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In this episode of The Turn On, Erica and Kenrya read “Rise of the Rain Queen” by Fiona Zedde and talk about the role family plays in romantic relationships and dating folks who are too old for us. Plus, they announce the first selection in The Turn On Book Club!
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Kenrya: Come here. Get off.
Erica: Welcome to the second episode of season three.
Kenrya: Ayyeeeeee! I wish I could do air horns. I'm not good at it.
Erica: Bah bah bah! It's because we're from the Midwest and not Jamaica. That is why we don't-
Kenrya: Maybe that's why. We need a Midwestern sound. I don't know what that would be. What? It's about to be ignorant. (singing).
Erica: Smoking on hay...
Kenrya: Hay, in the middle of the barn! Y’all missed the titty shimmy.
Erica: They're more of a side to side until I get a little movement in them.
Kenrya: It was still a shimmy.
Kenrya: I like it.
Erica: Thanks, boo. We'll have some sort of Midwest version of an air horn, trust and believe. Welcome to the second episode of season three of The Turn On. We are just going to jump right in it. Today we are reading “Rise of the Rain Queen.”
Kenrya: Sorry. You know I can never resist.
Erica: You know what? You're special, because the office is special, so why not? This week we're reading “Rise of the Rain Queen” by Fiona Zedde, which was written in 2016. Sit back, relax, get your wine, get your weed, get your whatever you need, and enjoy.
Kenrya: Let's do it.
Kenrya: “Rise of the Rain Queen,” by Fiona Zedde.
Kenrya: “Duni, don't pretend that when you said those things to me you didn't mean for me to change and become the woman you want.” Ny balanced her hands on her thighs, hoping and praying that she was right. In her eyes, Duni had practically dared her to grow up. “So tell me, am I now the woman you want?” She felt Duni close to her, the heat of her body just a touch away. Her breath smelled of a recent dinner and mint leaves. “Do you want me?”
Kenrya: A sigh left Duni's lips, “I ....” She drew back and took her breath, her lips, and her heat with her. Ny straightened her spine against the disappointment. At least her father was proud of her now. At least she knew her mother than she had before. At least ... Duni kissed her. Ny gasped and drew in the taste of Duni into her mouth. Mint and sweetness and the press of her soft lips. Ny's heart thudded in her chest and her lashes fluttered with surprise. Then she realized what was happening. Duni was actually kissing her. Ny quivered and kissed back. She and Duni crashed together, mouths pressing firmly, hands grasping in heated intent. Ny tingled every place they touched.
Kenrya: Her head spun with the reality of what was happening, her fantasies no longer confined to her sleeping mat, but made real under moonlight with the quiet rushing of the river nearby. Emboldened, she touched even more than she had in her dreams, her fingers slipping under the thin kanga to skate over Duni's waist beads, her warm skin. Duni shuddered and pulled back with a moan. She licked her lips, took a moment to regain her breath. Her eyes dipped down. “This is dangerous for me.”
Kenrya: Yes, it would be dangerous if Duni's husband found out, but they would be discreet. They would only touch when they were alone. They would only speak of their intimacies to each other. “We need to be careful,” Ny said. It didn't even cross her mind to give up what she'd just found with Duni. “Yes.” Duni's tongue appeared to wet her lips and Ny stopped thinking. She leaned in again to press a kiss back to Duni's mouth, entranced by the softness of it, the plump dampness like ripe fruit. The faint taste of oil and honey berries lingered on those soft lips. Had Duni worn the oil for her?
Kenrya: It excited her, the thought that Duni had enticed her to the river not just to talk, but to kiss, like this. Ny licked the enticing flavor on Duni's mouth, the sweetness of the berries and the much more delicious taste of her mouth's natural essence. She was like a fruit Ny had only hoped of tasting, always hanging high on the vine and out of reach, and now here she was, practically in Ny's lap. She groaned and pressed closer. Duni drew back, smiling. She curved her palm around Ny's cheek. “Like this.”
Kenrya: She kissed Ny again, lips pressing as delicately as flower petals, leaving Ny slightly dizzy, a hunt in the forest that pushed her body to the very limit. The feel of her was intoxicating and weakening, strange in a way she'd never considered. She'd been interested in kissing girls before, but too nervous to try. Nervous in a way she hadn't been bout jumping from cliffs or diving into the river. Duni's lips parted, her tongue gently breaking the seam of Ny's mouth and her thoughts flew away, a flock of wild birds.
Kenrya: Heat pooled in her belly with each stroke of Duni's tongue. A shiver rippled through her body. It felt dangerous, this kind of kissing, her heartbeat speeding up too fast to be safe, her breath stolen, her palms wet, but she didn't want to stop. Duni taught her everything she needed to know. The kiss could be a greeting, an apology, an unmaking. Duni's tongue slid against Ny's, firm and slick. Her hands gripped her waist, sinking into soft flesh. Her thoughts were gone. Everything was only sensation, wet agitation between her legs, a sound like pain from her throat, or was it from Duni? Soft noises, squirming against Ny on the rock, their chests pressed together, nipples rubbing, aching. Ny pulled away with a gasp, desperately needing to breathe.
Kenrya: Duni's breath puffed against her lips. “Are y’all right?” Ny shook her head. “My heart is beating in my chest. It feels like I'm going to die.” “Die?” “Yes. No. I can't explain it properly. It feels good.” Her hands drifted down to Duni's hips. “You feel good.” She dipped her hand into the curve of Duni's neck, smelled her, that soft place where neck met shoulder, the scent of her hair, of wood fires and honey flower oil. Ny licked her throat and Duni shivered against her. “I knew you'd be a fast learner.”
Kenrya: Ny drew back. “How do you know I haven't done this before?” Duni laughed, trailed a hand down Ny's bare back. “There are no secrets in this village, Nyandoro.” She flicked a thumb across Ny's lower lip. “Besides, your touch feels too tentative for you to be anything but untouched, and I'm surprised. I thought you, you would've had many offers.” “I've had offers, but there's never been anyone I wanted, no one but you.” “You humble me.” “Does that mean I can taste you now?” She dropped her gaze to Duni's hips so there was no mistaking her meaning. Duni smothered her laughter in Ny's shoulder. “Very fast learner, and eager too.” She lifted her head, eyes still shining mirth. “Not here. Tonight.” “Then where? I...”
Kenrya: Was there some way she could tell Duni that she ached? Her nipples hurt, but the pain was sweet. Between her legs was slippery and an even deeper ache was there. She wanted to touch herself but knew it would be even better if Duni touched her. “I want to touch you and I want you to touch me.” “I know. Soon.” The humor vanished from her eyes. “Remember, we must be careful.” Ny shivered at the seriousness in her voice. The lust drained from her, common sense slowly replacing it. Duni could lose everything, she realized again. Was this worth it? “Are you sure?”
Kenrya: Duni shook her head. “No. You don't get to chase me and then change your mind when I say yes. Now I'm the one saying yes.” She leaned in to kiss Ny once again, her gaze flying to the path far up the river. “I have to go. They'll miss me if I'm away much longer.” She pulled the comb from her hair. It was the same one from the first night they met by the river. “Take this and think of me.” “I always think of you.” But she took the comb anyway and slid it into the neckline of her kanga. With another look at the path, Duni clamored down from the rock. In the dark, Ny could feel Duni's gaze on her mouth, on the slope of her shoulders. “See you soon.”
Erica: Welcome back. That was “Rise of the Rain Queen” by Fiona Zedde. Let's start with the synopsis, and then we'll go into our big announcement, or should we do our announcement and then the synopsis?
Kenrya: I don't know. It's your show, boo. What you want to do?
Erica: It's our show, but since I get the choice, quick synopsis. This book is set in the Tanganyika region of Africa.
Kenrya: In 1400?
Erica: Yeah, in 1400. Pretty much in this society, all people at the age of 19, 20, they get to pick their partner, and then they live happily ever after. In this story, Ny, who is the main character, she is pretty much one of those little scrappy, "I'm going to do whatever the fuck I want, be in typical male or typical female roles. This is what I'm going to do." She has decided that she wants to take on this woman as her partner. Problem is this woman is married, is one of the wives of this guy that has multiple wives. It's a conflict there and just greater folklore in the community.
