Coconut

Coconut

Coconut: the drupaceous fruit of the coconut palm whose outer fibrous husk yields coir and whose nut contains thick edible meat and, in the fresh fruit, a clear liquid.

Thank you, Merriam-Webster.

Also coconut: a person who is brown on the outside and white on the inside.

*****

I’m forty-six years old. I grew up in a non-diverse, small town in Georgia. I went to a predominantly white college in self-segregating Manhattan. I live in an on-the-cusp neighborhood in Jersey City. I’ve been called a lot of names during this lifetime. From my younger brother’s teasing “big nose” to random racists’ N-word to my corner bodega’s boriqua to a Manhattan sandwich-maker’s “stinking Indian.” I could go on. We could be here for a while. You get my drift.

None of it has ever stuck with me. Sure, there might have been a few seconds of contemplation, maybe even amusement, but never have I been incapable of moving past the words and getting on with my life.

Until this past Thanksgiving, when I attended the International Day feast at The Kid’s school, and the mother of one of his classmates called me a coconut.

She: What part of India are you from?
Me: Kerala. The southern tip.
She: Really? So am I. Where?
Me: My dad’s from Calicut and my mom is from Trivandrum.
She: A Malayali. You speak Malayalam?
Me: I don’t, but they do.
She: STARE AND A ONCE OVER, THEN Oh… you’re one of those.
Me: CONFUSED QUESTIONING LOOK
She: A coconut. Brown on the outside, white on the inside.

She said it with such authority, complete confidence. A smile on her face and a twinkle in her eye. She didn’t know me, had never met me, but from her perspective, the math was simple: I didn’t speak the language of my parents and their parents and their parents’ parents, therefore I was white. At least on the inside. At least according to her.

“Her” being a fellow Indian who much like myself, didn’t look Indian and was often mistaken for being all kinds of things non-Indian. But unlike myself, spoke Malayalam. And Telagu. And Hindi. And had done so for as long as she could recall.

In other words – or her words – 100% brown. Inside and out.

Nothing coconutty about her.

Last night my therapist and I discussed how for years I’ve felt as if I walked this fine line of being Indian, but not Indian enough for my people, and being American, but not white enough for my country. A no-man’s land of perpetual not-enoughness, a conundrum of dualities within which, after forty-something years, I’ve kind of made peace. A one-foot-in-one-foot-out state of being that others might notice, but none has ever called me out.

Until her.

And her nonchalant coconut.

Before sitting down to write this piece, I googled the term, not because I needed to know what it meant – she made clear of that – but to see what had been written by others. It has an Urban Dictionary and Wikipedia page. Plenty of blog posts and even a Guardian article discussing its use. Piece after piece by my brown brothers and sisters taking umbrage with the notion that speaking a certain way, or running in certain social circles, or holding oneself out in a specific manner, or being smart and eloquent and witty is somehow being white. As if certain personal decisions as a brown person about how you’re going to navigate your brown life is a denial of said brownness and makes you wannabe-white.

But nothing about whiteness being equated with an inability to speak one’s native tongue. No words about it being hoisted upon one by the decisions of others. And no where is coconut being tossed about by another brown person.

No brown on brown crime.

Don’t get me wrong, I know brown folks call other brown folks coconuts. I’m pretty sure it happens quite often. A girlfriend and I have joked about it and she’s embraced the title. Which is all to say that I’ve heard the word before, I just never expected anyone to turn it on me.

Mostly because I identify first and foremost as a woman of color. A proud woman of color. A woman of color who has spent a lifetime correcting people – no I’m not black, Dominican, Puerto Rican, anything-but-Indian, yes my parents are from India, yes both of them, South India to be exact – and has done so with a smile on her face because how amazing to be mistaken for a member of one of those beautiful communities and then, how much more amazing to claim my own?

Until her. And her coconut.

Brown on the outside, white on the inside.

Because what could I say? I couldn’t deny it – the fact is my parents, for whatever reason, did not teach any of us Malayalam. I know a few words, my brother and sister know nothing. So when she called me a coconut upon discovering Malayalam was as foreign to me as Chinese, I could only shrug my shoulders and fake-laugh in agreement.

I didn’t even bother trying to explain that it wasn’t my fault I couldn’t speak my native tongue, that fact mattered little to her. It was a zero-sum game where no Malayalam = white. She sized me up in seconds, then moved on.

Funny thing is, I didn’t. I still haven’t.

I think about it almost everyday. At Christmas, I tried to discuss it with my mom, casually bring it up while we all helped cook Christmas dinner. How someone called me a coconut because she and dad never taught me Malayalam. My mom listened without looking up from whatever she was stirring on the stove, and when I was done turned to my cousin and talked about bananas and oreos, and anything but my coconut.

The classic, very Indian way of brushing it under the rug.

Thing is, my rug already has too much dirt underneath. There’s no room for coconut under there, so I’m left walking around with coconut everyday, holding it in my purse, banging it around in my brain, bringing it with me to yoga class, wanting to rid myself of it, knowing I cannot.

Then again…

I do believe I saw an ad for online Malayalam classes.

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Inspired By Victor Hugo

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I saw a man today
with the night sky in his eyes
and a soul full of stars,
and I wanted to slip inside his skin to see
if I could find the source of his magic
Instead
I listened to the rhythm of his laughter
and thrilled at the slow curve of his words
and wondered where he learned to kiss like that,
pressed against the wall and breath stolen so fast
I forgot to remember all of the things one thinks
when being kissed by true love
He stepped back and crooked-smiled
and then swallowed my hesitation
with the soft of his mouth,
and without uttering a sound
I knew he had learned
the bloody edges of my fears,
and when I parted my lips to sigh in regret
because I wanted to be everything
unbroken for him me us,
all I could hear was the music of his promise
“Don’t worry pretty woman,” he said slow
and sure, and there was eternity
in his everything. “I got this, baby.”


