Author: Rebekah Weatherspoon
Genre: NA Contemporary F/F Romance
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Publication Date: October 1st, 2014
Links: Amazon | Amazon UK | B&N | iBooks | Kobo | Smashwords | Publisher | Goodreads
I’m a few years late to the party on this, but TREASURE was exactly the refresher I needed after a few naff reads.
If I had to sum this book up in one word, I’d call it real. It’s so many more things than that, but what got to me was the reality and depth of the characters and their relationship, from the awkward to the sweet, from the hilarious to the heartbreaking, from the angsty to the sexual.
And I’m going to tell you right here, right now, that no matter your fucking orientation, Alexis and Trisha are your relationship goals. Full stop.
Alexis Chambers is eighteen, a new college freshman, and a baby butch lesbian who’s never so much as kissed a girl, let alone had a girlfriend, but that doesn’t stop her from knowing with certainty exactly how gay she is. Trisha Hamilton, aka Treasure, is a confident femme, twenty years old, and a stripper who’s just earned her way into her first year studying for a degree in comp sci. The two meet at The Luxor Lounge, when Alexis’s sister’s bachelorette party turns into a borderline religious experience the moment Alexis sets eyes on Treasure and can’t think about anything else. The two have one hell of an intimate moment in the VIP room, and it should be over at that.
Until it turns out that they’re in the same class at university, and can’t take their minds – or eyes – off each other.
Some might call this insta-love, but I’d call it more insta-crush, and that insta-crush packed in the emotion, taking off running and never letting up. The way Alexis and Trisha are with each other is so charming and sweet and guileless that it will take your breath away. This book gave me so many feels in such a short space that I don’t even know how to begin describing them all, or the respect I felt for Weatherspoon as an author by the time I turned to the last page. I will say that it took me until about 75% to realize I’d been smiling the whole fucking time, because TREASURE was just that heartwarming, that funny, that utterly absorbing. The moment Alexis gets to know Trisha instead of Treasure, the two both start blooming in ways that make them come alive on the page.
Alexis is someone I relate to so deeply. She’s scarred, mentally and physically, by the difficulties of anxiety and the legacy of a moment of desperation and hopelessness; as a young Black woman from a successful family she’s under a great deal of pressure not just to uphold the legacy of A Certain Kind of Black Family, but to also face the problems that come with a community whose mental health needs are sorely underserved. As a suicide survivor myself, I deeply felt her struggles to not just reassert herself afterwards, but discover who she truly is and wants to be beneath the pressure of the expectations placed on her. From the strained and awkward family relationships affected by both her queerness and her mental health to her shyness and yet frank certainty in certain aspects of herself, Alexis was instantly likable and so absolutely sweet, especially when someone startled her into being wonderfully blunt. I also loved that in the story, she does see a therapist regularly. That’s something that we don’t always have access to, both in the Black and queer communities.
Trisha is the girl from the other side of the tracks, yet no matter what she did with her life you’re never once given the impression that she did anything wrong or should be ashamed of the path she took. She’s tough, but not hard; strong, but not emotionless. In fact, she constantly radiates such bright emotion that it’s impossible not to be drawn into her complete confidence, which only makes her few moments of doubt and insecurity that much more heartfelt. Trisha has hustled her arse off her whole life to find her way and figure out her path, and her fearlessness and effusive warmth combine to make her someone I respected more and more with every page. And god, how she was with Alexis…the way she wanted to care for her, the way she worried over her, listened to her…it tugged at my heart every time.
Alexis and Trish own their labels as both Black women and lesbians with utter pride and knowledge of their own identities, while at the same time being complex individuals with variable whims and preferences, rather than checkboxes to fit a stereotype of a certain kind of lesbian. They evolve and grow throughout the course of the story; they’re given room for uncertainty, rather than having to be model minorities. They make mistakes, they own those mistakes, they get up, they try again.
And it only made me adore them more.
You need a Laundromat movie date in your life. You just do. If you haven’t sat on a Laundromat table and watched a horror film on a tablet while snuggling with your crush, I demand you remedy that post-haste.
I feel like if I start breaking down all the things that jumped out at me with this book, I’m going to ramble for ten pages. So I’m just going to bullet-list the things I loved.
- From the very start, this book portrays a lot of complex relationships between women, many positive and supportive; it doesn’t just focus on the relationship between the heroines, but on their relationships with the other women in their lives. Mothers, sisters, friends – they’re all given complexity, and even the ones who fuck up and do hurtful things are painted as human and not the caricatures sometimes found in stories in which the heroine(s) is/are perfect and pure but all other women are evil competition. There’s none of that here. Just real relationships, even when they struggle. It reminded me a lot of the women from the Black side of my family; how even when they fought, they still came together and supported each other when no one else would.
- TREASURE is bold and unflinching in describing the beauty of Black women’s bodies in unambiguous terms – terms that celebrate everything from thickness to curves to dark skin, while not pigeonholing into one specific type of “perfect” Black female body. Instead it gives room for Black women of various body types and with various traits to be beautiful as they are.
