1989. Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. An Italian mob murders a black teenager named Yusuf Hawkins. That same night, across the Hudson River in New Jersey, Lisa and Marc meet at a party. Lisa's black. Marc's Italian. They eventually hook up. But interpersonal conflict, racist family and friends, and previous relationships loom. Their lives also play out in the charged political context of New York City's mayoral race, which pits David Dinkins, African-American Democrat, against Rudolph Giuliani, law-and-order Republican. Back to Life is a heady mix of taboo relationships, racial politics, and social commentary that begs the question: Can love really conquer all?
Wendy gives an overview of the book:
She didn't know if it was the wine, or if it was his mouth on hers, but her head was spinning. He'd kissed her, and just as she'd try to catch her breath, he'd kiss her again and again. He held her hands, stroked her face. She felt the roughness of his hands against her cheeks. She felt those hands on her body, contrasting against the softness of the leather couch under them. Her very clothing seemed confining. What the fuck are you doing to me? "Shit," she whispered.
He linked and relaxed his fingers with hers. "Lisa," he laughed. "You feel so good."
"I aim to please," she giggled against his mouth.
"I like your aim," he grinned.
He moved to roll on top of her, and she turned on her back to accept him. Unfortunately, she overshot the end of the couch and landed smack on the carpeted floor. She giggled and giggled, even when she saw his face hovering over her, even when he lay on top of her, muscles and sinews pressing against her. But he wasn't laughing. He had that familiar look she'd seen many times. He kissed her, and she felt his hands against her belly, fingers reaching below the elastic of her tights. And there was that enormous myth-defying erection pressing against her thigh. Sense memory from that horrible night intruded just then. I can't do this.
She pushed him away. "Wait, wait, wait," she gasped. "Wait!"
She sat up, trying to clear the fog in her head. The CD had stopped, the fire burning down. She held her head in her hands. Fucking Bryan. She doubted memories of her interfered with his nights with his fiancée, the lovely Mia. She lifted her head to see him looking at her, smiling. Far from pissed, he seemed okay. He took her hands, linking her fingers between hers. "Why are you staring at me?" she asked.
He laughed. "Because you're pretty."
She looked away. Speak up, girl; you have an English tongue in your head! " Look, I..." she quietly began. "He hurt me. Bad. I really like you, but I need to take this real slow."
He leaned in and pressed his forehead against hers.
"Sweetie, it's your ride," he said softly. "We'll take this as fast or as slow as you want."
There he was, more concerned about her than his rock hard dick. You're wonderful. She held his face in her hands and kissed him.
"I better take you home," he laughed. "Now."
Wendy Coakley-Thompson is the author of Writing While Black, Triptych, Back to Life (2004 Romantic Times Award nominee) , and What You Won’t Do For Love (optioned for cable television). She is also a contributing editor of...