0 comments on “Listen to Ananda read a poem that celebrates creative women who inspire her.”

Listen to Ananda read a poem that celebrates creative women who inspire her.

Happy Monday!

This morning I went walking in my neighborhood.  During my walk, I thought about creative women who inspire me.  So I recorded an audio blog when I returned home that includes my poem “21 Drops of Inspiration in My Creative Bucket.”  It celebrates creative women such as Toni Blackman, Tanekeya Word, Sonya Clark, Jade Andwele, and Amber Robles-Gordon.  The poem is featured in my new book That Which Awakens Me (available on Amazon.com). Click on the Cinchcast below to hear the poem. Enjoy!

Many blessings,

Peace, Creativity, Compassion, and Gratitude for creative women who inspire me,

Ananda

0 comments on “Happy National Women’s History Month – Celebrating the Obama Women with a poem from Ananda’s new book”

Happy National Women’s History Month – Celebrating the Obama Women with a poem from Ananda’s new book

Greetings All! Happy March! Happy National Women’s History Month! 

The 2010 theme of National Women’s History Month is “Writing Women Back into  History.  Click here to learn more: www.nwhp.org/whm/index.php

Who are your sheroes? 

Desiree Rogers & Valerie Jarrett

Susan Rice

Lisa Jackson

Today, I am celebrating my sheroes called the “Obama” women.  They are the African American women serving in President Barack H. Obama’s Administration.  Last year, I wrote a poem about the “Obama” women and included it in my new book That Which Awakens Me: A Creative Woman’s Poetic Memoir of Self Discovery (available on Amazon.com – http://tiny.cc/7uFsg).  See the poem below.

Do you have a favorite Obama woman?

My three favorites are Valerie Jarrett, Desiree Rogers (who will be leaving her position as White House Social Secretary in a few weeks), Susan Rice, and Lisa Jackson. Click here to read a Washington Post article about the Obama women from March 2009:  www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/17/AR2009031703744.html.

Enjoy your day and week!

Peace, Creativity, Compassion, and Gratitude for women who paved the way for me to be who I am today,

Ananda

POEM – Copyright 2009 by Madelyn C. Leeke

 
Sista7: The Obama Women

 
When I checked my email this morning, I had a message

from my father, a 24/7/365 supporter of President Barack H.

Obama.

Daddy’s email greeted me with positive news.

It was a Washington Post article about the brilliant, bold, and

beautiful Black women in the Obama administration.

What a way to start a Wednesday in March during Women’s

History Month!

The article profiled the Sista7.

Valerie Jarrett, a Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President

for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Liaison.

Desiree Rogers, White House Social Secretary.

Susan Rice, United Nations Ambassador.

Cassandra Butts, deputy White House counsel.

Mona Sutphen, the first Black woman to serve as deputy chief

of staff.

Lisa Jackson, the first Black person to head the Environmental

Protection Agency.

Melody Barnes, the first Black woman to run the Domestic

Policy Council.

 
 

 

They represent something new in Washington: the largest
contingent of high-ranking Black women to work for a

president.

Trailblazers is the word that captures it all for me.

These phenomenal women have emerged from the margins of

American society to the position of gatekeeper in one of the

greatest countries in the world.

Each one is a household name in my life.

Tracking their efforts on the Internet is one of my favorite

things to do.

Watching them in action inspires me.

They have become an affirmation of what’s possible for Black

women in America.

That’s why I claim them as my sheros.

That’s why I continuously celebrate their presence, passion,

and power.

May we all do the same.

 

 

2 comments on “Black women, depression & Ananda’s novel Love’s Troubadours – Karma Book One”

Black women, depression & Ananda’s novel Love’s Troubadours – Karma Book One

Susan L. Taylor

Happy Thursday!

Today, I read Linda Villarosa’s article “When Depression Strikes the Black Superwoman” on TheRoot.com.  It features Susan L. Taylor, former editor-in-chief of Essence (www.essence.com) and founder and CEO of the National Cares Mentoring Movement.

