Saturday, June 13, 2015

Rachel Dolezal Isn't The Only One . . . Meet Other People Who Passed For Black And . . .

They Passed For . . .
So you thought the only "passing" done was from White to Black? Well, you were wrong! Jews have successfully passed for Gentiles, Whites have successfully passed for Native American and Black, Women have successfully passed for Men . . . and so on! Come check some out!
(As "An Angry-Ass Black Woman" you'd think I've a problem with passing  . . . . And I do. I also knew two people who passed (interviews at bottom of page) and I wrote a novel on the subject.)
  Dolezal, Rachel - (November 12, 1977) President of the NAACP's Spokane chapter, Professor of Africana Studies at Eastern Washington University (EWU), Advisor for EWU's Black Student Union, has a Master's Degree in music from Howard University, and is Chairman for the office of Police Ombudsman. After reading all those credentials, you'll probably be surprised to find she's white. Especially since she's been telling people that she's part African-American, part White, and part Native American. But, as of June 2015, it's come to light that she's white -- with perhaps a trace of Native American -- and that's she's been living a lie.
In February 2015 she told a student journalist writing for the EWU's newspaper that she was born in a teepee in Montana, and that Jesus Christ was the witness on her birth certificate, that her mother believed in lived off the land. She said that after leaving Montana, the family moved to Colorado, and then to South Africa. There, she said, her mother and stepfather were abusive to their children, based on the color of their skin, and she was often beaten with what is called a "baboon whip," and that they were "pretty similar to what was used as whips during slavery."
Lawrence and Roseanne Dolezal, a couple from Troy, Montana, told reporters on June 11th that both of Rachel's parents are white, and showed them Rachel's birth certificate as proof. Just as an aside, Jesus Christ is not listed as a witness.  Another aside -- Lawrence Dolezal said that Howard University gave Rachel a full ride, believing that she was Black.  (I jut thought I should mention that!)
From the Montana tepee where she was born in 1977 to empowering the black community in Spokane today, Doležal has lived a life full of experiences “most people normally don’t have to go through.”
According to Doležal, “Jesus Christ” is the witness on her birth certificate. Her mother believed in living off the land; they lived in the middle of nowhere.
As a child, Doležal and her family hunted their food with bows and arrows.
From Montana, she, her mother, stepfather and three siblings moved to Colorado in 1992 for two years. From there, her family moved to Cape Town, South Africa, where her stepfather accepted a religious job opportunity.
“It’s a painful thing to talk about my childhood,” she paused as she looked down into her hands. “I kind of don’t talk about it much.”
Doležal has no contact today with her mother or stepfather due to a series of events that still haunt her thoughts today.
Doležal and her siblings were physically abused by her mother and stepfather. “They would punish us by skin complexion,” she said.
According to Doležal, the object her mother and stepfather used to punish them was called a baboon whip, used to ward baboons away in South Africa. These whips would leave scars behind, “they were pretty similar to what was used as whips during slavery.”
In 1996, she moved to Jackson, Mississippi, to pursue a four-year degree in art with a full ride scholarship.
She met her now ex-husband and afterward moved to Washington D.C. in 1999 where they married and where Doležal furthered her education in the fine arts at Howard University, graduating with a master’s degree.
- See more at:
From the Montana tepee where she was born in 1977 to empowering the black community in Spokane today, Doležal has lived a life full of experiences “most people normally don’t have to go through.”
According to Doležal, “Jesus Christ” is the witness on her birth certificate. Her mother believed in living off the land; they lived in the middle of nowhere.
As a child, Doležal and her family hunted their food with bows and arrows.
From Montana, she, her mother, stepfather and three siblings moved to Colorado in 1992 for two years. From there, her family moved to Cape Town, South Africa, where her stepfather accepted a religious job opportunity.
“It’s a painful thing to talk about my childhood,” she paused as she looked down into her hands. “I kind of don’t talk about it much.”
Doležal has no contact today with her mother or stepfather due to a series of events that still haunt her thoughts today.
Doležal and her siblings were physically abused by her mother and stepfather. “They would punish us by skin complexion,” she said.
According to Doležal, the object her mother and stepfather used to punish them was called a baboon whip, used to ward baboons away in South Africa. These whips would leave scars behind, “they were pretty similar to what was used as whips during slavery.”
In 1996, she moved to Jackson, Mississippi, to pursue a four-year degree in art with a full ride scholarship.
She met her now ex-husband and afterward moved to Washington D.C. in 1999 where they married and where Doležal furthered her education in the fine arts at Howard University, graduating with a master’s degree.
- See more at:

  Albright, Madeleine - (May 15, 1937)  First woman to become United States Secretary of State (1997-2001) . Claimed that she did not know until 1996 that her parents and grandparents were Jewish, despite the fact that her grandparents and at least 8 other relatives were murdered in concentration camps during the Jewish Holocaust. Critics, both Jews and non-Jews, have said it seems incredible that someone who as astute about international affairs as Albright could not have previously known, especially since her parents fled Czechoslovakia to escape Nazi persecution when she was a child. Albright's admission of her Jewish heritage did not come about until confronted by reporters from The Washington Post who were given the information from one of Albright's cousins. At the time Albright told the reporters "This is a major surprise to me. I have never been told this."
Broyard, Anatole - (July 16, 1920 - October 11, 1990) Author and literary critic for The New York Times. Both of parents were African-American, and so were their parents and grandparents, but Broyard was born with extremely light skin and decided to start passing while in his mid-twenties. Not only did he distance himself from his darker-skinned family, he was also known to make critical comments about African-Americans to friends. He even had a black lawn jockey in front of his Connecticut home, prompting James Baldwin to say, "I can't come see you with that crap on your lawn." Most whites unquestionably accepted him as white, but there was some speculation among blacks. When a photograph of him was displayed in a magazine alongside a review he penned of a Beat anthology, poet Arna Bontemps wrote Langston Hughes, "His picture . . . makes him look Negroid. If so, he is the only spade among the Beat Generation." It is said that jazz great Charlie Parker once saw him Broyard strolling  in Washington Square Park, and once Broyard walked by  Parker turned to a companion and said, "He's one of us, but he doesn't want to admit he's one of us." Broyard later married a white woman and had two children, but never told his offspring about their racial heritage.  He is said to be the inspiration for the Philip Roth novel, The Human Stain.

