M&M Review: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Dear Chimamanda,

I was first introduced to your work, with a lot of the rest of the world, when Queen Bey referenced your speech in her track ‘Flawless’. Since then I have gone on to watch a lot of your TED Talks speeches online, I’ve watched Half of a Yellow Sun starring Thandie Newton and Chiwetel Ejiofor and now I have also read your book Americanah. I am thoroughly inspired.

In this digital age, where social media influences more people than the news, it is frustrating when important movements like feminism are misinterpreted into something negative. Your work is helping to re-educate women and men everywhere and for that I am truly grateful. I love how your speeches about gender equality are reflected in your multifaceted fictional characters and how you depict Africa in such an honest way. Your descriptions of Nigeria in Americanah made me homesick for Sierra Leone, in a way that no other fictional story has.

The story is based on two high school sweethearts and told across three continents and many years of absence from each other. It analyses race relations in England, Nigeria and America and examines the experience of an African person in those countries. It covers all the niche topics that people generally don’t talk about when it comes to race and differing attitudes and customs. Having spent time in each of these countries, I could relate to a lot of the points raised.

It also opened my eyes to some of the constraints and reasoning behind immigration to the Western world. The media would have you believing that every immigrant leaves their country because they perceive the West as better and aren’t comfortable in their homeland. The reasons for immigration are really complex, sometimes the West appeals because of the attitudes of the people you grew up around who see America and England through rose-tinted glasses. Sometimes it is seen as a sign of status or a way to bring new knowledge to your community. Sometimes it is for love or just simply a new start. Not everyone wants to leach off the government and not everyone sees the third world as inferior.

Your words are a big part of the growing TINA (This Is New Africa) movement, which aims to change outdated and often negative perceptions of Africa. You tackle both the untold gems of African culture and the not-so-secret ugly underbelly. You also juxtapose traditional Nigeria and new Nigeria, detailing all the changes that have taken place in between. Your descriptions have helped me to understand a lot about modern Nigerian culture and the way things are done there.

I love the fluidity of the chapters and how the book was structured to reflect the personal growth of the characters, in relation to how their relationship has matured and the reasons for their growing separation. The main characters Ifemelu and Obinze were represented as realistically flawed, but deeply in love with each other. However, their open minded attitudes served as a severe contrast to some of the other supporting characters in the book, who represent more traditional views.

I was enamoured with Obinze; his intelligence, his views on women and marriage and his clear feelings for Ifemelu. Their bond was real and based on way more than the superficial, which most relationships seem to stem from these days. He loved her for her mind and spirit, that kind of love is unconditional. He respected strong women and despised pretence for status and gossip, having been raised by an educated, independent woman. African men usually have a reputation for wanting submissive wives who take on traditional domestic roles and I am so happy that he defied that stereotype, because it is untrue for a lot of men.

I noticed that in both Americanah and Half of a Yellow Sun, the matriarch roles were filled by women who gave sensible advice that went against the outdated notions of the 1950s. These women raised topics of self-love, protected sex and staying true to yourself even when you fall in love. They are great role models for any young girls reading these amazing texts. Sadly, these lessons are usually downplayed in favour of the ability to cater to your man and being a ‘good’ wife by fulfilling your duties in the bedroom and kitchen.

The protagonist Ifemelu was an outspoken naturalista who moved to the States to further her education and ended up educating the masses through the use of her blog entitled: ‘Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known as Negroes) by a Non-American Black’. Her blog served as a series of uncomfortable racial observations and enabled her to gain a fellowship at the prestigious Princeton University. However, Obinze’s experience of life in the West was less sweet, with him being deported from London for attempting to engage in a sham marriage for a visa.

I commend you for using mainly African names for the characters and celebrating their meanings as beautiful. A lot of African children growing up in the Western world seem embarrassed by their names, as they are deemed ‘unusual’ and impossible to pronounce by their Western teachers and friends alike. The terms ‘Freshie’ and ‘Aff’ are usually tossed around meant as a jokey insult, but no one wants to feel different during puberty. Young people don’t realise that being different is something to be proud of and having a name with deep origins actually makes you more interesting than the average person.

