Daria Nelson’s life seems perfect. She’s the apple of her father’s eye, the love of Maurice’s life, and a straight-A sophomore at Howard University.
But all is not as it seems.
Daria is angry with her father…because her father is angry with her. After four years, Adrian Nelson still doesn’t like Maurice, which makes no sense to his daughter. Maurice is the handsome owner of a successful West Philly barbershop and the kind of guy any girl would be lucky to have. So what’s not to like.
Well, no, Maurice hasn’t exactly supported Daria’s decision to matriculate some 150 miles away. He expected her to attend the University of Pennsylvania like she promised and hasn’t quite forgiven the drastic change in venue. But Daria understands his frustration because college hasn’t been everything she expected either. Though confident in her choice of English as a major, she feels constant pressure to decide who she wants to be when she grows up…and maintain the level of excellence expected of a student at the premiere HBCU in the world to boot.
And with all these issues jockeying for her attention, all Daria wants is peace and another 4.0.
I’m so proud to bring this book to your attention during Black History Month. It’s the work of my dear friend Denise Leora Madre. We’re writing partners. We edit for each other when the stories are still raw, and so this book has been in my life for a significant time. The characters are old friends.
Daria Nelson is a good girl from Philly who has a touch of sass and a strong wit, which makes her easy to like. Some of her relationships are a challenge. She has an overprotective dad who doesn’t want to let her grow up and disapproves of her choices, and a boyfriend who puts a ton of pressure on her by disparaging her decisions and values. I love every scene with Daria’s mom, Corina, who tends to steal the show whenever she’s around. Daria has a strong group of established friends who couldn’t be more different from one another, and the conversations and situations faced by students their age will take you right onto the campus of Howard U.
My favourite character, next to Daria, is Mordecai. You’ll see why when you read it.
This is a terrific coming-of-age story–especially for girls–with a touch of romance. It will ring true to young people and bring nostalgic remembrances to adults. I recommend it not just to lovers of Young Adult fiction, but for inclusion in high school classrooms and libraries. The novel includes a list of discussion-oriented questions at the back that will be useful to teachers and book clubs.
Denise Leora Madre has an impressive voice and a strong message for today’s youth. This book deserves to become a classic. Five stars.
I scowled at the bug on my windshield.
The fat, ugly, freeloading bug on an otherwise pristine windshield.
It was a hair’s breadth outside the arc of my left wiper, artfully dodging the blue mist and squeaky blade. I knew that after trying and failing six times to dislodge it.
Stupid, fat, ugly, freeloading, useless…
“Ignore the bug,” came the soft nudge from the passenger seat. “Focus on the road.”
“You’re drifting.” Corina Nelson gazed out the window, eyeballing the distance between our dusty rental and the dotted white line. “Not much, but you’re drifting.”
“I am not. I’m right behind this Lexus.”
“Then the Lexus is drifting, too. I just want you to be safe.”
“I know, Mom.”
“I also reiterate my offer to drive. You’ve had your license only a month….”
“Five weeks and three days, thank you very much.”
“…and you have nothing to prove to me.”
I ignored the subtle emphasis on the last two words. The person to whom I felt obligated to prove myself lately wasn’t here, citing an unmissable meeting at work. I snorted under my breath, refusing to let him ruin a trip he hadn’t bothered to take.Corina mistook my snort for an allergic reaction. “Where’s your medicine?”
“In my bag, and I don’t need it. That was a snort of derision.”
“Is there a pill for that?” I cut my eyes at her, and she laughed. “You have to admit that was good.”
“You should have been a comedienne.”
“Nah, I like being a craftswoman.” She checked her watch. “But I hate being late.”
“It doesn’t matter.” I changed lanes to escape the octogenarian in the Lexus. “Only upperclassmen move in today, and most of them defected to the Towers.”
“Why didn’t you and Cherrie do that? Private suite with a real kitchen and bathroom instead of those broom closets Meridian calls showers.”
“Because she’s an RA, and I didn’t want to risk getting some wacky roommate.”
“Pity. I send delightful care packages.”