Linda Villarosa

Villarosa writes,

  • The 21st century has been good for many black women who have followed in the footsteps of women like [Susan]Taylor and [Terrie] Williams. Two of the world’s most visible and accomplished women are African American—one in the White House, the other on daytime television. Black women are going to college and starting businesses in record numbers. We’re also hammering away at the glass ceiling and more of us are rising into management positions. And a few, like Ursula Burns, the CEO of Xerox—and subject of a glowing New York Times profile last week—make it to the very top. But success can come with a price. We’re the first to arrive and the last to leave as we grind through 10-hour work days. We’re the ones everybody relies on—first at work, then after hours during the second shift of home and family time. We work ourselves almost literally “to death” especially now during this economic storm. Or for some of us, we “feel” like we have to continue to be the “superwoman.”
  • Even as our collective accomplishments have bubbled to the surface, the pain is often simmering just below it. Certainly many of us have found happiness and joy in our lives, whether singled or partnered, mothers or not, with or without that high-status, six-figure career. But too many others are lonely, sad or angry—and too proud or too afraid to talk about it.

Here are several key comments Taylor made in the article.

  • “My sadness and depression came out of giving myself to my career before I would give myself to myself… Everything for Essence; nothing for me.”
  • ““I sought help, and everything began to unfold.”
  • “Hiding sadness makes you more and more sad because it closes you off to your healing.”
  • “Giving voice to what you’re feeling is part of the healing.”

These four comments really hit home with me.  They made me think of my own journey and the journey of my main character Karma Francois in my debut novel Love’s Troubadours – Karma: Book One (available on Amazon.com –  http://tinyurl.com/yfxtqyq).  Karma is a thirtysomething Oakland-born BoHo B.A.P. (Bohemian Black American Princess) with Louisiana roots and urban debutante flair. Love’s Troubadours begins with Karma’s life in an uproar. Her relationships and the museum curator career that she struggled to form in New York City have crumbled, leaving no viable options to rebuild. Relocating to Washington, DC, Karma struggles with denial, depression, and debt. A lack of full-time employment opportunities forces her to craft a gypsy existence as a Jill of Many Trades: yoga teacher, art consultant, and freelance curator at Howard University Gallery of Art. Unable and unwilling to appreciate these jobs as gifts, she wallows in a pool of lost identity-and doesn’t see a way to keep from drowning. When she looks in the mirror, Karma sees a woman whose choices have dishonored her true character. Now, for the first time in her life, Karma must learn to see herself for who she really is.

What do you think about Black women and depression?

Enjoy your day!

Peace, Creativity, Joy, Compassion, Gratitude for healing,

Ananda

3 comments on “Celebrating Black History Month with Dehejia Maat’s new book of poetry Deep Rooted Soul Sista Poems”

Celebrating Black History Month with Dehejia Maat’s new book of poetry Deep Rooted Soul Sista Poems

Greetings All,

My sistalove friend Dehejia Maat is a multitalented woman.  She shares her gifts as an actress, artist, poet, singer, yoga teacher, mother, and spirit woman. She recently published Deep Rooted Soul Sista Poems.  Her book is available on Amazon.com:  http://bit.ly/aNbzkt.

Guess what? Dehejia also released a fantastic CD entitled Melanin Wine (Earth Mix) which is available on Amazon.com: http://bit.ly/couuRI.

Dehejia currently serves as the theater director for the Dragon Box Theater in D.C. She established the No Goddess Left Behind writers workshop.  Her current projects include The Joy of Billie Holiday (an original one woman show) and The Yes That Leads to Infinity (her second book of poetry).  Click here to learn more about Dehejia and her creativity: www.dehejiamaat.com.

Follow her on Twitter: http://twitter.com/dehejiamaat.

You can also join her Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/dehejia.maat.

Check out her YouTube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/dehejiamaat.

Here are some of my favorite YouTube videos featuring Dehejia.  Enjoy!

Peace, Creativity, Compassion, and Gratitude for the creative spirit of Dehejia Maat,

Ananda

3 comments on “The influence of India.Arie’s music and Spelman College on Ananda’s novel Love’s Troubadours – Karma: Book One”

The influence of India.Arie’s music and Spelman College on Ananda’s novel Love’s Troubadours – Karma: Book One

Hi All!

India.Arie’s music has been a powerful influence in my creative work.  Her first CD Acoustic Soul (2001) inspired me to keep moving forward during my novel writing journey.

Karma: Aham Prema (2005) by Ananda Leeke 

(Aham Prema means I am divine love in Sanskrit)

 

Her composition “Strength, Courage, and Wisdom” became a personal mantra for the main character Karma Francois in my debut novel Love’s Troubadours – Karma: Book One (2007). 

