One of our recommended books is Single Black Female by Tracy Brown


Tracy Brown’s Single Black Female is a taut, edgy, deftly spun novel about four friends grappling with the dramatic twists and turns of life, love and what it means to “make it” in America.

Ivy Donovan is a successful stylist, entrepreneur, and single mom who has been loyal to her sons’ father, Michael, who’s serving a lengthy prison sentence. But life has gotten lonely over the years, and Ivy wants more for herself. Michael, however, isn’t about to lose his family.

Coco Norris is well-off, single, childless, and struggling with her allegiance to emotionally unavailable men.

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Tracy Brown’s Single Black Female is a taut, edgy, deftly spun novel about four friends grappling with the dramatic twists and turns of life, love and what it means to “make it” in America.

Ivy Donovan is a successful stylist, entrepreneur, and single mom who has been loyal to her sons’ father, Michael, who’s serving a lengthy prison sentence. But life has gotten lonely over the years, and Ivy wants more for herself. Michael, however, isn’t about to lose his family.

Coco Norris is well-off, single, childless, and struggling with her allegiance to emotionally unavailable men. When she finds a man who seems like he can give her everything she has ever wanted, Coco soon discovers that she has taken on more than she can possibly handle.

Deja Maddox is a real estate agent who is married to Bobby, a police sergeant with the NYPD. They have assimilated, looking down on anything that doesn’t fit their buttoned-up, polished life. But Deja isn’t as satisfied as she would like everyone to believe. When Deja’s past returns with a vengeance, she’s forced to face herself as her “perfect” life begins to crumble.

Nikki Diamond is a savvy, self-made businesswoman and social media darling who lives large and with no regrets. She’s also Deja’s little sister and thinks her sister can have so much more than her ho-hum marriage. And Nikki is all too happy to lend a “helping” hand to make that happen.

Things come to a head when Ivy’s youngest son, Kingston, is caught up in a polarizing encounter with the NYPD. Everyone must figure out where they stand, including Bobby, who suddenly has to decide if his “blue life” matters more to him than his Black life and the Black lives of those he loves.

Single Black Female highlights the nuances of Black love, the often tested bonds of Black families, what it means to face the world as a Black man and the joy and pain of being a Black woman.

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  • St. Martin's Griffin
  • Paperback
  • November 2021
  • 368 Pages
  • 9781466841000

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About Tracy Brown

Tracy Brown is the author of Single Black FemaleTracy Brown is the Essence bestselling author of Aftermath, Snapped, Twisted, White Lines and Criminal Minded. Writing has always been her passion, and she finds it an honor to depict for her readers the things she’s seen and heard. She is a native New Yorker, born and raised in Staten Island.


“Brown’s dramatic page-turner is…female-focused urban fiction with heart.” – Booklist

“Tracy Brown’s storytelling is masterful in Single Black Female. She is a compelling scribe!” -Ashley Antoinette, New York Times bestselling author

“I dare you to read Tracy Brown’s new novel “Single Black Female“. She will snatch you out of your life, pull you into the drama-filled world of multifaceted and enthralling women, facing off with thought-provoking dilemmas that will hold you captive from beginning to end. Loved this book!” – J. D. Mason National Bestselling, Award Winning Author

“Tracy Brown once again proves that the art of storytelling isn’t dead.” —K’wan, national bestselling author of Diamond Empire


Fool’s Gold

Ivy sat at the table in the drafty visiting room at Elmira Correctional Facility, staring down at her hands. The place looked like a castle from the outside, but felt like a cold fortress within its steely walls. It was a setting that was sadly familiar to her. In the years since Michael had gone to prison, Ivy had soldiered on, raising their two sons, Noah and Kingston, single-handedly. She brought them to visit him often, no matter how far up north the state of New York moved him. The demeaning routine of traveling to prisons in the wee hours of the morning, storing their valuables in lockers, and being searched invasively by aggressive guards had become a regular part of their lives. To say it had taken its toll on all of them was putting it mildly.

