Little Black Girl Lost, and So Is This Reader

I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions, but this year I made one, and that is to update this blog regularly. And what could be an easier way to do that, a better motivation, than to start off by talking about books I’ve read? It’s almost too easy, really.
Today’s Reading Rainbow book is “Little Black Girl Lost” by Keith Lee Johnson. And the Siskel and Ebert rating is: two thumbs down.

Confession: I did not finish this book. I didn’t even get halfway through it. That’s how bad it was. I hardly ever just quit reading a book, it has to be really terrible for me to do that. Well, LBGL is really terrible.
The story, (and according to Wikipedia it’s the first in a series; be afraid!) is about a poor black girl named Johnnie Mae, who lives in New Orleans in the 1950’s. Her mother is a prostitute, and she pimps Johnnie Mae’s virginity out to a rich white client on JM’s 16th birthday. Up till then, JM has been a Good Girl, going to church, getting good grades, and being very conservative and well-mannered. We never see a grandmother, a father, an aunt or any kind of mentor, so we have to wonder who is being such a good influence on Johnnie Mae, because it certainly isn’t her mother.
After Mama does her dirty deed, Earl, the rich white client, “falls in love” with Johnnie Mae, who, extremely conservative values forgotten, begins working her wiles on him. She’s so good at it, despite never having had even a casual boyfriend till now, that inside a couple months, Earl has bought her a house of her own. He doesn’t put her up in an apartment or fine hotel, mind you. He buys her a house.
The plot thickens! Johnnie Mae begins investing the money she wangles out of Earl. She retains a broker to help her manage her money. This is Louisiana in the fifties, she is a teenage black girl raised by a prostitute, yet she manages to get this stockbroker to work for her, convincing him she is a rich society woman. How exactly does this work? (No, she doesn’t do for the stockbroker the things she does for Earl to get money out of him.)
I quit reading about at that point. It was just so unbelievable. I had the feeling the author really only wanted to write a story full of hot sex, but thought he would sell more books if he had an actual plot too. From what I can tell, the plot goes on to involve Johnnie Mae either teaming up with or trying to outwit the organized-crime boss of her section of the Big Easy.

Ah, the Big Easy. New Orleans, a city as rich in character and atmosphere as a good gumbo is rich in flavor. You’d never know it by reading this book. You’d honestly never know where the story was taking place if the city’s name had not been mentioned. There was nothing at all to identify the city as New Orleans, except some vague references to “parishes.” I suspect that the author hasn’t spent much time in the city, if he’s ever been there at all. He doesn’t even use the word “parishes” correctly, he has them confused with wards. Which is a shame. He’s trying to write what he doesn’t know because he thinks that will save his book from his bad writing and ridiculous plot. Sorry Keith, it only made it worse.
*Ghostess exits to a jazzy saxophone riff*


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