Who Asked You?

Who Asked You
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I look at my grandsons. Download our Spring Fiction Sampler Now. As an avid reader and fan, I was disappointed because I expected more from Ms. It was your stereotypical sometimes factual day to day story of an African American family's struggle and life in the "ghetto". I look above their heads. A version of this article appears in print on , on Page 34 of the Sunday Book Review with the headline: Difficult Women.

Times have changed. I just think that God intended us to be all mixed up. You must get comparisons between your work a lot. Do you feel a certain pressure for your newest book to be as successful as the last? How do you think this one compares? I take the characters' lives and the situations that I put them in, very seriously. I have a reputation for writing in first person, because I like my characters to speak for themselves.

When I do that I can give them flaws and they can contradict themselves and that makes them a little bit more believable. But I have to follow them. What did I say? Did I offend anybody? Tap here to turn on desktop notifications to get the news sent straight to you. How did this story come about? Help us tell more of the stories that matter from voices that too often remain unheard.

Join HuffPost Plus. Jessica Cumberbatch Anderson. Suggest a correction. Real Life. Real News. Real Voices. Let us know what you'd like to see as a HuffPost Member. Canada U. US News. World News. Social Justice. Donald Trump. Queer Voices. Black Voices. Latino Voices. Asian Voices. HuffPost Personal. Special Projects. Pride Impact: Project Zero. Impact: This New World. Listen to America. She used to take him on short walks but his arthritis got really bad and then he lost interest in nature. Nurse Kim is as sweet as she can be.

Plus, she always smells like some kind of tropical fruit. The truth be told, some days I feel sorry for Lee David and other days I get sick just looking at him. After snapping all these doggone string beans, I put most of them into plastic bags and freeze them. I forgot about the boys just that fast! Sometimes I cheat and buy things I used to make from scratch and just doctor them up. I pop the lid on the plastic container and dump it into my yellow mixing bowl, and right after I sprinkle a few drops of vinegar, a pinch of salt, sugar, and paprika and start stirring, the phone rings. I stick the wooden spoon deep inside the potato salad so it stands up, and I answer against my better judgment.

Just checking in. And Rodney? Headed to Tokyo. I like it. Love you. They live in Encino, not far from the Jacksons. Venetia wasted six years going to college and getting an MBA because she chose to be a stay-at-home mom. She has been a slave to two spoiled-rotten brats who grew up and turned out to be as nice as they can be: Lauren and Zachary.

They both played soccer.

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Both play the frigging piano. Lauren speaks French. Zach chose Mandarin. Three million carpooling miles later, Zach and Lauren will be graduating in less than two years but Venetia still drops them off and picks them up. And what does she do with so much free time on her hands, since her husband lives on airplanes and in hotel rooms? Cleans all day. Every day.

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I think she has orgasms doing laundry. She folds and irons everything. Even sheets. With spray starch! No sooner do I cover the potato salad with a plastic lid and put it in the fridge than here comes Arlene calling. Sometimes I think they both think they know more about me than I know about myself.

She is the one person who can get on all of my nerves at once. Arlene also loves to tell people how to live their lives based on her standards, which is why I try to keep as much of my personal life as is humanly possible from her. She was a therapist for years but in the black community you can go broke giving bad advice. Or stable.

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But there were a lot of things I did not like about "Who Asked You", which is odd for I haven't read a Terry McMillan novel in YEARS and to tell you the truth I. From the #1 New York Times bestselling author “Remember Getting to Happy, Waiting to Exhale, and How Stella Got Her Groove Back? Well, you won't likely.

Arlene is one of them. I love her.

Terry McMillan's 'Who Asked You?' Is What We're Reading This Month

But she has other qualities that have made it hard to like her. She bought a split-level house thirteen minutes away, up there in Baldwin Hills, where black folks with two-car garages, palm trees in their front and back yards, gold credit cards, and money in the bank live. I tell Tammy. Lives right across the street. And what exactly do you win? Arlene and Tammy have never gotten along because Tammy married a black man.

