Book Review: "Coffee Will Make You Black," an Exploration of Black Queerness
Updated: May 23, 2018
In the event that you have ever pondered what queerness looked like in the 1960s, then you must follow a three-part series, written by April Sinclair, which centers around Jean “Stevie'” Stevenson. Stevie is a nerd girl growing up on the South-side of Chicago, during the beginning of Black Is Beautiful movement. Afro-Americans, as utilized inside the book, were invigorated to celebrate Black beauty by showing their natural hair, quite like the present Black Lives Matter movement. Coffee Will Make You Black should be categorized as a counterbalance to queer Black women, who were unknowingly proud members of nerd girl culture. Stevie was most passionate about reading books, drama club and composing for the school newspaper.
Amid this story about growing up, we not only explore beauty and friendships, we travel into Stevies most consecrated contemplations, with respect to her bisexuality. While attempting to "fit in," Stevie begins her new life adventure after her beloved friend, Terri, leaves the southside of Chicago. Stevie attempted her best to connect with her boy-crazed peers while doing whatever it took not to dismiss her true self. She constantly considered getting a boyfriend, simply like her peers. Once accepting a letter from a kid named Michael, which inquired as to whether she was a virgin, she started to have numerous inquiries concerning her body. She even attempted to ask her conservative mother the following, “Mama, are you a virgin?” With little engagement from her mom, Stevie decided to conduct a dictionary search of the word “Virgin.” Stevie is then excited about Carla getting her first period. While attempting to discuss periods with Mama, she states, "Most people would rather smell dead fish." With an array of young girls becoming mothers, Mama was afraid of Stevie becoming a statistic, too. Therefore, conversations about periods or virginity were avoided.
Later on, Stevie wanted to be favored just like her peer, Carla, a robust young lady whom she has effectively gone head-to-head with over Michael in the past. So, when their instructor picks Stevie to perform for Negro History Month, she insisted on giving her part to Carla so she can be welcomed to her birthday party; which incited an invite. At Carla's gathering, Stevie finally witnesses what it resembles to be popular, and thinks to herself, “Maybe we were having fun and I was just too square to realize it.”
Shortly afterwards, Stevie begins an innocent crush on Yusef. When Yusef asked to walk her home, Stevie ditches nerdy Roland and stated, “I felt like one of the women who used to be Queen For A Day!” In the meantime, it's not cheerleading but rather playing ball that interests Stevie. Not something to be vocal about, alerts Carla. Young ladies who like ball as opposed to b-ball players, get a reputation like Willie Jean, the young stud girl who has been gossiped as being "that way."
Stevie starts to look past her kinship with Carla. Previous cohort Terri, with her rich permed hair, is back in town and Stevie yearns to join her classy group called “Charisma." Transfer understudy, Sean, a senior, then asks junior Stevie out on a date. In the interim, Stevie has fantasies about the school’s white nurse, “I wondered what Sean would think if he knew that I daydreamed about Nurse Horn more than him.” While trying to find a label that best suites her bisexual nature, she becomes conflicted when her grandmother states, “That’s why they call them queer, they don’t do what a normal person would do.” Afterwards, her best friend Carla starts to question her sexuality after turning down Sean, “Stevie, if you one of them funny folks, I don’t want to know.” This announcement alone is an awesome case of concealing one's actual personality in order to have friends. While Stevie communicated not having any desire to be considered "funny," she continued to hold her ground.
In the wake of ending her friendship with Carla, Stevie chooses to visit Nurse Horn, in which she uncovered her most profound considerations. Beforehand, Stevie had the suspicion that Nurse Horn might be in a lesbian relationship with a Black woman. Indeed, Nurse Horn discloses to Stevie that her affections for her may simply be pre-adult appreciation; the assumption of one growing out of this “so called” phase. During their most expressive discussion, Nurse Horn advises Stevie of the following, "Stevie, you can only become what you already are.” In this discussion, Nurse Horn urges Stevie to acknowledge herself as she tries to gain a better understanding of her bisexuality.
Coffee Will Make You Black is a powerful coming of age story that encourages young girls to celebrate natural beauty, while in the midst of sexual exploration. As one of the few books that get the notion of bisexuality right, April Sinclair wrote a magnificent piece that shows the rare side of Black girls learning what their sexuality means. As Stevie said, “My life might not turn out to be easy. I just hoped that I turned out to be strong.”
Biography: Tiffany Desiree, the founder of the Facebook page: INFJ - The Outgoing Introvert, works as a full-time author. She writes children's books for LolliWolliWorld Publishing. Her Fruity Land Adventure Series focuses on encouraging children to eat healthy while bringing an awareness to endangered species. Tiffany is a nerd girl with a love for books, all things outer-space and research.