Kenrya: That's a good way of putting it. We got to work really hard not to spoil this one.
Erica: Because this has some really big spoilers, some really big twists and turns, and so I'm trying to give you the gist of it without-
Kenrya: This is like the “Fight Club” of Black romance.
Erica: Okay. Uh-huh (affirmative). Yeah. That. Anyway, so just take our word for it. It is a really good book. We want you guys to experience that book, so we are launching, (singing) The Turn On ... We really need a budget for special effects.
Kenrya: Yeah, some sounds. I think we can make that happen.
Erica: We probably can. We are launching The Turn On Book Club. First, to get access to the book club, join our Patreon. The entry level is five bucks a month, $5 a month. Let a bitch hold $5, please.
Kenrya: That's all. It gets you into the book club.
Erica: Gets you into the book club. We'll send you guys a handwritten thank you card. We have a bunch of different levels, but the entry level is called Just the Tip.
Kenrya: I believe so, yes.
Erica: Join as a Just the Tip contributor and you get access to the book club, as well as a handwritten thank you card. The book club will be quarterly. Did we say quarterly or monthly?
Erica: The book club will be quarterly. We will discuss a book in detail that we've read on the show.
Kenrya: You get to chop it up with us about a book.
Erica: It will be one on one. Not one on one.
Erica: Small group, one, two. That's what she said.
Erica: It'll be small group with us, and we will lead the discussion around this book, “Rise of the Rain Queen.”
Kenrya: Yep, this is our first book club selection. It's so dope, y’all.
Erica: Yeah, it's a really, really good book.
Kenrya: Get your copy. Hold up.
Erica: Oh, shit.
Kenrya: Go to our website. Click through-
Kenrya: ... to our Patreon. You can also purchase your copy of the book directly from the episode page for this episode. You get your book, you get into the club, and then we'll see you online. You get to see us.
Erica: Yeah, y’all get to see us, in all of our bad bitchedness. Reow. This little excerpt that Kenrya read, it really was about the first time that Ny and her partner, or her beloved, Duni, this was the first time that they really had an opportunity to-
Kenrya: Explore each other.
Erica: ... explore each other. Ny for a while has seen Duni in the village. She been cutting eyes at her, to the point where all her family is like, "Goddamn. You going to sop her up with a biscuit." There's a lot. She got all these brothers. They're constantly teasing her about this shit. You know what I really loved about this book was that her brothers were super loving and super supportive. One of the things that stood out to both of us in this story is that choosing to pick someone of the same sex as a partner isn't a-
Kenrya: It's not a thing. It's just what people do.
Erica: ... "Oh, she's a lesbian." It's just, "I chose a woman partner." I think the only real time that it was even mentioned as a thing was when her mom was like, "Yeah, but the women in our society passed down the lineage, and so I wanted you to pick a man-"
Kenrya: Have kids.
Erica: "... so you could pass our name down." It wasn't even like a, "Why are you doing it?" It was just like a, "Damn. [crosstalk 00:16:51]."
Kenrya: Yes for matrilineal society.
Erica: Yes. I just thought it was really cute. I got the warm and fuzzies, every time Ny was talking to her brothers or her dad or her mother about-
Kenrya: Yeah, because even when they were fucking with her, it was love.
Erica: Exactly. Even when some really bad things happened and she had to make some really hard decisions, her brothers were behind her, down for her like four flat tires, which begs me to think about, to ask the question of you, Kenrya, how was your family when it came to you dating people, particularly early in your dating history? In this society, I think Ny is probably, I didn't get a number, probably 19, 20, something like that.
Kenrya: Yeah, because she's just about to reach a age where she gets to pick a partner.
Erica: She's 19, 20. This is really her first time dating and showing interest in people. I just thought it was great how supportive her family was, but still like, "Be careful, girl."
Kenrya: "Slow down."
Erica: What about you?
Kenrya: Aye aye aye. Honestly, I think there's a lot of problematic stuff around how my family was. I was raised by my dad. My mom wasn't really at all involved at that point. My father was just like, "Okay." I remember that there was this dude who I was dating, and my dad was just glad he had a car so I didn't have to borrow ours. I was 16, and this nigga was 23.
Kenrya: Yeah. Statutory like a motherfucker. Because of the way that I was set up at that time, I wasn't having sex or anything, but it was still, I shouldn't have been hanging out with that grown ass man.
Erica: What the fuck are you doing at 23 where you got interest with a 16-year-old, no matter how-
Kenrya: Chaste or whatever.
Kenrya: We might've kissed.
Erica: ... adult-like you were, because probably you were running accounting books at 16.
Kenrya: Yeah, but I looked like I was fucking 12-
Erica: 14, yeah.
Kenrya: ... with big titties. I feel like it was probably too permissive, honestly. He was pretty hands-off, but he was hands-off on a lot of stuff. I think sometimes that's the way that things can progress when you are a single parent. It can go either way. Sometimes single parents are like, "I'm involved in every moment of your life," and then sometimes it's like, "Nigga, this too much." I think my father definitely took the, "Nigga, this is too much," strategy. I definitely was hanging out, doing shit I shouldn't have been doing. I was lying and telling him I was going to the movies, and then we was walking around the fucking outdoor mall situation with niggas, collecting numbers at the mall, with one bag-
Kenrya: ... so we looked like we was doing something.
Erica: I really remember going to the mall with my girls and being like, "Oh, we got to make sure we bring a pen and a piece of paper."
Kenrya: Yeah, so you can write numbers down.
Erica: So you can write down numbers.
Kenrya: Because we had pagers, that was it, so you had to write numbers down.
Erica: I had a pager, but I might not have always had a pager, because I had to go-
Kenrya: Because she wouldn't turn it on.
Erica: ... to the place to pay on it every month.
Kenrya: Pay your bill.
Erica: If my aunt didn't take me, nigga, you was just going to have to wait a few days for your pager to get turned back on.
Kenrya: Exactly. There was too much. It was too permissive, I think.
Erica: My question is, do you think that your dad was super, trying not to tell all your business, but do you think your dad was super permissive because you were who you were? Do you think maybe had you been another kid, he might've been a little more lockdown, which would've then resulted in everybody else in the family being locked down, or was it like, "Killa was the start and she was cool so I can be cool with the rest of them."
Kenrya: No, I think that he was very often was just overwhelmed with what it meant to take care of two young women, and so sometimes things fell through the crack and he said yes to things he shouldn't have said yes to. I had a boyfriend my senior year in high school who-
Erica: That nigga in jail?
Kenrya: Yeah, who would stay over. It really started right before I went to college. I didn't realize it until partway through my freshman year, but this dude was picking fights with his parents so they would kick him out of the house, because he knew my dad would let him stay. He did that before I left to go to school, so he could spend more time. I literally didn't know that this is what was happening. I just knew that my father was too permissive and would let this dude stay in our house. Then I went away to college, and he was super clingy and would say shit like, "Oh, you sitting in class with all them college boys." I was like, "Nigga, what is you talking about?" He had his issues. Then I realized that there was a pattern, that every time I would go back to Cleveland, this nigga would get kicked out and have to stay at my house. The last time it happened was Valentine's Day of my freshman year. I had caught on to what was happening. I refused to let him come to my house. Then I broke up with him. That was the end of that, because I didn't appreciate ... I'm like, "At least if this is your strategy, talk to a bitch."
Erica: Yeah, like, "Let's plan this together, not just you plan it for this shit to happen."
Kenrya: It just felt super controlling, and it was, ultimately.
Erica: Yeah, manipulative.
Kenrya: Yeah. Too permissive, I think. What about you?
Erica: My grandmother raised me through high school, but I grew up in a house with my grandmother and my aunt. My grandmother, grandfather, aunt, and my younger sister. The way my granny's house was, there was always people there. Granny was the rule setter and the law layer downer, law down layer. You know what I'm saying. The rule was no dating until you 16. I was one of those kids that was like ... Even now my family's freaking out that I'm doing this podcast and all that. They're like, "Oh my God, this is Erica?" because I was a good kid. I fed them what they wanted to know. I fed them what they needed to see. I was smoking weed in high school. I was fucking in high school.
Kenrya: You fed into the expectations of respectability.
Erica: Exactly. It's funny because my younger sister is the complete opposite.