We need more academics and free thinkers from Africa to tell their unique stories and share their perceptions of being African around the world. Don’t be afraid to stand out from the crowd and contradict precedent. The world needs to see the hidden treasures of the original continent and its people to better understand the ways in which we can improve our globe and interactions with each other. The potential for improvement is astounding. Grab your copy now!

Like this review? Check out my review of ‘Calling Me Home‘ by Julie Kibler.

A good book always inspires me and makes me see the world a little differently, take a look at my countdown of other books and movies that have had the same effect.


M&M Review: Major Without A Deal by Troy Ave

So this kid has been dubbed the saviour of the original New York sound for his signature flow and authentic style and Major Without A Deal serves as an ode to the city he loves so much.

The seventeen-track LP is intrinsically New York with its references, song titles and strategic features that mesh the old school with the new wave of artists currently moving the hip hop generation. I fail to think of another East Coast album that has brought together the likes of Puffy, Mase, 50 Cent, Cam’ron, Fat Joe and Fabolous, but this upcoming star has done just that.

As a whole, the album gives off a laid-back house party vibe, with its strong baseline beats and cheeky lyrics. In this way, it offers a welcome depart from the typical turn up music we’re so used to hearing in the charts these days. Topic wise, Troy talks about everything from the light-hearted tracks about bagels and fake butts to the deeper tales of situationships and revenge.

As one of last year’s XXL Freshmen, Troy Ave is starting to come into his own; letting the fans into his personal bubble of wild opinions and experience-based storytelling. The standout tracks for me are Ty Dolla $ign’s ‘Do Betta’, the Bad Boy remix of ‘Your Style’, the playful jibes of ‘Doo Doo’ and one of the darker tracks, ‘Taste of Revenge’. I love the versatility of the track-list and the variety of feature artists from the OGs to the newbies.

My only criticism of Major Without A Deal is that I would have liked Troy to use more Big Apple imagery in his bars and to maybe have built on the references more. For instance in the track ‘A Bronx Tale’, which references the cult classic film from 1993, he could have dropped some gems about the characters or the impact the movie had on the city.

This Brooklyn native has created an impressive sophomore album, which fully legitimizes his buzz for repping NY and is sure to solidify his position as an artist destined for big things. Grab your copy here.

If you love hip hop like me, you should also check out my post about its impact on the fashion industry.

In keeping with the New York appreciation theme, I also wrote a post about another BK native called DJ Tony Touch.

M&M Review: Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler

Dear Julie,

Thank you. This story really touched me and the final twist had me grabbing the tissues and depressed for Elizabeth, as if she was real and I knew her personally.

When I first purchased this book my expectations were low. I figured it would be the same as a lot of the other books on racial tension in the Deep South post Jim Crow regulations, but I was pleasantly surprised. I took two major gems from this story. Firstly, a reminder to not judge people by their appearances or apparent privilege, as everyone is fighting their own unique battle in life. Secondly, one of the biggest tragedies in life is when people allow the fear of judgement to stop them from doing what is right and standing up for their beliefs. Courage to stand tall even when you are outnumbered is so important.

The novel was inspired by the experiences of your grandmother, who also engaged in a romantic interracial relationship in a time when that was seen as shocking and inappropriate. The passages detailing the early stages of protagonist Elizabeth McAllister and Robert Prewitt’s courtship were told in such a delicate and romantic way. This particularly struck me because usually when taboo subjects are discussed there is a degree of sensationalism and fetishisation of skin colour, but you allowed their unique chemistry to do the talking.

Even during their sex scenes, there were no 50 Shades type shock tactics used, it was purely an expression of their adoration for one another. The slow build up of their relationship, their short-lived marriage and the consequences that occurred afterwards all leave readers rooting for the young couple, despite all the adversity they face. As a woman who grew up on Disney movies, their tender bond had me grinning at the book like a crazy person and wishing for a happy ending; although the former clues along the way gave me due warning that the poor couple were never going to have their fairy tale ending.

Technically it was a very easy read, with its alternating short chapters between past and present and your vivid use of description, which had me picturing the entire tale on the silver screen. The dialogue between characters was concise, but packed a punch in its social commentary and use of compassion. It is a difficult task to broach the topic of violence without apparent bias or judgement and you managed it effortlessly.