The sleek black cell phone in the center console rang, its cheery ringtone identifying the caller. “Great. Now I’m going to get in trouble.”
“I’ll handle Cherrie. You watch that classic pickup on your left. The driver is too busy singing to pay attention.”
“Because that song rocks.” I snapped my fingers. “Gotta love Trisha Yearwood.”
“Never change, Daria.” Corina smiled and answered my phone. “Hi, Cherrie! Yes, we’re finally on our way…. Well, we got a late start because someone pulled a fast one last night.” My cheeks flamed as she glanced at me. “She’ll tell you all about it…. We’ll be there as soon as I-95 lets us…. Oh, I’ll ask her.” She pulled the phone from her ear. “Cherrie can hold an ‘80s room’ for you, whatever that means.”
“The rooms numbered 79-92 are huge, big enough for Bernie to do a cartwheel.”
“Fabulous,” Corina said. “Fourth or fifth floor?”
“Where is she?”
She waited a beat. “Seventh.”
Cherrie was beside the kitchen, so I needed dibs on laundry. “Fourth.”
I crossed “proper room assignment” off my mental to-do list. Sophomore year needed to be seamless, and securing the right room was an encouraging first step.
“Do you need to use the bathroom?” Corina asked after ending the call. “We could stop in the Maryland House.”
“What am I, a toddler? Besides, don’t be using me to feed your habit.”
“Habit?” She batted her ridiculously long lashes. “Whatever do you mean?”
I honked at the bumper sticker-laden SUV in front of us. “Anytime you spend more than an hour in the car, you need a Cinnabon. And we left Philly two hours ago.”
“That means I’m due for two.”
“No time.” I glanced at the clock on the dashboard, one of few working items in the car. “At this pace, we can get to Meridian by three o’clock.”
“Just because you came into six months of Peanut Chews last night doesn’t mean the rest of us don’t need snacks.” I smothered another smile, and she pouted. “I cannot believe you won’t make a quick stop so your poor mother can have a treat. I gave you life, nursed you through chickenpox, and let you sleep in our bed for a week after A Thief in the Night gave you nightmares.”
“First, there is nothing poor about Corina Davenport Nelson. Second, I didn’t ask to be born. Third, it wasn’t my fault I got sick, and fourth…” I shuddered. “That movie gave me nightmares and kept me from youth group forever.”
“And now you’re a heathen who deprives her mother of sustenance.” She crossed her arms, and I deducted fifteen minutes from our travel time. “Fine.”
Then my phone rang again, this ringtone of a decidedly different flavor.
“Too bad.” Corina tsked. “You can’t drive and talk at the same time, so you can’t answer his call until we arrive in DC … in another hour at the earliest.” Her sigh was full of romantic regret. “If only there were a place to stop for a few minutes without detouring completely…”
I wanted to stick to my guns and try to salvage my fading timeline. But each ring of the phone chipped away at my resolve, and I switched to the left lane after passing the second sign for the Maryland House.
“Should I tell him you’ll call him back?” She gave full voice to her laughter, sobering at my glare. “I mean, uh, watch the road.”
Denise Leora Madre is not naïve…at least, not as much as yesterday. A lifelong Philadelphian, her idyllic childhood was filled with her love of God and family and weekly trips to the Joseph C. Coleman Library. After graduating from Masterman High School, Denise carried her unfocused dreams of singing stardom through four colleges over the next ten years. Though Temple University eventually supplied her cap and gown, Howard University owns her heart and inspired her debut novel, Another 4.0.
As a mother of seven—long story—she primarily uses her English degree to campaign for the Oxford comma and bemoan the pervasiveness of text-speak. When not binge-watching Chopped or Friends, Denise can be found overthinking things and harassing her handsome husband for hugs…or his incredible lasagna.
Denise is a published essayist whose work appears in Color Him Father (Kinship Press, 2006) and The Motherhood Diaries 2 (Brown Girls Publishing, 2014). She is also an avid writer of Twilight fanfiction and has won awards in assorted contests. Though she has yet to learn how to drive or swim—don’t judge her—she is the proud owner of an organized junk drawer.
@ladylibre on Twitter
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