Saturday, October 18, 2014

Jenise Brown: "Down Low Sister on Top": a "re-clothed novel" about African American bisexual women, from VA Pride

Author: Jenise Brown

Title: “Down Low Sister on Top: Celebrating the African American Bisexual Woman

Publication: Jenise, Richmond VA, ISBN 978-0-9904187-5-7, paper, 196 pages, 4 long chapters

I met the author at her booth at Virginia Pride on Brown’s Island in Richmond on Sept. 27 of this year.  I deposited the price at the table and got the book in the mail, and I don’t find the book on Amazon.  I’ve talked here about the idea of selling your own book yourself at fairs and festivals.  I did some of that with my first “Do Ask, Do Tell” book in 1997;  I did my own first printing, and didn’t go to POD until 2000.  In fact, I handled all orders myself from Minneapolis (where I moved in September) until January 1998.  After I got home from recovering from my accidental hip fracture, I put the book on Amazon (and BN ad Borders) for the first time, in those days not realizing how desirable that would be. I also had a distributor in Minneapolis, the Bookmen.

The Website for the book is here.  I see that she links to a Paypal page, an issue that I discussed recently here (Oct. 4), a rather bizarre coincidence.   

To get to Denise’s book, it comprises and introduction and four long chapters with autobiographical narrative, and then first person narratives of a number of other bisexual women, including at least one Muslim, whom she says are “fictitious”.  So literally, the book is more a collection of stories than a novel, although it is rather bridge-like in form. Remember how early novels were often in the form of letters, and some writers, like Thomas Carlyle, experimented with form considerably in early fiction (see Dec. 2, 2013).   Back in 1983, I had experimented with the idea of taking a novel and breaking it up into “standalone stories” for flexibibility, as described on Wordpress here.  

According to the author, “Down Low” refers to behavior among African Americans that they feel they have to hide.  Specifically, it refers to black men who pretend to be conventionally heterosexual and have families, but who also have sex with men.  The term has expanded to women, who are bisexual more often than men.
The four chapters are “The Art of Lying”, “The Art of Social Networking”, “The Art in the Power of Influence”, and “The Art of Selfishness”.  One of the women talks about dealing with arranged marriages, and then about being in the military as a lesbian during the days of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, with a bite that reminds me of some of the accounts in Randy Shilts’s “Conduct Unbecoming”. 

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