Growing up, browsing through bookstores, Erica Simone Turnipseed dreamed of the day she’d see her own name in print. The Brooklyn-born, Yale-educated anthropology student soon realized it was easier to unearth centuries-old artifacts than to find a story about young, gifted, Black folks like herself. That’s why she wrote A Love Noire (Amistad, $23.95), her smart 2003 novel about a group of Buppies and bohemian Black characters.

The book struck a chord with readers, who were caught up in the unlikely hookup between Noire Demain, the unpretentious Ph.D. student, and Innocent Pokou, the self-assured Ivory Coast banker whom she falls for. Many readers didn’t want to see their love story end. Thankfully, Turnipseed revisits their lives in Hunger (Amistad, $23.95), our fourth Essence Book Club recommended read. In the soulful sequel, Noire and Innocent are forced to confront their feelings about each other in a world shattered by 9/11. “After the attack, I didn’t feel our stories were being told,” she explains. “We also felt a longing to be close to someone.”

A year ago, Turnipseed wed producer Kevin Webb, after enduring her own personal crisis. Shortly after Noire was published, she discovered she was pregnant. But three months before her daughter was due, tragedy struck. Turnipseed was diagnosed with HELLP Syndrome, a rare condition that causes the body to destroy its own blood. Grace Ayodele Webb, her baby, died four days after birth, and Turnipseed herself nearly died. The author says that she relied on her faith to get her through her grief. Now she’s excited to talk about Hunger, but she doesn’t shy away from discussing her trauma. “If you feel something deeply, sharing it is freeing for you,” she reflects. Turnipseed, who is now working on My Name Is Zanzibar, adds, “That I’m still alive is a blessing in itself.” We couldn’t agree more.

30-Second Book Excerpt

In this exclusive sneak peek from Hunger, after a year and a half apart, Noire reunites with Innocent to pass on devastating news: “They sat on the bed, Noire’s tears drawing silent lines down her face. Watching Noire cry always upset him…. She pulled away from him just enough for her lips to brush his. ‘We-I-I can’t,’ Innocent moaned. ‘This is not what you need.’ ‘So then give me what I want,’ she challenged him.”


Photo Credit: Peter Chin
Photo Credit: Time Inc. Digital Studio