Book Details

TWO CHICAGO WORLDS-ONE BLACK, ONE

WHITE-ARE ABOUT TO COLLIDE; AND FOR

TWO YOUNG GIRLS, LIFE WON'T EVER

BE THE SAME.

Fourteen-year-old Daisy Mae Herman has never known life outside her impoverished inner city Chicago neighborhood. Kalyn McKenzie is a sheltered only child in the middle class, mostly white part of town known as Westlake. Now, these two diametrically opposed worlds will intersect when the Herman family moves into the neighborhood where blacks are still a rarity—and cause for alarm.



Frank, compassionate and inspiring, All My Friends Have Dark Brown Eyes examines a shifting American racial landscape and the lives of those caught up in it. For Daisy, leaving her Chicago ghetto means turning her back on a comfortable cocoon—even if it’s defined by a lack of opportunities—for an alien world where she is daily reminded of her outsider status. Meanwhile, Kalyn’s seemingly ideal upbringing belies a way of life that’s eternally fearful of the unknown, as she is urged to avoid any contact with her new neighbor. Then a crisis erupts, putting something else ahead of stereotypes: survival.



As Daisy and Kalyn navigate the racial divide that separates them, their lives will intertwine in unexpected ways, leading to explosive events that rock each family to the core. And neither is prepared for the end result…

 

Book Excerpt

Chapter 1



The worn cotton blanket entangled itself about her body as if it had a will of its own; a will that held firm in its staunch refusal to cover her right. Daisy wrestled against it, tossing back and forth on the small cot that served as her bed. Not even the comfort of her sleeping buddy Nigel, who lay squished up tightly between her legs, could settle her restive mind.

On this night, the well-worn fabric of Nigel’s lifeless fluff kept Daisy’s wakeful mind wondering what it would be like to wrap her legs around the heat of some real flesh, some cocoa brown flesh, some flesh that was deftly capable of finding its way to the treasure that lay up in the curve of her body, and reaping the rewards she had to offer.

Daisy often fantasized about what it would be like to have sex. She imagined that the man she would one day lay with would have to be fine, even though she knew they weren’t always. Nor were they always cocoa brown; at least not in the life of the working girl. On tomorrow she hoped to have a better insight into the world of those working girls, more commonly referred to as prostitutes.

In recent weeks, with the release of the hot, new blaxploitation film, The Mack, Daisy, along with every other hormone-raging, pubescent female in the neighborhood, had become curious about the lifestyle of prostitutes and their pimps. It was the hottest topic among the eighth grade girls at Dumonte Elementary School. During recess, during lunch, and even during class, Daisy had heard it all. The Mack is super fine, The Mack can make a girl do whatever he wants, The Mack is a sweet daddy of a pimp. The Mack, The Mack, The Mack!

Daisy could not stop thinking about him. She did not understand what he had that would make a woman want to go out and do it with strange men, one right after the other. Just imagining it made her squeeze Nigel all the more.

Daisy’s curiosity about The Mack had to be satisfied. The opinions of her junior high cohorts, who tossed secondhand knowledge around like it was indeed fact, were simply not enough to placate her inquisitive mind. And so she had a plan.

On tomorrow, she and Faye were going to ride the el downtown to the McVickers Theater to see the matinee showing of The Mack. With everything she had heard about the film, Daisy absolutely had to have a look into the world of prostitutes and pimps that only this movie could provide. Only then could she judge for herself whether or not the lifestyle was worth its weight in gold.

Daisy’s mother, Cora Lee, knew about the outing, but she had no idea that The Mack was the film they planned to see. Daisy had told her that she and Faye were going to go see the latest James Bond flick, which was also playing at a theater downtown.

Lying to Cora Lee had never been easy, especially since she had the uncanny ability to smell a lie coming, sometimes before it ever crossed Daisy’s lips. But Daisy had discovered over time, that if she kept the lie simple, and the frequency per day minimal, she could occasionally get away with it.

Had Cora Lee known that her daughter had become captivated by a movie that portrayed such a stereotypical characterization of Black American culture, she would have never allowed her to go anywhere near a theater. But like most mothers of fourteen year old daughters, she hadn’t worried about Daisy seeing The Mack because it was rated R, and that meant that underage children like her, would not be admitted without a parent.

What Cora Lee did not know however, was that the downtown theaters had become notoriously lackadaisical when in came to checking the ID’s of the young people who were showing up in droves at their ticket booths. The black films coming out of Hollywood were drawing them like bees to honey. The theater owners didn’t care if the images portrayed on the big screen were negative, and harmful to their impressionable young minds. They were filling up seats; and filled up seats meant filled up pockets. As long as the gravy flowed, their insatiable appetites sopped it up.

Cora Lee had promised to give Daisy five dollars for the outing, which was two dollars more than her usual allowance, due in large part to all the extra cleaning Daisy had helped her with. They’d thrown out all sorts of junk. The additional work had put their spring cleaning on a whole new level.

