My Atlanta Book Reading and Discussion

With all the hustle and bustle and horror of the last two weeks what with the Trayvon Martin case, the shooting death of Darius Simmons, the row over the Boston bomber on the cover of Rolling Stone, and the unpleasantness in the news in general, I forgot to bring you the details of my book reading and discussion earlier this month.

The event was by all intents and purposes a huge success. In addition to people that live here locally in Atlanta, one of my cousins flew all the way in from Texas with her daughter which meant a great deal to me. Certainly the most saccharine of all gestures was the attendance of @thefabsdion, whom I only know from Twitter. The event never would have come to pass if not for the efforts of Sangima who among others has been hounding me not only to write a book, but absolutely insisted that I do a reading in Atlanta as well. She organized the entire event which was held at Kat’s Café.

Kat's cafeKat’s Café is located in fashionable Midtown, and has all the trappings of urban cool: Cement and wood floors, mixed media art adorning the walls and drapes of satin and sari material hanging from the rafters to section off space. I felt a little out of place there, this hefty mother of four who rarely gets out to anywhere that doesn’t have a slide or a field of grass, so I ordered myself to calm my nerves – clasping a fruit punch mixture of pineapple juice and pomegranate with lots of ice to bring on the effect. (That’s what celebrity authors drink, in case you didn’t know. ‘Sober’ is the new cool.)

reading picI wrote my book for “us”, and since “we” often have to go through uncommon hoops to make special arrangements for childcare, quite a few of the attendees brought their kids, all of whom were under the age of 10. I was in danger of having to bring my brood as well as we had no one to watch our four, but Marshall kindly offered to stay home so I could focus on the reading. With three little girls scampering about, stealthily eavesdropping on every other word, it made the reading quite a challenge. It was supposed to be a night of intellectualism and stuffy seriousness (isn’t that what all book readings are renowned for?), but turned into an exercise that had all the gravitas of an episode of Who’s Line Is It Anyway?

“When Tony lifted her round bee oh tee tee you em, he marveled at the sight,” I half muttered. “The sound of their lurid ess eee ex filtered through the air.”

Yes. I was reduced to spelling out descriptions of sex and sexual acts so as not to corrupt or scandalize anyone’s child; Not that Abercrombie & Fitch and every other TV ad aren’t doing a fair enough job of that on their own.

Friends traipsed in and out of the event the entire evening.

“I can’t stay for long, lady, but I definitely wanted to come by and support you.”

I hand out hugs and ‘thank yous’ like the creepy old man in your neighborhood who waters his lawn barefoot, donning only faded cotton shorts in the dead of winter.

There wasn’t much chatter during the reading, which was neither good nor bad. It just was what it was. Everyone who has read the book has either finished it in one go or read it in a record “two days” if they are slower readers. I have come discover that Daughters of Swallows is unique in the sense that it is written in a context and a genre that is not generally associated with African women: romance and suspense. And while some might dismiss the work as an ode to smuttiness, others have and will discover and deem its contents current and refreshing. I recently did an interview with a journalist in South Africa about Adventures, and I ventured to ask her what the general European view of African women was. Why was this blog – and my book which was also a topic of discussion – so intriguing to her audience?

“What do YOU guys think of African women,” I asked. “Tell me honestly.”

“We think African women are just victims, you know… and [their] husbands oppress him them.”

That’s what we are to the rest of the world? “Victims”? This narrow narrative is the precise reason I am SO glad that you all pushed me to publish this book!

Eva kennedyAnyway, the reading: The second half of the night was just as amusing as the first. By the time the doors opened to the general public at 7:30 pm, Kat’s Café was bustling and bursting at the seams. That night’s entertainment was Eva Kennedy and her band. Good Lord, that woman has a set of pipes on her. And what a mouth!

I tried to feign modesty that evening, but she would have none of it. There were three celebrants at Kat’s that night: a couple celebrating their anniversary, a birthday, and a certain author who had just published her first book. One by one, she instructed us to come to the stage.

“Turn around, Malaka,” she said solemnly. I obeyed, waiting to see what she would have me do next. “The crowd wants to see your butt.”

The band struck up the chorus of Doin’ the Butt, and I involuntarily began to stop, drop and roll said butt, for which my knees cursed me the following morning.

Eva encouraged the crowd to buy copies of my book with the following admonition.

“The dollar turns over seven times in the Jewish community y’all,” she purred before raising her voice. “We need to support our own!”

A drunken woman in a brown weave and very tight clothing named Sam bought a copy of my book in that instant. She paid with a wad of one dollar bills.

The Daughters of Swallows, huh?” she asked with a wicked laugh.

“Yes. That’s swallows like the noun, not the verb,” I replied over the loud music. I made flapping gestures followed by a fist to the mouth to illustrate my point. Her table erupted into a fit of laughter.

At 11:30 pm I got up to leave. Eva was taking a break at the bar when Sangima and I got up to inform her of our departure. I hugged her and Kat, thanking them for a wonderful evening.

“Where do you think you’re going?” said Eva. “Did you sell all your books?!?”

“No, I have about five left, but it’s ok,” I smiled.

“Stay!” she commanded. “Gimme them books and I’ll sell all five by the end of the night!”

I shook my head, explaining that I worked at a shoe store and had to get up and whore shoes in the morning.

“And you gonna keep ‘whoring shoes’ if you don’t sell more of your books,” she sneered.

It was meant kindly, in that old school “I’m only beating you with this black plastic comb so you can learn to be tough” kind of way.

Eva was so authoritative that I almost relented, but I knew I would pay for it in the morning.

So there you have it MOM Squad! The next reading will be in Accra later this year. My hook ups have arranged for Daughters to go on sale at SyTris Café in Osu, so look for it on shelves in a few months! (Here’s their FB information https://www.facebook.com/SyTris )

Happy Friday, one and all. Click here if you want to buy a copy and just simply didn’t know where to.

Oh wait! Before we go, let’s play a random game! What was the last thing you were thinking before you clicked this link or opened your email to read M.O.M. today? Tell! Tell!!!  ↓

  • Abena

    ….So I ordered myself to calm my nerves – a fruit punch mixture of pineapple juice and pomegranate with lots of ice. (That’s what celebrity authors drink, in case you didn’t know. ‘Sober’ is the new cool.)That was a very funny line,so you are a celeb eh?
    Hopefully I would be at Sytris for the Accra reading.
    Congrats Malaka,u had an interesting group right there…

    • Chale. Some by force celebrity things! Lol! All I need is a weave, a color blocked dress and work on perfecting my 3 point stance for photo ops and I’m IN.

      Can’t wait to see you at SyTris! It’s going to be tons of fun 🙂

  • I need that pic for the MAKSI FB page. Email it to me asap 🙂
    The last thing I thought about before opening this email was the Farafina workshop because I had just read a link on twitter the next class being announced soon.

    • Ha! You got it! My MAKSI skirt wowed the crowd.
      Thanks for playing the game, MASI 🙂

  • I look forward to your reading in Accra!

    • That makes two of us! 🙂