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  • Chocolate Sangria
  • Written by Tracy Price-Thompson
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  • Chocolate Sangria
  • Written by Tracy Price-Thompson
  • Format: eBook | ISBN: 9780307517296
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Chocolate Sangria

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A Novel

Written by Tracy Price-ThompsonAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Tracy Price-Thompson

eBook

List Price: $9.99

eBook

On Sale: March 12, 2009
Pages: 352 | ISBN: 978-0-307-51729-6
Published by : One World/Ballantine Ballantine Group
Chocolate Sangria Cover

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ABOUT THE BOOK ABOUT THE BOOK
ABOUT THE AUTHOR ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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READER'S GUIDE READER'S GUIDE
Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

Juanita Lucas is a young woman living in a housing project in Brooklyn. Although she has a very light complexion, she is proud of her blackness, even as she takes a beating from the very sistahs she tries so hard to emulate. Her only friend, Scooter Morrison, is an upwardly mobile brother who also happens to be young, gifted, and gay. Then a chance encounter with two fine Puerto Rican men changes Juanita’s and Scooter’s lives in ways they could never have imagined. There is Conan, a hardworking man who wrestles with both his love for Juanita and his guilt over his brother’s death; and Jorge, an unscrupulous bad-boy thug who has no problem using what he’s got to get what he wants, until he comes dangerously close to getting scorched by his own flames.

Fast-paced, suspenseful, and unpredictable, Chocolate Sangria explores the hearts of two lovers who get caught in the great cultural divide—
and the devastating consequences of keeping secrets, telling lies, and betraying those you love.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

BROOKLYN, NEW YORK JULY 1983 That thar boy’s got half a bag of sugar in his tank,” Herbie Lucas declared upon setting eyes on Socrates for the very first time. He and his sister, Hattie, watched from their fifth-floor window as their neighbors Jeo and Dorothea Morrison stepped out of a camel-colored Brougham with their five-year-old grandson and his small cardboard suitcase in tow.

“Herbie, hush!” Hattie glanced over her shoulder and snapped her fingers twice. “You see Miss Nita setting over there pretending to fuss with that doll baby’s hair when she really listening at us. You know she repeat everything she hear! Besides”—she tucked a strand of graying hair behind her ear, then turned back to the window and nodded toward the slender boy who shuffled down the pathway nestled between his grandparents—“the poor chile just saw his mama slit his daddy from neckbone to navel, then they make him ride all the way from Alabama to Brooklyn with that crazy-ass Jeo when everybody knows he’s blind in one eye and can’t see out the othern.” She grunted. “And all you can talk about is how sweet he look.”

“Ah-yeah.” Herbie coughed and touched the corners of a starched white handkerchief to his lips. “I reckon old J.J. did go out and get hisself gutted like a fish, and I’m glad Jeo and that old struggle buggy didn’t tear up the road none too bad, but that thar boy is sweet. Mark my words.”

Hattie peered closely as the trio approached the entrance to the building. She studied Scooter’s willowy walk and the way his lean body seemed to move naturally against the soft summer wind.

“Ain’t sweet,” she determined. “He small for his age is all. Look a bit like Diana Ross to me. With all that pretty peanut-brittle skin and them big ol’ eyes, I thank he kinda cute. Plus, Nita got her somebody to play with now. Be good for her to be around another chile.”

Herbie coughed again, this time hacking up a thick wad of phlegm. Leaning out the open window he pressed his index finger to the opening in his throat and hock-spit down into the littered grass below. He rasped, “Don’t know ’bout that. They say the boy mute, too. Jeo say the po-lice found him sucking his fanger and settin’ in four days’ wurf of his own mess. I bet that’s why he cain’t talk. Stuff like that gotta do somethin’ to a boy. Make him turn ’round inside hisself and ball up in his own shit.”

Hattie stepped away from the window and loosened the tails of her apron. She draped it over the back of a kitchen chair before shaking her head. “You can set there and stare all you want, but I’ma go meet them at the elevator. After all that driving, they gots to be wore out.” She lifted a tin pan from a cooling rack and covered it with a glimmering sheet of foil. Despite herself, she moved back to the window for another peek. “C’mon, Nita.” She looked down at the pigtailed little girl who had squeezed herself between the two adults and now stood watching the new arrival in silence. “Let’s carry one of these-here pecan pies to Sister Dot and help her put on some tea.”

When the elevator opened its doors, Hattie stumbled against Juanita’s small shoulder and nearly cried out. Dorothea Morrison had gone down home a spry woman of sixty who made regular visits to the salon to maintain her ebony hive of spiral-curled hair. The woman who stepped off the elevator clutching the hand of a thin boy with miles of eyelashes and a blank stare was stooped in the back and had a head full of snow-white strands.

Sitting in the neat kitchen decorated in tones of tangerine and lime, Dorothea shook visibly as she spooned too much sugar into her teacup and accepted a slice of Hattie’s pie. Her grandson, Socrates, had fallen into an exhausted heap in the first chair he’d come across, and Juanita stood hovering over him, her green eyes roaming his face with undisguised curiosity.