The whole interracial thing has never really bothered me. Who you love is your business. Plus, I never knew love was a color. My biggest concern was always their kids. I felt sorry for them having to explain what they were year after year after year. Thelma is my name today. She was the girl Lee David was going to marry back in New Orleans but then Thelma—apparently attracted to the family genes—ran off to Shreveport with his brother.

And at nineteen I decided to skip college in exchange for a chipped diamond ring and a chance to live in California. I wanted my knees to buckle when he touched me, but they always stayed stiff and strong. I wanted my heart to light up and maybe sizzle, but it was a no-show, too. But I knew I could. Even still, I have enjoyed his company. I get the pitcher of tea out of the refrigerator, pour it into the light blue plastic glass he likes, and drop the straw inside.

It looks like midnight in this room but I can still see the bags under his eyes and they look three times bigger behind those bifocals. I had to go out and buy the DVD because he would get upset when it went off.

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All he has to do now is press the remote to start it over. Dementia affects him only from the neck up. Sometimes I do it just to make that thing go down. I wrap a breast and thigh in aluminum foil for Mr. And where I am now. Years ago it was nice here. White and black folks lived side-by-side, and just like it was on Leave It to Beaver and Father Knows Best , we borrowed a cup of sugar or a teaspoon of coffee from one another; our kids played together without ever hearing the words nigger or honky or peckerwood. We were all working-class families, proud of our small homes. And it showed.

We had smooth driveways. Even some two-car garages. We had velvet grass in our front yards. Sprinkler and drip systems. Every color flower imaginable. Our hedges were all sculpted. The screens dirt-free. Windows vinegar-clean. Our front doors never had to be locked. But then in the early nineties, the drugs moved in. And the gangs. Which is when most of our homes started limping. The majority of white families started leaving.

Kids had to play in the backyard unless a grown-up was sitting outside watching them. Low riders drove slow and blasted rap music and dared you to complain. Folks began to look like they were always hesitating. I hear the boys running over that shag carpet and I walk out to greet them. Luther will be eight this year. Trinetta claimed she named him after Luther Vandross because she always had a crush on him.

He should be six. He acts all right to me. He can be a little hyper sometimes, and quiet at others.

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Trinetta never put much thought into how she was going to take care of her kids. She just had them. She has treated them like they were mistakes. Fudge and maple syrup. Both of them are cute in a peculiar way. Ricky just waves, sits down on the couch, and starts looking for the remote between the cushions.

He keeps busy. I wish she would cut those damn dreadlocks off. They look like they need to be shampooed. Trinetta is also disappearing. But I am not in the mood for watching her act antsy so I go ahead and reach inside my purse and hand her some folded bills I keep hidden for emergencies. Cut me a little slack, would you? Is he in his usual spot? She walks over and sticks her head inside the doorway. I turn my attention to them. I look above their heads. That sofa is still ugly.

The glass coffee table has been cracked about six years and even has a broken leg. The beige shag carpet is almost insulting to walk on these days. This is no castle. Except them. I wish there was a way I could save them from their mama. And always clean. Which is precisely why I go get them every chance I get.

The least I can do is help them see that the world is bigger than their neighborhood. It does take a lot of energy to handle two little boys. Believe me, I already know this. I make sure to take my vitamins before we go anywhere. And go we do: to the park, the zoo, the Tar Pits, and every museum in Los Angeles. They love Kamu. Said they want to live in Disneyland. And that Ricky is a fish. I have to make him get out of the tub and the pool. Luther is a bookworm. He loves going to the library. Looking a little frazzled. And before I can say another word, Trinetta is out the front door.

Jones say. I pick up the lunch bag and take it to him. I look at my grandsons. Their hands are clasped together in their laps. They already look bored. But thank God I always go to Target and buy puzzles, crayons, and coloring books and keep them in my big drawer. And then would you like to color or do a puzzle? Then can we put on our new pajamas now? I just look at him. How many days we staying over here again, Grandma? I make them wash their hands. They sit at the table. They put their napkins in their laps. They bless their food.

