Pacific NW author inspired by own life uses Portland as backdrop for the Diary of Tippy Ellis

As an African-American growing up in Oregon, I believe I offer a perspective that may be different from being raised in a  predominately African-American community. My family was stationed here in the late 60s – Astoria and Salem – where my father was a Captain in the Air Force reserves.  Here we were isolated from the larger black experience.  The community was small in comparison to larger cities due to the less than 2 percent black population which remains that way today. Despite that, we had parents with southern roots, so as kids we spent our summers in Alabama and Georgia. As an adult, I have traveled and lived around the country including Great Britain.

I consider myself an international woman due to my diverse experiences which inspired me to write and publish the Diary of Tippy Ellis series, using Portland as one of the geographic locations for Tippy’s story.  The city offers a unique backdrop for this young adult fiction novel, featuring a black teenage heroine born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia only to be uprooted and moved to Portland in her senior year of high school.

In contrast to my experience, Tippy Ellis comes from a city which is predominately African-American. Therefore, her perspective  about Portland offers a unique insight on how many blacks may feel once they relocate here. Readers should know I use the geographic location and community perspective as merely a backstory amid the scandals, intense plot and numerous twists in the Diary of Tippy Ellis. Part One “Mama’s Daughter” leaves readers craving for part two which is slated for release in 2014.

Below is an excerpt from The Diary of Tippy Ellis, giving credence to Portland’s rap music scene which features a large number of white male hip hop artists. Currently this novel is on sale at Barnes and, and

Chapter  29  “Wigga Got Swag”

I watch Julie disappear into the house. Shit. Maybe I should leave. I’m pretty outgoing, but I don’t know how to make friends with these white folks. I start to head back in when someone grabs my arm. Out of instinct I pull my arm away, turn around and prepare to give the person who touched me without permission a “Got your damn nerve,” look.

“What up girl. Ain’t it past your bedtime?” What! It’s the white boy rapper AJ DaMenace.

“Hey,” I say smiling and give him a hug. I wanna say thanks for rescuing me but instead say, “What you doing hanging?”

“Dis my crib,” AJ says. “I’m letting my little brother host his gathering here. Good thing I’m the only house at the end of the block. Police would have a field day. But then our dad works for the Portland PD.”

“Your daddy’s the Po Po?” I say, leaning my neck back lookin’ at him.

“Ha! I’m lying,” he says.

“You must be the one playin’ the rap music,” I say.

“Girl you’d be surprised how many white kids love hip hop,” AJ says. “I’m sure you’ve already been schooled about Portland.”

For the first time I notice his diction. Hm. A white boy trying to sound ghetto. A wigga we call ‘em back in Atlanta.

“Wanna dance?” says AJ.

The song playing is unfamiliar but good dancing music. “I can dance to that,” I say. “Who’s flowing?

He pulls me over to the side near one of the tents. He’s still grinning, “I hear some rap artist named DaMenace. Pretty swank huh.”

“Ooo bangin’” I say, leaning my head back.

AJ DaMenace starts dancing. I guess that’s my cue. There’s not much room so we’re standing pretty close; close enough so we don’t have to shout. This feels funny. I’ve never been this close to a white boy before. He smells good and he’s not bad to look at.

He keeps his blonde hair cropped close to his head and he’s damn cute when he smiles. His whole face widens, creating laugh lines around his smile which shows off his pretty white straight teeth. He has diamond earrings in his kinda large ears but the rest of his finess overshadows them.

AJ’s telling me about his career like why he took on the stage name DaMenace, he pulled from the ol’ school Dennis the Menace show.

“Like Dennis the Menace I’m innocently sneaky but don’t mean no harm,” says DaMenace.

“So I need to watch you,” I say teasingly.

“Girl you can watch me all you want,” he says. Um. Wigga trying to flirt.

DaMenace graduated from Grant High School last year. His parents wanted him to go to college but stayed in the music business.

“They don’t like hip hop. They’re ultra conservative, big time Republicans who hate Obama,” he says. “We sure don’t see eye-to-eye on a lot of things.”

AJ tells me his parents tolerated his friendship with Jerome.

