PLATINUM: A Review

Thanks to gossip blogs and social media, everyone thinks they know the ins and outs of celebrity relationships. Award-winning journalist Aliya S. King takes you beyond the red carpet and flashing lights in her first novel, PLATINUM.

When Alex Sampson, a seasoned journalist, takes a huge writing assignment to shadow hip-hop wives while ghostwriting a raunchy tell-all book for Cleo, a veteran video vixen, she knows drama awaits. Cleo wants to single-handedly destroy lives one by one, page by page by documenting her sexcapades with powerful rappers–who could  possibly in relationships with Alex’s upcoming story sources. Little does Alex know how much of her own life she’ll see in theirs.

She interviews the wives and wives-to-be: Beth Saddlebrook, longtime wife to Z, one of New York’s hottest rappers, who is on the verge a personal and professional breakdown. She is also a small town white woman, pregnant with their fifth child–all while tolerating and managing his infidelity.

Josephine Bennett is a beautiful couture clothing designer married to the most sought after producer in the industry, Ras. When her husband’s fling confronts her face-to-face, she must ask Ras—and herself, if he was only in lust with another woman–or was he in love?

A megastar and entertainer since her teen years, Kipenzi Hill wants to give it all up for the simple life. For years she’s had to hide her relationship with her boyfriend, hip-hop god, Jake, for professional reasons. Kipenzi trades in her stilettos for sneakers and looks ahead to marriage until Cleo’s book puts doubts in her mind about Jake’s committment to her.

Conflict of interest is the name of the game, but Alex must do both jobs and hold in a secret she’s had for years without compromising her journalistic values and morals.

King takes readers on a real life ride through the lives of women and what they will and won’t do for their men, families and happiness. Her first-hand experience in the journalism game makes her writing even more believable. You feel as if you’re right there in the moment, in the offices of a Vibe or Source Magazine. PLATINUM shows readers there’s much more to hip-hop journalism than just putting words on paper.

It’s realistic and sexy–definitely a page-turner. I look forward to the sequel, or even a spin-off book focusing solely on a particular character.

Via Amazon.com

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Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Friday night, I braved the cold and snow to attend a book reading/signing for author, Dolen Perkins-Valdez’s first novel, Wench. Out of all of the book reviews I’ve done, this was my very time actually attending a book signing. I’d already done the book review for a publication, including a phone interview with her. She’s a native Memphian who is finally getting the recognition she deserves in the literary industry.

What intrigued me most wasn’t that the body of work came from a Memphian, but the story itself is one that needs to be shared. It’s a fictional take on history, a love story and look at friendship between women and slaves. I’m half-way through the book and I feel like I know each of these women. They each have a special story to tell–and it all takes place while on “vacation” at Tawawa House.

Tawawa House resort is located in the free state of Ohio in the mid-1800s. Beautiful and secluded, it is also the place where white masters vacation with their enslaved mistresses, including Lizzie, Reenie and Sweet. Over the years, the three women have formed a bond through commonalities and differences—physical and psychological ties to their masters and family matters. Enter Mawu, another mistress from Louisiana, who shares dreams of freedom with the women—after all, they are in a free state. All four women’s relationships with their masters and their lives on their respective plantations chance being changed forever.

The Tawawa House was a real place, open from 1851-1854. It later became Wilberforce College, a historically black university. “There was no record left behind (from vacationers or slaves),” says Perkins-Valdez. “I couldn’t stop asking myself, ‘how did it happen? How did they get away with it?’ I decided I would go into the imaginative side.” 

A novel about slave mistresses isn’t a new idea–consider Sally Hemmings’ reported longtime relationship with president Thomas Jefferson or any Alex Haley novel (Roots, Queen). What is new is a story told from several women’s points of view. Each character has her own relationship with her master, some based on love, others based on shame and ownership. She has hopes for herself and her children who are born into slavery, but have nearly white skin and straight hair. What will their futures look like? Will they ever be free? 

Perkins-Valdez vividly paints each picture to illustrate the complexity in these slaves’ relationships. Everything isn’t as black and white as one would like to think. “This is a part of out shared American history,” said Perkins-Valdez at the book review. “It’s healthy to talk about it.”

Currently residing in Seattle, Washington, Perkins-Valdez is very much in touch with her southern roots. “I will always carry Memphis with me,” she says. “I think it’s (Wench) a book that every person with interest in the history and legacy of slavery should read.”

Check Perkins-Valdez out at www.dolenperkinsvaldez.com.

**Some excerpts taken from the January 2010 issue of Grace Magazine.