Davie Jones childhood in Glass, Mississippi is no crystal stair. She grows up poor with a physically-abusive mother. Her mom is also the town’s easy lay. Classmates call Davie “Monkey Night” because of her dark skin and being a nerd doesn’t make her social life any easier. Then a new kid comes to her high school, James Farrell. Davie gets deep, pitbull puppy love for the wealthy jock who barely knows she exists. How does Davie get through these tough times in Mississippi and later blossom into self-love under a California sun? Molly Ringwald movies of course. It’s the plot to Ernessa T. Carter’s debut novel “32 Candles.” Carter pulls off a story that will make you fall out laughing, crying and gasp "oooh no" during the juicy parts. Even mega author Terry McMillan gave the new author a shout out on Twitter for her unique storytelling style. I interviewed Ernessa about her book and the possibility of it becoming a movie. Then we got personal about our childhoods, love, hair and how she’s handling in vitro fertilization.
Why a book about a black girl's love for Molly Ringwald movies?
I happen to be a black nerd who grew up in the ‘80s. Even though I don’t have very much in common with my main character Davie, you do kind of want to read about someone who is a little bit like you. In the books I read I felt like, especially, in terms of black literature and especially dark- skinned characters; women in novels were not dark skinned. Or they had these perfect glamorous jobs and just needed a guy. Or it was the other end of the spectrum with dark skinned women. They were kind of like Precious--aggressively down trodden…It kind of made me want to read something about somebody who started off with nothing but gained wisdom, experience and perhaps even love along the way.
I definitely related to the character because I’m of a cocoa complexion. Growing up I was a nerd. I still am a nerd and am proud of it. I also remember too being picked on for my skin complexion. Did you encounter that when you were growing up?
No not at all. Just kidding. [laughter] No, of course. When I was growing up I went to a Lutheran school and I was the darkest girl in my class. That was an interesting experience. You really wanted to crawl out of your skin. You just hated the skin that you were in…At the same I think it was really great. I wouldn’t trade my experience. I think there’s a big difference between growing up and being traditionally beautiful and saying, “Of course everyone told me I look good.” I think there’s something to be said for finding your own beauty.
You said you went to a Lutheran school. Where was this?
St. Louis, Missouri
Where there other black students there?
Mostly black students. I remember one white girl and white boy in the classroom. It was a pretty middle-income school.
Tell us more about the main character.
To borrow from our president she has the audacity of hope. Which is something you don’t see with a lot of characters like her. Basically she goes and sees the John Hughes movie “Sixteen Candles” for the first time when she’s seven years old and decides that’s the way she wants her romantic life to go. Did your high school romantic life resemble the movie?