Posts Tagged domestic violence
“Rap was about rage not beauty. Rap hated most women.” –Michel’le
After Straight Outta Compton premiered in theaters last year, many remarked how the film completely avoided depiction of N.W.A.’s violence against women. Here’s the counterpoint. It’s hip-hop artist Michel’le’s powerful and courageous story. As Michel’le narrates the film, this is her truth. Raised by her grandmother in Compton, Michel’le learned to expect men to hit women. That it was just something men did and that women should avoid provoking men and if he hits you to “fix it.” There’s this tragic conditioning of women and acceptance of violence against women. This is Michel’le’s story about her experience in the rap world, particularly her relationships with Dr. Dre and Suge Knight.
Plucked from a department store, Michel’le [adeptly portrayed by Rhyon Nicole Brown] starts singing on N.W.A. albums. She’s a surprise as she speaks in a high voice like Minnie Mouse but sings in a deep, gorgeous tone. She almost immediately attracts Dre’s attention and the two start dating. Michel’le remarks: “We were like family. They were like my brothers. Except for Dre of course.” Dre [Curtis Hamilton] had five children and “didn’t take any of these girls seriously.” Almost every guy that Michel’le knew had a baby. She said it was nearly a “Compton right of passage.” She and Dre move in together and she records her first album.
In the studio, Dre comes up and punches her hard. Repeatedly. It’s a disturbing scene. Being young and in love and not understanding love, Michel’le stayed with Dre. Another time he chokes her and exclaims: “Sing the song stupid bitch now.” They’re together for several years and have a son together. Here’s this distorted perception on love and loyalty. Women are afraid of men who control them. It’s often difficult to leave. Many women don’t feel self-confident enough to do so. She’s also young, inexperienced and swept up into this wild scene with drugs, booze, parties. In order to numb the pain, Michel’le started drinking and doing drugs. She also starts becoming successful apart from Dre. She opens for MC Hammer on tour in 1990. She also becomes an alcoholic and drug addict. Death Row Records co-founder [and Dr. Dre’s business partner] Suge Knight [R. Marcos Taylor] becomes an ally, a protector of sorts, and offers to get her into rehab. While Suge’s in jail, they marry. She has a baby. She takes her child to her grandmother because she doesn’t feel confident enough in raising her own child. When Suge beats her, Michel’le leaves him.
See this film. It provides a memorable and potent first-hand female perspective on the rap world. Although a music critic, I only know what I read in the news about the rap world. Alternative music has always been by genre. It’s literally about a woman being knocked down and picking herself up and carrying on. Tremendous respect to Michel’le for this film.
Surviving Compton: Dre, Suge and Michel’le premieres Saturday, October 15, 2016 at 8pm ET/PT on Lifetime.
Title: Safe Haven
Author: Nicholas Sparks
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; 1st edition (September 14, 2010)
Category: contemporary fiction
It was hard to fathom that he still wanted to spend an evening with her. And more important, that she wanted to spend an evening with him. Deep in her heart, she wasn’t sure she deserved to be happy, nor did she believe that she was worthy of someone who seemed . . . normal.
Author Nicholas Sparks has established a blueprint to best-selling novels: man and woman fall in love; trouble ensues; man and woman either overcome odds together or learn from their love. I’ve never read a Nicholas Sparks novel but I’ve seen the films The Notebook, Nights in Rodanthe and Dear John. I couldn’t have chosen a better book to read during National Domestic Abuse Awareness month. Katie arrives in the small North Carolina town of Southport, rents a cabin and begins working at the local diner. She keeps to herself at first but soon catches the eye of Alex, a widowed store owner. Katie befriends her equally mysterious neighbor Jo who spends much of her time traveling as a grief counselor. Alex is former military where he worked mostly domestic dispute cases on base. He recognizes some of the same features in Katie but doesn’t push her about her past or how she arrived in town.
Eventually as Katie develops feelings for Alex and his two small children, she shares her horrific past. She married a Boston police officer who controlled and abused her for years. Sparks provides detailed and realistic depictions of Katie’s manipulative husband. As in most cases I’ve read about, no one would suspect that this upstanding Boston Police detective would be bloodying and bruising his wife. He knows how to keep it hidden. He also keeps all the money and keeps tabs on his wife so escaping is extremely challenging and only a weary, determined woman could make the plans to get away. He also successfully depicts Katie’s fears, insecurities and intense desire to start a new life. These aspects of Safe Haven make for a stimulating read.
Although Katie enjoys Alex’s company and has begun to claim Southport as home, she’s constantly looking over her shoulder expecting her husband to arrive any day. And when he does, will Katie survive the confrontation? Will her new, unfettered relationship with Alex survive? While predictable, Safe Haven is a quick, rather enjoyable read about an under-reported topic.
Title: Secrets of Eden
Author: Chris Bohjalian
Publisher: Shaye Areheart Books; First Edition, First Printing edition (February 2, 2010)
Category: contemporary fiction
Review source: Shaye Areheart Books
Now, Stephen Drew wasn’t using some poor woman’s face as a floor sander, and he wasn’t inflicting himself on some defenseless middle-school girl. (Note I am not being catty and adding “as far as we know.” Because in my opinion, we do know: He wasn’t.) But he certainly abused his place and his power, and he sure as hell took advantage of women in his congregation. For a minister, the guy had ice in his veins. Lived completely alone, didn’t even have a dog or a cat. He really creeped me out once when he went off on this riff about the Crucifixion as a form of execution. Very scholarly, but later it was clear that even his lawyer had wished he’d dialed down the serial-killer vibe.
Author Chris Bohjalian continues to challenge himself and his readers by delving into controversial and provocative topics. Secrets of Eden is a page-turner about domestic violence and what at first appears to be a murder-suicide in a small Vermont hamlet. The story is told from four points of view: from town Pastor Stephen Drew, who remained close to Alice Hayward well after their affair ended; from the well-meaning and dogged prosecutor Catherine Benincasa; from Heather Laurent, a best-selling author who suffered the same thing in her teenage years and now sees Angels; and from the Hayward’s teenage daughter Katie, who witnessed her father beating and verbally abusing her mom for years. As a story-telling technique it works quite well for Secrets of Eden as we gain insight from those intimately involved (Stephen and Katie) as well as an outsider’s perspective (Catherine and Heather). What Bohjalian leaves us with is an exquisitely crafted whodunit as well as an expose on domestic violence and its tragic consequences. A compelling read, Secrets of Eden is truly memorable and a conversation starter.