Kenrya: Yes, she is.
Erica: She was like-
Kenrya: "Fuck it."
Erica: What's that meme with like, "I do what I want. I do what I want." It's Lil Uzi Vert. That is my sister. That was her growing up. Actually, thinking about it now, I want to feel bad about, damn, I was the perfect kid. My family definitely tried to compare me and my sister, but my younger sister was like, "Fuck that. I refuse." That's one of the things-
Kenrya: Good for her.
Erica: ... that I really love about her, because she was like, "Fuck that." She didn't blow up my spot. They'll be like, "Can you believe?" My sister, she called me and be like, "Bitch, they get on my nerves, talk about Erica never did. They just didn't know." She just has this inner, "Fuck y’all, I'm going to do what I want. Fuck what you say," that I am so proud of in her, because I feel like because we were so close in age, it would've been easy for them to pit us against each other. I think they did, unknowingly, but my sister refused that-
Kenrya: That's awesome.
Erica: ... and was like, "Fuck that," because I had a little boyfriend. He was probably 18, 19. He was dat nigga, because he had a Cutlass that was sitting on some big ass rims. He would pick me up. We would go to his house. We'd eat Jack In A Box. We'd go and do little nasty things. My family swore up and down I was the sweetest. My little sister was like, "Bitch, I knew this dude. I saw he was everywhere. He was a little D-boy and your ass was just hopping in the car with him." All that to say, I think my family, and again, it was my grandma, so she was trying her best. I fed them the goody two shoes, "She's doing everything right." I brought home damn near straight A's. There was only so much that they could do or say. Had they dug a little deeper, they definitely could've caught me in some shit. I think my grandmother didn't know enough to dig deeper.
Kenrya: To know to look.
Erica: My aunts was just probably like, "This little fast ass. This little hot ass little girl."
Kenrya: That's interesting. I'm thinking about that. Yes, my family did think that there ... A lot of my family outside my immediate family, they still have these really deeply ingrained notions about who I am.
Erica: Who I am, and I'm like-
Kenrya: I'm like, "Nigga, hey."
Kenrya: This is not me. Because I was valedictorian and talked a good game and volunteered all over the place and all that stuff, it was like the idea of me having more than one side to me or more than one part of who I am that made up the whole was super duper foreign to them, even then. I think it still is. They still trip off the fact that I do and say the things that I do at this point.
Erica: Some of it is just part of me being who I am, but I just sold one part harder than I sold the other part. Does that make sense?
Erica: Because I don't want to make it seem like I was walking around false.
Kenrya: This is just not the part that y’all knew.
Erica: Y’all don't know this part.
Erica: It's crazy, because now here in D.C., I talk to my friends and I tell them, "Yo, I am the quiet one in my family." I'm not the like...
Kenrya: The only reason I know that's true is because I spend so much time around your family.
Erica: It's scary to think that.
Kenrya: It's true.
Erica: They're like, "Oh, Erica bougie. She don't like." No, I'm not going to ... My granny lives across the street from a church. It's like, no, I'm not going to go to the church and smoke weed. We ain't smoking weed in granny house. I'm like, "Y’all, we in a church!" At least walk three doors down to-
Kenrya: [crosstalk 00:28:21] a little bit.
Erica: ... to somebody else's house.
Kenrya: [crosstalk 00:28:23].
Erica: All that to say, my granny and grandpa were still very much old-school, so even when I went out, I would go on dates ... I couldn't date until I was 16. I think they let me go on a date. My birthday's at the end of May. They let me go on a date beginning of May, so I cut it by three weeks.
Kenrya: I don't even remember if I had a ... I don't think I had a ...
Erica: I could not date until I was 16. Ain't no nigga coming to honk the horn and you run out.
Kenrya: Oh, that's ignorant.
Erica: You better put that bitch in park, take the keys out, come in, and speak.
Kenrya: Oh, they had to come in.
Erica: Oh yeah, they had to ring the doorbell, come in and speak. My granny had to lay eyes on you. I lived in one of them neighborhoods where-
Kenrya: Everybody was laying eyes.
Erica: Everybody knew everybody on top of that. I'm sorry, we just going to go there. Every Saturday night my granny would fry fish. I don't care what's happening, what's going on, she frying fish. For prom I had to go and get dressed in the basement bathroom.
Kenrya: So you didn't smell like fish.
Erica: So I didn't smell like fried fish for prom. With that said, everybody knows that my granny would fry fish on a Saturday. If some dude coming to pick me up, he going to walk in the house, it's going to be half of my family in there like, "What's your name? Now who your mama? Did I go to school with her?" That kind of thing. They were very into it. At the same time, I remember I met this guy and I was working at a mall. We went on a date. I remember he came to pick me up. He picked me up after work. He met me at the mall. We went to Houlihan’s or something, because they had some good hot wings. We went to Houlihan’s, then I called my granny to ask her if I could stay out later. My aunt was like, "Don't let that boy take up your whole day," or, "Don't be too available for a boy." I remember little things like that that they told me.
Kenrya: Words of wisdom.
Erica: Which it makes a lot of sense now, because I am a queen of like, "I like you. Let's let this date keep going."
Kenrya: There's nothing wrong with that with a person who's worth your time.
Erica: Exactly, but nigga, we in high school. The nigga gave me some hot wings and [crosstalk 00:30:47]. I think that my aunts and my mom tried to show interest and be supportive, but not to the point where they're condoning anything too serious. When I was younger, I used to get frustrated, when I would be like, "He don't love me." Somebody, an adult, someone would always be like, "Y’all so young. This shit ain't going to mean nothing," because it would frustrate me. I try not to do that to younger people when they're going through it.
Kenrya: Because it feels very real and it is very real in the moment.
Erica: Bitch, you so young, this don't mean shit.
Kenrya: You will legit forget that nigga's name. I got whole ass niggas whose names I don't know.
Erica: Don't know, can't remember.
Kenrya: Who I was probably in a relationship with.
Kenrya: One of my sisters met somebody in Paris who said that we were boyfriend and girlfriend, and it took me 30 minutes and searching around on Facebook to figure out who the fuck she was talking about.
Erica: Oh girl.
Kenrya: I was like, "Oh, he was my boyfriend." Forgot.
Erica: Just a drop in the bucket. So young. One of the things that Ny did in the story, so Duni told Ny when they first met, "Girl, you on that little kid shit. You got your hands in everything. You doing too much. You on that little kid shit. Ain't no way we could ever be together because you on that little kid shit." Ny took that as a, "I need to act older. I need to change my ways." She went through this whole process, this whole period, where she really tried to be what she thought Duni wanted her to be. Things happened. We find out Duni's real. She said it in the excerpt we read. Duni was like, "Girl, that ain't ... Yeah, but no. I see you being not true to yourself, and that's not what I meant by that." Have you ever tried to change up who you are for a nigga?
Kenrya: Sure. I'm certain I've had. Sometimes consciously, probably a whole lot of times unconsciously. It's like when you start getting into some shit that you ain't never thought two seconds about because it's his thing, and not just on some supportive of his hobby, but really got yourself convinced that this is your shit, that kind of thing.
Erica: Standing backstage at a fucking rap concert, trying to act like you care about this-
Kenrya: Oh my God.
Erica: ... hotep ass music.
Kenrya: Do you know how many concerts I went to of roots reggae? I don't like roots reggae, bitch. It's standing room only in these clubs in New York, just standing there for legit three or four hours, trying to get drunk enough, but not so drunk that I couldn't stand up for all those hours. Lord have mercy. Terribly. Yes, I have done that. Yes. That's the minor ways. There are big ways that you can do it too. It's one of the ways that codependency robs you of yourself, when you're being the person that you either think you need to be for this person or that they're telling you that you need to be for them, and you start the lose parts of yourself because-
Erica: Giving your life for the purpose of some other.
Kenrya: Exactly. I did that lots.
Erica: My whole marriage.
Kenrya: Exact same.
Erica: The thing is, I'll start with my marriage and work backwards, but even with my marriage, it was one of those things where it was like, "It's easier if I behave this way or do these things," because it's just easier on the sake of being easier for the relationship.
Kenrya: It's a go along to get along.