Eat every bit of it. They take their baths. Put on their brand-new pajamas. They pile onto the bed next to their grandpa but do not like watching Dora the Explorer , so as soon as he is fast asleep they grab the remote and turn to a western. On day four, I wake up knowing the kids have to go to school and I have to go to work, so I call her again, hoping her phone is back on. Where is she and why are you answering her phone? I can relay a message when she finished. Hey, hole up now. Would you mind? The kids. A few. More days? Do not even think about picking these kids up until you can show me a few pay stubs and a clean drug test.

I crack the door a few inches. What is it you need me to do, BJ? Anyway, would you mind sitting with Lee David for about a half hour or so, until Nurse Kim gets there? But you and I both know she always runs a little late. These kids have missed enough school as it is. Bless his cute little heart! Make Ricky stop doing that. So go! I know the lovebirds are upstairs sound asleep, but I grab my keys and lock the front door out of sheer habit.

They refuse to hire a gardener, which is why their yard looks more like a desert. I planted purple and white hydrangeas all along the fence just to give them a clue of what beauty can do. They have refused to take the hint. On the right are two black racists who have not spoken to me in the six years since they moved in.

A dynamic duo: like father, like son. But all we do is eat them. I am not intimidated by black people anymore, and I refuse to apologize for being white. But it does. Even here in liberal frigging California. There are twenty-two homes on our street. None of them is worth a dime and only a handful are worth fixing up, and quite a few folks have done just that. Trees help block roofs that need to be replaced.

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Lee David had a new one put on right before he got sick. My own house is stucco, the color of cashews. The trim matches. Lee David is lying there with his hands clasped, smiling about something. He turns to look at me and frowns.

Who Asked You?

I want my snack. Then my lunch. I walk over and turn on the vitamin D light I talked BJ into buying because Lee David hardly ever goes outside anymore. Which I do. I turn it off, lean back in the recliner, and pull out an Ebony magazine from the right pocket. I reach over on the left and my hand hits a big brown envelope that slides out and falls onto the carpet.

I used to read them while sitting here with Lee David. At first they just broke my heart. I remember when he used to help out anyone in the neighborhood who needed their grass cut, their driveway hosed down, or something from the corner store. But like a lot of youngsters, he started sneaking and hanging out with the wrong crowd, and that was when he started changing. Now he reminds me of my two brothers. They live on our ranch in Billings. Our parents knew they were screw-ups when they were teenagers, always getting expelled, and then in their twenties, they thought the local jail was a hotel.

Their thirties were nothing but a miniseries of the previous ten years, which is probably why our parents made me executor of the whole estate years before they both passed. All hundred and sixty acres. He claims to be handicapped but has yet to reveal what his disability is. Clay, a year younger, a high school dropout, never quite got the hang of working and has never demonstrated any marketable skills unless you count rounding up cattle.

My moving to Los Angeles was not an accident. I dropped out of college to escape my family, boredom, and the brutal Montana winters with hopes of becoming an actress or a dancer—whichever happened first. I was also a gymnast, but a broken tibia prevented me from going to the Olympics in Mexico City. I managed to become a professional cheerleader instead.

Which is how I met my husband. Howard was a rookie point guard for the Lakers but got cut after sitting on the bench for three years. Last I heard, he retired the dice and worked his way up to captain. My daddy was a drunk. My mama was his memory. Everybody I knew played with guns. Especially my brothers when they were stoned out of their minds.

Once, Jackson accidentally shot Clay in the foot. Guns have always frightened me. I take that back. They are potheads. Lee David and BJ were the first people on the block to treat us like our mixed marriage was no big deal. We got an occasional stare when we went out. But black women have been the worst. Sometimes all of the above at once. I had never even thought about dating a black guy until I met Howard. It was his smile and the silk in his voice that caught my attention more than his skin color.

No one was more surprised than I was how much I found myself being attracted to him. I fell in love with him and his blackness was just an added bonus.