She had come to visit her man on a Thursday morning. It was a deliberate choice. Her work as a salon owner and top-tier stylist had her busier than ever. She had scheduled her clients carefully this week to leave this day open. The upcoming weekend would be a hectic one, and this was the only day she could get here. Her sons—sixteen and twenty-two years old—were usually with her on these visits. But she had allowed them to sit this one out, much to their relief.

As she waited for Michael to come down for his visit, she thought about what she had come to tell him. She knew that it wouldn’t be easy. She glanced around the room at other visitors sitting happily with the inmates they had come to see. She looked at the grimacing guards at the front of the room watching everything closely and doing nothing at the same time.

Finally, the door in the corner opened and a guard escorted Michael out. He smiled the moment he spotted Ivy and walked smoothly in her direction.

Ivy stood and hugged him warmly and briefly, aware the guards were quick to issue a stern verbal warning whenever there was too much contact. Michael had been confined at this facility for the past several years and had built a contentious relationship with most of the guards. For that reason, they cut him no slack in the visiting room. She held on to his hand as he sat down across from her, still as handsome as ever after all these years.

“Hey, beautiful,” he said. “You looking good. All thick and shit. I like it.”

Ivy was tall and statuesque with a gorgeous sepia complexion, a set of dimples that made every woman jealous, and style dripping from every pore. She was big boned, but not fat.

The very definition of thick, with an enviable wardrobe to accommodate those curves.

Ivy smiled, grateful for the compliment, but aware he was being generous with his praise. She’d packed on about fifteen pounds over the past few months and she wasn’t happy about that shit at all.

“Thank you. You look good, too.”

“I thought all night about what you said on the phone yesterday,” he said. He looked her in the eyes, searching for what she wasn’t yet saying. “You said you had something you wanted to talk about. Wouldn’t tell me what it was. Had me thinking all types of shit. So, let’s talk.”

She nodded, slowly let go of his hand. This was it. No foreplay. Just straight to the point. She told herself she shouldn’t be surprised. Michael was always the type to get right down to business.

“This is gonna be my last time coming up here for a while, Mikey.”

Her voice was light and far less confident than she felt. She cleared her throat and spoke with more authority this time. “I need a break. Noah and King do, too.”

She rubbed her arms as if she were cold. But really, she was attempting to comfort herself and push herself to say what she came to say.

“I’ve been telling you for a while how I feel. When you were eight years in, we talked about it for the first time. I sat in this same room and told you how tired I am. How hard it is to get up here all the time. I keep talking about it. But it’s time for me to make a move. I can’t keep doing this, Mikey.”

He shifted in his seat, glaring at her.

She continued. “Things are different now. Noah and King aren’t kids anymore. I’m getting older, too. This is getting harder. I’ve been taking care of everything for a long time now. I’m at the point where I need to start taking care of myself more. Recognize when I need a break. And I need one now, Mikey. Just for a little while.”

Michael stared at her in silence for a time, then he nodded slowly.

“That’s why the boys didn’t come here with you today?” he asked. “They need a break?”

Ivy could hear the anger beneath his words. The hurt. She stared at him, wishing she could make him understand how hard it had been for her to come here today and have this conversation. How incredibly hard it had been for all of them for the past sixteen years of his incarceration.

She nodded. “King had school today.”

“And Noah?” Michael was smirking, but he wasn’t amused at all. “He dropped out of college and moved out to Staten Island with you. So, what’s his excuse?”

Ivy sighed. “They’re tired, Mikey. We just moved, still getting used to everything. After King gets out of school today, they’re gonna go to Coco’s place. She needs their help doing a few things around her apartment. I’ll pick them up from there.”

Michael let out a laugh, though she could tell he found nothing funny.

“Wow. Coco. I haven’t seen her in a while, either. I guess my little sister—who I spoiled rotten and put through college—is tired, too, huh?”

“She is,” Ivy said, nodding. “All of us are. Coming up here as often as we do is taking a toll on everybody. Every two weeks without fail, one of us or all of us comes to visit you. That’s not easy, Mikey. We have to reschedule and cancel appointments, wake up in the middle of the night and drive four hours. It’s not like we’re all sitting around scratching our asses. Every one of us is working hard.”