Hattie snapped her fingers. “Come ’way from him, Nita, afore you stare him awake.” Then to Dorothea: “Dot, that baby shole look tired. Didn’t he sleep any all that way up here?”

Dot nodded. “That all he do is sleep!”

“He talk any yet?”

Dot sighed and shook her head. She raked a few large crumbs from the table and into her open palm. “Ain’t opened his mouth. Act like he trying to leave us. Doctors say his mind went so deep he won’t never remember none of it, and when he gets older we should just tell him both his folks died in a car accident.” She squeezed her hands into fists and her bottom lip quivered. “That damn demon oughtta die! Oughtta fry in the ’lectric chair!” she whispered. “Goddamn her wicked soul! Jeo Junior was my onliest son, Hattie! You hear me? My onliest son!”

Hattie stood and retrieved a stiff dishrag from a rack above the sink, then held it out to accept the pie crumbs. She patted her old friend’s back and rocked her the way you would comfort a colicky baby. “Trust Jesus, Dot. He don’t make no mistakes. ’Sides, you got that baby over there to worry about now. J.J. was a man, but that’n there is still a chile. You gots to concentrate on him.”

Dottie nodded and wiped her hands on the dry cloth, sobbing softly as she reached into her dress pocket and blew her nose into a crumpled white handkerchief. “That’s what the doctors say too. They say to leave him be and he’ll quit sleeping and start talking when his mind and his heart is ready.” A fresh wave of tears spilled down her cheeks and she let go of a quiet sob. “I just don’t know if’n my poor little Scooter is gon’ ever be ready.”

///

It took four-year-old Juanita Lucas three months to chip away the wall of silence surrounding Scooter Morrison. Precocious and determined, each morning after breakfast she marched two apartment doors down and, with her green eyes sparkling and flashing, announced to Dot Morrison, “I’m here to save Scooter.”

And save him she did. Juanita pestered Scooter like a gnat, asking him a million questions and answering every one of them for him. She bossed him around like a prison warden, forced him to play with her dolls, fixed him peanut butter and cheese sandwiches, and demanded he lick his plate clean.

She had no mercy.

While the adults in the building clucked over Scooter, fed him candy drops, and called him “poor baby,” Juanita harassed him like a hornet and left no room in his life for either sorrow or solitude. Every morning she jerked a narrow-toothed comb through his coarse hair, painfully tearing out patches and snapping it off at the roots, slathered his arms and legs with a stick of cocoa butter to get rid of his “skeeter-bites,” and insisted he open his mouth and let her scrub his teeth and gums with wet baking soda and a frayed toothbrush.

After a typical morning of Juanita asking endless questions and then supplying Scooter with the answers, he’d finally had his fill. “Why is your bottom lip so much bigger than your top lip?” Juanita inquired, and just as innocently answered in a voice she assumed would sound like his. “ ’Cause one day when I was down Souf, way back in Ally-bammy, I fell out of a pecan tree and bumped my lip on a rock. Then I sucked all of the blood out of it and filled it back up with tobacco juice and that’s why I have such a big, fat liver lip!” With a burst of laughter she tossed her hair in his direction and leaned against the bright blue card table that was cluttered with finger paints and colorful sheets of construction paper.

Scooter lunged. A strangled cry tore from his throat and he extended his hands like claws. Crazed, he knocked over a child-size yellow chair and snatched ferociously at his green-eyed tormentor.

Bracing herself, Juanita sidestepped Scooter’s assault, and with a heavy thrust sent him crashing into the card table before tumbling to the floor, landing flat on his tear-streaked face.

Scooter recovered swiftly. Oblivious to the mess of paints that splattered his clothing and colored his rage, he scrambled to his feet. Leaping, he sailed forward and sank his nails into Juanita’s face, clawing her left cheek. His skinny arms flailed wildly as he windmilled into her and buried his hands in her tangles down to her scalp, swinging her around by her endless bulk of hair.

Recklessly, they tussled and scrapped and pinched and clawed, until a triumphant Scooter, with tears pouring from his eyes and a slice of red war paint streaking his chin, found himself sitting astride Juanita’s heaving chest. As he stared down into her face he saw no malice and no fear. Whereas he was wild and crazed, Juanita seemed accepting and calm. He pulled back his tiny fist to smash those steady green eyes to Kalamazoo, and then hesitated. Instead of striking, Scooter peered at Juanita closely, tilting his head from one side to the other.

And then he uttered his first words in more than three months.

“You got a big green booger in your nose.” He belched, then grinned. “It’s even greener than your ugly, bugged-out kryptonite eyes!”

And with that, the fighting children burst into uncontrollable laughter, rolling and frolicking in the paint-and-litter chaos of the floor, Scooter’s high-pitched peals ringing and blending with Juanita’s childish chimes and both filling the air with the unabashed glee of two very small children who have suddenly discovered that life can be happy and carefree.