Erica: I have realized that if I can't be exactly who the fuck I am in a relationship, I just don't need to be in that relationship. Some of it was like I grew and changed and outgrew particular ideas, actions, activities, and still held on to, not even wanted to, but still held on to them, because that's what kept us together. I could tell y’all, some things I have the most, skateboarding, intricate knowledge of, because it's like, I was with a nigga that did it, so I did it too. Really, nigga? No.
Kenrya: There's nothing wrong with supporting what your partners do or learning a little bit about their shit, to show interest, in the same ways that we would expect them to show some interest in us and our work. It's just when you cross over to the point where that shit replaces the other shit.
Erica: You're selling tee-shirts after his fucking ... You selling Muck Muck and the Scuzzy band crew tee-shirts at a damn-
Kenrya: Trying to get your friends to buy CDs.
Erica: I wasn't going to say that. Doing shit like missing homecoming for a nigga. Have I ever missed homecoming for a nigga? I never have, but it's just things that are so integral to who you are.
Kenrya: I've only missed homecoming-
Erica: I'm going to dial that back.
Kenrya: ... for one person. It was for a friend on her birthday.
Erica: Yeah, and she was like, "Okay, I'm done with that! Back to homecoming!" I definitely have. Most of it I look back and it's cringey, because it's like, oh my god, I can't believe I did that shit, but then I hear Kenrya in my ear saying, "You know what? You know better, you do better." Now I know better and so I do better, but it's definitely a cringey experience to think about all the bullshit that I found myself involved in or doing, just because I want to seem like I give a fuck about something. I remember I dated this musician and found ... It wasn't roots reggae. Oh, you know what? There was a roots reggae nigga. Remember, we went to a roots ... Was it that show we went to see?
Kenrya: No, it wasn't the roots, but it was some-
Erica: It was Dead Prez?
Kenrya: It wasn't. Fuck.
Erica: Somebody in Philly.
Kenrya: Was it Brand Nubian? No, it wasn't, because we used to do roots reggae, but we also used to do that old-school rap, like Hotep ass-
Erica: Yeah! That's why I was thinking maybe it was Dead Prez, which I like Dead Prez.
Kenrya: It wasn't Dead Prez, because I like Dead Prez. It was somewhere in that New York old-school hip-hop realm. We did, we went on a double-date in Philly with two niggas that ain't...
Erica: Ain't around no more. I spent the summer going to reggae concerts and acting like I knew how to wind. Had I still been fucking with him, I probably could do a proper air horn. I'm from the fucking Midwest. I can get maybe a good five, 10-minute reggae set and then I'm ready to go. I'm like, "Okay, put on “Back That Ass Up.” Put on “Project Bitch.” Come on."
Kenrya: I got it if we stick with the classics, the crowd movers, the mainstream shit.
Erica: The problematic, gay-bashing ones? Yeah. Exactly.
Kenrya: That's hard to listen to at this point.
Erica: Exactly. I dated that guy that aligned closely with your roots reggae guy. I dated an indie musician. That summer was interesting, doing indie musician shit around the D.C. area. I don't like it. Dated some old nigga.
Kenrya: You always date old niggas.
Erica: That's par for the course, but anyway. I look back and it's so cringey. If y’all got a picture of some random EDM laser set DJ booth situation and you see a picture of me in the background, just know she was fucking with some nigga.
Kenrya: I went to a rave in D.C. and I got burned with a cigarette and I was like, "Fuck this, I'm leaving."
Erica: I got burnt with a cigarette at Dream and I felt like the nastiest ... Who the fuck gets burnt with a cigarette? It was on my arm, above my elbow, but on the outside. It clearly looked like a nigga put a cigarette out on my arm.
Kenrya: It did, put a cigarette out on you.
Erica: Then I'm at work trying to ... It's in the middle of the summer and I got my fucking cigarette burn arm.
Kenrya: Oh my gosh. Mine was on my hand. I left. I was like, "I'm not. This night's over."
Erica: You're like the dude in “Color Purple” that just shut down [inaudible 00:40:11].
Kenrya: Time to go!
Erica: Time to go!
Kenrya: Do you know how often I say that to myself? You also know that I will leave anywhere anytime.
Erica: Any-fucking-where. I saw a meme on Instagram, it was a picture of a dude that was like, "This is a universal sign I should've drove," or something like that. I saw it and I was like, "I miss being somewhere angry, mad that I didn't drive."
Kenrya: This is always why I always drive or I'm prepared to fucking Lyft home.
Erica: Here it's no big deal. If you in St. Louis, if you somewhere, you just stuck, bruh.
Kenrya: That's why I rent a car every time I go home, because I don't want to be on nobody else's schedule. Even if I'm here for literally a day, I got a car.
Erica: Having a hotel room is clutch because you're like, "I got to go change. I'll be back." I'm in there-
Kenrya: I don't even say that. [crosstalk 00:41:10].
Erica: ... with HBO watching me.
Kenrya: No no no. Remember when I first started going home again after I got into therapy and I had to put together my survival plan, and part of it is to always have a place of my own to lay my head and to always have my own vehicle and to not buy other niggas food, because then you end up buying food for a house full of niggas.
Erica: I do that. I do that. I do that because also my family is one of them, when I go home ... The first time I went home with my son, we had one suitcase, and he was gone with somebody else the whole time, so he was carrying stuff in a little trash bag, a little grocery bag. Now we're at the point when we travel there, he has his bag, I have my bag. The minute we get there, he's like one of my nieces and nephews, like, "Oh hey! Did you sleep well? Where y’all been?" It's like I don't even got a child until I get back, until we headed to the airport.
Kenrya: That's real. My kid often stays with my dad when I'm ... I'll be in my room by myself and it's lovely.
Kenrya: I have a question that goes a little bit back to what we were talking about before. We talked about how our families have been supportive or not or whatever when we were first starting dating. What's that look like for you now?
Erica: I don't invite them in much. Right after surgery, my aunt came and visited.
Kenrya: Oh, shit. I remember this.
Erica: My aunt came to visit. Then I had my guy friends, different guy friends coming by. They could either be a platonic guy friend or a guy friend that we was fucking. He just come and make sure I'm doing fine. Every single time my aunt was googly-eyed, like, "Oh, who's this? What's your name?"
Kenrya: She also did that with my partner. She also felt up.
Erica: Don't put it on the record, because he still say he going to sue. I think now that I'm older, I think my family has this like, "Erica's got to get married," or they want to see me partnered, because to them that's like, "She's got the house. She's got the kid. She had a divorce. Next things next is finding the right partner." It's like, yeah, that'd be cool, but I'm not in a rush. I had to have a frank discussion with my aunt. My mother's passed away, so that's why I refer to my aunts. I had to have a frank discussion with my aunt right after I got a divorce about the fact that I'm just fucking. These are guys that are nice and they're good friends, but we have sex, and I don't expect it to turn into anything. I don't want it to turn into anything. It took her a minute. By the end of the weekend she was like, "I wonder if I could have sex with [inaudible 00:44:31]."
Erica: Also, I recognized that in the family, I am one of the straitlaced, "She did well." All my cousins are doing well in their own lanes, but I was one that went off to college and yada yada.
Erica: I legitimize some things sometimes. Everybody in my family smoke weed, all the nieces and nephews. Everybody smoke weed. They thought that I didn't. I was like, "Nah, I smoke weed, and I have a really good job, and I'm doing well for myself." It went from smoking dope and reefer, like, "You smoke dope, don't you?" to like, "Some people smoke marijuana to relax and calm their anxieties." I try to be open about those things with my family, especially just as it comes to relationships, like, "I'm figuring it out," or, "I don't know," because I want them to see that. I want them to see all sides of me. I'm being more intentional about having them see all that makes up Erica. When I met my ex-husband, my mama was all googly-eyed over him. She was really supportive. My mom was more of a, "Bitch, if it tickles your pickle, I'm down for it." I think they're just more on the, "Let's find Erica a man," tip, but I made it very clear that life is good, nigga, it's real good, so I ain't finding no man that ain't worth disturbing this peace.
Kenrya: That's not going to make it even better.
Erica: Exactly. What about your family now?
Kenrya: They're really good. They're super supportive. They country. If it's my mom, she call my daughter her baby, and then what does she call him? I don't know. Some variant of that that makes it clear that she's talking about the man and not the child, "Where he at? What he doing? Put him on the phone." Then I got to go to the ... My family's super welcoming of really everybody.