“We were thick as thieves, inseparable,” he explains. “Later they began to like him. He turned on the Jerome charm. Anyway what’s not to like, right?”

I nod and lower my head for a moment.

“So what about you, girl?”

“Huh would you believe, I got staunch Republicans on my mama’s side?”

“Naw for real?”

“Yeah but my daddy’s as liberal as they come. So I get my ideals from him since he’s my only parent now.”

“Oh? Your parents not together?”

“Mama died when I was 7.”

“Sorry ‘bout dat. You lucky ta have a liberal daddy doe.”

The music is slowing down to a song called Emergency by Tank. AJ pulls me close without asking and begins swaying back and forth. Jeremy is the only boy I’ve slow danced with and it makes me nervous. But AJ is being cool wit’ me.

I’d forgotten about Julie. She shows up out of nowhere, tapping me on my shoulder. I turn my head toward her. Her face is right up close to mine. Hm. Hope her breath don’t stink.

“I see you’re in good hands. Sorry I left you,” she says, lowering her head a little.

Hm. A little late for sorry, I’m thinking. Anyway, I guess I’m in good hands.  I got my arms around AJ’s neck and he’s got his around my waist. Looks like Julie’s been in good hands too. Her hair is messy, make-up is almost gone and she and her boo are cheesing. They must’ve found some place to do-the-do. Ooo nasty. Doing it in someone else’s house without permission.

Julie and Jason are going to another party and asked if I wanted to go. At least they asked this time.

“I’ll make sure she gets home safely,” says AJ. There he goes again not asking. But I don’t wanna hang with Julie and Jason. I might get left again and not be as lucky.

Julie pooches her lips out, giving me, “Ooo girl.” In return I give her the “cutesy-girl” wave using my right four fingers. Then she hugs me around the neck.

“Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,” she says in my ear. For a minute she sounded like my BFF.

Once they’re gone…

 AJ says, “Hungry?”

“Naw,” I say.

“Wanna go for a walk den beautiful?”

“Okay,” I say blushing.

AJ takes my hand and we walk back into the house. On the way to the front door, he grabs his brother and makes him walk out with us. Barry looks like the guy Shonny almost ran over at school and flipped-off. Poor guy. Who’d name their kid Barry? My white math teacher back home name’s Barry. He’s got a corny sense of humor and laughs at his own jokes.

“Hey no fuck ups,” says AJ.

“Yeah, yeah,” says Barry.

“I’m leaving my boys in charge to keep the peace. Hey and watch the drinkin’!”

“Yeah yeah,” says Barry, walking away waving his brother off.

“I ain’t playin’. They’ll kick all y’all out if you start any shit!” says AJ. His brother has made it back to the front door. He waves again like saying “Whatever.”

Me and AJ walk down to the park. It’s clean and well-maintained with a few park benches, tables and playground equipment like a big slide, swings, monkey bars and a seesaw. The park also has several tall iron lamp polls with lights  bright enough to see in either direction. The dozen houses way in the distance all have their lights on, adding to the parks serene ambiance.

AJ says the houses were built within the past 2 years. This use to be an industrial area. There are still some vacant buildings developers plan to take down next year.

We sit close to each other on one of the park benches and AJ puts his arm around my shoulders. “Cold?” he says.

“Naw,” I say.  Hm. DaMenace is bold. He don’t know me like that. But I better be cool. He’s my ride home.

“My house use to belong to the owners of an auto repair shop,” says AJ. “I worked for the owner from the time I was 13 up to last year. Me and the owner’s son are cool. That’s how I learned to be a mechanic. I got my mechanic’s certificate last year.”

“Oh yeah?” I say. “Jack of all trades I see.”

“It pays the bills for now,” says AJ. “I can afford the payments on my house, I got on a lease option.”

I’m smiling. AJ’s braggin’, trying to impress me.

“Ya know I’ve never told anyone else this but you,” he says, hesitantly.

Now I’m thinking he’s gonna say something swank like girl you fine and I wanna get wit’ you. Hm, not sure about a white boy though. But ooo this wigga’s fine, making me get those feelings again – like with Jeremy and with Jerome – all the way down to my twot-twot. Okay, girl. Get a grip!

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