The Blackbirds

Book Reviews / Sunday, June 19th, 2016

The Blackbirds is the latest release from Eric Jerome Dickey, known for writing contemporary novels about African-American life.  Naughtier than Nice, the sequel to Naughty or Nice and One Night, a standalone were the last two novels he published in 2015.  For me, It’s been a while since I’ve read anything from him so I sort of knew what I was going to be getting into with this one.  Exquisite cover, 400 plus pages, this is that “girlfriend book” that everybody has been anticipating this 2016.

img_2867Four best friends as close as sisters, Kwanzaa, Ericka, Destiny, and Indigo are all trying to find love and solutions to their personal quandaries.  The novel is plot driven like only Dickey knows how to do.  He has his writing formula down to a science.  It’s funny, zany, sexy, over the top, heartbreaking, and explanatory.  Dickey has found a way to balance what would be considered a typical urban erotica novel, while packing it with loads of social commentary.  He makes references to all sorts of incidents from police brutality to political to social media, etc.  The Blackbirds is brimful of urban expressions and millennial lingo, so if you’re not hip to the groove I suggest you read it with the urban dictionary open.

The themes seem to be typical of what Dickey writes – sexuality, homosexuality, male/female – mother/daughter – father/daughter relationships, cheating, female friendships, illness, etc.  It touches on just about everything. The thing that surprised me the most was the quantity of sex in the novel.  I knew it would contain sex but not to that extent.  Sex scenes took over the story in the second and third parts of the novel.  So if you have a problem with reading erotica, this won’t be the book for you.  Surprisingly, there is no mention on the stunning cover about the novel being erotica, but when you look on the inside flap it’s written at the top in red.  Now this has intrigued me because when books are written by white authors they always put some kind of trigger warning that it contains copious amounts of sex, etc.  So I’m wondering how is it that this novel has no mention of it on the front cover.  Could it be that Dutton thought that the way the book was going to be marketed that only black readers would be interested in it?  Or is it that Dutton assumed that black readers like reading about sex so no need to point out the obvious?  Or maybe it’s just that Dutton doesn’t think that white readers will go for this one anyway because essentially it will be in the black interests section in Barnes & Noble, so no need?

To exacerbate my previous questions, I saw a comment made in the review section of Goodreads where a white man said he was disappointed by The Blackbirds.  “He said he had to quit before he plucked out his eyes and that it was dreadful.  He then commented that he was obviously not the the target audience and moreover he thought Dickey’s talent would shine through. Alas!”  (Goodreads user)  I didn’t realize the reader had to be the target audience to enjoy a book.  That’s a new one for me.  Granted, Dickey’s book isn’t 5-star in my opinion, but it isn’t totally bad either.  If anything he’s guilty of, it is of sensationalizing his book with too much sex and trying to develop too many story lines at once; which I believe is always a trap when there are several main characters.  For instance, there are a few story lines which are thrown together quickly to end the book just over 500 pages.  Those story lines should have been treated with more care, but instead their development was bypassed for some juicy sex scenes, which made the last 200 pages feel rushed.

Nevertheless, The Blackbirds is a nice escape read that titillates, amuses,  makes you smile, makes the head shake, and the mind say Amen (at times). It’s loud, hysterical, ratchet, violent, sexy, etc.  It’s a story that reads quickly, plot developing as well as characters growing.  It’s definitely worth picking up if you want erotica with a bit more real storyline.  EL James could take a few pointers from Eric Jerome Dickey.  I’m just sayin’ y’all. 😉

My copy:  The Blackbirds – hardcover, 508 pages

Rating:  ***

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19 Replies to “The Blackbirds”

  1. I read like 50 pages and I had to put it down. The book didn’t grab me right away and I felt kind of bored reading it. I don’t usually read erotica/romance but I will try again later.

  2. I might pick up this one. It’s been a while since I’ve read one of his books but I usually enjoy them. I’m not used to seeing a warning in books that contain lots of sex but the only such books I read are by Black authors like Dickey here and Zane and Mary B. Morrison.
    Also, I don’t think you have to be a book’s target audience to enjoy it. Thinking that is limiting.