Erica: I do know.
Kenrya: Everybody's like family.
Erica: Your daddy be like, "You want to leave your son here too?" I'm like, "We're going to another city." "He can stay until you get back!"
Kenrya: It's a very welcoming family. My dad loves having all the kids-
Erica: House full of kids.
Kenrya: ... around him. That's his shit. They're all just very in all the time. My dad, he's really my rock when it comes to stuff like that. When I have panic attacks, he's the one who talks me through them. Very often they were tied to relationship stuff. My PTSD is triggered by raggedy niggas. When I be up in the middle of the night all fucked up, he's the one who I can call and he would sit and talk me down so that I can go to sleep. It didn't used to be that way. It used to be that because I carried so much shame around the relationships that I had been in and the things that I felt like I had allowed to happen to me before I realized that those things are not in my control and that me having shame over something that somebody else does is stupid and that being vulnerable will allow me to have the support that I need to get through those things.
Kenrya: I wouldn't tell him when things were bad. When I was with men who were abusive in a lot of different ways, I wouldn't tell him, in part because I was ashamed, and because I wasn't sure what I was going to do and I didn't want him looking at me crazy, or sometimes because I didn't want him to hurt anybody, depending on his age and mine at the time. Even when I had an abortion, I didn't tell him, because I thought that he would feel a way, because he is socially conservative in that way, or at least he was.
Kenrya: It wasn't until I did a lot of work on myself and was able to have those really honest conversations with him that I was able to understand just how much he was in my corner. He told me he was really sad, and not in a manipulative way, but just a genuine, "Damn, I wish you had felt, and I'm sorry that I didn't do enough to make you know that you could always come to me, especially when shit is extra shitty." Knowing that makes it that much easier for me to go to him when things are rough. His only real way in at this point, not now that I'm in a relationship, but when I was dating, when I was on all the apps, he never wanted me to swipe on a cop. Military and cops he was very fucking-
Erica: ACAB, hashtag.
Kenrya: Very anti-
Erica: Hash brown.
Kenrya: Like, "No, nigga." He's always worried that they're going to have PTSD and fuck me up or that they have access to weapons. Domestic violence in cops-
Erica: Is really high.
Kenrya: ... is super high. That's a very real concern. I dated a military attorney at some point. He was like, "I'm here, but you need to shut that shit down." That's the only time when my daddy's like, "Nah, son."
Erica: I was going to say that. I didn't share the lows of relationships, and not that I share too much of the details, because I also recognize when I am saying one thing to my family, I'm speaking into this mic and talking to the entire world. I was hesitant to take my L's publicly with my family. When I decided to separate from my ex-husband, I didn't tell my family for months. I think we separated in November and I think I might've told them-
Kenrya: Yes, it was November.
Erica: It was definitely November. I think I told them maybe March, April. I talk to somebody in my family-
Kenrya: Every day.
Erica: ... easily once a day. My sister knew, and she knew to keep it quiet. She might've told them, but they ain't say nothing to me, just because it was one of those things where I felt like I needed to figure it out without extra noise. I have gotten a lot better at placing those boundaries with my family where I wouldn't hesitate to tell them now, just because they know, if I say, "I don't need your input," I will hang up on you before you keep talking. I'm a lot more willing to take my L's, because when I did tell them, they were like, "Everything was so perfect!" It was like, "No, not really, this shit's been breaking down for years, and I just didn't share it with y’all." I try to live my life with my family, but also just among friends and just in life, as an open book, more to help ... I hate to sound like I am a martyr and I need people to know and serve as an example, but I want to serve as an example of somebody just trying to figure this shit out as she goes along with pure intentions. Sometimes that shit works and sometimes it don't.
Kenrya: We've talked about this on this show I think with a guest last season. So much of how your family said, "Everything was perfect," that's so much of what everyone presents online. People, especially younger folks, get this idea that for a relationship to be great, it has to be perfect, and that there are never any lows and there are never any days when you want to wring a nigga's neck.
Erica: I just got on TikTok. I do not post dances.
Kenrya: Okay, old bitch.
Erica: I know, I am the old bitch, but I love just scrolling through, because the kids these days-
Kenrya: Our friends in our group, y’all keep posting in-
Erica: They are funny.
Kenrya: I just watched a bunch of those this morning and I didn't think they were that funny, but all right.
Erica: Actually, I will tell you, there is another group that you're not even on, and literally all we do is swap TikToks.
Kenrya: Yes, please leave me.
Erica: Oh, we know that you don't. When it's conversation, we go back to that same group, but when we doing just TikTok swaps, it's another one.
Kenrya: That's fine.
Erica: I've noticed that there are tons of couples on TikTok that make these cute little things, and then it makes everyone want to ... I feel like because I have a young person
Kenrya: You get into that goals thing, all that bullshit.
Erica: ... who I adore. She is just so sweet and cute and smart and all of that. She's in a relationship and serious about it. They've been together for years. I saw this meme on Instagram. It was like, "Girl, you 19, quit trying to be a wife and go be a hoe."
Kenrya: That's a whole word.
Erica: Yo, that is what it is, because now I think back about as we talk among our friend groups and stuff, not the ones that ... Were any in a long-term relationship? Shit, you!
Kenrya: Some of them felt like they lost out on their hoe years, but I had my hoe years.
Erica: You hear, "Oh my God, we were doing all this in college," and so-and-so be like, "I was at that nigga house. We was at the cookout," and that kind of thing. I have another young person in my life who is in a very serious relationship, but I see her doing bald-headed hoe shit with her girlfriends.
Kenrya: Oh, good.
Erica: I love it, because I'm like, "I don't want you to miss out on-"
Erica: "... living life."
Kenrya: Figuring out who the hell you are.
Erica: Exactly, because it's cute to be couple goals and stuff. Speaking of things missing out on, things we feel like we missed out on, we've talked about losing our virginity and our first sexual experiences and things. Not really our first sexual experiences but losing our virginity.
Kenrya: We talked about first anal.
Erica: I told you how I lost my virginity. You told me how you lost yours.
Kenrya: Waterbed. Yours was a waterbed situation.
Erica: You ain't got to give people those kind of details. You go back to the first episode and turn that on, y’all will hear about my waterbed experience. Anyway, the one thing that I loved about this scene that we read was that you could tell that their sexual exploration was full of desire. I feel like the first time I had sex, it was because I was more curious about it, as opposed to wanting. Now that I'm older, I know what it feels like to want some dick, like, "I want that dick in me-"
Kenrya: Right now.
Erica: "... now." Exactly. You can feel that written in what Fiona wrote between Ny and Duni. You could feel that she wanted that desire.
Kenrya: There's longing just jumping off the page there.
Erica: When I think back to my first time, it was definitely just a, "Here's a dick. Let's see how this goes." I, again, go back to just when I talk to my kids about sex and virginity, like, "I don't need you to wait until marriage. I want you to wait until-"
Kenrya: I don't even think that's a good idea.
Erica: "... you want to do it." I ain't fucking [crosstalk 00:56:56].
Kenrya: That's how you get stuck. No, thank you.
Erica: It was so cool how she wrote that. It just made me feel like I truly missed out on that. Again, now that I'm an adult, bitch. I definitely didn't feel that the first time that I had sex. It was not like a, "Oh, I need this thing." Because also I think that's part of what makes how it happens. It's like I'm feeling this pulsing down in my pussy. Have you seen that, it's this clip on Vine or something, and it's these two chicks, two white chicks, sitting in their car eating. It was a McDonald's mukbang and a chick has a plate of McDonald's hotcakes, and she pours syrup on it, and they both real quiet looking at her pouring syrup on it. Then she look at her girl friend, she said, "That made my pussy throb."
Erica: I hate it but I love it, because that's me. This is my total just Erica explanation. That's how sex the first time is good when it's like-
Kenrya: Yeah, but I wonder for how many people is that actually the case. I know for me, especially when you're younger, for me it was honestly dutiful. It was like we had been playing just the tip a little bit.
Erica: $5 a month level.
Kenrya: I was a planner. It was like, "Okay, it's prom night. I got this hotel room. I got condoms. I got spermicidal lubricant." Which I found out that day that I'm allergic to.