I mentioned the song in Love’s Troubadours because India’s music chronicles a woman’s journey of self-discovery.  It vibrates with authenticity and vulnerability.  Surrender and self-acceptance are key themes.  Love’s Troubadours embodies all of these things.  Karma’s journey explores a woman’s pain, passion, and power with authenticity, vulnerability, surrender, and self-acceptance. To learn more, visit www.lovestroubadours.com. The book is available on Amazon.com.

Spelman College is also featured in Love’s Trouabdours.  Several characters are Spelman graduates (Karma’s twin sister and cousin are Spelmanites).  To learn more about Spelman, watch the video below.

Spelman College Museum of Fine Art is mentioned in Love’s Troubadours too.  Watch the video below featuring a tour of the Museum  given by its director Dr. Andrea Barnwell , an art historian, writer, and critic.   I was able to visit the Museum and see the exhbit featured in the video in October 2009.  AMAZING! 

FYI – Art plays a major role in Karma’s life. It inspires, consoles, and teaches her. My novel offers you a wonderful opportunity to look at life through Karma’s eyes as an art enthusiast and museum curator. Through her eyes, you will learn about exciting artists and photographers from the African Diaspora, Americas (USA and Mexico), Europe, and Japan such as Lois Mailou Jones, Kara Walker, Renee Stout, Yayoi Kusama, Faith Ringgold, Chris Ofili, Ansel Adams, Marion Perkins, Elizabeth Catlett, Francisco Mora, Alexander Calder, Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, Maria Izquierdo, Jean Michel Basquiat, Andre Derain, Annie Lee, Betye Saar, Alison Saar, Amalia Amaki, Joyce Scott, Lorna Simpson, Constantin Brancusi. Eldzier Cortor, Amedeo Modigliani, Sister Gertrude Morgan, Archibald Motley, Adrian Piper, Hughie Lee Smith, and Charles W. White. Read the art blog post: http://kiamshacom.blogspot.com/2007/09/blessings-all-my-debut-novel-loves.html.

Enjoy your day!

Peace, Creativity, Compassion, and Gratitude for India.Arie and Spelman College,

Ananda

0 comments on “Beautiful Black History Made By India.Arie Saluting Dr. Ruth Simmons, President of Brown University”

Beautiful Black History Made By India.Arie Saluting Dr. Ruth Simmons, President of Brown University

Happy Middle of the Week Day!

Watch India.Arie’s tribute performance to Dr. Ruth Simmons, President of Brown University.  It was featured on BET’s Honors telecast. It is just what I needed for February 3rd.  Enjoy!

By the way, pianist Eric Lewis accompanied India. He is amazing. I saw him perform in 2006 at HR57 in DC. That night I fell in love with his music especially his composition “Puerto Rico” which stirred up childhood memories of visiting the beautiful island I call my adopted home (like Cuba is for me).  In 2009, he performed at the White House and woooowed President Barack Obama and FLOTUS Michelle Obama.  Click here to learn more about this fabulous musician: http://ericlewisgroove.com.

Be beautiful! Be resilient! Be free!

Peace, Creativity, Compassion, Gratitude, and Appreciation for sistalove sheros like India.Arie and Dr. Ruth Simmons and brothlove heros like Eric Lewis,

Ananda


bflower beth 2010
Uploaded by yardie4lifever2. – Explore international webcam videos.

 

PS:  Watch a YouTube video of Eric Lewis playing his composition”Puerto Rico” (my all-time favorite!).  Get your dancing shoes on! Move those hips! It’s time to salsa with ELEW! Baile!

0 comments on “Happy February and Black History Month!! Read my new Examiner.com article about Black Digital Diva Pioneer Cheryl Mayberry McKissack”

Happy February and Black History Month!! Read my new Examiner.com article about Black Digital Diva Pioneer Cheryl Mayberry McKissack

Cheryl Mayberry McKissack - Photo Credit: Carol Cain, NYCMama

Happy February! Happy Black History Month (which is every day)!

This year I am celebrating digital diva sheros in Black History.   Cheryl Mayberry McKissack, an entrepreneur with expertise in communications, research, and technology, is one of my top ten sheroes. In January 2000, Cheryl launched Nia Enterprises, LLC and gave birth to NiaOnline, one of the first online communities for African American women.   Two months later, I was inspired to create Kiamsha.com, LLC and web site (replaced by www.anandaleeke.com) to celebrate my creative and healing arts gifts during National Women’s History Month.   Since then, I have followed Cheryl’s entrepreneurial efforts and been inspired to further develop and share my gifts.

