Da Brick Wall
Hittin' the Bricks: An Urban Erotic Tale by Noire
Review by Loretta H. Campbell
One World Trade, an imprint of Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc. New York, NY 245 pages, paperback $14 ISBN 978-0345-50878-2
When a self-hating Black person, or a white person pretending to be black, writes a book, the book is Hittin' the Bricks. Unfortunately, it goes downhill from there. Urban has become the code word for Black neighborhoods and culture. Except for the dialect, there is very little that is uniquely Black about this novel.
As to that which is erotic, are stories about women, whatever their race, being raped, tortured, and shot to death considered sexually arousing? True, publishers have made millions on books about sadism or misogyny. In this case, these things are happening to Black women.
It is worth noting that in this book there are no intact Black families, and the majority of the Black men are predatory. In fact, most of the people in Hittin' the Bricks are a danger to themselves and others, including the protagonist Eva.
Half African American and half Dominican, she narrates her story from her grave. Periodically, other characters, still living, take up part of the story where she leaves off. Said story moves from tenements and slums between Brooklyn and Harlem. Her father is killed horribly, and her mother, Rasheena, turns junkie, and sells her body for drugs. Then she turns her attention to Eva.
"Rasheena, who had held Eva down the first time Jahden [Rasheena's boyfriend] shot her up, [with heroin] and who had then stood by and watched as her boyfriend busted her young daughter's cherry. ..." page 6
This is the first problem with the book--language. The point of view is unclear. Who's calling Eva's virginity a cherry? If Eva describes her cherry as being busted, it's in keeping with the character. She wouldn't know the difference between rape and sex. However, it's not clear whether, Noire, the author, knows the difference.
At one point, Eva's cousin Fiyah Perez (an aspiring rapper) pleads guilty to a gun charge when in fact Eva had the gun. While in Rikers Island, he begins to wonder what will happen to him. page 53.
" Jail was a muhfuckah. The judge had slapped him with a year, but his public defender said he would prolly be out in like eight months. His heart grew cold as he contemplated surviving his term of incarceration."
Would a guy who just thought prolly instead of probably and muhfuckah instead of motherfucker, think words like contemplated and incarceration? Would a writer who writes the words incarceration and contemplated spell probably prolly?
After Rasheena assists Jahden in the repeated rape of Eva, he forces drugs on Eva and addicts her. She earns money for drugs by prostitution and fellatio on men in alleys and stairwells. Rasheena beats the girl with extension cords and starves her regularly. This is basically Eva's life before she turns 14. At this point, Rasheena evicts her because she feels Eva is competition for Jahden's favors.
On the day Eva is thrown out, she gives birth to a son. Neither Eva nor her family members knew she was pregnant. No mention is made of the possibility of a father. Eva leaves the baby with a friend, Miss Threet.
In the next chapter, now four years later, Eva is drug free and has a job as a receptionist. She lives with her aunt, herself a recovering drug addict, and her cousin Fiyah. She sends money regularly to Miss Threet for her child's upbringing.
The pregnancy is realistic because there is never any mention of contraception in this book. The foster mother is realistic especially in the Black community. Still, Eva's general health doesn't happen in real life. Having worked in girls' group homes and battered women's shelters, I know that most teenage prostitutes, and any whores who don't use condoms, suffer with STDs. Those who specialize in fellatio have constant throat STDs. Crack whores who don't use condoms are lucky if all they get is STDs and not AIDS. That's a fact. Granted that's not sexy, but neither is having a baby in the laundry room of the projects, which Eva does. If the author wants to keep it "real", with the pregnancy, venereal disease would have been a part of Eva's life too.
Although Eva has changed her location, she is still surrounded by addicts and drug dealers. The author brings in another conflict in the form of Brody. A fellow inmate of Fiyah, Brody is a drug dealer/pimp who runs Rikers Island during his imprisonment. He offers protection to Fiyah from would-be rapists on one condition. Fiyah has to promise him that Eva will be his property. Brody truly enjoys torturing and killing women and girls, and he's very proud of being a pimp. To sweeten the offer, he tells Fiyah that he's the owner of an exclusive club, Bricks. Fiyah will do anything to work in Bricks, including giving Eva to Brody.
Upon his release from jail, Fiyah learns that Eva has fallen in love and is making plans that don't include Brody. Fiyah knows Brody will kill him if he doesn't deliver Eva.
When Fiyah tells her this, she ignores him and the romance with Mello blossoms. Noire inserted a poem "Warning!" at the beginning of the book eschewing any hint of romance in Hittin' the Bricks.
"This here ain't no romance
It's an urban erotic tale"
Here is the rhythm of the book. The sentences are short, and much of the imagery is a reflection of the vocabulary of hip-hop. At one point Mello asks Eva to dance while they're in the club. "Well Mello's here now. And it's about to get better. Dance with me, Miss Lady. I got some rhythm I want bump on you."
Whatever the author's intention, the love story grounds the book and gives it meaning. As the relationship develops, Eva changes careers and begins modeling sports wear. As her career grows, she struggles with her self-image. She puts makeup on her track scars.
This is another reason why the book fails. Serious topics are introduced but not fully explored. The aftermath of drug addiction, and in fact drug addiction itself, are topics that are too weighty for this book.
The author introduces two other controversial subjects regarding Eva's self image. One, Eva doesn't perm her hair. Many Black women feel that their hair is not beautiful unless it emulates the hair of white women, hence use chemicals to destroy the nappiness. Two, the tension-laden relationship between dark skinned Dominicans and African Americans. The African American women in the book dislike Eva because her hair isn't as course as theirs. The Dominican women dislike her because her hair is not as straight as white women's. Both issues are too heavy for this book.
Despite her lover's best efforts, Brody's obsession with Eva results in her violent death and his death is at the hands Fiyah. Here the book looses credibilty again.
Fiyah walks into Brody house and kills him while he is surrounded by his lieutenants and his brothers. All of them let Fiyah walk away. Brody is hated by half of the people in the room, but this wouldn't have save Fiyah. Even in fiction, a character doesn't walk into a room like this, kill the drug dealer, and live.
Despite the fact that this is fiction, nothing about this book should shock or surprise anyone who knows anything about psychosis or dysfunctionality. Thousands of women and girls around this country and the world are suffering this kind of traumatizing abuse. Calling this erotic is trivializing their pain. Not having craft to tell the story is unprofessional.
Much has been said about the decline in quality book publishing because publishers no longer demand craft. Instead, they insist on high book sales. As a result, authors do not, or cannot develop the skills needed to write. That is what has happened here. The writing wasn't up to the seriousness of the topics raised.
However, that seems to be the subtext. Are white publishers going the way of white music producers? Meaning, should we expect to see books that promote the stereotype of Black people as homicidal and psychotic just as we hear lyrics from rappers that reinforce self and race hatred? Racist, misogynistic lyrics seem to be lucrative for music producers if not for rappers themselves. This book foretells the same lucrative, but sad fate for publishing.