 Stebbins, Mark - ( 1943) In 1983, Stebbins ran for City Council in a heavily Black/Latino district of Stockton, California and won. When asked by the Stockton chapter of the Black American Political Association of California, which trying to get their endorsement, he was asked if he was Black, and he said he was. Forget the fact that his mother is white, his father is white, and his siblings are white. Mark Stebbins insists he's not lying about his race. After his 1984 win, his opponent -- who was Black -- engineered a recall, saying that Stebbins won by fraud; namely claiming to be Black. Voters voted Stebbins in, anyway. Stebbins has maintained that while his family is white, he is genetically Black -- he just refuses to explain how or why.
By the way . . . Stebbins is still around. The picture above (the only I could find online) is from his 2015 City Council race. (This time he lost!)


Channing, Carol - (January 31, 1921) Three time Tony Award winning actress, also nominated for a Golden Globe and Academy Award. At 81, she revealed that she her father was 1/2 African-American. In her 2002 autobiography, Just Lucky I Guess, she wrote that her mother told her when she was just 16 so that "she would not be surprised if she had a black baby," but Channing decided to keep the information secret so that it would not affect her acting career.

Grey Owl - (September 18, 1888 - April 13, 1938) Canadian conservationist and author who claimed to be half Apache and half Scottish (to account for his European features), but was later revealed to have been born Archibald Belaney in Hastings, England -- a full blooded white Englishman. He moved to Canada in his twenties, became a trapper, and married an Iroquois woman who encouraged him to write. When touring England (wearing full Ojibwa attired) in 1936 two of his aunts saw him, but decided against his revealing his true identity. When his true racial heritage was discovered after his death his books were withdrawn from publication.

Herriman, George - (August 22, 1880 - April 26, 1944) Cartoon pioneer who claimed to be of Greek ancestry, but was actually African-American. Herriman's famous cartoon, "Krazy Kat" is considered by many to be the greatest American cartoon, and had a cult following which included Charlie Chaplin, Pablo Picasso, Walt Disney, Ernest Hemmingway, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Born in New Orleans, Herriman's family moved to California when he was just a toddler to the Jim Crow laws. In his teens Herriman worked as a baker, a house painter, and a side-show barker, though cartooning was his first love. In his early twenties he moved to New York, and soon began work with the New York Evening Journal, a publication owned by William Randolph Hearst -- who stayed a life-long fan of Herriman's work. Herriman told people he was of Greek ancestry, and he was never photographed without a hat. He married a white woman and had two daughters. After his death it was discovered that his parent's were listed as Mulatto, and that he himself was designated as "Negro" on his birth certificate.
  Otis, Johnny - (December 28, 1921 - January 17, 2012 ) Jazz musician, composer, radio Deejay -- often said to be the Godfather of R&B. Born Ioannis Veliotes to Greek parents living in a predominately African-American section of Berkley, CA, Otis hung out with the black kids while growing up. Always attracted to music, he began playing drums for Count Otis Matthews and his Oakland House Rockers in 1939, and then -- after switching to the vibes and keyboards -- a host of other African-American big-band groups. In 1945, after starting his own band, he has his first big hit with "Harlem Nocturne."  Though he wasn't claiming to be black, he knew that his olive complexion and his knowledge of the African-American lifestyle persuaded many of the people with whom he played that he was one of them. "They accepted me as black, and there were plenty of black players who were much whiter looking than myself," he would later say, pointing to light-skinned African-American musical luminaries such as Willie Smith, Earl Warren. "I didn't try to pass, it was just a foregone conclusion that 'he's black.' Nobody questioned that." Later in life, though, he would use the "we" or "us" when referring to Black people, and also married a black woman. He is credited with discovering Little Willie John, Hank Ballard, Jackie Wilson, and Etta James. He also wrote a number of R&B classics, such as: Roll With Me, Henry, Every Beat of My Heart, So Fine, and "Willie and the Hand Jive."
Powell, Adam Clayton, Jr. (November 29, 1908 - April 4, 1972) Well known Civil Rights Activist, Clergyman, and the first African-American U. S. Congressman of Harlem, Powell was the son Adam Clayton Powell, the powerful and influential pastor of the Abyssinian Church of Harlem. The youngest of the Powell children, Adam, Jr. grew up spoiled and pampered, and as young man embarrassed his family with his scandalous partying and the fast crowd with whom he hung. When he flunked out of City College because of his long partying hours, his family sent him to Colgate University in upstate New York. Though he would not have been the only African-American on campus, for some reason, Powell decided to pass for white. He even had a white girlfriend and tried to join an all-white fraternity. When some white students later found out his true heritage he was ostracized by both black and white students on campus. Powell went on to become one of the most outspoken opponents of segregation, and a leader in the Civil Rights Movement, but never spoke about his unusual tenure at Colgate. Ironically, his first wife -- Isabel Washington Powell -- was the sister of actress Fredi Washington, who gained fame starring as woman who broke her mother's heart by passing for white in the 1939 movie version of Imitation of Life.

  Tipton, Billy - (December 29, 1914 - January 21, 1989) Jazz pianist, and saxophonist. Born Dorothy Lucille Tipton in Oklahoma City, OK, Tipton lived as a man most of her adult life, even marrying three times and adopting three children. Tipton's wives later claimed that they had no idea they were married to a woman, saying that Tipton insisted on making love in the dark, and locked the bathroom door when bathing. They said Tipton told them that a chest injury as a child accounted for the bandages worn around his/her  chest. At age 74 Tipton fell unconscious from the effects of a hemorrhaging ulcer, and it was while paramedics were trying to revive her that Tipton's youngest son, William, learned for the first time that his adopted father was actually a woman.

[ I'm not including white people who called themselves "voluntary negroes" (ala Mezz Mezzrow) or folks who took on a different ethnicity for a short period of time as a social experiment (such as John Griffin). ]

  Do you know of other famous people who have passed? Please post the information in the comment section, and I'll be to include it in my next update. 

Interviews With People Who Have Passed:

Here are some of my favorite books on the subject:
Plum Bun by Jessie Redmon Fauset    Passing by Nella Larsen
And of course, here's the novel I wrote on the subject!


Karen E. Quinones Miller is a former journalist and national bestselling author of eight books - including her autobiographical novel -  An Angry-Ass Black Woman

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

When Rioting Becomes a Necessary Evil

Karen E. Quinones Miller


I have always totally agreed with the protests in Baltimore, and after giving it a good amount of thought, I no longer have an issue with the rioting and rioters.
The citizens of Baltimore have tried to work within the system. This is evidenced by the fact that they have a Black mayor, Black police chief, Black U.S. Congressmen, and Blacks on their City Council. Not to mention that the city voted overwhelmingly for a Black U.S.President. So, please don't tell them that they need to stop rioting and start voting. They've done that. 

And still the murder around the country of young Black men around the country, including their own Freddie Gray - whose only crime seems to be to have the audacity to have looked a police lieutenant directly in the eye, and then fleeing when the lieutenant approached him. 