“And what you think I’m doing, Ivy? You think this shit ain’t hard?”

She watched him closely as he glanced around at the other inmates in the room. She knew from their conversations over the years that some of the inmates were Mikey’s friends, some of them foes. Ivy knew that she and the rest of his family had no idea what he was dealing with on a daily basis. She assumed that he shielded them from most of it, the constant fight he was in to remain dominant in a climate that epitomized the notion of survival of the fittest.

In comparison to many other inmates, he wasn’t having the worst experience behind bars. His commissary was at capacity, his locker stocked with everything he needed and more. He called home daily and received biweekly visits from his lady, his kids, and his extended family. He got mail all the time from his family and friends. He had “friends” inside and was feared and revered by many. But what he didn’t have was the constant presence of the people he loved. He didn’t have the freedom to come and go as he pleased, or the ability to progress in life the way everyone else was. He was stuck in a cage, cornered and stagnant, while the whole world was going on without him.

“You know I don’t need this shit. They got me in here doing life, Ivy. Y’all trying to leave a nigga now?”

“First of all, stop saying that. Nobody’s leaving you. We never left you. Not once. And stop saying you’re in here for life. You can still get out.”

“Pfft,” he scoffed. “I pled guilty in exchange for fifteen years. Every time I turn around, they charge me with some other bullshit and add more time to my sentence. I went before the parole board and them muthafuckas couldn’t wait to deny me. What you think is gonna happen the next time I go in there? They gonna change their mind?”

Ivy hated the hopelessness she saw in his eyes. Hated herself even more for feeling that same hopelessness inside.

“When I was home, I always took care of you.”


“Never told you ‘no.’ If I had it, you had it. Now I’m down and out and you wanna stop coming up here. You wanna take a break. Does that shit sound right to you?”

“I’m not saying it’s right. I’m just saying we’ve been coming up here every month for sixteen years.”

The expression on Michael’s face made it clear he didn’t see the problem with that.

“You were going with me to the car dealerships and all the stores for ten years before that. I didn’t hear you complain. So now that it’s the downside of the game, you can’t take it no more?”

He sucked his teeth in disgust.

“When I was out there making moves, everybody was good. I made sure of that. I bought my mother a house before she died—the same house my sister Patsy lives in now. I put Coco through college. I gave you the world. Left you with everything I had. Enough for you to start your business and take care of you and the boys. And now that Patsy got the house and Coco got her degrees and you got your career, y’all gonna leave a nigga behind. I see how it is.”

Ivy threw up her hands. “You’ve been locked up for King’s whole life, Mikey. Noah hardly remembers a time when you were home with us. I’ve been bringing them on these visits for sixteen years. Since they were kids. They’re grown-ass men now. They love you. They know it’s not easy for you being in here. But this is hard on them, too. It’s hard on all of us.”

“What’s hard? Driving your new car up here and then going back to your new house? It’s hard for Coco to live in her high-rise apartment in Manhattan and play dress-up all day? For Patsy and her kids to be living in the house I paid for?”

Ivy frowned. “That’s what you think we do all day?”

“Yup,” he said defiantly. “Every one of you is living off the work I put in.”

“You make it sound like we didn’t put in work, too.”

“You did?” Michael folded his arms across his chest and sat back, waiting for her to explain that one.

Ivy was hurt and it showed. She thought of all the years she spent taking risks in the name of love. Michael sounded like those risks meant nothing to him.

“You were the one who paid for it, but Coco worked hard to finish college and get her master’s degree. And, yeah, you set me up. Made sure me and the boys had enough to get by.”

“More than enough,” Michael corrected her.

“But I took what you gave me and quadrupled that shit. I’ve been running my business for ten years now. By myself. All while holding you down and making sure that our sons are on the right track.”

He shook his head, still defiant. “You’re trying to make them into something they’re not. I keep telling you that. You sent Noah off to college, wasting money. I told you he was never the type of kid that’s cut out for college.”

“And what was the alternative? Let him get in the game?”

Michael smirked. “And end up like me? Just say it.”