Erica: That just sounds like a raw pussy.
Kenrya: It was regular condoms with lubricant and then additional.
Erica: Exactly. That's why I'm like that sounds like a raw pussy.
Kenrya: I had very serious goals. I wasn't trying to get pregnant and trapped by no nigga, but did find out I was allergic to that. It was very much like, "Okay, this is the plan. I have to do the plan." By the time we got to that point, one part of it was that his expectation was there, because he'd been waiting all this time. My expectation was there, because I had been waiting for this perfect, quote unquote, moment, but prom was lackluster, because I was on the committee. I was tired. By the time we got back to the hotel I was exhausted. I ain't really feel like doing nothing, but the anticipation was there, because it was what I was supposed to do, and then it hurt. It was just like, "I'm doing this thing I'm supposed to do." I wasn't really feeling him that night. He wasn't a great date. I didn't have fun with him. There was no longing that I could no longer ignore.
Erica: Now that I think about it, my first kiss was the same way. I think it was more just curiosity. Again, this is why I think sex ed is so important with kids, because I really didn't have those conversations. I was like, "I wonder what it's going to be like." I think maybe you'll still have those, "I wonder what it's going to be like," when you know all the details about it.
Kenrya: Yeah, because it's still nothing-
Erica: That you got to experience.
Kenrya: [crosstalk 01:00:46] just going to feel. How old were you when you had your first kiss?
Erica: About 13, 14.
Kenrya: Bitch, I was in the second grade.
Erica: With the tongue?
Kenrya: I don't think so.
Erica: My first tongue kiss-
Kenrya: I don't remember tongue kiss.
Erica: Oh my God. My first tongue kiss, we talked about this with another guest.
Kenrya: With Rock Biter?
Erica: Yeah. My mama was gone. My mama was working. Rock Biter and his friend came over and was sitting on the couch. I could feel the scratchiness. We had one of those, not thread couches but you know.
Kenrya: I know exactly what you talking about.
Erica: Rock Biter still had on his coat, and he leaned over. This nigga's teeth was like this. He had a overlapped, crowded, crossbite teeth. He kissed me, and nigga, all it was was spit. I think I forever been scarred, because I still-
Kenrya: [crosstalk 01:01:56].
Erica: It was more I wanted to kiss him out of curiosity, because it wasn't even like we stole a kiss because we were so into each other. It's like we were sitting there and my mama wasn't home and so it was like, "Let's kiss." My brother was in the kitchen fighting his home boy over a box of Fruity Pebbles.
Kenrya: Dude, I don't remember my first real, real kiss.
Erica: Because it didn't scar you.
Kenrya: Or it did.
Erica: If I dumped a box of tarantulas in your lap, you'll remember that shit.
Kenrya: Not necessarily. The brain protects us. It's a lot of stuff I don't remember because it was traumatic.
Erica: Brain, why the fuck ain't you do that to me, because it's so hard for me to kiss people.
Kenrya: I've had some really bad kissing experiences, but I don't remember the first. I remember I kissed this dude who it was like he was trying to eat my face. He was really bad. He kept wanting to do it.
Erica: See, I think Rock Biter's teeth got in the way. He didn't know how to ...
Kenrya: Tuck them away.
Erica: Ah! Ah!
Erica: (singing) Okay. Speaking of things that get us wet ...
Kenrya: Nice transition.
Erica: We are going to now turn to our new segment called What's Turning Us On. The thing that is turning us on this week, I don't think I've shared this with you. I don't think you've used this, Kenrya. I remember we were talking a while back and you were saying after sex your partner jumps in the shower and he's washing all the toys and stuff. Sometimes a bitch don't feel like doing that, but you can't be having little crusty toys laying around. The thing that I really like that's turning me on is called Classic Erotica Before and After Adult Toy Cleaner. It's a spray. You spray it on your toys and you wipe it off and you can put them away. I always do a good cleaning once the weed wear off and I wake up or something. Sometimes post-sex, again, y’all know I'm anal and I got to brush my teeth, I got to do my skin care routine, all of that, but sometimes you want to just bask in the glow. It's nice having this toy cleaner, because you literally ... It reminds you of that spray.
Kenrya: You sound like them VSCO girls. I hate it. That's my life.
Erica: Let's not refer to VSCO girls as I discuss my sex toy cleaner.
Erica: It reminds you of that eyeglass spray.
Kenrya: That stuff works.
Erica: It's a spray and it's really good to clean your toys.
Kenrya: It's nontoxic? If you don't wash them with soap in between, you not going to be all itchy?
Erica: Yep. It kills germs, E. coli, staph, all of that. You can use it before and after on toys, because also I keep my toys in a big box. I have an extensive nipple clamp collection now.
Kenrya: Look at you.
Erica: Only for me to have nipples that can't-
Kenrya: Come over to the-
Erica: Only for me to have nipples that can't feel shit!
Kenrya: Maybe it'll ... I don't know.
Erica: It's going to literally ... I was on a message board, and someone was like, "10 years ago-"
Kenrya: It won't come back?
Erica: "10 years ago I had a mastectomy and I felt something in my titty for the first time today." Thankfully my titties will still be upright by then.
Kenrya: Sure will.
Erica: I have a bunch of nipple clamps that have feathers on them. Sometimes if I don't put those away right, then my dildo will have feathers on them. Having that spray is good to use before using it, just spray it off real quick and that kind of thing. I really like it, because it's 10 bucks. We'll include it on our website, a link on our website so that you can get it. It has made just getting nasty a lot less nasty, because if you got, like me-
Kenrya: That could be their slogan.
Erica: Getting nasty a lot less nasty, because also a lot of times with your toys you're using different lubes and then there's body juices and all of that, and you just want to spray them off and put them away and not think you going to come back to a-
Kenrya: Sticky mess.
Erica: Exactly. That's what's turning me on. You like it, Killa?
Kenrya: Yeah. It sounds dope. Actually, I think I will get some, because sometimes I do just want to spray it and throw it back in the bag.
Erica: Set it and forget it.
Kenrya: Forget it. On that note ...
Erica: This has been The Turn On, with your home girls Erica and Killa, two hoes-
Kenrya: Two hoes-
Erica: ... making it clap.
Kenrya: ... making it clap. No.
Erica: You didn't pull up your hands. Two hoes making it clap. Okay, never mind. Bye, y'all.
Kenrya: This episode was produced by us, Kenrya and Erica, and edited by B'Lystic. The theme song is from Brazy. We want to hear from y’all. Send recommendations for books you want us to read on the show and all the questions that you want us to answer related to sex and all the other stuff. You can send those to TheTurnOnPodcast@gmail.com. Please take a moment to review the show, five stars only please, and subscribe to us in your favorite podcast app. Then follow us on Twitter @TheTurnOnPod and Instagram @TheTurnOnPodcast and head over to TheTurnOnPodcast.com to find links to the books that we feature, transcripts of our shows and info on all the guests that we talk about. Bye.
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On Episode 9.5 of The Turn On, we talk to Lauren Cherelle, author of "The Dawn of Nia," about identity and using literature to lift up the experiences of Southern Black lesbians.
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Erica: Before we get started, we have some exciting news to share.
Kenrya: Yo, we’re doing big fucking things: The Turn On just joined the Frolic Podcast Network, which is a new community for folks who love erotica and romance novels as much as we do.
Erica: So what does that mean for you? I mean, first, y’all need to be happy for a bitch. But more than that, it means that we will be your hookup to connect you with other shows you’ll love almost as much as this one.
Kenrya: Yup! And you can start that right now: jus head to Frolic.media/podcasts to find a new show today. Now let’s get started.
Kenrya: Come here. Get off.
Kenrya: Our guest today is Lauren Cherelle, head of independent publishing collective Resolute Publishing, co-director of the Black Lesbian Literary Collective, and editor and writer of, and contributor to, projects that include “Solace: Writing, Refuge, and LGBTQ Women of Color,” “Lez Talk, A Collection of Black Lesbian Short Fiction,” and last week's selection, “The Dawn of Nia.” When not reading and writing, Lauren likes to travel, binge watch television, and teach women to explore and adore the power of intimacy. That's dope. We're so glad that you're here with us. Thank you so much for saying yes.
