by Regina Jamison
As a young African American woman from Durham, North Carolina, Sky Valentine is tired of being boxed in by small minds and Southern expectations. To escape the restraints of her Southern upbringing, Sky flees to Rhode Island to attend college. Once there, Sky doesn’t just work on her degree, she also works on shedding many of the things that peg her as a Southerner.
Sky also falls head over heels with the sexy and vibrant Zenobia, solidifying what she had felt in her heart all along—that she loves women. But their affair is brief and interrupted by Zenobia’s sudden departure from school.
With college completed, Sky returns home to find that her domineering mother has promised her hand in marriage to a rich and arrogant man. But it’s 1986, and Sky is determined to live her own life. So she gathers her courage and flees to New York City, where she lands a teaching job and an apartment.
In time Sky meets Grace Webster and it’s love at first sight. But then Zenobia comes back into Sky’s life and Sky is faced with an impossible choice—finish what she started with Zenobia years ago, or fight for the relationship she is building with Grace. What will she choose?
GCLS Goldie Awards
Choosing Grace — Finalist, Tee Corinne Award for Outstanding Cover Art.
FROM THE AUTHOR
"Choosing Grace originated from my desire to write a book about my experiences within the black lesbian community and growing up in the Bronx. My original title for the book was Jumping Rope in High Heels and then it was changed to The Get-Together. As the story developed, it was predominately about the two characters, Sky Valentine and Grace Webster and their relationship and the fact that no matter what occurred between them, Sky would always choose Grace. As such, the title of the book changed once again."—Regina Jamison
Fiona T. - I was drawn to this book by the cover and the description of the story and I was not disappointed! This book had me hooked right from the first chapter. Set in the USA in the 80's the reader follows Sky as she breaks away from societal norms. I found Sky to be a very real character and I became invested in her story and the journey she takes as she moves away from her hometown of Durham to begin a new life in New York.
Sky's journey of self-discovery and love leads her to meet other people and I found myself infuriated by Grace's hot/cold attitude and insecurities whilst willing Sky to pursue a relationship with another character. The author skilfully weaves a believable and authentic world that any reader can immerse themselves in.
I am happy to have discovered a talented author and will definitely look out for other future publications.
Kennedy O. - It was good to read a story with people of color. It was also good yet heart breaking to read about the challenges of coming out to family and friends. What was most interesting to me was reading about Sky and how she dealt with the challenges she faced. It was not a linear road and the reader may or maynot agree with the decisions she made and how she made them but that contributed to making the read interesting. There is no way I would have done that like that...really? The book cover is gorgeous!
Kat W. - This is an interesting story about self-discovery and being true to yourself. The drama that comes with it and decisions that have to be made is another story. I was very happy that Sky was able to realize what is important in her life and move along.
The Lesbian Review
Choosing Grace is a lovely romance. It has the feel of an autobiography with it’s relaxed, first person narrative. Despite being set in the 1980’s it’s very relatable and Jamison does an excellent job making Sky feel like an old friend. The two women in love with Sky couldn’t be more different from each other so watching her sort out her feelings for each of them had a hint of suspense to it. The entire book is populated with strong female supporting characters and it makes for a delightful read.
I promised myself that 1986 would be my year. My year to spread my wings, be my authentic self, live my life.
After having watched the Space Shuttle Challenger blow up after launching at the beginning of the year, I was shaken, and it hit me square in the face—tomorrow may never come.
I was just twenty-five, but thirty wasn’t as far off as it once was, and I knew I needed to stop living my life for everyone else. I needed to own who I was no matter the consequences. But I also realized that I needed to grow some balls because things were always easier said than done.
The table creaked loudly, but I could still hear the reverend’s deep baritone voice through the old wooden door. He had said something that sounded like “matrimony” and “man and wife,” but I wasn’t sure. The sound of his voice, more so than his words, was so robust, so full, so hypnotic, that even in my discomfort it soothed me.
