My Review of Commitment By Nia Forrester
Riley and Shawn aka “K Smooth” Gardner had me from their first encounter, when their easy, erudite banter leapt off the page at me. Wait, Nia Forrester’s writing style had me from the first sentence. Yeah, that’s a more appropriate beginning for this review. It’s not often that you read a story about the black romantic experience that is this intelligent and well-informed. When you are an African American young woman who has lived a life comparable to the Huxtables (which oddly I allude to in my current offering I’m in the process of writing), and you’re well-educated and a writer for a political magazine, it is safe to say you really don’t have a whole heck of a lot in common with a rapper. And more often than not, we believe our own stereotypes.
Riley Terry has every reason to believe the hype about Shawn that is ingrained in all of our psyches courtesy of the images we see portrayed in music videos of the young men who populate the hip-hop music genre. Most are products of the inner city, or they perpetrate being so, simply because you’re not credible if you haven’t done your due diligence in the trenches of the hood. It is probably very unfair to lump them all into a category, but this is what we do when we hear their rhymes, which extol their drug use, drug dealing, womanizing, and thuggish ways. Or they may be the other types who talk more about club life, the balling, and big-pimping lifestyle they’ve come into since making it big in the rap game. Unless they happen to be Talib Kweli or someone of his ilk.
These stereotypes almost make Riley eschew the interview of K-Smooth, whom Newsweek has extolled as “hip-hop’s prophet or pariah?” But once Riley meets him, she is surprised to find he isn’t a walking cliché. Their chemistry is instantaneous and after they have engaged in the best verbal foreplay since, well, ever she makes a spontaneous decision that sounds the death-knell for some of her closest interpersonal relationships. And in order not to spoil what I’m sure will be a wonderful adventure for you as a reader to take with Riley into figuring out how to navigate her own life as she falls in love with a man who is everything she isn’t. His resume certainly doesn’t impress her radical feminist mother, her beautiful, out-spoken best friend, or another important person in her life that she forgets until she realizes just how invested she’s become in Shawn. Then of course, she has all the other friends in her life who are more impressed by his bank account and celebrity than what he has come to mean to Riley.
Commitment is a huge tome at five hundred plus pages, but I found it a very easy read because I “got” the characters. I was willing to be immersed in their world for the time that I was because they resonated with me. Now with the next reader, maybe not so much. Writing craft decries that we should cut anything that is too wordy and doesn’t advance the plot. There were probably such places in Commitment, but I wasn’t at all upset that the author left them in, because it gave me such a complete picture of these characters that had me captivated at “hello.” Even the stereotypical hip-hop groupies were so well-drawn I could see and hear them in my imagination so well, it was like I was watching, “Commitment” the movie.
This is a book that has a lot to say to readers of all ethnicities and walks of life about loving someone who doesn’t fit the mold your loved ones have crafted for you–and loving despite how flawed we and the people we love are, through all the drama, and the mistakes we as human beings, ultimately make.
I happily give Commitment four out of five stars!