someone Black had fought back and won. At last, there was no grieving Black mother." And even though this book filled me with sadness, it was thought provoking, it was well written, and it was good. If I had the time, I would read it over and over again. I loved the characters I was supposed to love and hated the characters I was supposed to hate. By the end of the book, you can kind of see the Sex in the City comparison. After these characters have fought the good fight, lived the best way they knew how, Tracy conveyed the most beautiful message she could ever convey. "Ever since then, I've been realizing how strong we are. How resilient. How fuckin' fabulous we are! And I know this much. We can survive anything. As long as we have each other." If you're a black woman, I highly encourage you to pick up this book. Great job Tracy, you're still one of the best to ever do it with a pen.