Freddie Gray is now dead and NOTHING anyone does will change that fact.
But who can blame the Black people in Baltimore for being frustrated? And while I first agreed with the protesting and decried the rioting, I've changed my mind.
I'm old enough to remember the 1967 riots. Detroit, Newark, Los Angeles, etc. Most, if not all, of those riots were sparked by police brutality. All of those riots took place in the areas in which the police brutality took place -- always in a black area -- and all resulted in millions of dollars in destruction.
Seems to me, though, those riots did have some result. They made the federal government sit up and pay attention. Congressional hearings were held; the President (Lyndon Baines Johnson) had a Commission (does anyone remember the name of the Commission? I've forgotten.)put together to investigate the underlying reasons for the rioting.

Millions of federal dollars poured into the neighborhoods destroyed by the rioting in order to rebuild, and -- more importantly -- millions of federal dollars were spent on social programs like pre-school which improved education, job training (remember Manpower, anyone?) and programs designed to better the relationships between the police and the community like the Police Athletic League (PAL). All of these programs no longer exist, by the way. 

So let's not be so quick to condemn the rioting as senseless. It's what a group of people who have worked within the system resort to when that system lets them down. 

I think the blame should be put on the system rather than the rioters. 

And if someone can come up with a better way to get attention and bring about change, please speak up.
But don't tell me it's voting. Baltimore, with its Black police chief, Black City Council, Black Mayor, and our Black president proves that.

Shortly after I posted this, President Obama went on television and made a statement regarding the Baltimore riot. Here's part of what he said:

But in a lengthy response to a question about the latest protest in response to the death of a young black man by police, Obama also said the problem is not new and that the entire country needs to "do some soul-searching."

"If we really want to solve the problem, we could. It would require everybody to say this is important, this is significant and that we just don't pay attention to these communities when a CVS burns, when a young man is shot or when his spine is snapped."

He said investment is needed in the communities to bring economic opportunity, including resources for early childhood education and criminal justice reform that breaks the school-to-prison pipeline that is "rendering young men in these communities unemployable." He called for job training programs as well as school reforms.

"That's hard," he said, adding that it "takes a kind of political motivation we haven't seen in quite some time."

"That was a really long answer but I felt pretty strongly about it," the president concluded.

(Please note that the programs he says are needed are the EXACT programs that i stated were given after the '67 Riots.)

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Oh Yeah! Losing Weight!!!!

Happy to report that when I weighed myself on April 6, I was down to 277 pounds! That's a 10 pound weight loss, y'all!

(In my best James Brown voice)

I know James Brown hadn't yet started wearing an Afro when he sung this song, but I decided to sport mine, anyway. <grin> This is a picture of me at my new 277 pound weight, taken yesterday, April 11th.


So a few days ago I posted on Facebook that I was on a diet, and the response was so touching I actually shed a couple of tears. Here's that April 9th post:

I can't believe how easy it is to stick to this diet. I have to stay under 1,270 calories a day, and I only messed up once in the last two weeks. I got an app, MyFitnessPal, that helps me count calories and log meals and exercise...and lets me know how close I am to my goal. This dinner of three chicken wings , one cup of white rice, six ounces of cabbage, with one tbsp of chicken fat (flavoring is a necessity!) comes to less than 600 calories! I'm doing well!!!!

(Actually the meal was 681 calories, but I was still 18 calories under my daily allowed limit!)

I don't know why I decided to share it on Facebook, I've been going back and forth as to whether I should share the journey, but, well . . . I'm definitely leaning toward it

I've been doing okay with my daily diet . . . but not great. The crazy thing is I sometimes -- in fact, quite often -- have trouble  eating the required calories. I think one reason is the green smoothie that I have every day is so filling.
In fact, I kind of think that my starting on the green smoothie kick back in February is what has been making this weight-loss journey as easy as it has been.
Yes, you read it right . . . easy.
I've not woken up in the middle of the night with hunger pangs, wanting to raid the refrigerator. I don't want to sneak a couple of candy bars, here and there. Believe it or not, there's a 1/2 gallon of Turkey Hill Neapolitan ice cream that's been in the freezer since January. I haven't even been tempted.
Again, I think it's because I started on the green smoothies back in January. I'm just wondering if it's some kind of appetite suppressant.
Exercise has been something of a problem.  Because of my Multiple Sclerosis, my mobility is often limited, However, I just bought my niece, Anike, a new Wii dance disc. One of the songs on it was Miriam Makeba's song from back in the 60's -- Pata Pata. Shoot, as soon as I heard that I jumped up and started doing the moves along with the cartoon figure on the screen. (Yeah, I know I'm not using the correct terms, but whatever . . . ). I only did 7 minutes, but hey . . . it counts toward cardio, and it's better than nothing!

But anyway . . . it's nice to know I'm actually losing weight. It's only 10 pounds so far, but hey!!!!!

I really am going to be down by at least 100 pounds by June 2016!!!

Sunday, April 05, 2015

The Journey Starts!

(editing note: This post was written April 5th, but was not made public until May 15th. This is because I'm still gathering the needed courage to actually let people see my vulnerabilities and failures. So, if you're viewing this, please take the time to comment -- let me know that I'm not just posting all this stuff for nothing!!!!! please?)

Well, the journey actually officially started on Wednesday, March 25th.

I downloaded an app called MyFitnessPal just about midnight the day before, after going through my iPhone App Store for free calorie counting apps. I only wanted an app that would help me figure out the calories in the foods I ate, but I lucked up with MyFitnessPal -- it was so much more.

First off, it asked me to input my profile. So I truthfully put in that I was 5 feet tall, and weighed 287 pounds, and that I wanted to go down to 137 pounds.

It asked me about my activity level, and I had to honestly put "Sedentary" since I have multiple sclerosis, and often can't do much exercise (even walking can be difficult some days, although I do have days I can manage to do quite a bit.)

When they asked how many pounds I wanted to lose per week I wanted to put 5 pounds, but the app wouldn't let me. It explained that the most a person with my profile should lose per week is 2 pounds. I thought that was a bummer, but I did then say 2 pounds.

MyFitnessPal then calculated that I should eat no more than 1,270 calories per day, but no less than 1,000 calories. Fifty percent of those calories should be from carbohydrates, 20 percent from protein, and 30 percent from fat.

So yeah, I was loving me some MyFitnessPal. <grin>

Okay, each day I am supposed to look up the caloric count of the food I eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and snacks, and then app will tell me how I did for the day.

