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Sylvester Stephens is an author and playwright who performs motivational speaking engagements to motivate youths and encourage literary awareness. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia. Visit SylvesterStephens.com.
I knew the day I was born with an umbilical cord wrapped tightly around my throat, my mother crying, and the doctor screaming the words, “unless it’s necessary, don’t look at the face,” my life was going to be nothing but pure hell.
I was born the eldest of two boys in Buena Vista, Michigan. My parents were very religious and very strict. They preached two subjects constantly, heaven and hell. If you listened to what they said, you were bound for heaven, but if not, you were on a fast track to hell. Needless to say, I was very obedient. Well, as far they knew anyway. My younger brother, Johnny, on the other hand, wasn’t afraid to go to hell. He brought hell with him.
Yes, I was the golden boy in my parents’ eyes. So why was my life such a mess, you ask? Well, it’s easy to fool Mom and Dad. The world, however, is not so easily bamboozled!
My childhood was one of confusion and misunderstanding. I was always confused why people misunderstood me. I was very bright for my age; I understood situations that were beyond my years. I had superior book sense without having to read books. Intellectual inclination, I think it’s called.
I was a social misfit. I didn’t fit in with the intellectual kids, and I certainly didn’t fit in with the cool kids. I did, however, manage to indulge myself in mischievous behavior to hang out with the bad kids. But I always had limitations on just how much trouble in which I would dabble, and soon, I wouldn’t fit in with them, either. Consequently, I spent a lot of time alone.
Loneliness is said to feed the prowess of the imagination. After spending so much time with myself, I started to create my own friends. I’m not talking about the imaginary friends you have when you’re five or six years old. I was married and divorced twice before I let my imaginary friend, Bernice, return back to the world of the subliminal. Yes, I had an imaginary best friend, and no, I was not insane. I knew she was only imaginary, insane people don’t recognize that!
As a youth I was extremely shy to approach girls. I created Bernice to be my confidante and advisor to the female species. She wore long ponytails and dressed like a tomboy. She wasn’t very feminine, but then she wasn’t overly masculine, either. She was the type of girl I certainly wouldn’t be attracted to in real life. I liked prissy, very feminine girls. But despite her outwardly appearance, I still kind of had a crush on Bernice. Whenever I was around Bernice, I always had a sense of familiarity.
I felt comfortable discussing personal issues with her that I could never discuss with anyone else. As I grew older the comfort remained, and so did Bernice. Bernice always talked about karma, and doing unto others as you would have them do unto you, so to speak. She was very kind, and helped me stay on the right side of the tracks.
Some of Bernice’s advice I held under scrutiny. She convinced me to marry my first wife. Bad idea! That didn’t turn out well at all. Then she convinced me to marry my second wife, which turned out even worse. After my second divorce, I told her to kiss my ass and get the hell out of my life. And just like that, she was gone.
I met my first wife, Tonita, in high school. We didn’t start to date until after we both wound up unknowingly at the same college. We broke up, off and on, until we graduated. We ended up living in the same city and started to date seriously. After shacking up for a while we decided to get married. We both had our doubts, but we had been through so much for so long we figured, what could possibly break us up? We’d been through infidelity, poverty, distance, and managed to survive it all. But to answer that question of what could possibly break us up? Marriage!
Within one year of our marriage we had packed our bags and called it quits. We did, however, manage a beautiful little girl, Brimone, who captured my heart. Once the anger and pain of our divorce subsided, we found that we were still great friends. She remarried, and I got along with her husband quite well.
I met my second wife, Cecelia, shortly after my divorce from my first wife was final. We were passionately in love, but once the passion ran out, so did everything else. We never took the time to become friends while we were together, so now we are strangers who were once in love. Once again, out of my disastrous marriage, I managed a beautiful girl, Alexiah.
It is said that an artist does not know his best work until his heart has known suffering. I can confess that I truly know my best work, and know it well, because suffer my heart has done.
