Many years ago, when our daughter, Jeanina, entered middle school, I was totally unprepared for all of the stories that she would come home to "share" with me. Stories about who was pregnant, who was no longer pregnant (just got an abortion) and who was scared that they were pregnant! Remember I said, middle school!! And yes, being a conscientious, enlightened, educated and informed parent, who was also a minister's wife, I had tried really hard to dot all of the i's and cross all of the t's (had the "talk"; brought the "development and anatomy" books for "him and her"; brought Bibles - KJV and NIV and had ALL of the public health brochures up the 'ying yang' but I still felt "side-swiped" and overwhelmed. I was lost, numb and freaked out. I knew that for Jeanina, lecturing, threats and screaming would do absolutely nothing. I trusted her. It was her friends and associates with which I had the issues.
So what's a mother to do? My first solution was to look for a book. I headed straight to the library, local bookstores (all of them- Christian bookstores too!) and online. And I saw a few things -- a chapter here and there -- in books written by primarily white male youth ministers. Don't get me wrong, the books and chapters included good things. They just didn't speak to the needs of a middle school age black girl growing into African American womanhood.
I was back at square one. What's a mother to do? Especially one that expresses herself more through the written word better than anything else? So as a writer, my skills kicked in and I wrote her a letter instead.
I started it before her 13th birthday with the real intention of giving it to her then but it just kept getting longer and longer. I talked about all the kinds of things that I needed someone to talk about to me when I was her age. I talked about what it meant to be a young black girl growing into woman/ adulthood in a country and a culture that doesn't value young black women. I talked about what God sees when He sees her and how valuable she is to Him. And since she is so very valuable to God as His child and daughter, she is a gift to the world. I talked about her body and how it is the temple of God and how important it is that she build a relationship with God on so many levels. I talked about our families and relatives and what family traits she inherited and from whom. I talked about how important friends and friendship is, (even God had a friend!) and how she needs to listen closely to Him as she picks her friends. I talked about work and studying hard in school and getting prepared for the work that God has already set aside for her hands to do. I talked about being grateful for all things, even the hard things in life and for building a real relationship with God so that she will learn to look to Him for health, strength, guidance and wisdom. I talked about asking God to pick out her boyfriend and husband when the time comes since He has already set aside that person for her. And I talked about sex and about a lot of other things.
I finally finished it when she was 16. I printed it out, put it in a pink box and gift wrapped it. When she opened it, she was less than excited. What she really wanted, she said, was a car, not a book. I was equally disappointed that she saw so little to appreciate in my labor of love. It was the gift that ended up in the bottom of her chest of drawers -- or so I thought.
Weeks later, while putting laundry away, I overheard a phone conversation that Jeanina was having with a girlfriend of hers. She was reading passages of the letter/book to her. I was really struck by that. It became my earliest indication that what started as a letter to my daughter might potentially become a book to and for other young black girls. The letter became a book for teen girls, THE REAL DEAL: A Spiritual Guide for Black Teen Girls and became a national best seller! And it continues to sell well even now, years later.
While writing THE REAL DEAL, the first chapter talks about how . . . wonderfully and fearfully . . . we are created by God and in discussing that, it made me think about Eve. When researching her, I realized that the Bible gives NO physical descriptions of her at all - NONE. In broadening my research, I borrowed a book from my Mother that discusses all of the women in the Bible. In that book, the author gave this detailed physical description of Eve (long flowing blonde hair, small waist, petite, etc.) as well as other descriptions of women in the Bible (Deborah was a red head! Really?). I was shocked and appalled! Come on! IF the Bible really thought physical descriptions were important, they would have been included. Right? I also "discovered" the story of the Daughters of Zelophehad (Numbers 27: 1-11) which has become a favorite of mine and one that I wanted to share with other women- at some future point in time.
So years after writing THE REAL DEAL and after focusing on building a Drama Ministry at my church (writing and directing plays, drive-thru "Easter pageants", etc.); researching and writing plays for local history projects, etc., and developing The Not-Just-for February Players, a local African American Readers Theater Troupe, I wrote SISTERS OF SCRIPTURE: Mentors in Womanhood. For me, SOS became a way - a different way of introducing other young women Jeanina's age to the Word of God, a way for them to see themselves through women in the Bible. I wanted them to see similarities in issues and concerns between themselves and these women from across the ages. Since time began women have struggled w/ issues of self-worth and self-esteem; getting a "good man"; infertility; sexual assault and asserting their own authority. I was blessed and honored for that text to win The Silver Illumination Award for Devotionals for 2015 (The Jenkins Group for Independent Publishers)!
Our precious Jeanina passed in 2011 and never saw SOS in print. In fact, she never knew that the book was even a thought of mine. It's dedicated to her as well as to every other young woman her age and older. The words and women of SOS are there to give young women hope, encouragement and peace as they try to make a place for themselves in a world that sometimes is not very welcoming as well as to remind them that God has already provided ALL that they will every need -- IF they just ". . ask, seek and knock (Matthew 7:8)". He will respond.. . . . Just because He's God. Stay blessed and under His wings -- BM/C