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The Blackbirds

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New York Times bestselling author Eric Jerome Dickey, whose characters The Atlantic calls “bold, smart women oozing sexuality and vulnerability” introduces an unbreakable quartet of friends looking for love in this delectable romance.

They call themselves the Blackbirds. Kwanzaa Browne, Indigo Abdulrahaman, Destiny Jones, and Ericka Stockwell are four best friends who are closer than sisters and will go to the ends of the earth for one another. Yet even their deep bond can’t heal all wounds from their individual pasts, as the collegiate and post-collegiate women struggle with their own demons, drama, and desires.

Trying to forget her cheating ex-fiancé, Kwanzaa becomes entangled with a wicked one-night stand—a man who turns out to be one in five million. Indigo is in an endless on-again, off-again relationship with her footballer boyfriend, and in her time between dysfunctional relationships she pursues other naughty desires. Destiny, readjusting to normal life, struggles to control her own anger after avenging a deep wrong landed her in juvi, while at the same time trying to have her first real relationship—one she has initiated using an alias to hide her past from her lover. Divorced Ericka is in remission from cancer and trying to deal with two decades of animosity with her radical mother while keeping secret the desperate crush she has always had on Destiny’s father...a passion with an older man that just may be reciprocated.

As the women try to overcome—or give in to—their impulses, they find not only themselves tested but also the one thing they always considered unbreakable: their friendship.

ISBN-13: 9781101984123

Media Type: Paperback

Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group

Publication Date: 04-18-2017

Pages: 544

Product Dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.20(d)

Eric Jerome Dickey (1961–2021) was the award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of twenty-nine novels, as well as a six-issue miniseries of graphic novels featuring Storm (X-Men) and the Black Panther. His novel Sister, Sister was honored as one of Essence’s “50 Most Impactful Black Books of the Last 50 Years,” and A Wanted Woman won the NAACP Image Award in the category of Outstanding Literary Work in 2014. His most recent novels include The Blackbirds, Finding Gideon, Bad Men and Wicked Women, Before We Were Wicked, The Business of Lovers, and The Son of Mr. Suleman.

Read an Excerpt

***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof***

The door to the airplane opened and the four women were so terrified they were unable to cry out. The fear was tangible. Legs were weak. Palms sweated. Hands trembled.

They were ten thousand feet in the air.

A second later, Kwanzaa Browne took a deep breath and yelled into the wind.

Destiny Jones and Ericka Stockwell looked down at the earth and screamed.

Indigo Abdulrahaman had done this several times, and still she had been anxious and quiet on the two-hour ride north. Her palms had been sweaty all morning, same as Ericka’s.

Kwanzaa shouted, “For the last time, black people don’t jump out of planes.

Ericka retorted, “Kwanzaa, I love you, but I will kick your rotund ass out of this plane.”

Indigo snapped, “You’re jumping, Kwanzaa. This is one of my birth- day requests.”

Destiny laughed another nervous laugh. “Must we argue about every-damn-thing?”

Destiny, Indigo, Ericka, and Kwanzaa were attached to their instruc- tors with harnesses. They were moved toward the door, and one after another they rolled out, having paid to jump out of a perfectly good plane for no reason other than to do so for kicks, and were in free fall, accelerating toward earth, the ocean to the west, mountains here and there, the wind in their faces. They were flying, cheering, arms out like they were all Team Supergirl.

In that moment they were weightless, without problems, high above

Santa Barbara.

The g-forces were incredible. Intense. Emotional.

They all released that same orgasmic sound at the same moment.

It was a unified screaming, a shrill they imagined was heard around the world.

When they were together they were in their second childhoods. That was what Ericka loved the most, capturing what she had missed as a child. Everything she did, she did as if it she would never get a chance to experience it again. As she fell she looked at the world. She noticed everything. She wanted to remember every sight, sound, smell, every noise, and all that she felt. This was life. She took nothing for granted. Nothing.

She had thirty-five things on her bucket list. She planned to do them all before she died.


Some weekends they were all channeling Beyoncé, on the roof of the Standard Hotel, imbibing and dancing like they didn’t care, dresses short and heels high. Some weekends they were indulging in a few cal- ories at the world-famous Hawkins House of Burgers in Watts, then down at Venice Beach bowling before Rollerblading to Santa Monica, maybe hiking the hills at Runyon Canyon. Most evenings, while Ericka was at her dining room table grading papers and doing lesson plans, Kwanzaa and Indigo were in the Crenshaw-Imperial public library studying until it closed. Destiny would come in from her job at FedEx and study until sunrise, nap, and then zoom to USC. A time or two, they were all broken-down Taylor Swifts, in someone’s apartment in pajamas, hair every which-a-way, four bottles of wine from Everett Ridge Winery in Sonoma County on the table, bitching about men, or bitching about bitches, or giving their thoughts on thoughtless thots, drinking and doing shots, crying, hating the men they had loved and fucked, or had fucked with love, or laughing about the men they had stopped loving long after the men had already stopped loving them and were already fucking the fucking love out of someone else.