In high school I decided that I wanted to become a lawyer. One of my high school teachers instructed me to choose English and political science as majors—political science to prepare me for law, and English to prepare me on how to articulate the law to others. I took his advice and did simply that.
During my undergraduate studies I was an excellent student, never once dropping below a 4.0 grade-point average in my four years of academia. Physically, my once small, fragile frame had exploded into a strapping muscular young man. A once tenor voice had become deep bass. Though I was not recruited, I tried out for football, and made the team easily as a walk-on. During my senior year, I was an All-American and later drafted by the New England Patriots in the second round.
I played professional football for two years, seeing a little playing time in my sophomore season. I couldn’t, or didn’t want to, commit to the brutal time-consuming practices. I simply wanted to show up and play on Sundays. That didn’t go over well with my team. So I walked away from professional football and never once looked back. Well, maybe once.
As my sports career dwindled, my romantic career accelerated at a high velocity. Women were plentiful. I was rich! Young! And handsome! I stood six feet, two inches tall with dark-brown smooth skin, a nice clean faded haircut with dark shiny eyebrows and absolutely no facial hair. I had a size forty-eight-inch chest, with a thirty-two-inch waistline. It was once stated that if we ever had a problem landing a 747 plane at the airport, my shoulders were always an option. I spoke poetically and artistically when conversing with women, creating an element of mystery and charm. I guess most people would call this being a bit ostentatious, but I dispute that claim. In my case, it is merely an observation of one’s self.
After I completed my undergraduate degree and my short stint in the National Football League, I studied law at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The one major benefit of playing professional football was not the money, but the opportunity to get into Harvard’s prestigious law school. After two attempts, I passed the bar and moved to Atlanta, Georgia.
As fate would have it, my career would not be law, but writing professionally. I submitted my manuscripts to more publishers than I care to mention, and was rejected by each and every one of them. Somehow my manuscript fell into the hands of an independent publisher who had ties to a major distributor, and he decided to publish my work. I was offered a three-book deal with a pretty generous advance on my sales. I accepted, and I masterfully wrote creative, socially oriented books: books that all Americans should have appreciated, particularly African-Americans.
My books depicted America in her biased political and social structure of race and class. Unfortunately, for my career and me, the books barely made it out of the printer’s bindery before they were being shipped right back. I wrote three books in three years, and barely sold enough to cover the cost of the ink. Thank God for that generous non-refundable advance!
In my opinion, I had written some of the most gripping conscientious writings in modern era. The public didn’t respond favorably to politically fictional books that didn’t scandalize a political figure, so my literary career went down the tube quickly.
I started to write entertainment news after that. I wrote articles for a local newspaper using the pseudonym, Cyrus. The articles led to my own daily column and I made a pretty good living.
One day I ran across an article that read, “Black Women: The New Civil Rights Movement!” I read the article and couldn’t believe my eyes. The article told how black men have been left behind in the movement of political, economic, and social progression due to laziness and ignorance. It stated that black women no longer needed black men to raise a family. The article explained that women in corporate America could be just as competitive and productive as men, without the stress and agitation brought upon by men.
It gave the staggering statistics of black men in jail in comparison to those in college. Those jailed twice outnumbered those in college. And she added that those black men who were successful enough to make it up the ranks in corporate America often became much like their white male predecessors; too competitive, too arrogant, and too greedy. I was furious. When it came to black men, it seemed that we’re damned if we do, and we’re damned if we don’t. I thought to myself, am I the only person angry by this bullshit?
I contacted the lady who wrote the article, a Mrs. Jaline Dandy, and found that her column was her moonlighting job. She was actually a manager of the claims department at a major corporation called Upskon. To my surprise, she was a white woman who was born and raised in Oregon. Oregon? What the hell? Are there any black people in Or...
--This text refers to the
Mass Market Paperback
Author Sylvester Stephens penned a novel that gives readers an inside perspective of "Office Girls" from a male perspective. Things are never what they appear to be on the surface, and everyone has something going on in their lives that they keep well hidden.