  3. I am writing a erotic story myself just because I’ve always loved to write. As for your book review I agree with you that when there are a number of main characters in a story. It can be a challenge to give them all equal balance. I love reading erotic stories so Blackbirds by Dickey is right up my alley. I am familiar with his work. I’ll be sure to keep his new book in mind. In fact I’m going to write it on a post it note and put it on my wall. Take care BGR.

  4. Maybe the warning is on the inside flap because people expect sex in a Dickey novel but because this one is more erotica than not, they gave the warning? Just spitballing here. I have noticed that his books have gotten increasingly sexy (and sex-y) as he’s published more of them.

    1. So that would mean the publisher isn’t even trying to market the to a large spectrum of people, just black people and I have a problem with that. Yes I agree his books are getting sexier and sexier but they should put a label like they do for most books. I’m getting a little fed up with the way publishing companies seem to be purposefully marketing certain books to everybody and others to practically nobody. This is becoming a real problem. Minorities are still having to work doubly hard to get read and recognized. I would have thought that by now there would be some improvement but there doesn’t seem to be. 🙁

  5. An interesting, review, Didi, especially your points about how books are marketed to certain readers- or is that about how erotica and sexual content are marketed? I haven’t read any of Dickey’s work in a while – Maybe I’m too much of a snob – lol! Ironically, I just finished reading The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney, and although it was well-written I feel I might have enjoyed it more had I been in that net known as “the target audience.”

    1. This topic seems complicated, but not really. Evidently the publisher believes black people love reading about sex so no need to label it and secondly that white people won’t even bother to seek this one out. (insert eyeball rolling) This kind of business is starting to annoy me. Dickey’s books are just straight up erotica these days and should be called that right out. Why the covertness? Maybe there are a little frightened that some black readers will abandon Dickey’s book because of that. Who knows? I’m all for call a cat a cat.

  6. Great review Didi! I read Zane’s latest book Vengeance a week before reading Blackbirds. I couldn’t help but notice that Zane’s book had way less sex than Blackbirds. Granted the book was almost 200 pgs. shorter, but still Zane is known for writing erotica. I have read over half of EJD books and I know he has sex in his book, but this was a bit over the top. I didn’t know it was considered erotica until I looked at the inside of the flap just like you did. Nonetheless I enjoyed the book because it was classic EJD. His most recent books have been moving more towards mystery so I was excited to get back to something a bit more familiar. I also absolutely loved that he incorporated the main characters from previous books.

  7. I have a problem with one of your comments, to state that WHITE writers label their books erotica and Dickey didn’t. That is a generalization. I am sure there are black authors who do mark theirs. Are white authors more honest with the advertisement of their books, better, more educated to the fact of. Sorry I just found your statement discriminatory to black authors. You have all kinds reading your reviews, less not put one race above another. Just my thoughts.

    1. I’m not putting one race above others. I’m stating a fact. The Blackbirds is an erotic novel, but it’s being marketed as a romance novel. It’s marked on the inside flip that it’s a erotic novel. Not to mention this book has a lot more sex in it than I expected. Look qt the comment below from FREEFORM LADY. She even said it had more sex than the last erotic novel from Zane. All I’m questioning is the way that this novel was marked. IT isn’t vey honest of the publishers. White authors that write erotic ARE labeled in some way that the novel is erotica. All I’m asking is why this one wasn’t. So we can agree to disagree although I think you’ve misunderstood my commentary.

  8. Why not say “other authors label theirs” why does it have to be a “race” thing. I just don’t understand the point in regard to that. The rest of of your description of the book I understand. Peace

    1. Because it’s the truth. Kid gloves are taken to warn readers about erotic content. I’m wondering why they marketed this way if else to attract other people to read it. Eric Jerome Dickey is very well known mostly in the black community. That’s why I way reflecting on this issue.

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