But there was more to them than conversations about men and love. Many days they had talked to each other and the topic or issue was not a man, so with flying colors they had passed the Bechdel test, that is unless the issue of oppression and blatant racism was considered a man.

When the need had arisen, wearing Guy Fawkes masks, they were with thousands of protestors, a multicultural protest that had kicked off at L.A. Live. There were black lives matter signs, fuck the police signs, people carrying upside-down American flags to symbolize that the country was in distress. They all held colorful motorcycle helmets in their hands as they marched arm in arm in the night through down- town Los Angeles toward Ninth and Flower, loud, boisterous, blocking traffic, while others in the demonstration carried banners that read stop the police terror! murders by police must be stopped now! LAPD tried to surround the protesters by circling the crowd. Kwanzaa was terrified, but Destiny held her hand. Indigo was yelling in Yorùbá and Ericka cursed the system in English. Sirens blared. Helicopters shined down lights. Kwanzaa, Destiny, Ericka, and Indigo fled by demonstra- tors cuffed with zip ties, being thrown in police buses to be taken to the grown folk’s Hoosegow. They ran toward their vehicles. On normal days there were at least two helicopters patrolling the sky from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 a.m., looking for lawbreakers and people to criminalize, flying over corruption hot spots and disturbing communities with noise pol- lution, inspecting the infrastructure, and providing backup and eyes for officers who had boots on the ground. Every helicopter in the city was hanging over them at that moment, a thousand suns shining down, and that infamous Nightsun was maddening.

Destiny wasn’t going to leave anyone behind to be taken to Hoosegow. Kwanzaa became the passenger on Destiny’s colorful yellow, white, red, and blue CBR, Ericka became the passenger on Indigo’s motor- cycle, hers too a CBR, only new and customized, painted bubble-gum pink with red rims to match her new hair color.

Two CBRs roared like lionesses.

Indigo sped away first, Ericka holding her waist. Destiny pulled away next, Kwanzaa her passenger. Kwanzaa had her face shield flipped up. Her middle fingers were flipped up as well.

Destiny’s personalized tags on her motorcycle read: cunxtu

See. You, Next. Tuesday.

Of the four women, Indigo was the tallest. She was gorgeous, and what enhanced her loveliness were her confidence and an attitude born from two Nigerian parents telling her from her first breath how beautiful she was, which coupled with an understanding of her true unsullied beauty. She was given the African-born truth before American society told her she was too dark-skinned to be searched for if she ever went missing. Straight Outta the Prestigious Hancock Park, Indigo was the first of her family born in the United States, therefore she had dual citizenship and dual accents. She claimed Nigeria more than she ever would America.

Straight Outta Windsor Hills, Ericka was a hair shorter than Indigo and the oldest in the crew. She was recovering from a divorce, a mar- riage to a man of the cloth that had been a marriage from hell, and she in remission from cancer. She’d lost her once-wavy hair during chemo. It was growing back, but she kept it cut close on the sides and back, let it grow long on the top, had the hair dyed blonde and colored the tips of the top cancer-survivor pink. Ericka joked that she attracted Euro- pean men who didn’t like their women too white, and black men who didn’t like their women too African. She was the woman they loved to have on their arms. She joked about shallowness, but in the heart of her heart she hated both biased mentalities.

Destiny Jones was Straight Outta View Park, the land of doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, and entertainers. She wore a thousand and one wavy sisterlocks, all bleached and cascading down her back. Destiny Jones had a face that looked the same now as it did when she was fifteen and attending private school in Bel Air and used her bleached dread- locks to conceal her facial features. She was the silent one in the crew, unless talking to her three girlfriends.

Kwanzaa was two inches over being five feet tall, but she packed seven feet of beauty into those sixty-two inches. Her complexion was smooth; Ghirardelli chocolate personified, with subtle orange under- tones, insinuating that her Middle Passage ancestry was amalgamated with the Trail of Tears. Two weeks ago she’d cut her hair in anger, was uncomfortable with having short hair, then immediately found hair that matched the texture of what she had mangled, and now she wore her top-shelf, custom handmade twenty-six-inch Brazilian hair with lace closure, flipping her mane every other second, as if a wind machine was always blowing in her mind.


Excerpted from "The Blackbirds"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Eric Jerome Dickey.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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