In October 2009, I met and interviewed Cheryl for Ananda Leeke TV at Blogalicious, the first inaugural conference for women bloggers of color.  That was a huge moment for me! Another huge moment happened yesterday when I wrote an Examiner.com article celebrating Cheryl’s tenth year anniversary as founder and President/CEO of Nia Enterprises.  Click here to read it.  Let me know what you think.

Who are your sheros and heros?

Enjoy your day and week!

Peace, Creativity, Compassion, Gratitude, and Pride for Black History Sheros and Heros,

Ananda

0 comments on “Read my new Examiner article – Celebrating Black women in social media: Part 5 – Vision to Visionaries: Women Empowered webcast”

Read my new Examiner article – Celebrating Black women in social media: Part 5 – Vision to Visionaries: Women Empowered webcast

Greetings All,

Check out my new Examiner article:  Celebrating Black women in social media: Part 5 – Vision to Visionaries: Women Empowered webcast.  Let me know what you think. Be sure to watch the Vision to Visionaries webcast on January 28 at 7:00 p.m.: www.nvlp.org.  See flyer below for more details.

Enjoy your day and week!

Peace, Creativity, Gratitude, and Compassion,

Ananda

0 comments on “Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm’s autobiography Unbought and Unbossed”

Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm’s autobiography Unbought and Unbossed

Greetings All,

Today I listened to NPR’s Tell Me More with journalist Michel Martin and learned that 2010 marks the 40th anniversary of Congresswoman Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm’s 1970 autobiography Unbought and Unbossed.

I first learned about Sistalove Shirley when my mother Theresa supported her 1972 presidential campaign.  She was my mother’s shero and later became mine.  Sistalove Shirley ran for Congress and headed to Washington, D.C. in 1968 to represent her Brooklyn community.  In 1972, she became the first woman and African American to run for president of the United States.  She had her own mind and was a true force of nature.  Sistalove Shirley rocked her entire life and always told her truth in her own words.  Her legacy inspires me to do the same.  FYI – I wrote a poem about her in my new book That Which Awakens Me: A Creative Woman’s Poetic Memoir of Self-Discovery (available on Amazon – http://tiny.cc/7uFsg).  See below.

During Tell Me More, Martin spoke with one of my favorite filmmakers Shola Lynch, who created the film “Chisholm 72: Unbought and Unbossed,” and Barbara Ransby, a professor of History and African-American Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  Click here to listen to the show (17 minutes): http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=122984022.

Poem

Chocolate Bar (from That Which Awakens Me’s Chapter Two: Girlhood Memories. Defining Self.Identities. Archetypes.)

Copyright 2009 by Madelyn C. Leeke

My mother flipped through JET as we stood in the line at the grocery store.

I was busy trying to con her in to letting me get a chocolate bar from the candy stand located near the checkout counter.

She paid me no mind.

Persistence was my middle name.

So I continued and eventually got on her last nerve.

She threatened to use her Dr. Scholl’s on me.

I quieted down for fear of her wooden shoe.

That’s when she showed me a picture of this coffee-colored woman with glasses from some place in Brooklyn.

At first glance, the lady looked like a school teacher.

My mother proudly told me that she was Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman to run for President.

I smiled and thought my mother might bend and let me get that chocolate bar, but she wasn’t having it.

Maybe if this lady wins the election I might be able to get a chocolate bar then.

Enjoy your day and week!

Peace, Creativity, Joy, Compassion, and Gratitude for Sistalove Ancestors,

Ananda

0 comments on “What do you think about The Washington Post article: Successful, black and lonely & Helen Andrews’ upcoming memoir “Bitch Is the New Black,” a satirical look at successful young Black women living DC?”

What do you think about The Washington Post article: Successful, black and lonely & Helen Andrews’ upcoming memoir “Bitch Is the New Black,” a satirical look at successful young Black women living DC?

Happy Friday!

Here is some food for thought.

Last night, my dad J (a proud member of BAP Living!) talked to me about an article he read in The Washington Post. It was about Helen Andrews, the author of “Bitch Is the New Black,” a satirical memoir that explores how successful Black women in their twenties make their way in D.C. See below. He asked me to read it because he thought my thirtysomething Boho BAP character Karma Francois (who lives in D.C.) in my debut novel Love’s Troubadours – Karma: Book One (www.lovestroubadours.com) provides a different perspective on what it means to be a single Black woman in D.C. My perspective offers healing and tools that help Karma examine her life choices and understand what she has done and where she can go in the future by making better choices. J also said that my new book That Which Awakens Me: A Creative Woman’s Poetic Memoir of Self-Discovery offers a road map on how a single Black woman has lived and learned to navigate the ups and downs of life in D.C. over the past 20 years with compassion, connections to others, creativity, communities of support, and contemplative practices. I am still marinating on the article. When you have time, read it and tell me what you think. The article alsl has a video featuring Andrews talking about her new book. Check it out.