So, for my first day I had a 16 ounce green smoothie for breakfast. The calories were 306 calories. I even have my home-health aide, Brenda Munson Glover, on the green smoothie kick now! (That's her on the right!) Ingredients for my smoothies are listed at the bottom of this post.

For lunch I had 2 cups of Hot and Sour Soup. That was 350 calories.
I was writing that night, and had no dinner; but had 3 oranges throughout the day for an additional 210 calories.
So my total calories for the day was 866. Believe it or not, the app then gave me a lecture about not eating enough, and that I had to eat at least 1,000 calories a day for safe weight loss.
I couldn't believe an app would actually give me a lecture. I love it! LOL

Thursday, March 26th:
Breakfast:240 calories
1 medium orange - 70 calories
1 hot Italian sausage link - 170 calories

Lunch - 309 calories
green smoothie - 309 calories

Dinner - 555 calories
1 cup white rice - 205 calories
6 ounces Skirt Steak (steamed rare, with sliced onions and mushrooms)  - 350 calories

Total caloric intake for the day was 1,243.

The app seem pleased with me to be so close to 1,270 calories, and rewarded by me by saying that if I continued in this manner, I would be 277 pounds in 5 weeks.

Yeah, I like this app!

So, on Friday, March 27th I wasn't feeling well and slept late, missing both breakfast and lunch, but having steak, rice, and a green salad for dinner. Caloric intake was only 433, and I got a lecture. <sigh>

Saturday, March 28th  - I'm really glad I'm a good cook, because I know how to spice up food with things that have almost no calories, like  mushrooms, onions, bell peppers, garlic, etc. And also, when I want something, like duck a l'orange, I can make it myself and just count up the calories for the things I use to make the sauce (orange juice, brandy, cornstarch, sugar).

 I say all this to say I had duck a l'orange for dinner, with rice and broccoli. The dinner came up to 611 calories, (that was 4 1/2 ounces of the duck and sauce, one cup of rice, and one cup broccoli.), my breakfast and lunch came up to 289 and 350 calories, respectively, and so my total for the day was 1,269 calories. I was rewarded by saying if I kept it up I would be at 277 pounds in 5 weeks.

I did well up until last night. That's when my 6-year old niece, Anike,  and 8-year-old nephew, Akinseye, came over. My breakfast was the usual 307 calories, but lunch and dinner . .. whew! Lets just say pizza, chicken wings, soda . .. smh. I seriously considered either not inputting what I ate, or just lying. and making up something that would keep me within my caloric limitations.
But I thought about it, and the only person I would be cheating would be myself.
So, I did the right thing -- I recorded it on the MyFitnessPal app. My caloric intake for the day was 2,027; 757 calories over my limit.
But you know what? I'm glad I went so much over the limit, because it's reaffirmed my belief that I can do this. So yeah, I've only been on this diet for . . . what . . . 11 days and I already messed up, but I didn't cheat! I was honest, and I held myself accountable.

I know that I can do this, and that by June 20, 2016 -- my 58th birthday -- I will have lost at least 100 pounds.

Yeah. I can do this!

Green Smoothie Recipe: One handful of baby spinach, one stalk of celery (leaves and all), 1/8 of medium size lemon (with peel), 3 sections of medium size orange (without peel), 2 large chunks of fresh pineapple (without peel), 1/2 medium peach (with peel), 1-1/2 bananas (without peel), 1 tbsp Chia seeds.
All of the fruits should be bought fresh, and then frozen. This way you don't have to add ice to the smoothie to make it cold -- which only increases the volume.  - I started this daily smoothie regime in February, and since then I no longer have to take diabetes or high-blood pressure medicine.

P. S. Hope you'll leave comments!!

Thursday, April 02, 2015

My Weight-Loss Journey (Why I decided to undertake it, and why I've decided to share it.)

Some of you may remember me mentioning in a blog post a few years ago that I had decided to undergo gastric bypass surgery.
Well, because of various health issues (I have multiple sclerosis along with a few other issues), I put off pursuing the surgery until earlier this year.
In the meantime, I bought a Vitamix in January, and started drinking daily green smoothies in early February.
By March, people started telling my skin had taken on a glow; I no longer had to take diabetes medicine since my diabetes disappeared, and my blood pressure stabilized and I was taken off of high-blood pressure medication.
Also in early February I went to the required orientation for bypass surgery. The nurse who was giving the orientation was talking about what would be required of patients, both pre-surgery and post-surgery. One of the things she said was that patients would have to restrict their caloric intake to about 1,000 calories per day after the surgery in order to lose weight.
I raised my hand and asked: "Well, if that's the case, couldn't we just restrict our caloric intake now and just skip the surgery?"
There were seven people attending the orientation besides me. A few chuckled. At least one just went ahead and let out a long and loud laugh. The nurse gave me an amused look and said: "Well, obviously, if you were able to do that, you wouldn't be here, now would you?"
Now, for those who don't know me well, let me explain something . . . I have always had the belief that I could do anything.
I'm quite sure I could learn how to build a nuclear reactor and then build one -- I just choose not to.
Yes, I knew that caloric intake was a key factor in losing weight, but I never committed myself to learning about portion control and the science of counting calories because it seemed so much work and so hard to maintain that I always figured there had to be a better way.
Read the above paragraph again, please.
I never thought I couldn't do it, I just felt that if there was an easier route to weight-loss, I would just take that.
For the nurse to say that it "obvious" that I was incapable of restricting my caloric intake without the help of surgery, really bothered me. I didn't argue with her, nor did I say anything else during the remainder of the orientation. I was too busy thinking.

I was quite slim as a child and in my teens, and while I gained a few pounds in my late teens and early twenties. When I enlisted in the U. S. Navy in 1980, I was documented as five feet even, and 118 pounds.

But my weight slowly started creeping up in my mid-twenties. I was a whole 143 pounds (eek!) when I was twenty-seven and found out I was pregnant with my daughter. I went up to 195 pounds during my pregnancy, but three months after Camille was born -- in April 1987 -- I was back down to 147.
Three years later I was up to 165.
Thirteen years after that I was up to 210.
I then went on a carbohydrate limiting diet, and after only six months I was back down to 185, and quite proud of myself. I maintained that weight for a year but, then, in late 2004 . . .
 . . . I was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
So 2005 was a hectic year for me.

