Nappily Ever After (Thomas)

Nappily Ever After
Trisha R. Thomas
Random House
320 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780609808986

Venus Johnston has a great job, a beautiful home, and a loving live-in boyfriend named Clint, who happens to be a drop-dead gorgeous doctor. She has a weekly beauty-parlor date with Tina, who keeps Venus's long, processed hair slick and straight. Ever since childhood, the tedious hours in the salon and the harsh, burning chemicals have grated on Venus, and increasingly she dreams of cutting off her beautiful "good" hair.

When her boyfriend keeps balking at commitment, and the thought of another hour at the salon is just too much, Venus decides to give it up— all of it. She trades in the long hair for a dramatically short, natural cut and sends Clint packing. It's a bold declaration of independence—and one that has effects she never could have imagined. Reactions from friends and coworkers range from concern to contempt to outright condemnation.

When Clint moves on and starts dating a voluptuous, long-haired beauty, Venus is forced to question what she really wants out of life. With wit, resilience, and a lot of determination, she finally learns what true happiness is...on her own terms. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Birth—ca. 1966
Where—San Diego, California, USA
Education—California State University, Los Angeles
Awards—Finalist: Gold Pen Best New Fiction Writer; NAACP
   Image Award; Essence Magazine Story Teller of the Year
Currently—lives in Riverside, California

Trisha R. Thomas was born in San Diego, California, and now lives in Riverside, happily ever after, with her husband and two children. She is the author of six novels, including Nappily Ever After (2000), Roadrunner (2002), Would I Lie to You? (2004) Nappily Married (2007), Nappily Faithful (2008), and Nappily in Bloom (2009). (From the publisher.)

Book Reviews
Nappily Ever After is a vibrant tale of a young woman's journey to independence. The characters are real and emerge from this novel as people you actually know. It's an exquisitely passionate novel from an immensely gifted new author.
Pamela Walker-Williams - Page-Turner Network

Venus Johnson's cry for freedom echoes throughout this gripping page-turner as a series of self-revealing choices. Defying the pleas of her perm-toting hairdresser, Venus shaves off her long hair after years of chemical straightening. Her shockingly sparse Afro screams, "affirm me as I am—a beautiful sistah inside and out.
Black Issues Book Review

African-American advertising agency executive Venus Johnston has had enough. Enough of the painful, expensive hours spent relaxing her "good" hair and enough of her four-year relationship with medical intern Clint Fairchild, which has lasted too long without a ring. She shaves her hair to a quarter-inch stubble, tells Clint to pack his bags and spends the rest of Thomas's empowering debut novel building a new life to match the new woman she's become. Clint, on the rebound, meets beautiful, longhaired and marriage-ready Kandi Treboe and proposes on an impulse, despite evidence that he's not over Venus. Meanwhile, Venus confronts issues of sexual harassment and racism in her predominantly white Washington, D.C., firm, where she begins to receive threatening notes. The crisis at work fuels Venus's fears that she's not strong enough to survive her new freedom. Has she made a mistake by abandoning the security of her boyfriend and her long, straight hair? Kandi develops into a complex character, with her own set of concerns and a sense of humor about the lovers' triangle. Her perspective provides an interesting counterpoint to Venus's obsession with the consuming culture surrounding black women's hair. Clint's confusion over his choice between the two women is treated honestly, and Venus's discovery that she has moved to new psychological territory carries emotional weight. This exploration of an African-American woman's journey to self-acceptance is not without flaws (spotty writing and loose ends tied up too fast), but Thomas refuses to let her characters slide into stereotype, and she keeps the pace fast and funny.
Publishers Weekly

Thomas offers painful but amusing insights into the politics of beauty, black culture, and male-female relationships; her first novel places her in a league with Terry MacMillan and Bebe Moore Campbell. —Vanessa Bush

A young black woman decides to stop fussing with her hair, and changes her life in the process. Venus Johnson has a successful career in cosmetics advertising, some great girlfriends, and a live-in love who's (yes!) a doctor. But pediatrician Clint has been content with their relationship just as it is and doesn't seem any too interested in ever making a real commitment. He likes her just as she is, too, including her long, straight, processed hair. Fed up, Venus asks her very surprised hairdresser to cut it all off—and promptly kicks Clint out, just like that. The handsome doctor is baffled, but there's another woman ready and waiting, of course: Kandi, whose hair is equally long, soft, and processed. Venus has second thoughts about her impulsive action, but she's got a few other things on her mind at the moment: a lecherous colleague and the poison-pen letters someone's been sending her at the office. Her friends, family, and coworkers weigh in with comments, mostly negative, about her very short hair, but Venus is thrilled to have put an end to her tedious hours in beauty salons and her general obsession with her appearance. Let Clint marry his sweet Kandi, Venus decides; she's found herself—and freedom. Irresistibly cheerful, feel-good feminism underpins this pleasant little tale, although the men are in no way villainous, and the talented author writes just as sympathetically from a male point of view. Lively dialogue and fresh characterization enrich the barely-there plot, which is all Thomas needs to make her point: It's what inside that counts. A slight but winning debut.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
Use our LitLovers Book Club Resources; they can help with discussions for any book:

How to Discuss a Book (helpful discussion tips)
Generic Discussion Questions—Fiction and Nonfiction
Read-Think-Talk (a guided reading chart)

Also consider these LitLovers talking points to help get a discussion started for Nappily Ever After:

1. Talk about the significance for the African-American culture of so-called "good" hair. Why does Venus decide to cut it off? How do you feel about the reactions of her lover, friends and family to her shorn hair?

2. What does all this (in #1, above) say about the role of female beauty in the African-American culture? Is the emphasis on appearance different from the larger US (or world) culture?

3. Discuss the rivalry between Venus and Kandi, Venus's replacement in Clint's affections. You might even talk about the two names and what they could suggest about the women.

4. How do you feel about the main characters? We are meant, of course, to sympathsize with Venus, but is there sympathy for Kandi...or Clint?

5. What does Venus learn by the end of the book? And the others—what, if anything, do they learn?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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