I started a discussion on my social networking site BAP Living.  Click here to read and/or participate in the lively discussion:  http://baplivingforbapsandebw.ning.com/profiles/blogs/what-do-you-think-about-w-post?commentId=2076799%3AComment%3A16601&xg_source=msg_com_blogpost.  Below are some of my comments from the discussion.

“I think it is important that Black women tell all of our experiences. We each have a story. We each have a way of living and navigating our life choices. We are not monolithic. I think there are so many representations of what it means to Black and female. We have to continue to share who we are with each other and live from a place of authenticity. I think Helen Andrews is telling her story the way she sees life as a Black woman. It does not reflect my life. It may reflect others’ lives. And that’s okay. I want Black women and girls to know we each have a different perspective …  Social media allows us to share our stories and life experiences in ways that illustrate the diversity of Black womanhood. So let’s keep telling our stories. Let’s keep writing books, blogs, poems, plays, and webisodes that say what we think is real and true for ourselves. There is room enough for all of our stories, experiences, opinions, and wisdom.”

“We give a lot of our energy and power away by spending so much time on what mainstream media is doing. We could channel that energy into creating our own content on the various platforms we now have available. You are so right about the stereotypes. And yes I agree with you that people don’t read things about the Black experience and understand there are a million different experiences out there. That’s where we have to stand up and tell our stories the way we see ourselves. Evey blog post, book, play, video, webisode, poem, photo, song, and piece of artwork we make that reflects our diverse experiences increases our power and presence. I have witnessed the power of transforming folks’ opinions about Black womanhood when folks who look like me and don’t look like me read my books and blogs, visit my social networking sites, hear me speak or teach in public, and watch my videos and webisodes. It is a slow change, but I see it. It may not hit the mainstream in the way that Andrews’ book and movie can, but it is my contribution. I just want to honor and support more of us making similar contributions to telling our stories.”

Also, check out the discussions on Urban Politico’s blog –  http://theurbanpolitico.blogspot.com/2009/12/bitch-is-new-black.html and Raintings of Creole Princess – http://creoleindc.typepad.com/rantings_of_a_creole_prin/2009/12/helena-andrews-bitch-is-the-new-black.html#tpe-action-posted-6a00d8341c5e0053ef0120a744967e970b.  They are rich!

Enjoy your weekend!

Peace, Creativity, Compassion, Gratitude, and Authentic Storytelling,

Ananda

Article copied from The Washington Post’s web site: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/09/AR2….

Successful, black and lonely
D.C. author’s tale of young black women’s loneliness catches Hollywood’s ear

By DeNeen L. Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 10, 2009

Helena Andrews is 29, single, living in D.C., and might be the star of a black “Sex and the City” — stylish, beautiful and a writer desperately in search of love in the city.

Andrews’s life appears charmed: The film rights for her memoir, “Bitch Is the New Black,” a satirical look at successful young black women living in Washington, were purchased before the book was finished. Shonda Rhimes, the executive producer of “Grey’s Anatomy,” is set to produce the film and Andrews will write the screenplay.

When Andrews pitched the book, she described it as part “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” part “Sex and the City.” The book is to be published in June by Harper Collins.

“What I am trying to say about single black women in any urban environment is, you don’t know them as well as you think you do. They may not know themselves as well as they think they do,” Andrews says, seated at a table with a white tablecloth in a restaurant on U Street. Her appearance is flawless: She is wearing an ivory blazer and skinny jeans, her movie-star eyes glisten with shadow and her hair is cut in a fresh bob. Perfect. Image is everything. And it means nothing.

“The book was a time for me to step back and reflect,” to capture the internal dialogue and the dialogue with girlfriends who are “caught in a quarter-life crisis.” She is not talking about all young black women, but some. Revealing a story not oft told.