Lauren Cherelle: Oh, no problem. I'm glad to be here.
Kenrya: Yay. Before we get into the interview, we like to ask what folks' pronouns are, so that we make sure that we are using them correctly, so what are your pronouns?
Lauren Cherelle: She and her.
Kenrya: Awesome and we are also, she and her.
Lauren Cherelle: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Erica: In addition to the pronouns, we also like to ... We read your official bio, but we want to break down to our readers and our writers, words what they do. In regular ass words, what do you do?
Lauren Cherelle: In regular ass words, I am a storyteller, just pretty much across everything that I do. My background is in graphic design, so there's digital communication, visual storytelling. As far as my work life, I write stories. I am communicating through social media, so I'm telling snippets of stories. Then of course, I play around in my personal time and write fiction. Plainly, yes, I'm a storyteller.
Kenrya: Word. When did you first realize that you were a storyteller?
Lauren Cherelle: Back in, let me say 2009, when the recession tanked. Well, when the economy tanked. I've always been someone who loved books. I love stories, whether the story is in a book form, or TV, or film. When I was unemployed and wanting to do things that were worthy of my time, I didn't want to waste my time. I decided that I would write a book. That's how it all started. It was kind of out of necessity. I said, "Either I'm going to sit and wallow in my brokeness, or I will sit here and use this time to produce something that matters." That's where it all started.
Kenrya: Had you written before? As part of your communicating, being a storyteller, had you written short stories? A novel is a huge, scary thing, but had you written other things before that?
Lauren Cherelle: You know, it's so interesting because it wasn't until that point, to the point where I started to write my first book, that I had to sit down and really think about my writing journey. When I was a child, I journaled a lot and I had even forgot, I wrote a play at church once and they actually produced it. Just all these little small things, poetry. I remember writing things specifically in seventh grade in art class, things I shouldn't be writing and sharing with my friends.
Kenrya: You were that kid.
Lauren Cherelle: Yeah, I was that kid. But it's always been in me. It wasn't until I hit a point, that my partner and I got to a point where we were stable, but there was so many points of uncertainty during that time, that I realized that this is who I am. I can do this. That's where it comes from.
Erica: It's so dope that when we hit the recession, that creativity ... You went to a creative space. Because some people would be like, "Well, let's see what Walmart's doing." But I think it's really dope that-
Kenrya: Ain't nothing wrong with that. We do what we've got to do.
Erica: Not at all. I would probably be the one saying, "Well, let's see." I wouldn't think to take it to creative space, but you were not only nurturing your pockets, but your mind and your heart when you did that, and I think that is just so amazing, that all of this came out of what could be considered a negative thing.
Kenrya: And not letting fear stop you from doing that.
Lauren Cherelle: Right, right. It was definitely a lesson in turning lemons into lemonade. It's very easy to be in a space where you are, like I said, there's a lot of uncertainty, depression can kind of slide in, but at the end of the day, you can find a good and in any situation.
Kenrya: It's true. I actually started my editorial consultancy when I lost my job. I got laid off in 2008, as part of the recession and I was like, "Oh, okay, what am I going to do?" I started looking for jobs and realize I didn't want one. Then out of that, because the quote unquote worst thing career wise that happened, I was like, "Well, fuck it. I might as well just go and try to do the thing I want to do." So I did.
Lauren Cherelle: Sure.
Erica: Well Lauren, I read that your work reflects the lives of Southern Black girls and women, and as a Midwestern girl but a Southern girl at heart, that spoke to me. Why do you consider that your focus?
Lauren Cherelle: That's my focus, honestly, because that's all I know. At the same time, I think it's important to shed light on a group of people as a whole that don't get much play in the literary sphere. Now, let me qualify that. Of course books produced by, published by Black women, we see them all the time, but as far as a lot of creative energy, places where Black women writers can really find their community, a lot of that doesn't come out of the South.
Lauren Cherelle: It comes out of say, New York, or it's in LA, or it's in these mega cities and not necessarily in the South. That's not to say we don't have writers who are popular, but as far as the gatekeepers, or the powers that be, that have the space to really push our work out there, that's not coming from the South. I feel like who I am and who I represent, it's important to put this region on the map in ways that we don't necessarily get to see. In particular, that's when it comes to Black and queer characters. That's why it's important for me to really be true to who I am, and what I know is important to push out into the literary landscape.
Kenrya: That kind of brings us to the next question. You run Resolute Publishing, and as the website says, it helps transform dreams into realities for women. I'm guessing and also asking, is that kind of part and parcel with that drive that you have to get that representation and that sense of community out there?
Lauren Cherelle: Yeah, absolutely. I think when it comes to Black lesbian and queer characters, I would just pose the question, when is the last time you saw a Black lesbian or queer character on the New York Times Best-Sellers List? You don't see it in those top lists.
Kenrya: And if it is, it's a very special edition, you know what I mean? Like everybody's pushed into this separate category instead of being recognized as being part of the full canon.
Lauren Cherelle: Right, right. There are very specific parts of the canon that get that level of notoriety. You don't see it with Black lesbian and queer characters, so I thought it was important to really create a space where writers who are producing work with Black lesbian and queer characters can have a home. At the end of the day, it's still limited to the independent publishing space. That's what it came from. But y'all, okay, hold up now. I've got to tell on myself for a second.
Kenrya: That's what we like around here.
Erica: Well, now we're getting real.
Lauren Cherelle: This is completely my fault, and this is what happens when you are a one woman operation, right? I need to make some updates to that. I'm happy to share here with you and the listeners that I recently merged with BLF Press.
Kenrya: Oh, wonderful.
Lauren Cherelle: BLF Press, I've worked with the publisher there. Her name is Stephanie Andrea Allen. The first book was “Lez Talk,” which is a collection of Black lesbian short fiction. Then we went to “Solace,” and then most recently “Black From The Future.” We've been working together for a few years, and so now finally, we are bringing together our publishing houses to really be that place where women who identify as Black, lesbian or feminist, that's what BLF press stands for, they have a place to go. We want to be that go-to publishing house for writers who identify as Black lesbian fiction, and are producing works that really speak to Black lesbian and feminist characters.
Kenrya: So dope. You all co-founded The Black Lesbian Literary Collective together, right?
Lauren Cherelle: Yes, we did.
Erica: Well first, this is dope as hell. I am so happy that you got to break this news here on the Turn On. I'm not sure if it's really breaking, but nonetheless we got the exclusive. The Black Lesbian Literary Collective, can you tell us a little bit about the Collective and its mission?
Lauren Cherelle: Yeah, sure. Stephanie and I formed the Black Lesbian Literary Collective. That's a mouthful, y'all. We formed the BLLC out of, I would say, necessity and obligation. I say necessity because, again, I'm from the South, Stephanie is from the South. At that point in time we both were living in the South. If you're a writer and you're really serious about your craft, it's just like, "Okay, where I want to go if I want to be around women who look like me or write like me?" Meaning they're writing stories, they're writing prose or poetry, whatever the case, that reflects our world, that speaks to who we are.
Lauren Cherelle: I can't identify one spot right now that I can go. I live in middle Tennessee, and there's absolutely nowhere I can go if I want to be around people who look like me. Now, I can be around some people. I can be around white men, I can be around white women, I can be around queer people. But when it comes to Black lesbian, and queer people, I don't have a place that I can go. At the end of the day, is that a necessity? If there's something that needs to be created, and it matters to you, then you have to do it.
Lauren Cherelle: Then I say out of obligation because there's a legacy of Black women always creating what we need. Rather than waiting for things to happen for us, we do it for ourselves. If you're aware of an issue, then you've got to do something about it. That's why we formed that organization.
Kenrya: That's awesome. We noticed in the titles of both of those, you have those two projects both function as collectives, and it really speaks to what you're saying about not having a space and creating it. Why is that model, the model of the collective, really key for you? Because I think there's a lot of ways to bring people together in community. Why is the collective aspect of that important to you?
Lauren Cherelle: It's important for many reasons. I think we followed the legacy of Black lesbian women, specifically Black lesbian writers who were forming collectives, like back in the ’70s, like with the Combahee River Collective. These were women-
Kenrya: That's the beginning of the Black feminism.
