ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
There is a long history of sex and sensuality in the work of male African American writers, who have
frequently used these themes to celebrate their passions, manhood, and that most human of impulses.
Books by Robert Fleming
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After Hours: A Collection of Erotic Writing by Black Men Edited By Robert Fleming (Penguin Putnam, 256 pages, $14)
If there’s one thing most people love, it’s great sex, even in this time when our options include virtual sex, phone sex, and cybersex. M-most as good as experiencing it ourselves is good, hot, provocative erotica, stories that give us a steamy sensual lift, a natural buzz, very similar to that giddy feeling of finding a new lover. Recently, a guest on one of the popular cable TV shows was discussing why literary erotica was reaching a wider audience; exceeding the expectations of both writers and publishers alike. He said that there was only one explanation: the stories are sexy; titillating, and most of all, safe at a time when sex can be hazardous to one’s health. There was plenty of anecdotal evidence, the guest added, that well-written erotica can lower inhibitions, increase libido, delay ejaculation, prolong orgasm, and deepen intimacy. While a good erotic tale may not be able to do all that and will never be a substitute for candlelight wooing or true romance, no one can deny its potent entertainment value.
There is a long history of sex and sensuality in the work of male African American writers, who have frequently used these themes to celebrate their passions, manhood, and that most human of impulses. In the past, some male writers used sex in their proud, courageous writing as another mode of protest against political, social, and cultural injustices. Along the way, that sense of defiance can be seen in the soaring prose of such writers as Jean Toomer; Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, William Gardner Smith, James Baldwin, and Chester Himes, all of whom sought to depict their own notion of sexuality and individuality. They wrote daring, challenging novels, featuring aspects of love, desire, and intimacy that defied the traditional white sexual myths and stere6types ingrained in the popular culture after the release of D. W Griffith’s incendiary film, Birth of a Nation in 1915. No longer were black men going to ignore or blindly accept the lies and fantasies of others concerning their sexuality or morality.
This book also does not co-sign those tainted, denigrating images of black male sexuality; instead it seeks t6 provide the reader with a few hours of fantasy escape, and fun. These stories, while erotic and arousing, provide another opportunity to view the sexuality of our men from different vantage points, often from angles and approaches not usually in our literature. Editing this book, I guess, was another way for me to help to set the record straight. As conceived, After Hours explores a wide range of black sexuality above and beyond the familiar obscene concepts of the oversexed black stud and predatory brute, offering a fresh glimpse at the modern African American man who is sensitive, alert, enterprising, and ready to take care of business in the arena of love, sex, and moral responsibility.
Since this is not a religious primer or a New Age treatise on “The Good Black Man in Affairs of the Heart and the Flesh,” these stories provide a diverse look at the brothers, fathers, and lovers among us, with a few guys who would be classified as lusty, naughty, or otherwise “politically incorrect.” That is okay, however; because it is important to represent the full spectrum of black men. The characters here are fully developed and three-dimensional, and while “nice guys” have their place, they are often depicted in current literature as boring, nerdy, luckless in love, and one-dimensional. We make no judgments. With a few exceptions, there is something for almost everyone here.
And although some of the usual elements of erotica are present, every effort was made to assemble a multitude of voices, a strong collective view of the contemporary black man and his carnal appetites that most African American men and women could immediately recognize and appreciate. The goal was to find the right mix of narrative styles, talent, and vision to put together a collection that would be groundbreaking, challenging, and sensually satisfying. Whether it’s unbridled lust, full-tilt erotic love, self-affirmation, or self-destructive obsession, these issues are examined in insightful, frank terms. Ultimately, the stories malting the final cut 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.
Every book starts with some kind of aesthetic guideline. Returning to that age-old argument about the differences between erotica and pornography, I sought out articles and books that discussed this issue clearly, thoroughly, and without bias. Since I worked during the early 1980s at the American offices of the French skin mag, Oui, as an editor writing sexual fantasies for their letter section, I gained some idea of where the line of demarcation between the two genres was. What an educational experience that was! In current books and publications, that line frequently is manipulated and blurred.