I loved how you intertwined and compared the struggles minorities faced in the 1930/40’s with the contemporary challenges we, as a society, still need to work on in the pursuance of equality for all. Dorrie Curtis’ character was so relatable, as someone who was learning from her bad decisions and trying to do better for her children than her mother had done for her. That scene when her son revealed his poor choices had me wanting to kill him for her and I’m not even a parent yet.

I have a soft spot for any writer who manages to give a vocabulary lesson to their readers within the narrative and you incorporated this perfectly using the very ordinary vehicle of crossword puzzles during the long car journey. Genius!

Overall, it was a great read that was mind-blowing in its simple approach to race relations and forbidden love. You deserve all the kudos in the world for this being your debut novel and I cannot wait to read your future releases. Grab your copy now!

If you enjoyed this review check out my countdown of the top ten books and films that changed how I see the world for more literary diamonds.

How do you feel about the race-related struggles Elizabeth and Robert faced? Take a look at my thoughts on racism in the media.

Throwback Interview: Erica Mena


As Posted On VIBE.com

Q&A: Erica Mena Dismisses Rumors That She’s Bi For Male Attention And Talks Coming Out To Her Family

Erica Mena is a fiery Latina model who got her big break at the age of fourteen through winning a Jennifer Lopez look-alike competition. Erica has worked as a video vixen for artists like Chris Brown, Akon, Fabolous and Fat Joe to name a few. She has also been featured in many magazines including XXL, KING, The Source and Maxim and has done print campaigns for big chains like Roca Wear, Tommy Hillfiger and Loreal. The last season of Love and Hip Hop saw Miss Mena attempt to start a music career with on and off love interest Rich Dollaz, who acted as her manager in the industry. This season of LHHNY shows Erica explore her bisexuality with new girlfriend Cyn Santana and her writing a sex book named “Chronicles of a Confirmed Bachelorette: The Girl Factor”, where she talks about her experiences with men and women. VIBE spoke to her the LHHNY Season 4 screening to talk about her sexuality and how it will affect her son King.

VIBE: How would you react to people saying that you are only dating girls for male attention?

Erica Mena: I think it’s funny. It’s funny because that’s the moment that you take the time to put into perspective how crucial, incredible and foolish society is. I don’t think it’s accepted naturally to be bisexual, especially a woman. So I expect that, but I also have the time to laugh at it because it is what it is. It makes me laugh because whether they believe it or not this is what you have to accept, this is what is going to be on your TV every Monday night. I think what people have to just naturally give me the respect for, is the fact that me being a woman and no matter what I’ve done fault to mistakes or right to wrong, that I’m able to step out and be like this is who I am and this is who I love to be with. This is what it is, this is my life. I’m on a reality show so you get what you get.

How do your parents feel about you dating girls, are they pretty open minded?

Yeah I think we’ve actually recently, made our mothers meet and it was a liberating moment because I really don’t care what the world thinks, I’m going to be honest with you. I hope people don’t take that the wrong way, but I don’t care what the world thinks, but my family… They’re just like if this is what you makes you happy, if this is what you need, if this is what you want, if this is what keeps you content, if this is what has you finally at peace, they’re all for it.

You have a six year old son called King. How are you going to explain your sexuality to him?

Cyn’s actually met my son and I’m the youngest of eight girls, so naturally he has to deal with a lot of women in his life. I haven’t really sat down with him to kind of say this is mommy’s girlfriend because we haven’t taken that step on full on commitment. But I think when it comes time to; I think King will understand, especially because of how hard I really do go for him. I give him the world and I shelter him so much that there is going to be a time where I’ll have to sit down with him and relate it to him. But at the end of the day, life and the way things are nowadays, you have to mentally prepare your kids. Whether I’m with a woman or not, walking down the street with my son he’s going to see a man and a man holding hands, so eventually I have to give him that conversation. It’s kind of like the birds and the bees, it’s part of life. It’s just a time and a place and until I’m for sure certain that me and her are taking the next step, I will have that conversation. But until then, I think he knows that there’s definitely love and mommy’s changed. So I think he feels that I don’t have to front no more, you know what I mean?

