ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
“These stories show that black men can dream of sex that’s more than friction and of women
who are eagerly, voluptuously sexual and also loveable, smart, self-respecting and respectable. “
Books by Robert Fleming
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After Hours: A Collection of Erotic Writing by Black Men Edited By Robert Fleming
Publishers Weekly Review
Readers and critics discouraged by so much recent mainstream African-American fiction (especially romances) will find plenty to enjoy in this collection, which aspires to be more literary than smutty and succeeds in exploding a few stereotypes in the process.
Contributors include such established figures as National Book Award-winner Charles Johnson (Middle Passage) and Alexs D. Pate (Amistad), as well as several newer writers. Kenji Jasper’s “Up” examines the hollowness that follows the illicit thrill of sex for career advancement, while Tracy Grant describes the unraveling of a young minister tempted by his ex-lover in “The Apostle Charles.” “Wallbanging” by Brian Egleston is a lighthearted but cautionary account of al fresco copulation on the Great Wall of China from the perspective of a lawyer who can’t believe the stupidity of his clients.
Brian Peterson’s “1-800-CONNECT” is an amusing romp, even though writing about phone sex may seem like a substitute for a substitute for the real thing. Often the protagonists celebrate what it feels like to get the girl, but not always to keep her: the relationship in Jervey Tervalon’s “Twisted” is derailed when Jordan finds out progressively more troubling facts about his beloved Daphne, and a woman is less than understanding when her 28-year-old boyfriend finally reveals that he is till a virgin in Brandon Massey’s “The Question.” There are a few duds among these stories and novel excerpts, but overall the skill level is high.
Forecast: Though written by men, and largely about men, this collection will likely end up mostly in the hands of women eager to discover secrets the other sex has been keeping.
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A Selection of the Black Expression Book Club
Just the word “erotica” makes hearts beat a little faster and minds wander to delicious, dangerously taboo places. the nineteen original stories in this collection, written by today’s premier black male writers, celebrate the heated dances of passion and intimacy with lyricism and full-frontal candor without playing into racial, cultural or social stereotypes. After Hours: A Collection of Erotic Writing by Black Men (A Plume Original), edited by Robert Fleming, offers a fresh glimpse at the modern African American man who is sensitive, alert, enterprising, and ready to take care of business in the arenas of love, sex, and moral responsibility.
“If there’s one thing most people love, it’s great sex,” writes Fleming in his introduction. “Almost as good as experiencing it ourselves is good, hot, provocative erotica, stories that give us a steamy sensual life, a natural buzz. The stories in this collection were chosen for the art and style of the story told, the sexual heat of the scenes, and the universality of the themes and experience presented.” Featuring such authors as Charles Johnson, John A. Williams, Colin Channer, Clarence Major, Arthur Flowers, Kenji Jasper, Alexis D. Pate, Jervey Tervalon, Gary Phillips, Cole Riley, and more, After Hours presents a strong collective view of the contemporary Black man and his carnal appetites, and explores the diversity and richness of the African-American sexual experience.
Set against romantic backdrops from Mexico to the South Seas, new Orleans to the Caribbean, this groundbreaking, challenging, and sensually satisfying collection explores unbridled lust, full-tilt erotic love, self affirmation, and destructive obsession in insightful, frank terms.
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Review By J.D. Simmons
Robert Fleming’s unique collection of erotic short stories reveals black sensuality that’s imaginative and touching as well as breath-taking and sweat-breaking. Stereotyped as studs and dominatrices, portrayed in videos with gyrating booties backing it up to spraddle-legged loins, black people rarely encounter literary and pop images integrating their genital sexuality with head, heart, work, commitment and soul hunger. So, Fleming has intentionally selected stories about heterosexual coupling that illustrate a principle claimed by Maya Angelou: the hottest erogenous zone is between our ears, not between our legs. Have no fear, though; fire down below is by no means neglected here. But it ain’t porn sex reduced to its least human terms when the titillation flows from the pens of Old Masters like John A. Williams and Clarence Major, the lush vision of Syracuse University fiction professor Arthur Flowers and the feminist consciousness of New Orleans arts guru Kalamu Ya Salaam, who edited The Black Collegian for more than a decade and has moved on to co-found a multi-media publishing company, lead a poetry performance ensemble and cut a spoken-word CD.