With my eyes shut tight against the pounding, I fell into his voice, and her face slowly appeared before me. Her tiny, square teeth and big brown eyes, so delightful, so intense. I saw her hair as it bounced against her narrow shoulders; saw the sway of her silky shorts when she walked up the block to greet me. I remembered the rich brown color of her skin against the glare of the sand that day at Sachuest Beach and the outline of her full guitar-shaped hips pressed into our rainbow-striped beach towel. She was my first love, but I was afraid to call her that, afraid to name what we shared. To do so would have been a declaration and, at the time, I wasn’t ready to declare anything. Even in the dark, behind locked doors buried under sheets and comforters that pressed into us, I had been afraid. I had closed my eyes so as not to witness the love we were making. Buried there, I could hold her hand, touch her breasts, and kiss her lips. Locked in and tucked away, I could do these things, and I had. But it was a love I could not rejoice in, couldn’t flaunt nor nourish. It was my first love and I had destroyed it.
Delbert, my husband-to-be, moaned and the memory I held of her vanished. The table shuddered with his climax and a piece of me fell away. The reverend knocked twice and said, “We are about to begin.” Delbert didn’t bother to wipe, just shoved it down into his pants and straightened out his shirt and jacket.
“Tell them I’ll be right there,” I said.
Delbert turned to leave. I watched as he strode toward the door, his ego so big there was no room for a shadow. The gray and black hairs of his goatee no longer made him appear distinguished. Now they reminded me of a skunk. His smile was that of a dirty old man. The twenty-year age difference between us was now a monolith. He grabbed the doorknob then turned back toward me. I saw the smirk on his face before he closed the door. The scent of his Brut cologne lingered like Delbert’s own personal enforcer.
I stood there like an angel all fluffed up in white, semen glistening atop the tissues that I held in my hand. At this point, it was as if he were a client, nothing more. His sneer, a visual reminder that the deal had been sealed. And thanks to my conniving mother and malleable father, it had been.
I found some more paper towels and wiped myself down. There was no time for soap and water. I bent over and picked up the small bottle of perfume that had fallen from the squeaky table Delbert had laid me upon. Poison by Dior was on the label. If only it was so, I thought. There was another knock at the door, then a large purple hat bobbed through.
“Everyone’s waiting on you, Sky.”
It was Odeta, my childhood friend. She was what we called “big boned,” and she always looked sharp in a suit. Today was no exception. However, her big, purple hat looked ridiculous. It sat like an uncooked eggplant nestled safely inside the fluffed-up coil of curls Odeta had atop her head. The black veil attached to the front of the hat fell over her eyes and made her look old. On any other day I would have laughed at how ludicrous her hat was, but, today, I loved her for it because it was so indicative of who she was—an old soul. It was as if she was playing dress-up and had raided her grandmother’s closet. Odeta wasn’t a fly girl or hip to the latest fashions or ideas, but she was always there for me.
“What are you doing in here anyway? Is that my perfume I smell? Decided to use it, huh?”
I walked toward the door and handed Odeta the perfume bottle. I didn’t bother answering any of her questions. It was the reverend’s forthcoming question that lay heavy on my mind: “Do you take this man?” Besides, Odeta liked to ask a lot of rhetorical questions before she got to the question she really wanted answered. The first few questions were like pre-ejaculate. I let her talk as I waited for the climax.
“You’re not getting cold feet now, are you?”
“My feet are fine,” I said.
I tried to smile, but I couldn’t. That was not the question I wanted Odeta to ask. I wanted her to ask, “Are you sure? Are you doing the right thing? Do you love this man?” But Odeta wasn’t that type of person. She dealt with surface things so, for her, wedding equaled love. I couldn’t and never did tell her about my first love—a woman—and how those feelings still lingered. She would not understand, couldn’t comprehend, so I kept my doubts to myself.
“Everybody gets nervous on their wedding day,” Odeta said.
“How do you know?”
“Well, that’s what everybody says.”
I wanted something more. Statistics. Testimonials. Video footage. All she had was hearsay. Hearsay and a big purple hat. Now she seemed even more ridiculous. I considered telling her that it was inappropriate to wear such an outlandish hat to a funeral, but then I remembered, this wasn’t a funeral, I was getting married. In my mind, that long walk toward the altar was me on a plank, heading toward my doom. Suddenly, I realized that that plank was the only way out. I needed to stand at the edge. I needed to be ready to jump. I needed to face it. Perhaps, just perhaps, there would be a net underneath.
“Let’s go,” I said. “I’m ready.”