January, I threw an engagement party for my brother, Joe Quinones. I live in Philadelphia, and the party had to be held in Queens, NY since his fiancée's family lived there, so it was kind of difficult planning and transporting all the party stuff.
February, Found out I was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for my fourth novel, Ida B.
March, I flew to Los Angeles (I live in Philadelphia) to attend the ceremony. (I lost to T. D. Jakes.)
April, I had to go prom dress shopping for Camille who was about to go on her senior prom, two weeks later I had to cradle her in my arms when she was put on suspension (rightfully so, by the way) and couldn't attend the  prom.
May, I had to attend my daughter's high school graduation. And at the last minute at that. She had decided she was going to boycott the ceremony since Central High School had the nerve to ban her from the prom, but then at 10:00 the morning of the ceremony (which was scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m.)  she came into my bedroom to say she changed her mind. We hurriedly showered and dressed and drove downtown to the graduation, and got there 30 seconds after her name had been called. But her best friend grabbed her and said: "Don't worry, they haven't called my name yet. You'll just walk with me." So Camille walked with her, and I got to applaud my daughter receiving her high school diploma.
June, I underwent successful surgery to remove my brain tumor.
July, I wrote 25,000 words to meet my deadline and complete my fifth novel, Passin'.
August, I drove from Philadelphia to Atlanta to bring Camille to her new school, Clark Atlanta University. I stayed three days, shopping for furnishing for her dorm room, going to various orientations, etc. Then I drove back, alone, to Philadelphia.
September, I arranged and hosted the Rehearsal Dinner for my brother's wedding. Then participated, as a principal, in the elaborate (and so beautiful!) Yoruba wedding ceremony the next day. 

Dang if I remember the rest of the year, but I do know that by late December I weighed 215 pounds.
When I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, in 2008, I was 235 pounds.
By December 2014, I was 287. Yikes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So, I go to that gastric bypass surgery orientation in February.  And I decide I don't need gastric bypass surgery.
I can do it on my own.
I can do anything, remember?

The reason I decided to document my journey?
Well, for one, I thought by letting everyone know what I was doing it, it would keep me from backsliding.
Secondly, I figure there might people who might benefit from reading what I'm doing. Maybe I can motivate them.

Or, maybe some folks will find it entertaining!

Either way, if you do decide to follow me on this journey, I hope you'll leave comments to let me know what you think!!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Falling Back to Black

ABOVE PHOTO: Bill Cosby (Randy Miramontez /
By Karen E. Quinones Miller
This whole Bill Cosby situation has me remembering witnessing a one-car accident in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia back in 1993. 
I was the first one on the scene and helped a well-dressed African American woman out of the car–she had run into a lamppost. 
She clung to me for a moment, and since she didn’t seem hurt, I asked if she needed to use my cell phone. Before she could answer, a group of concerned white people came rushing over to assist, and the African American woman pushed me away so hard and fast I almost fell as she rushed to meet them. 
A little hurt, but much more befuddled, I got back in my car and watched the unfolding scene. 
The group momentarily crowded around her, breathing concern and offers of assistance, but as they realized what I had already ascertained — that the woman was drunk — they slowly peeled away until she was alone. 
She then staggered over to my car, and I let her in, once again offering my phone so she could call for help. After she called her husband, she said she didn’t want to “bad talk white folks,” but my not abandoning her proved that Black people know how to stick together. 
I was so pissed I could have hit her. 
Instead, I told her I had to leave so she’d have to wait outside for her husband and the tow truck. 
It gave me great satisfaction that just as I pulled away it started to pour down rain. 
A couple of years later, when O. J. Simpson was acquitted of killing his wife and Ron Goldman, I remembered that woman and that incident. 
And now, as Bill Cosby makes his appeal to the “Black media,” I’m remembering it again.
I think it is interesting that Cosby has asked the Black media to stay “neutral” regarding the sexual abuse allegations being made against him. Not objective. Neutral.
There is a big difference between neutral and objective. As a wordsmith, I know the difference…and I’m sure Bill Cosby does, too.
During World War II, Switzerland remained neutral. They didn’t join either the Allied or the Axis forces. They didn’t want to choose sides. They wanted to stay out of it; to stay neutral. 
Even when the human atrocities being committed by Hitler and the Nazis came to light, the Swiss continued to be their banker and their vault. In fact, after the war many Jews had to appeal to the Swiss government for the return of their artwork, heirlooms, and personal treasure. 
So, really, the Swiss actually profited from their neutrality. 
To be a neutral journalist means not caring who is right or wrong. 
To be an objective journalist – on the other hand — means not letting your personal biases affect you as you write about what is going on, or blind you as you seek the truth. 
It also means then presenting that truth in a fair and balanced manner.
So, this Black member of the media will not be staying neutral… can’t stay something I never was. 
But I will always strive to be objective. No one should expect me to be more.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Join a Writing Group