Wanna know what really went down with Cyn Santana and Rich Dollaz?


Find out what Erica’s experience of racism has been below:


Throwback Interview: LHHNY Cast On Race


As Posted On VIBE.com

Love & Hip Hop Season 4 Cast Race Answers

VIBE has an upcoming Race issue coming up. What was the first time you were aware of what racism was?

Nya Lee: I think it’s stupid, I’m so mad that it still exists, but it does. You have to be very careful about what you say because, even me, sometimes I get caught out there saying the wrong thing and not thinking. So I think everyone has to be really careful about what they say. I’m just praying to God one day that shit is non-existent because it’s dumb. Now everyone is doing their own thing, there should be no more stigmas, as far as race and where you’re from.

Cyn Santana: I’m open to whatever: Chinese, Black, Dominican, Puerto Rican, I don’t care. Rich, nah I’m just playing.

Rich Dollaz: At the end of the day we’ve all had situations that we’ve come up in and being in New York, which is the ultimate melting pot, I think that racism is prevalent around the country. I think that all things considered it’s sad that it still goes on today because with the way social media is putting everyone on an even playing field; I think that it really should have gone by the wayside, but it hasn’t. With that being said we’re going to do what we’ve got to do. I’m against it 100%. Racism is a horrible thing, but I don’t think it’s going anywhere.

What is the funniest misconception about your race that you’ve heard?

Nya Lee: Yeah everyone thinks I’m Dominican and I’m like ‘no I’m black’ and they’re like ‘wow you’re pretty for a black girl’ and I’m like ‘what do you mean?!’ There are a whole bunch of beautiful black girls, a whole bunch of beautiful Latinas and every race has pretty…if you’re pretty, you’re pretty. I don’t think it has anything to do with your race. I do get a lot of ‘are you sure you’re not Dominican?’ and I’m like ‘yes I’m sure I’m not Dominican.’

Tara Wallace: I would say when I first moved here they would say ‘oh you look Dominican’ and I’d be like ‘no I’m from Mississippi we all look like this.’

Tahiry Jose: Wow, funniest misconception is that we don’t wear socks. Hahaha Dominicans don’t wear socks. Misconception about our race that we hate Puerto Ricans, that we hate black people. No, that’s not true.

Can you share a personal story of a time you experienced racism?

Nya Lee: I went out on a date with an Italian guy that didn’t like black men. So we were at the dinner table and the guy was just like ‘I can’t stand black men’ and I was like ‘you know what my father’s black and now you’re going too much’. So that probably was like my closest incident with racism and I had to walk out of that dinner and throw a drink on him and go all ghetto because I just felt like it was inappropriate. Me being a black girl you brought to this date and you’re talking about, my father’s a black man so that was probably like the only time I dealt with racism.

Yandy Smith: Being in music, when I walk into a room people always think ‘oh she must just do hip-hop’. But I’ve worked with some of the greats, I’ve worked with a lot of people that aren’t only hip-hop. Even from my label that I’m starting with Rich; people are always like ‘oh so you’re looking for the next great hip-hop [act], someone asked that question today ‘oh so you’re looking for the next huge hip-hop thing?’ No, I’m looking for any music, anyone that’s talented that can generate income. I don’t care if it’s salsa. I don’t care if it’s pop. I don’t care if it’s opera, if you’re talented I’m into you, I’m interested.

Erica Mena: I work very hard for my money. Me being of an ethnicity, I’m Spanish, I get looked at crazy for buying Celine bags and buying her shoes. There’s times where I walk in and, we wear the same size, so I buy the double of every style of shoes, so she can have it and I have it. I get that a lot, but at the same time I’m kind of like I accept it because it’s kind of like people aren’t used to this (gestures to her and Cyn), so why would they be used to the fact of us of culture having money? It’s just another challenge and I’m willing to take it.