Ivy didn’t deny it.

“You changed. I noticed it years ago. Pushing for Noah to go to college instead of letting him get out there and put in work like a man. Selling the house in Brooklyn so you could move out to Staten Island. Out there with Deja and her trifling ass. Supposedly because the schools out there are better for King. But we both know you’re just trying to get them away from Patsy and her kids and the truth of who we are and where we come from.”

“And what do you want for them, Mikey? This?”

Ivy looked around the room questioningly.

“I want them to be men!” he said. “Not some sucker niggas who can’t hold their own when the time comes.”

“And being a man means what? Looking over their shoulders all the time? Getting so powerful that they start to feel untouchable like you did?”

“So now you’re blaming me for being in here, knowing that I did what I had to do to protect all of us.”

“I’m not blaming you.”

“Sure fuckin’ sounds like it!”

“I knew who you were from the beginning. I knew the life you were living. But call me crazy. I thought you knew that shit couldn’t go on forever. I thought you would find a way out of that life eventually. The businesses I helped you set up. The investments. I never wanted you to be in the streets long-term.”

Michael shrugged. “The streets is all I know. My father was a hustler till he got killed. My uncle died in jail. I did what I was taught to do. Maybe you saw a future where I wasn’t hustling. But I never saw that shit. The grind is in me. The streets is who I am. And you used to love it. Or you acted like you did. Now you got a little freedom, and you think you get to walk away. With my sons? You must be crazy.”

The look he gave her sent chills down her spine. So cold and threatening.

“Those are my sons. Not just yours.”

“Whether you think so or not, I’m doing a great job with Noah and Kingston. They’re on the right track. I’m trying to keep it that way.”

Ivy felt a headache coming on and sighed.

“I just want to spend some time getting settled in. We just moved in a few months ago, and there’s still boxes everywhere. I need to stand still for a minute. Just stand still and take a fuckin’ breath and unpack … all of it.”

She was talking about much more than the boxes piled up in her new house.

Michael looked around the visiting room at others like him, dressed in their prison uniforms but mentally transported somewhere else while they enjoyed their visits. As long as they were seated at these benches smiling at their loved ones, they could pretend they were someplace else, that things weren’t as hopeless as they seemed when they were locked away inside the toxic prison walls that housed them. He thought about how excited he got whenever a visitor was coming. He would lay his clothes out the night before, wake up early that morning and wait for them to call his name. Each visit was an opportunity to break out of jail for a while. Now the privilege of escaping reality—at least mentally during the duration of their visit—was being snatched from him. Instead of bringing him a few hours of happiness, Ivy had brought him another painful reason to go back to his dorm and sulk.

He looked at her, long and hard. There were so many things he wanted to say in that moment. None of them nice, but he kept his mouth shut until he had his emotions somewhat under control.

“You should have just left in the beginning the way that Deja did with Rashid,” he ultimately said, as calmly as he could. “At least he knew from the start that he had to do his time alone.”

Ivy’s eyes narrowed. Deja and Rashid’s relationship had always been a sensitive subject for them to discuss. When Michael had gotten arrested in connection with a drug-related murder, his boy Rashid had gone down with him. Ivy had been by her man’s side in the years since then.

Rashid’s girl Deja had jumped ship immediately. Ivy didn’t appreciate the comparison Michael was making one bit.

She took a breath. “Listen. I know this ain’t what you want to hear right now. You feel like you’re being abandoned in here. But you know I would never do that to you. None of us would. We just can’t keep coming up here all the time. But you can still call. We’ll still write, still keep the packages coming.”

Michael glared at her. He wanted to go off, but the corrections officers in the room guaranteed that wouldn’t end well.

“What’s his name?”

She frowned. “Who?”

“You tell me. Who you with? What’s his name? It must be some nigga you met that got you switching up all of a sudden. You sold the apartment in Brooklyn, moved out to Staten Island with the kids. Away from my family. Away from yours. Got you a new car. Now you can’t come and see me as often. All of a sudden, your grind got you tired. Shit ain’t adding up. So, just keep it one hundred. What’s the nigga’s name?”