Moonlight Over Paris
by K.A. Minton
Reviewed by: Push Nevahda
Monique Stevens is a singer who goes by the stage name “Paris”. Quite the sheltered and pampered one, life changes drastically for Monique when her father dies from sudden cancerous remission, leaving her to deal with her own inner demons (rife with personal inadequacies and love lost), and whether or not to choose a dubious music career over personal happiness. This is pretty much the issue with K. A. Minton’s precocious novel, Moonlight Over Paris.
Monique is an ambitious 25 year old corporate account executive by day, and an aspiring singer by night. She is happy, driven, and confident that she’ll eventually leave the corporate world for a much deserved and hard-earned music career with a major label. In the backdrop of this drama, Stevens surrounds herself with an interesting cache of friends, ones that eventually move Stevens to a necessary confrontation of what is important in her life and what is not. And Minton does a nice job of creating these peculiar characters:
Beverly: a cop trying to accept her sexuality.
Donna: has deep trust in self hate issues; suffered mental/physical abuse from former husband; has child out of rape with husband.
Nett: co-dependent and has toxic relationship with her sister. She has been unable to find a fulfilling relationship; sexually molested by her step-father. She continues path of self destruction with promiscuity and hardcore partying.
Roz: owns a successful hair salon, and is Monique’s Angel of Mercy
Mrs. Owens: Nette and Donna’s mother; she cannot come to grips with family issues and the emotional dilemmas which threatens to destroy her family.
But what does this all mean, and how does this eclectic mix of women situate themselves within the larger context of Minton’s Novel. Moonlight Over Paris really isn’t about the Monique and her aspirations to become a famous entertainer, but more about the complexities, hypocrisies, struggles, and daily challenges that (most) women face. Life. And, even more impressively, Minton doesn’t limit the scope and possibility of this novel by couching its moral lessons in tired diatribes on race and class. Certainly these characters are African American women, but their stories transcend the point of race. Their stories are for multitude of women – any and everywhere - who could easily relate to any of these characters.
Equally impressive are the various relevant social/political/economic issues (which women face on a daily basis) that are represented (though not fully addressed) here: lesbianism, entrepreneurship, the pervading challenges of navigating the corporate world; rape, motherhood, sisterhood, friendship, molestation, motherhood, abuse, marital issues, self-hatred, sexism, Affirmative Action (which is not just about black folk), etc., Minton’s novel deals with all of these important matters where women are concerned.
I find it difficult to trust that a novel of this genre will be worth the read, but Minton’s novel is no disappointment. His writing is smooth, passionate, engaged, and has a certain craft of storytelling that is not commonly seen in this genre of writing - evocative of deep feminine sensibilities somewhat uncommon among African American male writers (of the same genre). As well, Minton does a fairly good job of titillating our senses with vivid imagery, sensual smells, and candid observations, bringing the reader into the fold of the moment. I especially appreciate his ability to provide us with almost 3-D like descriptions of place, space, and time:
“The salon is not basic by any means. Soft relaxing colors put patrons at ease. The waiting area has soft lounge chairs, TV, music, tea and aroma therapy. The smell of harsh chemicals is filtered out of this area to keep clients relaxed and happy while they wait…. The salon is soaked with smells of irons burning hair and hair relaxing chemicals all being tossed around by the wicker fans slowly turning above their heads….”
On the other hand, the golden “Push Rule” demands that no book is perfect. On that note, I was particularly perturbed by Minton’s handling of lesbianism. At times he is cautious and gentle with Beverly’s situation, but at other times he is condescending and abrasive. The following homophobic passage demonstrates the inhumane manner in which Minton animalizes lesbian sex, devalues lesbian passion, and dismisses gay love as predatory, sinister, and cunning:
“…it’s like they can sense something is going on with me. Some conflict or something, these bitches are like dogs in heat…. At first they were just giving me looks now they’re touching me inappropriately. It’s like they feel my hurt and they want to be there for me.”
Ironically, Beverly (quoted) comes full circle with her attraction to women, which ultimately makes the reader rethink the irony in the above statement. Is Minton suggesting that lesbians have conflicted issues of self hate? If so, perhaps he should have lingered more deeply with the issue.
Yet, Minton’s novel is also about death. In order for these women to be borne they my first die off old ways of self-destructive behavior and thought in order to allow new possibilities to emerge. It isn’t until the death of her beloved father, Maurice, that Monique’s own life begins to emerge out of the shadows of her fearful past and uncertain regrets. In the end, just when we think Minton has left us hanging, these women do manage to find peace, resolution, and they overcome and triumph.
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