A lot of black women put up an exterior that says: “Everything is together. ‘I’m fine. Perfect. Don’t worry about me. Keep it moving.’ That is the trend,” Andrews says. “Put on new stilettos. Put on a mask of bitchiness.” But that image — prevalent in both the media and the workplace, Andrews believes — is one-dimensional.

“When people think about black women, they have only one adjective for us, which is ‘strong,’ ” Andrews says. “The girl you see walking down the street looks like she has it all together,” but she may not.

A journalist who has written for Politico and The Root, Andrews says her book attempts to reveal what’s behind the veneer. In a series of essays, Andrews documents the lives of so many young black women who appear to have everything: looks, charm, Ivy League degrees, great jobs. Closets packed full of fabulous clothes; fabulous condos in fabulous gentrified neighborhoods; fabulous vacations, fabulous friends. And yet they are lonely: Their lives are repetitive, desperate and empty. They are post-racial feminists who have come of age reaping the benefits of both the civil rights movement and the women’s movement, then asking quietly: What next?

“Gone are the [college] days when friends are an elevator ride away, dinner plans are made on the way to somebody’s hall, and Thursday is Friday or Friday is Thursday (who cares, you’ll figure it out in Philosophy C203),” Andrews writes. “Soon enough, the little old lady living in a shoe is you — and the rent is effin’ unbelievable, and nobody comes to visit because you’re too far from the Metro. Adulthood comes in little jigsaw pieces. Once the painstaking work of fitting them all together is done, the picture doesn’t look nearly as cool as it did on the box.”

Andrews writes about what it is like for a young, black woman dating in D.C., trying to find a mate who seems ever elusive. The futile rituals are familiar: the dressing up, the eager cab ride over to the party, the hold-your-breath as you walk in, scanning the room quickly for any looks returned. The mantra sounding in the back of your head: “So-and-so found a man last year at a party like this. Maybe tonight is my night.” Then one by one, the men prove to be disappointments and disappointing: married, uninteresting or uninterested.

The disappointment as you end up at the bar once again, committing straw violence in your drink (stirring the drink frantically and unconsciously).

Andrews writes the truth of those nights. The truth is for too many, they never work out. Not for Andrews and not for her friend, Gina, who is a prominent character in her life and in the book.

“For a lot of black women, especially young successful black women, we have a lot of boxes on our master plan list checked off,” Andrews says. “We think happiness should come immediately after that. But that is not always the case.”

Love is much too hard to find and when these women do, it may go all wrong because of issues that are too complicated for statistics, Andrews says. She is quick to say, “There are tons of black families who are healthy and good.” Even so, black women are more likely than white women to grow up poor or otherwise struggling financially; to be fatherless and to experience a myriad of other societal and/or familial dysfunctions. Ironically, the “issues” can also include being a “strong” woman: the can-do, opinionated type many black women become after growing up in a matriarchal household, the type with whom some men still just can’t deal.

“I have tons of friends who are extremely successful lawyers and lobbyists, staffers on the Hill. They are great at what they do. They are in their late 20s and early 30s,” Andrews says, sipping Ethiopian coffee. Her dog, Miles, is sitting beneath the restaurant table, whining softly.

“But there is loneliness at their jobs, because most likely they are the only black person there and people treat them like they are the only black person there. They dress a certain way. They go out on the weekend. . . . And still they end up going home, and it’s you and your damned dog.”
Talking about a suitor

Andrews is presiding over a table at a chic restaurant, this one in downtown D.C., on a Saturday night. It is the kind of restaurant that is crowded not for the food but for the chance to see and be seen. Crowds are spilling out the door into the darkness of 14th Street. The once-desolate street is filled with beautiful people. Who knew this about Saturday night on 14th Street?

Andrews is speaking with two polished girlfriends, a lawyer and a political staffer, who didn’t want to be named because of their jobs.

“I went on a date last night with Cornrows,” Andrews says, using the nickname that her friends have given the man. “I got in his car and there was this strawberry smell fragrance. I had to roll the window down by hand. I assume it’s paid for.”

Cornrows, she says, seems nice, but that is the problem. “He can put together coherent sentences, but they are not in any way related to my life,” she says. She laughs, but catches herself. She knows the man is trying hard. She also knows Cornrows doesn’t stand a chance.

“I’m a mean woman. I don’t date nice people. That’s why I’ll be alone for the rest of my life. I will always have to settle.”

Staffer: “You need a man in your life. They come in handy for labor.”

Andrews: “He offered to help me move. That was nice.”

Lawyer: “He wasn’t nice to offer. He just wants to get with you.”

