"The many of us who attain what we may and forget those who help us along the line-- we've got to remember that there are so many others to pull along the way. The further they go, the further we all go." -- Jackie Robinson
In 1966 Maulana Ron Karenga established the seven-day African-American celebration of Kwanzaa. The celebration is adapted from the annual agricultural festivals that are an integral part of African traditions. Karenga hoped to unify African-Americans toward a common set of goals and objectives and to reassert traditional values by focusing on a specific ideal each day of the celebration which begins December 26. Kwanzaa’s seven principles, collectively known as the Nguzo Saba are: Umoja (unity); Kujichagulia, (self-determination); Ujima (collective work and responsibility); Ujamaa (cooperative economics); Nia (purpose); Kuumba (creativity); and Imani (faith).
Someone Like You, Jacquelin Thomas' fourth novel, is Arabesque/BET's full length Kwanzaa romance. (Kwanzaa stories by Margie Rose Walker and Shirley Hailstock are included in two holiday anthologies released by the publisher this season.) Thomas takes the core principle of Kwanzaa, unity, as her theme.
Blythe Bloodstone has lived a sheltered existence and has suffered as a result. An aspiring artist, she went to Paris with her lover -- a fellow artist who was living her dream. The relationship ended when she discovered he was more interested in her money and dumped her to marry a woman with deeper purse strings. An accident has left her father in a wheelchair.
Blythe has returned home to be with him and to work in the family's upscale department store in Beverly Hills. Although she adores her father and grandfather, Blythe is estranged from her mother, sister and brother.
Her first meeting with Khalil Sandford is not a pleasant one. Khalil runs a family-owned newspaper with strong community ties. His paper has run a story taking Bloodstone's to task for forgetting its roots and turning its back on the African-American community which supported it. The newspaper article cited the store's harassment of and indifference to its black customers in its call for a boycott during the retailer's busiest shopping season. Blythe is livid and demands a retraction -- which Khalil refuses to publish.
The contrasts between Blythe and Khalil are wonderfully drawn. His look, philosophy and purpose are Afrocentric. Hers are firmly rooted in the white middle class. His sister scoffs that Blythe is "a white girl dipped in chocolate." The Bloodstones are distant and impersonal, while the Sandfords are a warm, loving and close-knit family. Despite the contrasts, Blythe and Khalil are attracted to each other
In an effort to derail the growing protest within the African-American community, Blythe develops a Kwanzaa celebration for the store. Initially, the promotion is a marketing and public relations endeavor which Blythe later internalizes as she learns more about the observance -- and herself.
In Blythe Bloodstone, the author has created yet another heroine with issues to resolve. She is fragile, vulnerable and has what one character calls a chip on her shoulder the size of Europe. She doesn't always focus in on the real picture. Khalil is a welcome counterpart. He teaches Blythe to give and to accept love, to laugh and to live.
Jacqueline Thomas' tour through the celebration of Kwanzaa is refreshingly subtle. She covers all the basic principles through her development of Blythe's character and her relationship with Khalil without becoming pedantic. There are several subplots and a secondary romance that add a bit of shading to the story.
Someone Like You, like Kwanzaa, is about unity -- personal, as well as within the family and community. Put this one on your holiday shopping list.