Andrews` memoir is bitingly funny

Last Updated: Jun 17, 2010, 12:31 PM IST

London: For those who love the title, ‘Bitch Is the New Black’ is a bitingly funny — and honest — read. For those who don`t, author Helena Andrews` storytelling skills will likely come off just as bitingly funny and honest — if they can get past the title.

The book opens with four lines of an instant message from a man Andrews calls "the Nigerian E-mail Scam of ex-sorta-boyfriends." The description is crafted in response to Dex10`s message "you win." It`s a post-fallout promise that Andrews says her "Waiting to Exhale intuition" tells her isn`t to be trusted because "black women have won approximately three things — freedom, a hot comb and Robin Thicke."

The passage`s humour is but a giggle in a bounty of laugh-out-loud material. The first few paragraphs of ‘Dirty Astronaut Diapers’ carry the sort of snark and story that would make perfect fodder for a hip and sassy TV drama-movie adaptation. And in some ways, it makes the first chapter a misleading start to the writing collection.

For all its funny, ‘Bitch Is the New Black’ isn`t the shallow account of one of a generation of carbon copy-educated black women lassoed to a cubicle, analyzing life over instant messages.

The former New York Times and Politico.com staffer describes a seemingly contented childhood, constantly moving from place to place with her lesbian mother, Frances — the two settling for a time on California`s all-white Santa Catalina Island. It is there where Andrews says every Thursday night she had to choose between going to "Awana club meetings with all the other kids who needed Jesus" or spending the evening whisked into the perfect world of "The Cosby Show."

She recounts domestic violence, recalling a brawl between Frances and her partner, then remembering an abusive boyfriend of her own. Andrews tells the stories in a journalist`s tone — capturing with precision the details surrounding the suicide of a close friend, fellow Ivy-leaguer and sorority sister in one of the book`s most poignant essays.

‘Bitch Is the New Black’ arrives on shelves among a steady flow of blog posts, news segments and magazine articles dispensing disappointing statistics about black women with advanced degrees and good jobs who are having trouble finding black husbands with the same credentials.

Those who have had their fill of numbers will find Andrews` story digestible because she establishes herself as an individual, proving that the women who fit into the "strong (single) black woman" category are more complex than the one-dimensional persona lets on.

Bureau Report

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