Andrews: “I don’t find him attractive. If he was funny, that would go a long way. He could be my winter boo. I need a boo. My life sucks. When your life sucks, a winter boo with his own apartment would be awesome to have.”

What is a winter boo? you ask.

And they explain a winter boo is someone you hook up with when it’s cold outside, someone good enough to take to office holiday parties, someone who has a car and who can drive when the wind is whipping down the sidewalk.

“It’s like a booty call, but it’s not,” Andrews says.

“It’s like you like him enough to bring him out to public settings. They, like, serve a seasonal purpose.”

But what happens in the summer, you ask.

“There is no such thing as a summer boo. You are supposed to be out. Be free.”

The catch?

“A winter boo doesn’t know he’s a winter boo,” until summer comes and he has been set free.
‘Why is she single?’

The genesis of Andrews’s book came from a conversation a few years ago between Andrews and Gina, a social scientist who lives in Los Angeles. They wanted to start a blog to explore “why black women can’t find a man.” The day she talked to an agent about this idea and pitched it as a book, one of her sorority sisters committed suicide.

It jarred Andrews. “We stopped. Discussed what happened. We think each other’s lives are fine. You got a good job. A good place to live. You will handle it.” But some people can’t handle it. “She looked like any other successful black woman,” Andrews says of her friend. , “Good clothes, stylish. Ivy League degree, master’s.” Nobody saw it coming. She won’t discuss the details, but you can see it in her face, the mind racing over the why.

“People keep talking about the black single woman in D.C. But do you know who she is? Does she know what she wants? They should stop saying we have it all together. . . . I am that single black woman in Washington, D.C. Why is she single? This is who I am. Tell me.”

Andrews’ résumé is a snapshot of upward mobility. She graduated from Columbia University, majoring in English literature and creative writing, worked at O Magazine, then went to graduate school for journalism at Northwestern, and in 2005 landed as a news assistant in the New York Times Washington bureau. At the moment, she is not working, but waiting for all the deals to be sealed with the movie.

But there is more. Born in California, grew up on Catalina Island and in Los Angeles. Her mother is a lesbian. She has seen her father once, when she was 6 months old. When Helena was 7, her mother decided to move to Spain, but the girl’s grandmother kidnapped her.

Is this a true story, you ask.

“Yes, it’s my life story.”

Helena’s mother, Frances Vernell Andrews, 57, who lives in Stone Mountain, Ga., says in an interview that it is indeed a true story. When she read the book, “initially it was like walking down memory lane from my child’s perspective. Initially she kept saying, ‘Mommy, you can’t read it. I am not showing it to anyone.’ I had come up to Washington for Thanksgiving two years ago. I went on her laptop and e-mailed some of the chapters and read them when I got home. She didn’t know initially. But I said I needed to know a little bit about what you are putting out there. But I was delighted. She is a terrific writer.”

In the book, Andrews recalls the abduction. And her mother recalls the story, too. “We were on our way to Spain and my mother didn’t feel I should go,” Frances Andrews says. “She wanted me to stay and marry this man. She drove us to the airport and said, ‘Go in and check your bags. The baby can wait.’

“I go in and get my boarding pass. I come out and my mom is gone. I thought she must be circling the block. I waited two hours. Then I gave up and went back to my mom’s home and sat and waited. She came back without my daughter. She said, ‘You need to settle down and stop chasing the world,’ ” says Frances Andrews. “I am a lesbian. My family thought I should not have had a child.”

She promised her mother she would settle down. “Just bring me my child.”

Her mother brought Helena back and Frances left town with her daughter for an island.
All about attitude

Helena Andrews says she is a mean girl. That is where the title of the book comes from.

“It’s much easier if you have a mask, ‘Don’t [expletive] with me.’ Then you don’t have to worry about office politics.” She once asked a colleague, “Why does no one say hi to me in the morning?”

“Because you are a bitch,” the colleague replied.

Andrews wasn’t offended. That is her way of moving through the world. That way you don’t get hurt, you mask any softness or weakness inside.

She doesn’t look like one of those mean girls. Perhaps that is the point. Andrews has that innocent cheerleader, preppy look, even as she strolls her neighborhood of Northeast Washington, with her cute little black pug dog in her arms.

The homeboys on the sidewalk part like a sea to make room for her. A man rolls down the window and asks her to buy him a car. And she smiles. She turns around and smiles again. He has no idea who she is.