One article, a 1992 New York Newsday interview with Miriam DaCosta-Willis, one of the editors of the pioneering black erotic collection, Erotique Noire, provided me with some critical definitions and guidelines for this project. Asked about the boundary between erotica and pornography, she replied: “I see pornography as being very carnal, and I see erotica as being not only physical but also spiritual, intellectual, and cerebral…. Pornography objectifies the individual, whereas erotica brings two people together. You’re participating in a rite of union. One is commercial, one artistic.”
Employing those words and remembering some of the works from Richard Wright, James Baldwin, Cecil Brown, and Chester Himes, I plowed ahead through the stack of submissions, looking for clues to the complex, mysterious black male sexual psyche in the new millennium. While we as a community remain conservative, very moral in many ways, and deeply religious, there are stirrings of a fresh, stripped-down sensibility that runs counter to Old School chauvinistic notions of masculinity and sexuality. It’s something that has not fully reared its head in the news media, films, books, and television, but its presence cannot be denied. Apart from the stereo-typical images in gangsta rap videos and buppie frat flicks, there is something new and daring in how we as black men view ourselves as males and as sexual beings, and in how we see our women and our collective roles in the larger world. Both the frequency and substance of the dialogue about love, intimacy, and responsibility are increasing in our community. And it’s about time!
In After Hours, you meet brothers who offer for your nocturnal reading enjoyment a juicy gathering of reflective stories, lusty stories, funny stories, fantastic stories-sexual adventures that will entertain and excite, inform and ignite, all written by stylists. Some are within normal limits while others sail over the top. Opening the collection is a short gem, “Cultural Relativity,” by National Book Award winner and MacArthur fellow Charles Johnson, a story that tantalizes with a strong sense of anticipation-much like two teenagers on a first. date, their bodies close, but afraid to give in to the magnetic pull of passion. While it may lack the overt eroticism of some other entries, it is a taut, teasing display of ideas and imagination in updating a very old tale.
The next excursion into sensuality, “Twisted,” by Jervey Tervalon, immediately raises the bar quite high for kinky, erotic expression and redefines the term “coupling” with a tale that explores the outer boundaries of sexual roles. In “Once Upon a Time,” an excerpt from the novel Rest for the Weary, noted novelist and educator Arthur Flowers adds a little hoodoo flava in his modern fable of a conjureman trying to seduce a formidable female in the Crescent City. Up-and-coming novelist Brian Peterson puts a hot, quirky spin on love and desire between two horny yet cautious young black professionals in his fast-paced story, “1-800-Connect.”
The thrills and moans continue with a gorgeous mystery woman and a randy Romeo amid the sandy beaches and towering palms of exotic Hawaii in Earl Sewell’s “Rock Me Baby.” Fans of veteran noir writer Cole Riley will not be disappointed with his latest sizzling yarn of torrid Mexican nights, bad choices, and damp sheets, “If It Makes You Happy.” Kenji Jasper; author of the critically acclaimed novel Dark, revisits the arty boho scene in “Up,” a story of an ambitious poet who wants the big time and all its sensual perks.
The question of what to do when the sexual charge runs low in an otherwise solid marriage is answered in a bit of erotic trickery laced with sensory treats from the pen of Eric E. Pete, “Cayenne.” Journalist-novelist Curtis Bunn contributes one of the collection’s true gems with his insightful recounting of a couple’s ravenous thirst for passion and time away from the children in “Home Alone,” not to be confused with the dull movie with the mop-topped Culkin lad. If Prince can blend the sacred and secular; so can Tracy Grant, the author of the popular novel Hellified, who pulls no punches in his tale of sanctified sexual play among the holy and the fallen, “The Apostle Charles.”
Laughs, Toads of them, compete with the unrelenting sex romps of Brian Egleston’s hilarious “Wallbanging,” his chronicle of a sex-crazed American couple on tour in China bent on squeezing one more session of love into their schedule at the Great Wall, even if it gets them in trouble with Chinese authorities. Lust and humor also play a big part in the legendary John A. Williams’s excerpted story, “Odell,” as a quiet, well-meaning guy discovers the busty woman of his dreams is a TV junkie during a frustrating evening at home.
Sexual obsession can only end badly for a buppie with a mind-numbing attraction for a pretty TV talking head in Kalamu ya Salaam’s timely “The Roses Are Beautiful, but the Thorns Are So Sharp.” In “The Rumor;” Alexs D. Pate uses a dash of magic realism to dispel the complaints of naysayers in a black community about the power of love and physical bliss. The trials and travails of an African American man in his late twenties seeking to lose his virginity with mixed results is the subject of horror writer Brandon Massey’s “The Question.”