Tahiry Jose: The most recent is me walking into a 7-Eleven and he was of Indian decent and he kept saying ‘mira, mira’ and I’m in the front. I already was having a bad morning and he keeps saying ‘mira, mira’. So in my head I’m thinking to myself do I curse this individual out? Because he sees my complexion and he probably hears my accent and because of that I have to be a ‘mira, mira’. What is a ‘mira, mira’? I almost cursed him out and then I realised that maybe it was just ignorance. It was a sense of racism because to him you know he’s Indian and he’s thinking that because I’m light skin I must be a Latina and my name is ‘mira, mira’. So the girl on the register was like is your name ‘mira, mira’ and completely I almost lost it. Instead I said ‘yes sir, how are you?’ I just kept it moving.

Sometimes it’s not so much racism, it’s ignorance; people aren’t educated enough. I have a couple friends who are like ‘you people’ and I have to check them like who are you people? Who are you referring to? On the show we had a situation, where the girl said ‘you Spanish bitches’ and Spanish is a language. I deal with it on an everyday basis, it happens. It’s about how you deal with it and how you choose to educate the individual if you care enough about them to broaden their horizons. Other than that, it happens on an everyday basis, you just have to understand that it’s ignorance and that some people aren’t as well educated and move forward. Or try to teach them.

Was your family ok with you dating a black man?

Tahiry Jose: Absolutely, my family is ok with me dating whoever I love, whoever he is. No matter what color, shape, size. My mom it’s always like if you like it, I love him.

Check out more interviews with the cast of LHHNY below:








Throwback Interview: LHHNY’s Tahiry Jose


As Posted On VIBE.com

Q&A: Tahiry Jose Talks About Her Feelings For Joe Budden, Dating Other Men And The Current State Of Their Relationship

The Dominican beauty works as a model, actress and entrepreneur, and is famous for her very public relationship with rapper Joe Budden. She has previously graced the covers of Complex, VIBE, XXL and KING magazine, the KING cover was one of their highest selling issues to date. She currently works as a correspondent for XXL and this season of Love and Hip Hop shows her in the process of making a fitness DVD and honing her craft as an actress. VIBE sat down with Tahiry to talk about the current state of her relationship with Joe and how she feels about him now that LHHNY Season 4 has hit our TV screens.

VIBE: Do you think you’ll ever trust Joe Budden enough to be with him long term?

Tahiry: Right now, no. The world thinks that Joey and I went back and forth for nine years, we didn’t. We were together five, apart for four and I gave him a chance in May he fucked up. But even through friendships, the core of every relationship is a friendship, so if as friends you can’t be real with me then in a relationship…so he failed as friends a few times and now finally as being together so right now I don’t think I can.

Do you follow Joe’s social media, do his posts bother you?

I feel like Joey’s girlfriend is social media and then comes Tahiry. I need to be a man’s priority. So I feel like Joey’s most serious relationship is him and Twitter and Instagram and right now I know how to separate the both.

You two have been together for a long time. Will there ever be anything he could do to make you reach your ultimate breaking point where you cut all contact?

It already did, just tune in Monday nights. Oh no, what happens is that we women go through stages, you go from anger to hurt, pain to I don’t give a fuck to I’m over it. Today I’m not angry at Joe. I was going through a lot last season. I think Love and Hip Hop wound up being my therapy. It was my therapist; I didn’t know that I had this baggage, I didn’t know that I was this hurt, I was this angry. That was a key point, where I watched myself and I was like do you know what? Yeah I’m dealing with a lot. I know that I gave him this chance and I did the best I could do and I’m ok with that. That was the best thing I could have ever did was trying it again because I don’t have questions about anything. You could ask me if Joe and I will have a future, I can’t tell you, God has a funny sense of humor. Today I’m ok with being his friend.

Have you been dating anyone else other than Joe in the meantime?

I try to get to know certain individuals. I’m focused a lot on work, my schedule is intense. So it’s really hard. Me trying to get to know somebody is having to be with them for two days straight because then I won’t see them again for another month. So how can you really build off of that? It gets kind of frustrating sometimes, but I’ve got to focus on Tahiry. Every time I go with my heart, it took me nowhere but heartache so I think with my brain a lot. I have responsibilities, I have a family; I have things that I have to do for myself. I’ve lived my ex’s dream for a long time so now it’s time for me to live mine.

