We are conditioned to believe we have to fight for our love. An American Marriage, proved that we don’t ever need to. We can be happy without a struggle love story. We can also be happy by settling into what is convenient. There’s also multiple ways to be with someone. Andre and Celestial communion. The many unions through marriage, including Roy and Davina potential union. Ghetto Yoda and his many pen pals that keep him from loneliness and continue to feed his need for more than one at a time. There are so many themes to unpack in this novel. The most glaring should be black men and how easy it is to find themselves behind bars. Almost as if they are marked to end up there from birth (prison babies).The inefficient police and court system that tried and put an innocent man behind bars for years. However, this awful sentence did not make the book heavy. There is also the stigmas associated with black women. Makes you wonder, What did black women ever do to America? The explanation of a black woman image with the prison baby disgusted me but Walter was absolutely right. It’s why some black folks won’t do certain things in a corporate space like eat fried chicken.There are stories of black history, race, black fatherhood and the multiple children from multiple women.
This book is about fathers. Those who left, those who stayed, those who provided, those who filled the gaps. I felt a knot in my stomach at the mention of how things could be so good one day and so sour the next. I don’t have pictures with my dad as a child and he wasn’t always absent. When I got older I got the same speech Carlos gave Andre when we reunited.
There was also, gentrification, separation, divorce, traditional relationships. The central theme in this book though is love. Will you wait on love? Does waiting on love look different for black men and women? A black man would never wait; just saying. Does love conquer all?
Celestial cannot quite pin herself down to love blindly but is very committed to whichever man is in her life. Roy was the kind of man that was glad for a diamond but knew damn well he couldn’t keep it from getting cloudy and would bust his ego trying to do so. Andre had a weakness to Celestial that he just could never shake; she was an obsession for years. Roy and Olive had true agape love. Mr. and Mrs. Davenport loved freely after coming through the fire. Carlos loved whomever would maintain the traditional role of a woman in his life, as I can’t find myself believing that he is faithful to his new wife. The way he replaced his family showed a type of savagery a lot of black children know very well. Hell, having been raised with a father in your life is usually a shock. Finally, Davina, so ready to pour into someone and all she required was that they assure her that there was something; ultimately making her ‘the one’. A marriage IS between 2 people. After the showdown and everyone has left, you are faced with each other. This is where you are bare and will need to either soar, sink or get sucked in to societal pressure to make it work or stay for the kids. Every marriage is different and you have to tell yourself to intentionally choose to love the same person everyday. In addition, people tolerate very different things in what they think a marriage should be.
Now, I don’t know if I wanted Roy and Celestial to work for a number of reasons not related to Roy’s stint in prison. They did not marry within their socioeconomic status bracket and it caused welts in their relationship. Roy is suffering from cognitive dissonance and jealousy, frankly. The ‘equally yolked’ stress is from a religious background that neither in the marriage care for, yet is reminded of. He makes reference to Celestial’s wealth every chance he gets and beats himself down because he couldn’t surpass what her daddy could provide. Roy’s obsession with his poor upbringing is ruining his ability to love freely. He is so hung up on how much Celestial had that he cannot bring himself to enjoy his marriage within what he can afford to provide.
Roy was also a very sloppy cheater, having multiple instances of being caught entertaining other women while married! Celestial is a free woman. You cannot tame women or own them and Roy did not understand this. Mr. Davenport did and her father tried to teach him that. In addition, ‘sitting her down’ was a delusion, as her craft is what brought in the bacon. He tried so hard to race against tradition that his entire interactions with her were based on what he thinks ‘ a wealthy woman’ would want to hear instead of speaking freely. Roy constantly hid things from his upbringing from her and held onto secrets. He is untrustworthy. It’s why he continued to collect numbers from other women. He struggled too much with being enough, when she genuinely just wanted an honest, dedicated loving man. I hated how he let his insecurities rule him so much he voiced his jealousy out loud. All while Celestial really tried to be a good wife and was being herself through and through and still couldn’t get him to bend. Roy’s irritability made me rub my temples. It was as if any question he didn’t like would set him off. A man like that has an impenetrable ego and pride that won’t let him do what’s best but what he thinks is best.