The pieces of poetry on this blog and Write Bitches are works of fiction, erupting from my incredibly over-active imagination. And my unending love for all things romance.

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This Love

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This love loosens sockets as it crawls through my blood, makes my elbows moot, and arms brown sinew to wrap you triple times in the heat of my desire

Catastrophic and apocalyptic and any other world-shattering -ics, this love crushes dynasties and leaves in its wake little more than smoldering rubble and ash

Proud and cocky, and let-me-hold-your-hand-in-the-street-so-everyone-knows-we’re-coupled-up-and-feeling-all-kinds-of-ways-that-make-no-sense-to-anyone-but-us, this love struts a mean staccato beat

And keeps me up at night, whispering poetry into my skin as Coltrane burns a rhythm of blues, and tenderness, and smooth soulful bliss into our everything

This love wakes the dead, and fills them with crave and lust for another go at this thing called life, and it says ‘this thing called life’ in its best Prince voice

Raucous and wild and so in-your-face loud, the neighbors roll their eyes when they see us pass, laden with the detritus of the everyday mundane, this love knows we are anything but

Beautiful and strange, kind and coarse, this love is memory and time

It is patience

It is you


The pieces of poetry on this blog and Write Bitches are works of fiction, erupting from my incredibly over-active imagination. And my unending love for all things romance.

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REVIEW: DEATH by Madhuri Pavamani

Around the World in 80 Books


By Tqwana B.

4 out of 5 stars ★★★★☆

Urban Fantasy/Erotica
September 2017
Swerve

Let’s just get right into it…

This book is intense! And filthy. So beautifully filthy. The same unique blend of sex, blood, and poetry of the previous books in the Keeper series, but with a new urgency as Juma and Dutch know their final confrontation with The Gate and The Dark Mistress are upon them. And the intensity in battle and in bed increases with every life Juma loses.

This book moves fast, but maybe a little too fast. Some major deaths seem to go by in a blink. The limited page time for The Mistress was felt as well. But, the narrative slows down when it matters most, and that’s with Dutch and Juma and their love. At the heart of the story is always Dutch and Juma’s bond, which leads to…

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Dream Me

Continents breathe life
into these
arms
lips
thighs
These feet know the stain
of red Georgia clay and
the sting of an angry fire ant
These hands grind
cumin
cardamom
cayenne
and clap a mean Bhangra beat
This smile recalls my mommy
my brow belongs to daddy
I am their wildest diaspora
dream
come
true


The pieces of poetry on this blog and Write Bitches are works of fiction, erupting from my incredibly over-active imagination. And my unending love for all things romance.

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Random Thoughts

Are you doing #NaNoWriMo? If so, how’s it going? Mine is…not. As in going. Yet. There is still hope for me, although I’m beginning to think it’s my obsession to spectacularly fail #NaNoWriMo every year… NaNoWriMo

What happened to Helen Fielding? and why did she write Bridget that ending? And by “that”, I mean her too-cute finale of turning Bridget into a smug married with a baby on her hip. Yuck. I always thought of Fielding as this snarky, smart Brit who knew there was something more to the version of life that is shoved down our throats as young girls and continues to haunt us well into womanhood. God, was I wrong.

Resist. That’s what we did on Tuesday. Everyone who voted against anyone affiliated with 45, pat yourself on the back. Now onto 2018. Please, Dems – do not fuck this up.

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For the record, I am Fenty 330. And yes, I barely wear any makeup, but every girl wants to know her Fenty number. #PresidentRihanna

 

 

Last weekend I added to my tattoos, and it is a beauty. Also, it hurt like nothing I’ve ever experienced. My tattoo artist, the wonderful and talented Jason Barletta of Rising Dragon Tattoos in NYC, texted me the next day to check in and tell me what a badass I am – you are a total warrior – that’s how crazy the level of pain was. But it was worth it. I love my new ink.

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Jason Barletta

 

 

 

 

And this past weekend, I took my girlfriend, Johnalynn, out to Williamsburg to see Adrian Castillo of J. Colby Smith|108 for a piercing. She didn’t know what she wanted and I wanted nothing – we walked out of there with a double piercing for her and a solo for me. Our ears look so pretty and for real, Adrian is one of the coolest, sweetest people you’ll meet. Before him, I don’t think I’d met a piercer I would dare call sweet. He told us to hit Twelve Chairs Cafe for dinner afterwards, we did, and left BK feeling full and looking sexy. Thank you, Adrian.

Candice Iloh, my fellow Rhode Island Writers Colony resident, was with me both times. Which leads to the inevitable question: whatever is she going to do with herself without me this weekend? 😉

I worked from home the other day because The Kid was sick and couldn’t make it to school. We hit the doctor’s office and the pharmacist and Wonder Bagels on Central Avenue. He watched Men In Black – I think that movie is hilarious, hold it against me, go ahead, I’m cool with that – and developed an obses53167292519__084FB641-4F8B-45BC-9044-4077DAE6DE81 (002)sion for Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown. He ate, he took meds, and by the end of the day, the soccer ball came out and he was back practicing his fancy footwork, a sure sign all was well. Oh, and he called me a “big, fat meanie” because I probably was acting like a big, fat meanie because there is only so much cooped-up-in-the-house togetherness I can take before I get a little cranky.

On that note, can it be Friday already?

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