Lauren Cherelle: Yeah, they came together because they understood the limitations of literature in America. They supported each other in their endeavors, and they created a space where they could come together to support each other in their endeavors. The legacy is there.
Lauren Cherelle: As far as me being a part of the writing world, this is just one part of who I am. But when it comes to the writing world, I don't want to write in isolation. I don't want to produce in isolation. It's not important for me to learn something, if I can't share it with someone else. That's where the collective comes in for me. I prefer for us to do things together. That's not to say that we don't end up doing the work ourselves. Stephanie and I, that happens a lot.
Kenrya: That's true.
Lauren Cherelle: But at the end of the day we've created this space where women can come together, and share, and learn, and grow, and produce.
Erica: On our last episode, we read from “The Dawn of Nia,” and we discussed in that episode that you're not an erotica or romance writer. You're a fiction writer, but you make it a point not to do like those NBC shows or daytime television shows where everything kind of fades to Black, and then you wake up the next morning with a towel wrapped over your spots-
Kenrya: Your parts.
Erica: Yeah, and birds chirping. You wrote fully realized, and very steamy, sex scenes. Why was it important for you to show the whole relationship between the Nia and Deidre?
Lauren Cherelle: Okay, Erica, for real? Steamy? That's so funny to me.
Kenrya: You don't think they're steamy?
Lauren Cherelle: With my writing, that's probably not how i would categorize it, but see that's the good thing about being a writer, because you get to hear from readers how they feel about your work.
Erica: Here's the thing, we have gone, and I say this often, and I don't want to sound like a complete snob because I do like trash television and things like that.
Kenrya: Yeah, you like the trash tv.
Erica: You know what? We didn't ask for that. All right. What I was getting at is that with erotic writing, there has to be a level of ...
Lauren Cherelle: Skill?
Erica: ... Like, play. You can't go whole hog. I think you wrote a really good scene that was beautiful, and sensual, and yeah, steamy. I find it hilarious that she's like, "I just wrote." We're like, "No, bitch, but you wrote well."
Kenrya: When we read the scene with the massage, after they went out and she was like, "We look too good to go home." She was like, "But I got stuff I want to do," and then they did the massage. We talked about massage for a smooth 10 minutes after we read that.
Lauren Cherelle: Oh my God, that is so funny. I think for me, of course I've read a lot of books about Black lesbian lives, of course Black lesbian POV characters, and they can tend to be one note. For me, it is important to really develop well-rounded characters. In the development, in reality, characters fuck. They have sex.
Erica: That's life.
Kenrya: If that's what you're into.
Lauren Cherelle: So there was no way for me of course, to avoid it. But I think because these characters were new to each other, meaning Deidra, Nia, they're new to each other, they're new in a relationship. It's bound to happen. They're going to explore, they want to get to know each other. It comes with the territory.
Kenrya: Absolutely. Word. Another thing about the book, and I, I don't think it's spoiling the plot to say that Nia and Deidre both struggle with vulnerability. As somebody who works really hard at being vulnerable, their journeys really resonated with me. I'm wondering, you know we want to get in your business. Have you ever had trouble being vulnerable with folks in your life?
Lauren Cherelle: All the time. It doesn't come naturally to me to be vulnerable when I don't know you well. I think in the relationship with my partner, of course we've been together for years, so I'm definitely more vulnerable with her than anyone else. But even after all this time, we've been together for 16 years and she tells me that I have my issues. I have my communication issues, I have my issues with being open, I have my issues with letting my guard down. Personally, that may have been a way for me to identify with my characters on the opposite end, because I'm not that way. How can I develop them to be that way?
Kenrya: I wonder, did writing the book help you to sort through any of that? To see the kernel of the truth of what your partner has been telling you?
Lauren Cherelle: Probably not.
Kenrya: I appreciate your honesty.
Erica: Nope, not at all.
Lauren Cherelle: I hope not. No, I try to be mindful of it. My partner is a therapist, so I get it.
Kenrya: I feel like that's got to be interesting.
Lauren Cherelle: Oh yeah, it is. She has, of course, just by training, and I think just who she is personally, it's naturally with her being a therapist. She's honest. She can give it to me personally, and she can give it to me professionally.
Lauren Cherelle: That's been interesting.
Erica: Well we're going to do a part two of this interview, to get on with your partner. Oh, my goodness, I could not. That's interesting.
Kenrya: I'm like, "Interesting is the best word," but I felt like ... We had a therapist on a few weeks ago, I guess about a month ago. We were asking her about, what's the worst thing about being a therapist? She was like, "Everybody wants you to give them therapy." I wonder with the ... Not the temptation, but how easy it would be able to slip into that, because it's somebody who you trust, right? If you're going to be vulnerable and let down your barriers, and make healthy boundaries with anybody, it would be your partner, but for them to be somebody who is so well versed, that's got to be an interesting tight rope to walk.
Lauren Cherelle: It is, at times. At the same time, it's nice to be with someone who has great insight, and can communicate, and can problem solve.
Erica: Because I'm over here struggling trying to get Negros to fucking tell me what they want for dinner. I would definitely enjoy the other end of that pendulum.
Lauren Cherelle: I hear you.
Erica: What are you reading now?
Lauren Cherelle: Oh my gosh, what am I reading now? I'm a part of a book club and we read queer lit, but we read some of everything. One of the most recent stories I finished was Achilles. It was a story about Achilles, and I can't even recall the name of the story, but anyway, the writer, she retells the story of Achilles. That was interesting.
Lauren Cherelle: I try to read all across the board, and right now I've recently started listening to more audio books. Right now I'm reading, or not reading, but listening to a story by Walter Mosley.
Kenrya: It's all reading to me. I'm a huge audio book listener too. That's good for those trips and commuting and all of that, and it's still reading.
Lauren Cherelle: Oh yeah. But I read pretty much across the board. I don't care what genre it is. If it's a good book, I'll read it. This book right now by Walter Mosley is pretty much speculative fiction. I'm all for everything.
Kenrya: I guess I should have asked you this before we dove into what are you reading, but what do you want readers to take away from “The Dawn of Nia,” when they get to the last page?
Lauren Cherelle: What's most important for me is for a reader to feel like they can find themselves in the story, and that they felt like the story was authentic. That's what's most important to me. Like I said, I write about Southern Black lesbians, and I write about Southern girls. At the end of the day, I feel like if you can derive meaning from the story, because like you said earlier, it's more than romance. It's more than the fact that these are lesbian characters. It's about growth. Nia grew through this experience. I think anybody can identify with being put in a really hard predicament, and being able to see their way through pretty much a storm and come out on the other side, having gained something that they can hold on to for a lifetime.
Kenrya: That's a great note for us to end. Can't say it too much better than that. Thank you so much for joining us today. It was great.
Lauren Cherelle: Oh, no problem. I definitely enjoyed it.
Kenrya: For folks who want to find you, there's a few different websites, right? So there's LCherelle.com. That's L-C-H-E-R-E-L-L-E and Res Publishing, R-E-S publishing.com, and then BlackLesbianLiteraryCollective.org, right??
Lauren Cherelle: Right, yup, yup.
Kenrya: Do you want to share Twitter handles?
Lauren Cherelle: Yeah, you can find me on Twitter. It's @laurencre8s, that's L-A-U-R-E-N-C-R-E-8-S. I will also throw in there too, because I said I merged with BLF Press. It's BLFPress.com.
Kenrya: Awesome. That's it for this week's episode of The Turn On. Thanks, everybody, for joining us. Have a wonderful day.
Erica: This episode was produced by us, Erica and Kenrya, and edited by B'Lystic. The theme song is from Brazy. First, please leave a review in your favorite podcast listening app. For real, we want to hear from y'all. Send your book recommendations and all the burning sex and related questions you want us to answer to TheTurnOnPodcast@gmail.com, and please subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast app. Follow us on Twitter at @TheTurnOnPod, and Instagram at @TheTurnOnPodcast. Find links to books, transcripts, guest info, and other fun stuff at TheTurnOnPodcast.com. Bye.
The Turn On
The Turn On is a podcast for Black people who want to get off. To open their minds. To learn. To be part of a community. To show that we love and fuck too, and it doesn't have to be political or scandalous or dirty. Unless we want it to be.