From the Hardcover edition.
Tracy Price-Thompson

About Tracy Price-Thompson

Tracy Price-Thompson - Chocolate Sangria
Tracy Price-Thompson is the national bestselling author of Black Coffee and Chocolate Sangria, a Main Selection of the Black Expressions Book Club. A Brooklyn, New York, native, decorated Desert Storm veteran, and retired Army engineer officer, Price-Thompson is a Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Award finalist and a Ralph Bunche Graduate Fellow at Rutgers University who holds degrees in business administration and social work. She is currently working on her next novel and can be reached at tracythomp@aol.com.


From the Hardcover edition.
Praise

Praise

“A wonderfully written novel that demands attention from page one.”
—ZANE, author of Nervous

“[A] HEART-WRENCHING TALE OF LOVE AND FAMILY . . . A fable on the consequences of keeping secrets and betrayal.”
—USA Today

“Vivid, striking prose, heartfelt and authentic. Chocolate Sangria is a thought-provoking book that examines sensitive issues among people of color.”
—MARCUS MAJOR
Author of 4 Guys and Trouble

Chocolate Sangria is a wonderfully-written novel that demands attention from page one. Tracy Price-Thompson delivers a powerful sophomore effort, proving she has a literary talent
that will entertain readers for generations to come.”
—ZANE
Author of The Heat Seekers
Discussion Questions

Discussion Guides

1. Children can sometimes be cruel. Why were the neighborhood children so merciless to Juanita and Scooter? What did they do to protect themselves from such cruelty? And how did their bond become stronger and more complex as they grew older?

2. Hattie is the self-sacrificing epitome of the strong Black woman. What made her this way? How did the murder of her young sister shape her views of Hispanics? What did she see in Lola that touched her heart? Why do you think she agreed to raise Juanita, and what motivated her to build such an elaborate lie surrounding Juanita’s birth and parentage? What could Lola and Pierre have done differently?

3. While Juanita experiments mildly with acts of bulimia in Chocolate Sangria, the novel is clearly not meant to address bulimia as a health issue or to resolve the crisis of bulimics in our society. Yet, what effect did Juanita’s weight and ambiguous looks have on her self-esteem? Were her efforts to make herself appear as “Black” as possible understandable? How confusing and dismaying might it have been for her to look through her family photo album and not see anyone who looked remotely like her? Is our self-identity determined by our physical features and our environment, or does it come from within?

4. Each of the main characters in Chocolate Sangria suffered tragic experiences that influenced events over the course of their lives. How did you feel about Scooter? Could his early trauma have been partially responsible for the choices he made later on in life? What was lacking in his character and in his life that made him such a willing victim to Jorge? Should he have turned himself in to the authorities for his role in the robbery, or was his shame, his stabbing, and the realization of how his father really died punishment enough?

5. What role, in your opinion, did Uncle Herbie play in Chocolate Sangria? From where did his sense of obligation and responsibility toward Hattie and Juanita spring? How helpful was he in providing balance to Hattie’s biases? In providing positive reinforcement as Juanita struggled to accept her weight and body-type?

6. The role Conan played in the death of his twin brother and the guilt he experienced as a result of Thor’s death was powerful and intense. His love for his best friend, Jorge, was also deep and profound. Do you think Conan’s guilt was a factor in his allegiance to Jorge, even when he himself felt betrayed? And after losing Thor, why did Conan draw closer to Jorge? Might it have been easier for Conan to see Jorge’s true colors if his eyes were not so clouded with grief?

7. How do you think the sadistic sexual abuse Jorge suffered as a child contributed to his outlook on non-Hispanics and his inability to feel remorse for using and abusing others, especially in terms of sexual domination? Was there something unnatural about the possessiveness he felt toward Conan, or might this type of behavior be typical of those who have experienced early trauma and suffered childhood loss? Was Jorge gay? Straight? Or simply an opportunist?

8. At the conclusion of Chocolate Sangria Scooter is at a crossroads in his life. What direction can you visualize his life taking? Did he use Sol Steinberg in much the same manner that Jorge used him? Can his friendship with Juanita be restored to its former level? How is he likely to feel about Juanita’s growing relationship with Conan?

9. In Chocolate Sangria people of color share limited resources and a common community, however, intra-racial prejudice is experienced on many levels. Why do you think minorities in America compete against each other, and what can this be attributed to? Is it realistic to think that two people, in spite of different backgrounds and family pressures, can love each other and stay happily together?

10. What is more necessary to Juanita and Conan’s lasting love: their commonalities or their differences? How does the diversity in their ethnicities bring them closer together? Juanita was obviously Black and proud. Does being pro-Black mean you must also be anti other races?

11. Which of the characters in Chocolate Sangria did you identify with the most? The least? Which is more important to human relations, tolerance or respect? What are the biggest challenges you face in tolerating, respecting or accepting others who are VERY different from you?  What would it take for you to overcome those challenges?




From the Hardcover edition.

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