With a lot less clutter in the apartment, their shabby furnishings looked even shabbier. Cora Lee had been mum about the reason; but Daisy suspected that a house full of new furniture would soon arrive. She hoped that a real bed for her would be included, preferably the white, canopied one she’d seen in the Sears Catalog.

The one thing that worried Daisy, in terms of what she and Faye had planned, was whether or not Faye would be able to come up with five dollars. If she could get two dollars and twenty-five cents from her brother Zo, to add to the two dollars and seventy-five cents she already had, they would both have the same amount of money. Then after the movie, they could go to the Tea Garden Restaurant, over on State Street, and pig out on a large platter of shrimp fried rice.

Daisy fluffed her pillow and adjusted her blanket once more. She vowed silently that nothing would keep her from seeing The Mack, even if she had to go alone, without her best friend Faye.

The sound of Cora Lee’s voice filtered into Daisy’s slumber. “Daisy Mae! Girl you better get your tail outta that bed if you plan on goin’ downtown with Faye this mornin’.” Slowly Daisy rolled over and saw, through the tiny slits of her sleep encrusted eyes, her mother and Faye standing over her. She moaned and stretched as her eyes worked to loosen the grit.

“Come on Daisy, get up. Zo said if we ain’t ready by eleven, he’s not gonna take up to the el.”

“Dag Faye,” Daisy groaned before letting out a long and deep yawn. “Why are you here so early?” “Early? Girl it’s ten fifteen!”

Daisy gasped, “For real!”

“Yeah for real, now get up!”

As Daisy became more fully awake, she noticed the dusting of flour on her mother’s apron, and the aroma of homemade biscuits that wafted through the air. “Mmm,” she crooned. “You made my favorites.”

“I might have made ‘em,” Cora Lee commented, “But that doesn’t mean you’ll get to eat ‘em. Everybody else done ate, and you know how your father and brothers are. I told them to save you a couple, but … ”

“Mom-my!”

“I’ll go see what they left you. But you had better get a move on because I don’t have time to take you two to the el.”

As Cora Lee turned to leave, Faye eyed Daisy suspiciously. “I guess somebody stayed up late last night thinking about The Mack.”

“Shhh!” Daisy warned. “Don’t say that word in here! What if my Mama hears you?”

“Girl she ain’t gonna hear me! Besides, she probably doesn’t know what The Mack is anyway.”

“You wanna bet? I overheard her on the telephone the other day, talking about how she wished she would waste her hard earned money on that mess.” “But how do you know she was talking about The Mack?”

“Because before that, she said something about how hard it is for black actors in Hollywood, but even so Max Julien should have held out until a decent role came his way. Then she went on about Sidney Poitier, and how you would never see him playin’ no pimp.”

“Dang, I guess she does know.”

“Told you so.” Then quickly changing the subject Daisy asked, “So do you have your five dollars?”

Faye grinned widely, and proudly replied, “How about six, just to be on the safe side.”

“Uh, uh Faye, I know you don’t have six whole dollars?”

“Oh yes I do. Check it out.” Faye dug down into her pocket and pulled out six dollars for Daisy to see. Daisy was glad that she had her money, but she didn’t necessarily like the idea of Faye having more than she had. From the beginning of their friendship Daisy had taken on something of a provider/protector role with Faye. So on the rare occasions when Faye didn’t need her to provide or protect, Daisy had a tendency to feel put out.

“Faye where in the world did you get that money from, when yesterday all you had was two seventy-five?” With a smug expression on her face Faye replied, “I don’t even have to use my two seventy-five. That’s at home in my drawer. My mama gave me this without batting an eye.” “Whaaat!”

It surprised Daisy that Eva Mae, a boozer and a numbers player, had given Faye so much as a dime. Those two habits rarely left her with money for anything else, unless of course she hit. “Your mama must of hit?”

“She sure did girl, and for seventy-five big ones this time. Can you believe it? She’s all set to have a good time about now, so you know she was ready to do whatever she had to do to get rid of me.”

Both girls chuckled at Faye’s stroke of luck. “I heard that!” Daisy said as they gave each other five. “Now what time is Zo gonna take us to the el?” “We need to be ready by eleven because he’s got to go to work this afternoon, and he said that he is not going to be late fooling around with us.” “I better hurry up then.”

“While you’re hurrying, I’ll be in the kitchen eating up your biscuits,” Faye teased. She wasn’t really going to eat Daisy’s biscuits. She’d already had her share. Cora Lee, knowing how more often than not Faye hadn’t eaten a decent meal, had fixed her a plate of grits, sausage and two big fluffy biscuits of her very own the minute she walked through the door.

 

About the Author

D.J. Berrien

D.J. Berrien is a graduate of Illinois State University. She studied creative writing at Columbia College Chicago, where her short story was selected for publication in Hair Trigger 20, an award-winning anthology. She lives with her husband and two children in Lynwood, Illinois.