 Theresa Brunson                                        Diane McKinney Whetstone

One of the questions I'm asked most often when out on the lecture circuit or out on a book tour is: What advice would you give aspiring authors?
         My answer is always the same. Join a writing group.
         What, you might ask, is a writing group?
It’s simply a group of writers who get together on a regular basis to give each other critiques, advice, and support. And for someone who’s just starting out, it’s the best thing you can do to get your literary career started on the right track.
“It was a tremendously helpful experience for me,” says bestselling author Diane McKinney-Whetstone. “Some writers don’t like to have the writing read, but I loved the feedback I was given.”
McKinney-Whetstone was a member of the Rittenhouse Writers’ Group when penning her first novel, “Tumbling,” which was published in 1999 to critical acclaim.
“I was stealing time from everything – stealing time from my life to work on this novel, and I had no idea if I was doing anything right,” says McKinney, who has since published four other books with Harper-Collins.  “It wasn’t until I joined the group that I finally felt validated. And the criticism was helpful.”
McKinney-Whetstone – who is polishing up a new novel due out late next summer – is one of the most successful novelists to come out The Rittenhouse Writers’ Group, which has been around since 1988. The writing group is actually a series of quarterly writing workshops, and costs more than $500 per quarter.
But a writing group doesn’t have to be pricey to be good. In fact, most writing groups are free and quite worth your while.
Book writing is a solitary task and you can worry for hours, days, or weeks, about whether or not you’ve described something in just the right way. You don’t want to find out when you finally submit your manuscript to a literary agent or a publisher that you did, indeed, get it wrong – because that one little mistake may not be so little in their eyes…and might lead to a rejected manuscript.
“According to my sister – the only one I showed what I knew was soon-to-be a New York Times bestselling novel – I was the greatest writer who ever set pen to paper,” says Veronica Axelrod, a receptionist from North Philadelphia. “But when I started sending it out to literary agents, all I got were rejection letters.”
But not only were they rejection letters, Axelrod says, they were form rejection letters . . . the worst kind. Which meant the agents didn’t even think enough of her writing to give her encouraging comments.
A despondent Axelrod was browsing in a bookstore and saw a posting from a woman looking for writers interested in forming a writing group. She jotted down the number, gave the woman a call, and the following month she was a member of The Love of Writing Writers’ Group.
“It wasn’t until I joined that I found out that my book was constantly changing points of view from first-person to third-person. A big no-no,” Axelrod says with a laugh. “Looking back at that manuscript now, I’m actually embarrassed.”
Love of Writing – which has no membership dues – has seven members and meets at a different member’s home each month. None of the writers have had a book published yet, but four of them have had short stories published in literary magazines.
Theresa Brunson, a Philadelphia attorney, had been working on her novel, “The Get Money Clique,” for years in private, never showing it to anyone. It wasn’t until she attended a writing workshop that she realized that her masterpiece had a big problem.
 The average novel is between 63,000 and 95,000 words long. Brunson’s manuscript was well over 200,000 words.
A few months later, Brunson joined the Eveningstar Writers’ Group. “The Get Money Clique” was trimmed down to a manageable 98,000 words, and she’s received interest from two different major publishers.
“I love the camaraderie that a writing group offers, and the feedback you get from the different personalities in the group,” Brunson says. “It built up my writing skills, but it built my confidence, too.”
Eveningstar, which has no membership dues, was created in 1999 by a group of four women, none of whom had ever published a book. Since its creation, five members have had novels published by major publishers, and two more have self-published their books. Members and past members include the late Leslie Esdaile Banks, Hilary Beard, Jenice Armstrong, Mister Mann Frisby, Fiona Harewood, Akanke Tyra Washington, and, ahem, Karen E. Quinones Miller.
Most writing groups meet once a month, but Eveningstar meets weekly. Members submit up to 20 pages each Sunday, and then meet on Tuesday evenings at a member’s home to have their submissions critiqued.
The good thing about this is everyone’s work gets feedback, and suggestions on next steps, every week. The bad thing is meetings sometimes last up to five hours.
It’s grueling, but it seems to work. At least it does according to Sharai Robbin, who recently signed a two-book contract with Strebor Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.
“Meeting weekly keeps me writing since I have to submit something every week,” says Robbin, whose book, “Candace Reign,” will be published next fall. “Eveningstar keeps me accountable, and it keeps me motivated.”
Not all writing groups meet in person. There are a number of groups whose members have never met face-to-face, but get together over the Internet to share and critique each other’s works.
Jennifer Coissiere, author of the self-published novel, “Crossing Over,” has been a member of Snaps 1000 Words for a little over a year. But although she and her fellow members – Shonell Bacon, PR Burson, Makasha Dorsey – all have published or self-published novels, they only use their writing group to critique each other’s short stories and essays.
“Someone had an idea to write 1,000 word stories inspired by a picture, and that’s how the group started,” explained Coissiere, though the members do offer each other encouragement and advice on their individual books.
Coissiere’s group has a website,; Eveningstar Writers’ Group can be found on Facebook; and the website for the Rittenhouse Writers’ Group is The Love of Writing Writers’ Group has no Internet presence, and is not currently accepting new members.
So what kind of writing group should you join? It depends on what kind of group fits your needs. Some people prefer groups that meet monthly because of busy schedules. Others prefer weekly groups because it keeps them motivated to write on a daily basis.
Not all writing groups critique all genres. If you’re interested in writing a memoir, make sure that the group you’re considering joining is interested in more than fiction.
My advice would be to ask if you can sit in a couple of meeting to see if you can actually handle the critiques the members offer. And don’t ever join a group where the members are cruel with their critiques, or make them personal. The rule is it’s the work that is to be critiqued – not the author.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Law Enforcement's Message To Black Community

IT WAS BACK in the 1960s, and I was living in Harlem. A white police officer chasing a criminal through the Foster Housing Projects fired at the man and missed. The bullet pierced the skull of a young African-American boy, a bystander.
That lone white officer was surrounded by scores of African-American and Latino residents, and you know what he did? He knelt down and scooped up the boy's lifeless body in his arms, and cried as if it were his own son whom he killed. And do you know what those many housing-project residents did? They tried to comfort the officer. And when the child's mother finally made it to the scene, they told her it was a horrible accident. Many of them then prayed - with the mother and the officer - over the boy's body before it was taken away a few minutes later to the city morgue.
That officer's grief didn't "unshoot" the boy, but it did something else I couldn't name as an 8-year-old watching the scene.
It wasn't until 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed in Ferguson, Mo., in August that I realized what that something else was. And how much it mattered.
Of course, it would be irrational for anyone to think that Darren Wilson, the officer who killed Brown, should get down on his knees and cry.
But it would also be irrational to believe that a community wouldn't be up-in-arms about the fact that Brown's body was left in the middle of a street - uncovered and unattended - for more than four hours in the hot August sun. Or that they wouldn't be upset witnessing the police refusing to let his distraught parents approach their dead son.
"Having raised two African-American males, the thought of that happening is just unfathomable," said Linda Richardson, a Philadelphia community activist I spoke with shortly after the incident. "I was just distraught looking at the video and screaming, 'When are they going to put something over him?' To show that kind of disrespect was just unreal and unbelievable."
If Richardson felt that way just watching the video, imagine how the people at the scene felt.
Patricia Bynes, a Democratic committeewoman in Ferguson, seemed to feel the same way as Richardson. She told reporters that it was "disrespectful" for the police to have left the body there in plain sight.
"It also sent the message from law enforcement that, 'We can do this to you any day, any time, in broad daylight, and there's nothing you can do about it.' "
The message sent by law enforcement - that was the "something else" that I couldn't articulate way back in the 1960s.
Harlem is no stranger to riots. They rioted in 1935, in 1943, in 1966, and again in 1968. And, yeah, we had a small riot (by Harlem standards) in Washington Heights, a neighborhood bordering Harlem. All of the riots were started in response to either a police shooting or police brutality.
Yes, Harlemites were veteran rioters. So why didn't they riot after that white police officer killed a very innocent young boy? Maybe because that police officer's very obvious grief sent a message that our feelings, our rights, our lives mattered to him.
Maybe the people in Ferguson did riot the day after Michael Brown was shot because they received a very different message.
In Wilson's testimony to the grand jury that decided whether he would be charged for killing Brown, he described the teenager as looking like a demon; not a human.
And although it's true the citizens of Ferguson - which is 67 percent African-American - were not privy to Wilson's testimony when the rioting started in August, they'd had bitter issues with their police force, which is 94 percent white.
Last year the Missouri Attorney General's Office released a report that said Ferguson police were twice as likely to arrest African-Americans during traffic stops than whites. The U.S. Justice Department is currently conducting a civil investigation to see if that police department has a pattern of using excessive force and/or racial profiling.
Hundreds of African-American citizens of Ferguson stood outside that August afternoon: Looking at the body of an unarmed teenager. Staring at the teenager's family, crying because they were not allowed to check to see if they body was really that of their child. Having their questions ignored by police who refused to give any information. Those citizens received a message that they had been receiving for years - that their feelings, their rights, and perhaps even their lives, meant little to the police.
It's a hard message to receive. A hard message not to answer.
The complete opposite of the message sent that 1960s Harlem summer.
Thank God.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Memories of Old Black Bookstores