A woman celebrates the fifteenth year of an ongoing affair with her energetic lover in a public display of lust in Robert Scott Adams’s “Where Strangers Meet.” Clarence Major; a leading African American wordsmith and one of the early pioneers of black erotica, offers a sensational tour-de-force in a sexual stream-of-consciousness hymn to oral gratification, “Anita,” excerpted from his groundbreaking 1969 Olympia Press classic novel, All-Night Visitors. Gary Phillips, creator of the popular Ivan Monk PI series and the Martha Chainey mystery novels, contributes a very hot yet bizarre story of anything goes sex, blackmail, and murder in a noir caper; “Wild Thang.” For fans of the Monk stories, you’ve never seen the sleuth like this before. Closing the collection is Colin Channer’s lyrical yet highly erotic meditation, “Revolution,” the story of an elderly white author’s surreal infatuation and ruthless pursuit of the beautiful mistress of reggae legend, Bob Marley.
Erotica, especially black erotica, can hold a mirror to the mores and morals of a people, a culture, or a generation. While reading After Hours, you may find yourself discovering some new personal and sexual truths between the moans and aftershocks pr6duced by the words and images. It’s all right to think, dream, and fantasize about these things. But the bottom line here is that it is better to live, love, and enjoy all that life offers. Come read and enjoy what a few gifted black men have to say about love, sex, and intimacy! Have fun!
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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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Edited by Miriam Decosta-Willis, Reginald Martin, and Roseann P. Bell
The editors are to be congratulated for amassing a collection of erotica worthy in its own right because of the writers showcased, among them Alice Walker, Chester Himes, Gloria Naylor, Jewelle Gomez, Charles Blockson, Audre Lorde, and Essex Hemphill. Coverage is not limited to African American writers but includes African, Caribbean American, and Latin American writers, whether straight or gay, of prose, poetry, or fiction. For some authors, this anthology features their first piece of erotic writing. Readers will be familiar with other selections, for example, Lorde’s “Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power.” As a whole, this book successfully challenges stereotypical notions about black erotica and serves up delightful sexual tidbits for just about everyone’s taste.Faye A. Chadwell, Library Journal
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Edited by Robert Fleming
Inventive conceits dominate in Fleming’s second collection of erotic stories (after 2002’s After Hours) by African-American writers both new and established. Sexual frustration proves to be a nice point of entry for sci-fi writer Stephen Barnes in “Jet Lag,” as a writer’s busy schedule and a visiting mother-in-law keep the flames of love in check until a final, explosive release. Kinky sex takes center stage in Reginald Brown’s “Almond Eyes,” a cautionary tale about a young man whose hot, older and erotically adventurous girlfriend might be sucking the life out of him. In Gary Earl Ross’s “Lucky She’s Mine,” a criminologist rescues and marries a battered woman, only to be stalked by her ex after he gets out of prison, while in “Forty-five Is Not So Old,” Kalamu ya Salaam presents the sad dilemma of a middle-aged woman lamenting her husband’s lack of desire for her even as he lies in a hotel with his mistress. Cecil Brown provides a cheeky moment of comic relief in an excerpt from his novel Days Without Weather, “A Fan’s Love,” in which a woman seduces a comedian after his show, and demands good loving and good jokes to spur her to a stirring climax. Despite the occasional clunker, and the lack of a couple of longer, more complex stories to balance the quick-hit situational material, Fleming has assembled another volume that’s sure to please.
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#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane
#10 – Covenant: A Thriller by Brandon Massey
#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva by Ashley and JaQuavis
#12 – Don’t Ever Tell by Brandon Massey
#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide by Ntozake Shange
#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree
#15 – Homemade Loves by J. California Cooper
#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper
#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber
#18 – Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare
#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King
#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey
#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe
#22 Thug Matrimony by Wahida Clark
#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark
#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber
#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter
#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson
#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History by Ahati N. N. Toure
#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley
#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell
#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore
#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit by RM Johnson
#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins
#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell
#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle
#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard
#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris
#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice
#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields
#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class by Lisa B. Thompson
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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update 2 January 2012