Do you think that LHHNY puts other men off when they see how you and Joe are together?

Abso-fucking-lutely! Do you not understand the last season? The minute the show airs people were banging their phones like yo you love this man, look at the way you look at him. It’s a lot. Even now, people are just like alright you guys are not together but the shows starting to air again so guys are like yo wait a minute this is too much for me. It’s like you have to bring a boo to work day for them to understand your work. For them to understand that we filmed this six months ago, and Joey and I are not together today. But they’re just starting to see the episode. It’s hard, period, even with friends. Friends are like you have no time for me and I’m like if you were around me for a day you’d understand. So I guess I’m probably going to be single for a long time and Joey loves that. Joey would tweet his ass off on purpose the minute he sees that I’m not paying him no mind.

There was a Breakfast Club interview where Joe talked about breaking into your house and hiding under the bed.

Joey wants to do what Joey wants to do. If Tahiry’s single then it’s cool, but the minute he smells that Tahiry’s on to something, then he gets involved. It’s kind of like, how selfish are you? Go rap.

Find out how Tahiry feels about racism below:


Are you also in a toxic relationship or forever caught up in the on again off again dynamic? This may help.


Throwback Interview: LHHNY’s Yandy Smith

As Posted On VIBE.com 

Yandy Smith Talks New Label, Dealing With Mendeecees Being Locked Up And Jim Jones

Named one of Billboard Magazine’s Top 30 Executives under 30, there isn’t much Yandy Smith hasn’t achieved in her career. She has worked alongside some of the greats including LL Cool J, Missy Elliot and 50 Cent during her career in music and is now about to embark on a new record label venture with fellow Love and Hip Hop NY cast member Rich Dollaz named Lenox Avenue Records. Yandy started as one of the producers of Love and Hip Hop but joined the cast in season two as Jim Jones’ manager, but the two parted their ways after a fall out by the end of the season. This new season four of LHHNY sees Yandy dealing with her fiancé Mendeecees Harris being held in custody under conspiracy charges and raising Mendeecees’ son Mendeecees Jr and new baby Omere. VIBE caught up with her at the official screening.

VIBE: You and Rich Dollaz are starting your own record label, was this something that had been in the pipeline for a long time or was it a spur of the moment thing?

Yandy: Well I’ve been wanting to do a label for a very long time. When I had a baby I realized that the whole sitting in the studio, or going to the club getting DJs to play my records just wasn’t going to be my thing. I knew Rich that is his thing. Rich can find a great record, Rich goes to the clubs and promotes music. Rich can knock on the DJs’ doors because he knows all of them; he’s done radio for years. So Rich has become the ying to my yang with this label. I can sit in an office and I can close the deals. I can make sure our bottom lines and our income is being generated. I’m great at that, so I think it was the perfect combination.

Last season everyone was shocked when Mendeecees was taken into custody straight after your engagement and new baby. What has been the hardest part about him being away for so long?

I think the hardest thing is him missing everything. He’s missing Omere’s birthday, he missed little Mendeecee’s birthday; even him seeing little steps that the kids are taking, that’s the hardest thing. But then also I just miss my best friend. I speak to him on the phone all the time, I see him every other week but actually having him there to go through raising the boys and just doing the things we like to do, it’s hard to not have him there to do those things with.

In this episode we saw that little Mendeecees overheard you guys talking about his dad being in jail, how do you plan to break it to Omere when the time comes?

Hopefully I won’t have to break it to Omere. Hopefully his dad will be home before that even happens.

A lot of women wouldn’t stick around if they found out their man was about to get twenty years in jail, are you prepared to stay in that worst case scenario?

The thing is when I said that, I was kind of speaking out of place. That was something that I was reading and listening to the blogs and trying to do research to find out conspiracy charges, you know, what are the time frames? But that’s absolutely not the case. I’ve gotten a lot more information now and hopefully he’ll be home soon.

Are you still in contact with Jim Jones?

No. I’m not, not at all.

Find out how Yandy feels about race here.

Yandy made the decision to wait when her partner went to prison, but I wonder if Mendeecees would have done the same if the tables were turned. Sometimes guys loveee to preach double standards.