I grew up in Harlem, and one of the fondest memories I had growing up was my father taking my twin sister and I to 125th Street to a large store with a bunch of crazy signs and posters outside. Signs like “Repatriation Headquarters – Back to Africa Movement – Recruiting – Register Here!” Posters like “Get Away Jordan. Let Gods Chullon By.” 
To my little 4-year-old mind there seemed to be a million books in the store, but it wasn’t until much later that I realized it was actually a bookstore. A pretty well-known bookstore, at that. – The famous Michaux Bookstore, frequented by the likes of Malcolm X, and Eldridge Cleaver.
But if you had asked me back then, I would have said it was a place for my father to hangout and talk to a bunch of guys about politics, history, and about Crayola having a crayon called “Flesh” that didn’t look like our flesh at all.
When I moved to Philadelphia, I was ecstatic to find there were other bookstores like that here. Bookstores like Hakim’s Bookstore on 52nd Street, where the owner, Dawud Hakim, would sit and talk to teens about respect, and self-awareness, and made sure that they all knew who Carter G. Woodson (“He’s the man who lobbied for the schools to teach you all Black History”), W.E.B. DuBois was (“He was a great man who went to Harvard, and helped start the NAACP.”), and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. were (“I don’t even want to hear you not knowing about him.”) 
Hakim also made sure that the parents of those children, knew about the Countering the Conspiracy to Destroy Black Boys series written by Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu when they came to his store. He’d talk to them for a few minutes – or a few hours, if they had the time – and then he’d go into the back of the store and do their taxes if was needed.
Hakim understood what most proprietors of African-American bookstores understood – the vital need in the African-American bookstores fulfilled a vital need in the African-American community. 
“There was a little tiny black bookstore in the Gallery that I used to go to all the time, when I was a teenager,” said Rosalyn McDaniel, an attorney who lives Mt. Airy. “I never knew what I wanted, but that was okay, because the woman who owned the store must have been psychic or something. The first book she recommended to me was Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree, and I remember she was also the one who turned me onto Diane McKinney.”
Basic Black Books was the name of the store, and the owners were not only helpful to readers, but to authors, also.
I self-published my first novel, “Satin Doll,” in 1999 and as any self-published author will tell you – if you want to sell, you’ve got to get on bookshelves. But the problem was it darn near impossible at that time to get into a chain store unless you had a major publisher behind you, or you already had a proven sales record. But, of course, it’s hard to get a sales record if stores won’t carry your books.
I remember walking into Basic Black Books and introducing myself to Lecia Warner Bickerstaff, who owned the store with her husband, Joel. I had 10 copies of Satin Doll with me, and Lecia said she’d take five and see how they sold before ordering more. Two days later I got a call from her. She’d read “Satin Doll,” loved it, and wanted more copies. 
lit-lounge_11-30-14a_SM01PHOTO:  Dawud Hakim, owner of Hakim’s Bookstore, in a picture taken in the 1970s.  (Photo by Yvonne Blake)

“I’ve been telling all of my customers about it. Can you bring me 15 more?” she said. 
Well, she kept on recommending it; and within three months Basic Black Books had sold more than 300 copies of my debut novel. And it was because of them, and other African-American bookstores that my books are now carried in major chain stores nationwide as well as on
But I wasn’t the only author helped by African-American bookstores.
“There’s probably not any self-published author who made it to a major publisher who didn’t do it without the help of the black bookstores,” said Linda Duggins, director of publicity for Grand Central Publishing. 
Many people may not remember, but New York Times bestselling authors like E. Lynn Harris, Omar Tyree, and Kimberla Lawson Roby all self-published their first books.
“It was the black bookstores that got them the recognition to be known throughout the country,” said Duggins. “It was through their efforts that we were all introduced to these authors.”
Basic Black Books is no longer in the Gallery. It closed down in 2003, and was replaced by another African-American bookstore, Horizon Books, which closed earlier this year. Liguorius Books, which opened in the Cheltenham Mall in the mid 1970s shut their doors in 2006. Know Thyself Bookstore and Cultural Center, which was owned by poet and social activist Del Jones and Brother Deke is also a thing of the past, as is La Unique African-American Bookstore which was the only African-American owned bookstore in Camden.
But it’s not the Philadelphia area African-American bookstores that have fallen to the wayside, said Troy Johnson, creator and founder of the African-American Literature Book Club website, better known as
“African-American bookstores have taken a huge hit because of the super chains like Barnes and Noble, and online superstores like,” said Johnson, who has been tracking African-American publishing since 1998. “Just 10 years ago there were five times as many bookstores nationwide than there are now.”
Johnson, who operates in Harlem, said most African-American bookstores could not compete with the deep discounts offered by the new competitors, and so people started shopping elsewhere. 
But, the declining numbers of African-American bookstores should concern not only authors and avid readers, but the African-American community as a whole, Johnson said.
“These bookstores served not only as establishment that sold books, but also a place where conscious people could meet and discuss various matters affecting the community, and could exchange ideas,” Johnson explains. “African-American bookstores were places that facilitated deep thought and discussions. It’s a shame to see them go.”
Wesley Bryant, 67, of North Philadelphia, would agree.
“I buy all my books at African-American bookstores, and always have,” Bryant said. “I think it’s important to support black businesses, so I do.” 
Bryant, who has a PhD in Social Work said even as a student he only used white-owned bookstores to get text books. When asked if the college bookstores carried African-American books, Bryant said he didn’t know. 
“I never thought to ask, because I wasn’t going to buy them there,” Bryant said with a deep chuckle. “Their focus is not my focus. Never was, and never will be.”
Bryant said he now buys most of his books at Black and Nobel Bookstore, located on Erie Avenue in North Philadelphia.
Hakim Hopkins, the owner, started out as book vendor and opened his store in 2003. It’s a testament to his business acumen that while African-American bookstores all over the country have been struggling to survive, he actually expanded his store last year.
Black and Nobel stocks a variety of books – from novels to non-fiction; from street-lit to religious texts. The store, which has a strong online presence, also ships books to prisons and correctional facilities.  
Black and Nobel is one of only two African-American bookstores left in Philadelphia. The other is Hakim’s Bookstore, which I mentioned much earlier in this article. 
Dawud Hakim died in 1997,  but one of his last wishes – according to his daughter Yvonne Blake – was that the family keep the store open as long as possible. Blake and her sister, Davita Butler, manage the store which is now open only on Fridays and Saturdays.
“My dad’s been dead for 17 years, and my sister and I fully intend to honor his wish, but it’s been hard,” said Blake, who is 63. “The unfortunate thing is that we will likely have to close in another year or so.”
Blake, who is 63, explained that her mother is extremely ill, and she and sister have are struggling to take care of her and also run the business. Sometimes they can get other family members to staff the bookstore, but not always. And there’s simply not enough money to hire full-time clerks. 
“We have some very long-time customers who still come by when we’re open, but our overall customer base has dwindled significantly,” Blake said. “We can hope for a miracle, but unless one comes soon, the store will have to be closed permanently.”
Johnson, who keeps track of the opening and closing of African-American bookstores, said he is saddened by possible closure of Hakim’s Bookstore, and wished more people in the African-American community were also. 
“There’s hardly any discussion about it all, and practically no coverage about the situation in the media. I get the impression that people really don’t stress themselves about it.” Johnson said in a resigned voice. “If they did care, the African-American bookstore might still be viable.”