- This story is unabashedly sex-positive. There’s no shaming strippers or sex workers in general. Alexis isn’t jealous; she’s not put off by the idea that Trisha is a stripper; Trisha isn’t ashamed of her job. They’re both wary of other people’s judgment, but Alexis admires that Trisha is so good at her job, without crossing the line into fetishizing her for being a stripper. Sex work is one of the only jobs in the world where people are sneered at for being good at their jobs, but in TREASURE we see Trisha’s work treated with respect and positivity.
- That sex-positivity also extends into their relationship with each other. They’re frank, honest, and blunt about their desires, not afraid to fumble and be inexperienced, not afraid to ask for what they want and give guidance on what they like and how to do it right. There’s no magically knowing how to have perfect sex. It’s two people learning each other for the first time, finding out how they fit together, experimenting and testing so that when it’s right, it really is right.
- The writing is so deeply authentic and demonstrates the importance of #ownvoices, from the experiences of Blackness from various perspectives to the WLW perspective to a certain sweet immaturity to the voice. Not that Weatherspoon’s writing is immature; more that it has the maturity and sophistication to perfectly capture the voices of two girls who’ve only recently started to strike out as women on their own, until you don’t notice the hands at work behind the curtain and only feel the strength and depth of character voices so appropriate for their ages, their emotions, their places in life, their experiences. There is no Blackness filtered through the white gaze; no youth filtered through the adult gaze. They’re just who they are, and they’re written wonderfully for that.
- There was an aching familiarity in that sense of recognizing someone else who’s queer, someone who could be a friend, a confidante, well before you think about anything else. Someone who understands in ways most of the people around you don’t. That friendship and kinship formed such a deep part of Alexis and Trisha’s bond, making them friends before they were lovers, and only making the romance more believable, filling the spaces in between this warm, easy laughter that happened so often between them.
- I have aunties who are just like Trisha’s Mom and just like Alexis’s Mom, and I just fucking died every time they were on the page.
Weatherspoon doesn’t flinch back from certain things, either. There’s a Well, Actually Dude in the story, y’all. And yes, he’s white. Alternately referred to as Zit-Face and Pimples, he comes barging in to school the womenfolk about things in tech and particularly about their teacher, and he should be thanking some deity for Trisha’s world-weary patience, because clearly he has no idea how often Black women and Black folk in general rein ourselves in when someone comes sealioning into a conversation they were never invited into. I snickered every time he had his little offended dramas on the page. Though I snickered a lot of times; there are far too many hilarious moments to quote, but this had to be one of my favorites:
“God damn. Give me your phone.” Quanisha snatched the thing out of her hand before she could say no.
“Alexis?” she asked, trying to confirm the contact on the screen.
“Yeah. That’s her,” Trisha replied. Quanisha’s thumb was already flying across the screen. Then she tossed the phone back before Trisha could ask what she was typing.
Hey shawty. Wanna be my main chick?
Y’all, this is why I don’t give my friends my phone. No. Nuh-uh. Hell naw. Not now, not ever. I don’t trust those arseholes not to embarrass me, and 75% of my friends are straight-up Quanishas who have way too much ammunition if they want to show their arses with half my address book.
But as often as I laughed out loud, there were also moments when I sighed, reading with my eyes half-closed to just absorb the emotional intensity of the scene.
It had been a long time since she’d heard live violin music. The last time she’d been walking down Sunset with the K’s, and a man had been playing for tourist dollars on the corner. There had been so much other noise; cars, people talking and shouting to each other, bus engines, and fake superheroes offering their pictures for ten bucks a pop. Hearing Alexis play was so different. In that tight space, the sound trapped by the fabric hanging around their heads and shoulders, Trisha felt like she was forced to absorb every note. She liked the way it felt. She didn’t have Alexis’s skill, but she had a voice. She picked up the verse in the right spot, and before she knew it, her eyes were closed, and she was singing along; not too loud, but in harmony with the notes Alexis was swishing off her bow. They worked well together.
Just. Sigh. Slow, deep, appreciative sigh.
Of course there had to be a speedbump to their happily ever after; in the end they had to work for it, grow from it, but while I hated that they fought, I loved what it showed of Trisha’s character.
“I know. You didn’t know how to speak up for me. Or shit, you didn’t even think it was time to stick up for yourself. It just occurred to me that you are only going to nut up when you feel comfortable, but my life isn’t comfortable like yours, and I need to be with someone who can handle shit when it doesn’t come on a perfect platter. I want to be with someone who will stick up for me. I’m a really great stripper. And Cinta was right, I am fine as hell, but I’m fucking human, Lex. I have feelings, and when my girlfriend who claims to care about me so much can’t say a peep in my defense, then maybe she’s not the girlfriend for me. So are we done here?”
I already admired Trisha before this. But I loved her for being assertive in knowing her worth, knowing what she wants, knowing what she deserves. Though I honestly can’t pick between Trisha and Alexis as far as favorite characters, so I’m just going to have to mark them as one of my favorite couples. They’re amazing as people, amazing together, and this was an amazing book. If you’re looking for a short read that will leave you smiling afterward, I’d highly recommend picking up TREASURE. It’ll be worth your time, worth your money, and worth every minute you spend falling in love with Alexis and Trisha – while they fall in love with each other.
Discover more about Rebekah Weatherspoon and her books at www.rebekahweatherspoon.com.
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