Michael Forrester is a retired NFL player, turned journalist ,turned novelist who has something to prove to Jaline Dandy; or should I say do to Jaline to get back at her for publicly trashing his journalistic skills. The greatest opportunity presents itself when Michael applies for and accepts a positisn at Upskon where Jaline is currently the manager of the office. The fun begins immediately.
One by one Michael makes friends with the women in the office, and becomes a little more than friends with a few of them, but he keeps his focus on getting revenge against Jaline. He figures what better way to get it than to write a book about women in the workplace who act just like men when it comes to position and power. Little by little he is able to learn the stories of each of the women in the office; where they are from originally, what brings them to Atlanta and to Upskon. What Michael is not prepared for is becoming involved with the Office Girls outside of the office, and ultimately their present lives.
There are incidents of domestic violence, getting to know each others children, and sharing intimate and secret parts of their lives that change Michael from just being the only man in the office to being one of the "girls." The more Michael gets to know the women, the more he learns about them and becomes a loving friend to them all, Ms. Virginia and Cynthia in particular.Read more ›
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As we all know, to be presented to the world by Zane, there has got to be some illicit sexual scenes. However, in addition to that, this book had substance and managed to be captivating, entertaining, heart felt and witty all in the same essence.
We meet Michael, a banished writer from the literary world, who takes a job at Upskon to avenge the slaughter of black men that Jaline, a white upper management woman, wrote in a national paper. Hoping to prove to the world that women can be just as ruthless and power hungry as men if and when given the opportunity to rise to the occasion in the corporate world as well as to gain access back into the literary world, Michael finds himself in the perfect situation: an office where 99 percent of employees are women. However, while wanting to prove a point to the world, Michael proves a point to himself. He finds himself involve in many office affairs, taking on the office girls joy, pain, and drama and initially becoming one of the office girls. But most importantly, he finds himself.
I taught I would not have liked this novel because one: it is not my usual gangsta read and two: chapter one took forever and a damn day to get to the point. However, that is the only slow and boring part of the book. There were some mushy parts but it was not corny, which is a thin line. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will give it a 4.5 in its genre of African American love.
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This book was awesome. I completely fell in love with Ms.Virginia's character. I felt like she was my mother/grandmother. I love how Sylvester put Cynthia and Michael together they made the cutest couple. The book had its sad moments but at the end there was an enlightening message. I just ordered Nature of a Man, it's dealing with Alicia and Johnny(Michael's brother). I'm so excited i cant wait!!!!!!!!!!!
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Michael Forrester hails from Buena Vista, Michigan. After passing the bar, he moves to Atlanta, Georgia where instead of practicing law, he delves into a writing profession. After writing three unsuccessful books, he starts to write articles in a local newspaper under a pseudonym, making a pretty good living. One day he comes across an article which holds black men in an unfavorable light and he becomes outraged. He contacts the woman who wrote the article and asks her to rewrite it since she based her research on black women only. She refuses, so he decides to do his own research. After being fired from his job, he is hired in an office that is staffed by all women. He decides to get all of their stories no matter how he has to go about it, to write the ultimate book that'll put him on the bestseller's list.
Things quickly spiral out of control, because of all Michael does to obtain each one of these women's story. Will his plan be revealed? And, will new friendships and love affairs he has engaged in be put to the test? Will he lose focus of his goal and gain more than he originally set out for?
I've got to be honest when I first ran across THE OFFICE GIRLS by Sylvester Stephens, I was a little "iffy" but I have got to tell you this was an incredible story. It depicts black women in a favorable light, and tells the story of ordinary everyday women and the challenges they face day to day. It actually brought tears to my eyes, because you can relate to these women, if you're not one of them, you know of someone just like them. The story is so real that you get attached to the characters and you begin to feel for them and with them.
Reviewed by Leona Romich for The RAWSISTAZ Reviewers
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