These men and a deft crew of next-wave writers beguile us with true erotica: flowing technicolor dream sequences in locales that seduce, like the Maui of Earl Sewell’s opulently descriptive tale, “Rock Me Baby.” In this edgy fantasy a man used to owning and controlling finds himself on a boat, captive and captivated by a knife-wielding woman who immobilizes him in a thunderstorm on the Pacific Ocean and stirs up his own personal typhoon by giving him…and he…well, you gotta go there for yourself (it’s good for that; taking a friend along wouldn’t be a bad thing either).
In “Where Strangers Meet,” Bobby Adams delivers a long invocation of sensuality like a Baptist deacon doing the main prayer at Sunday service. Time after time, when his panting pleas bring you to the crest, ready for the release of “in Jesus name we pray, Amen,” the good brother pauses, takes another breath and commences to raise the Spirit with even greater fervor, leaving you no choice but keep on riding the crest. The premise: a couple, already in an illicit relationship, decides to spice it up even more with a re-enactment of a first meeting. As Adams says at the start of the story, “There is something erotic about just the thought of meeting some unknown person for the first time and getting so turned on that you are completely willing to risk compromising your traditional ideas of acquaintance, courtship and ethics in order to just go ahead and get taboo love.” Well, after first using the pencil to prune this rather cumbersome sentence, I would sign on to the sentiment. I mean, we’ve all been there, haven’t we? (Seventeen, cross-country train, suddenly and inexplicably hands-on with my seatmate, a soldier in crisp Army khaki probably not much older than me, but I was so ignorant I didn’t know why after a while he walked bent over to the bathroom with little wet spots on his fly.)
Fleming has been a canny editor here. After Hours opens with a nifty giggle from National Book Award-winner Charles Johnson (he who displayed green-eyed bad grace when Toni Morrison received the 1993 Nobel Prize in literature, tut tut tut). After that understated opener, the themes and styles of the stories are nicely interspersed so the collection doesn’t become an indistinguishable stream of slurps, sucks and trigger words. The second story, “Twisted,” fulfills its title on more than one level, using a sparse, linear prose, while the next, Flowers’ “Once Upon a Time” is opulently Southern as crepe myrtle, the surreal South of kudzu-covered forest and Spanish moss hanging from the poplar trees. Later, “1-800-CONNECT” shows the real miracle of modern technology, and Brian Egleston’s “Wallbanging” delivers a pair of sex-obsessed globetrotters who should have remembered they weren’t in Kansas any more.
Women and men do and get done equally in After Hours’ erotic universe. Women who complain that men don’t know from romance might pick up on the wonder and yearning threading through these stories. At the very least they show that black men can dream of sex that’s more than friction and of women who are eagerly, voluptuously sexual and also loveable, smart, self-respecting and respectable. It might not be the worst idea in the world to give After Hours to teens of both sexes who are immersed in rap culture’s version of sex just to suggest making the deep raunch sweeter and more personal than the g-string bump-and-grind to narcotic beats, assaultive language and modal-minor groans typical of much pop. Maybe help get JuWan and Shaneekwa to read more? Okay, whatever.
Anyway, Fleming’s done a fine piece of work with this anthology. It’s an After Hours joint self-aware, self-loving people can enter without checking brain and class at the door.
First published: July 30, 2002
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Judy Dothard Simmons is an award-winning poet, feature writer, broadcaster and editor. Question and comments for her should be addressed to email@example.com
Robert Fleming has written numerous articles for Essence, Black Enterprise, The Source, and The New York Times, among others. He is the author of the African American Writers Handbook and The Wisdom of the Elders. His poetry, essays, and fiction have appeared in numerous periodical and books, including Brown Sugar (available from Plume). He lives in New York City. After Hours (256p)
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A Novel by Jesmyn Ward
On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family thats about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrinas inexorable winds is the voice of Wards narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her familys raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brothers blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt. Her fathers hands are like gravel, while her own hand slides through his grip like a wet fish, and a handsome boys muscles jabbered like chickens. Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isnt usually just metaphor for metaphors sake. She conveys something fundamental about Eschs fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, whats salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.
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By Melissa V. Harris-Perry
According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel. The selfless Mammys behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own familys needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.
Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.
As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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update 2 January 2012