I despised Andre and his wormy behavior. He was a watchful cheetah for years, just waiting to pounce because he was never chosen. Celestial is lucky it was a positive situation. It’s why he didn’t fight back, he knew he was always a weakling. Andre is all types of pathetic and his story line was too good to be true, of course he loved her! Andre and Celestial relationship just leaves a bad taste in my mouth, even if she did deserve some comfort. Did I feel compelled to feel for Celestial because she’s a woman? I’m unsure. I do think that Celestial and Andre being overly supportive every time they interacted with anyone that had to do with Roy irked my spirit. Classism at its peak with how they threw money at everything or tried to do it all. As if to give these ‘poor people’ a break from their sad life; taking over their moments. Their over enthusiasm to set up Roy if he wanted to stay in Atlanta made me sick. The imbeciles. Thinking they could buy him out with a head start for a new life. Fuck outta here.
A few points:
- Is it better to have no father than a bad one? Ghetto Yoda is my dad. In the flesh and on parchment. Lots of wise cracks; no responsibility.
- I like how Celestial opened up her doll to her world. Their faces started to be framed to look like others in her life and not just Roy anymore.
- I love the way art was used throughout as a way to express the things happening in her life.
- The Old Hickey tree represented truth and honesty that fuels life. You can lie to yourself and try so hard to change things but only what’s real will be left standing.
- The prison turned Roy into a bona fide criminal, alluding that he could have raped Celestial when she protested against unsafe sex. Assault and damage to property. So many parts of an upstanding man died.
- Every time I saw Andre’s name I rolled my eyes.
- I don’t think I’m mad at Roy for the fight scene. A lot time things happen to us that we want to beat out of our systems but we don’t or can’t. The way Celestial understood and managed this entire moment was filled with so much compassion.I was with her until she wanted to call the cops. I was with her most of the time in this book.
- When Roy said ‘I’ll go back to prison, I don’t care’. He doesn’t care because he survived half his term and thinks he can do even more. He also got in the prison mind state and routine. Stockholm Syndrome.
- Celestial absolved herself of all responsibility to Roy when she let Andre convince her to tell him about their relationship. She was doing so well in managing what happened to the future she planned with her husband. Then she lost her footing and allowed a ‘can you deal with it, so I don’t have to because this is foolishness’ roundabout way attitude to take over. Like she didn’t owe him the common decency to end things herself. Like this man was an associate in passing she can send a message to. A sort of, ‘Tell Roy its over for us for me please and say hi to his dad for me’. What a reduction. Another blow to a man already having gone through so much filth. This broke my heart.
- Celestial is a strong, free woman who thought logically about things in her life. She lives by mind, not heart. It’s why she knew terminating her pregnancy was the best option and did it. It’s why she did not wait for a man that wouldn’t wait for her. It’s why she had such an attachment to her dolls and her craft knowing the value of her own hard work. Also, that happiness comes from oneself and the life you aim to cultivate. She was as independent as can be and this was further possible considering the benefits of generational wealth. She was a responsible (except when it came to ending things with Roy, which to be fair she battled with doing herself), intentional human being.
- I host a big choir of my own for sure, a heavy loud choir these days. Do we ever listen to the voices in our head?
- Roy Sr. burying his Olive with his hands hurt me deep and I almost shed a thug tear.
- Keys opened doors, that kind of power I liked.
- Break your own heart, or they will break it for you. Geez. Tears.
- Olive didn’t need to learn her lesson about men more than once, so much so she handled what she needed to so she wouldn’t get caught slipping, pregnant and alone. This led to her attachment, as she had experience the worst kind of hurt. Single motherhood when you did not enter the journey alone is a heartbreak in itself that beats you every time you look at your kid. I wish Olive had a fight scene with Roy Sr and won.
- There isn’t one way to be ‘married’ and perhaps the word should be replaced and the institution opened all the way up. We should frame it differently and ease the tension it comes with. The pressure to catch a spouse, maintaining it when it can be a personal hell and to not be afraid to end it or view that as a failure. Marriages should be easier to end.
This book was hot the entire way through, never a slow period to me. It is an excellent, worthy weekend read. Don’t leave your bottle of Pinot and reading socks.