Sunday, September 5, 2010

Review: Virgins in the Beehive by Kola Boof

Virgins the Beehive, Kola Boof, Atlantic Library, Kindle Edition

Mike Levine and Rahel Thorsten of Atlantic Library confirm that Rob McEntegart, Vice President of Lion's Gate Studios and film producer Alex Barkaloff are interested in casting superstar Alicia Keys in a big screen adaptation of Kola Boof's sizzling hip hop novel, "Virgins In the Beehive" (Atlantic Library).  Many in the industry are already saying that Alicia Keys would essentially be playing a fictionalized version of her friend Whitney Houston.

Kola Boof excels at weaving myth, magic, and mayhem in the lives of her female protagonists. In her award-winning novel Flesh and the Devil, she used Princess Ife Ife to reclaim a solid African creation tale rooted in woman's experience.

Virgins in the Beehive tells a story of a girl group. This trio includes JennaSet, Darling Nikki and Destiny Matthews. The novel explores what it takes for a woman to survive in the music industry.

JennaSet dreams of being an icon. She's deep sienna, thin, but not petite enough for the industry’s baby doll standards. JennaSet wants it all. She wants the classic fairytale romance and finds it in Steven Frame. He's every bit of Idris Elba fine with a Malcolm X sensibility. She wants sisters, so she forms a girl group with womanish Destiny Matthews and songwriter Darling Nikki. She wants a long career with complete artistic freedom. Executive Tommy Mott will give her the status she seeks with a few adjustments. But JennaSet's small compromises turn into complete submission then loss of identity in the music industry.

We follow JennaSet and her girls so closely, almost as personal assistants in their lives. We witness them carry the weight of others’ judgments. At times, even their spouses didn’t believe they were worthy of success.
It was suddenly apparent that his woman-of-the-world wife was in
reality nothing more than a child-woman, a hyper child who seemed
all alone even as he sat next to her."

 Woven into Virgins is the question, “Who determines who is beautiful?” Boof uses her characters’ body type, complexion and hair texture to illuminate popular culture’s quest to commodify beauty.
"According to Hip Hop Beauty Standards, it literally became a
sin in America to be a black woman who looked black- nothing
could be more masculine and unattractive the music videos
seemed to say. "
This isn't a typical story of music. What’s being described as a pop novel works as a critical examination of popular culture. We meet executives Jiffy Pop and Tommy Mott who closely resemble names of well known label heads. It's hard not to laugh at the somewhat unrealistic character names, until we think about the characters they mimic.

It makes sense that some celebrities may be a bit concerned about this book. Though names are changed, there are unmistakable pop divas here. Rumor has it that the source of this book may be more than the author's imagination. Her friend Whitney Houston's back-story lies in the pages of this book.
Many of the characters are familiar celebrities. In fact, at times, Boof is telling us the secrets about some of the renown. They are drug addicts. They are cheaters. They are violent, even murderous. They live for the lush life. There is also an element of hyper sexuality. Everyone has sex irrespective of gender and once-assumed sexual orientation. The erotic intensity of the love scenes in this book would make Zane blush.

Included in the narrative is a magical realist subplot. A Mexican songwriter is on a quest to prove a myth of black sexuality. He travels to Africa seeking what priests back home tell him is an ancient cure. If not for his profession as a songwriter, the story of Ernesto Fox's quest for the holy grail of sexuality would seem to be a separate book entirely

What Boof calls her pop novel is actually a satire of popular culture. What do the entertainers risk striving to be number 1? What do they gain as they acquire access to the world's most restricted paradises? Is it worth it?
We may see these questions answered in a Lion’s Gate release. The buzz is Alicia Keys may star. Like other pop divas, Beyonce Knowles, Whitney Houston, and Mariah Carey she appears in the pages too. But maybe her ego is a bit like JennaSet so she's able to separate fact from fiction.

It's no wonder this book was already optioned for film. It's Valley of the Dolls meets DreamGirls. Full of scandal, drama, treachery, lust, and the pursuit of fame that only the energy of 3 women striving for success can bring. If you've always wondered about the inner lives of pop divas, Virgins in the Beehive will more than satisfy your curiosity about the truth behind the glamour.
"None of us ever asked to come here-none of us ever asked to
come here-but we’re here now and we’re all family.”
Note: Rolling Out printed a review to their large web audience.  I'm happy to print the extended review for my readers here. Please support Kola Boof and buy the book available on Kindle.

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