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Reading is still FUN-damental… The Philly Book Club experience

ABOVE PHOTO:  Brothers and Sisters Book Club members at Warmdaddys event for Sonia Sanchez. (Photo by Karen Q. Miller)
By Karen E. Quinones Miller

“If you want to hide something from a black person, put it in a book.” 
No one knows the author of that now infamous statement, but we’ve all heard it, and many of have cringed when we did. 
Of course it’s not true; but if proof is needed to show the fallacy of the statement, it’s the large number of African American book clubs that exist across the nation. Groups of people who get together to not only read, but to discuss what they’ve read and share opinions.
“Being in a book club has exposed me to a great number of books that I never would have otherwise read, and meet people whom I met never have otherwise met,” said Shirley Coker, president of the Philadelphia chapter of Go On Girl Book Club, an organization that boasts more then thirty chapters nationwide.
Coker’s chapter includes women of all ages and social economic levels – the only common denomination being their love for books. “It leads to great conversations and great fellowship,” she said. 
Edward Cohen, president of Brothers and Sisters Book Club agrees. His club has members as young as 20, and as old as 80. 
“Since the club is so diverse, the meeting and book discussions can sometimes be lively,” he said with a laugh.” Lively, and sometimes heated, but nothing is taken personally.”
Cohen is an avid reader, but also scrabble player, and often played with a group of people which included neighbor, and co-founder of the book club, Marsetta Lee. 
“Whenever we got together to play we’d wind up talking about books that we were reading, the themes, the good and the bad,” said Cohen who was living in Trenton at the time. “Then someone said we need to start a book club.”
The first meeting occurred in 1995, and the first book was Brothers and Sisters by the Bebe Moore Campbell. There were 12 people at the first meeting, and one of the things they decided was that all of the books they read would be by African-American authors. 
“The general public doesn’t seem to realize that African-American writers need additional support. When they list books on the New York Times Best Sellers List, you seldom see African American books, though there are some excellent African-American authors,” explained Cohen, who now lives in South Philadelphia. 
The New York Times Best Seller’s List is based on the number of books bought in a particular week. Cohen adds that the African American community has enough economic power to get good African-American books on the list, but don’t.
“A lot of us support the white authors not realizing we are not supporting our own,” explained Cohen, adding that group wanted to become part of the solution rather than add to the problem. “So we decided that we give them our support.” 
And African American authors acknowledge that they have benefited from the support.  Kimberla Lawson Roby self-published her book, “Here and Now,” in 1997 and met with book clubs in her hometown of Rockford, Illinois, and eventually around the country, to get the word out. And it worked. People started talking about the book and about having met the author. Roby landed a huge publishing deal with a major publisher, and is now a New York Times best selling author. 
“Book clubs have been a huge blessing to me and my writing career for years, and it is the reason I visit with as many of them as possible,” said Roby, whose new book, A Christmas Prayer was published earlier this month.  
Roby now sometimes meets book clubs by Skype or by telephone conference when she’s not able to appear physically. She also hosts an annual contest, open exclusively to book clubs called “Have Dinner with Kimberla Lawson Roby.” 
“It’s my way of giving back to book clubs for making such an amazing and incomparable difference in my life.” 
Eric Jerome Dickey is another author who was pushed to the New York Times bestseller’s list through the help of book clubs.
“If it weren’t for book clubs, I would never have had a career. The word-of-mouth promotion we get from them is more powerful than the ads taken out by the establishment for other writers” said Dickey, whose latest book is “A Wanted Woman.” “If t wasn’t for book clubs, most authors from my community would be dead on vine.”  
Especially new authors, said Mister Mann Frisby, who self-published his first book, Blinking Red Light, in 2002.
“Putting out a new book is a daunting task so when you get 10 to 12 people who love your book it’s like hitting a jackpot,” said Frisby, a former staff writer for The Philadelphia Daily News. “Because while there may only be a dozen women at the book club, these women then go to work, and tell people how much they love the book, and loved meeting the author.”
The snowball effect led to Frisby being offered a publishing contract from Penguin Books, which also published his second book, “Wifebeater.” 
Frisby, who also wrote the acclaimed book, Holla Back: But Make Sure You Listen First, said that he has maintained his contacts with the book clubs, and uses them as test readers – sending them chapters of the new detective story he is writing.
Ashley Richardson, of Mount Airy, started Women Reading for Wisdom Book Club in September. Their first book was Dusty Crowns by Heather Lindsey, and the next book on their agenda is The Art of Activation, by Lucinda Cross.
“It started as something informal, a few of my friends and people they invited,” explained Richardson, 26, a native of Mount Airy. 
But book clubs aren’t something exclusive to adults. The Overbrook Park Teens Book Club meets twice a month at the Overbrook Library, and read a variety of books that deal with the subjects adolescents deal with in real life. 
“It’s been a great experience for me,” said Erykah Raleigh, 16, a sophomore at Girls High School. “I’ve been reading since I was six, and it’s good to interact with people my age who like to read, and see how they feel about what we’ve read.” 
Each member of the group, which started in 2011, takes turns selecting a group read. Raleigh said her turn is coming up next, and she is considering offering up, Pinned, by Sharon G. Flake.
Raleigh and other members of book clubs are living proof that African-Americans do read, and seem to live out the motto of Black Nationalist leader, Malcolm X.
“Read absolutely everything you get your hands on because you’ll never know where you’ll get an idea from.