Sister Souljah writes with a pulsating rhythm that entertains while educating. She teaches, not preaches, and her streetwise style has been captivating readers since 1999 when The Coldest Winter Ever heated up the literary world. As readers, we traveled through the Brooklyn borough of New York and experienced every flip, twist, and hit with titular character, Winter, as she took on the lifestyle of her drug kingpin father, Ricky Santiaga.
Winter, Ricky and the other characters in these Souljah stories are created with deep intention and imbued with gritty realism. Though their paths might be crooked, you can’t help but hope they make it out alive in the end.
The literal ride is invigorating and we’re left wanting more, a fact of which the author is well aware. Following up Winter by dipping off to Midnight: A Gangster’s Love Story. There, we follow the young, serene Muslim from his origins as a 14-year-old protector, provider and big brother to an 18-year-old business owner and husband still fighting the evils of Brooklyn.
Now, making a grand return, the New York Times bestselling author will deliver A Moment of Silence: Midnight III on Nov. 11.
In the third installment, Midnight has two wives living with him under the same roof with his mother and young sister. The martial arts trained soldier, who is usually easygoing, finds himself tested and the explosion of his inner-rage is exposed landing everyone and everything he loves in a risky situation.
In this EBONY interview, Sister Souljah breaks down the universal language of love and what she hopes young men gain from Midnight’s story. We also asked the community organizer her thoughts on the racial turmoil in this country.
EBONY: You write with such depth, to where the reader is drawn to the life of your characters, while also taking in cultural knowledge. For example with Midnight, his story has that coming-of-age vibe but we're also learning about his spiritual and moral beliefs through Islam along with Akemi's Japanese culture and as the trilogy continues, Korean culture. As you travel to these various places to conduct your research, What is your process of incorporating that into your books?
SOULJAH: Thank you for the compliment of saying that I write with depth. I appreciate readers who read with depth. [Readers] who not only see the words, but feel the words and whom sit back and allow the words to revolve in their mind, heart and soul. With reading, for me it is not about speed or how fast you can read the novel. It's about feeling. I don't have a process. I am hoping that that doesn't feel like arrogance. It simply means that each and every writer can only write, give, and share what they know, or have observed and then imagined, overheard or experienced. It's a tremendous synergy. So I listen, see and study, and I travel in order to have the most gifts to share. I have always been in love with learning. I have always shared everything I have. When I write, I am sharing the gifts that the Maker of All Souls gave to me.
EBONY: I've always been intrigued by the male psyche and how that translates from a female writer's point of view. When sculpting “Midnight,” how do you ” make sure the character read as real and provide readers with a sense of connection and compassion with some of his situations?
SOULJAH: I love and listen to the sound of a man's voice, the intent of his words, the feelings from his heart. At the same time I love the stance of a man, the posture, the demeanor, the way he walks and definitely the way he thinks and works. I love men who are capable of love, who help instead of hurt, who heal instead of destroying. I have known many great men in my lifetime. I tend to see the goodness more than the flaws, as long as the flaws are not toxic or abusive. I have enjoyed a great respect from men and intensely aware that I can love a man without it being a sexual thing. Even though I am married, I still have male friends whom I love. It is a deep admiration and platonic enjoyable mutual love. So to write beautiful men, is natural for me. I readily admit that I have been disappointed by some men and their actions, but that is just the push and pull and friction of relationships between the male and female who come out of a tumultuous history and a misunderstood culture. And I can say that any man that I have ever loved, any person whom I have ever loved, I will always love.
EBONY: Throughout Midnight's journey, we sense a strong male rooted in family, his religious beliefs and the battle to do what's right while also seeing his vulnerable side. When telling these vivid stories, how do you hope these fictitious male figures will resonate with young men and women of today?
SOULJAH: Urgently, I write, work and hope that the millions of men who have been raised in the absence of true fathers, can still become true men. I think it is critical that boys be trained to understand manhood, masculinity and their maleness—not as a posturing thing or a symbolic thing but as a substantive thing. Meaning, I hope male youth will read every single one of my novels, so that they can experience in their mind and hearts and in words, what they have not experienced in their real day to day lives. Through these books, a male youth can raise himself out of backwardness, immaturity, senseless violence and foul habits.
These novels will, in a beautiful way and through subtle storytelling and without preaching, show every male youth how to think about himself, his family, his beliefs, his women, and his friends. Moreover, these novels teach male youth about business, ; how to set it up and run it successfully; and how to follow through and provide. As women read these Midnight novels, it will open up their eyes so that they will develop a standard for themselves. Live respectfully if you want to be respected. Not only that, it will give every female the ability to understand how a man thinks, not in a comical or commercial way, but in a real heartfelt way. Most importantly, women will learn from these novels what it means to really be loved, and to sincerely give love, without the tricks and the bitchitude and the pain. After reading MIDNIGHT, women will crave an intense and powerful love. We will each understand that love is sweet, laughter, living well, and sharing and working and building and praying with someone who you can trust because he's trustworthy. After reading MIDNIGHT, we will each know and want a man, not a clown.
EBONY: Your voice and activism is deeply respected. With race relations, the Black Lives Matter Movement, and the political landscape as we approach the 2016 elections, what is your outlook on where society is headed?
SOULJAH: Sincerity is missing from our movement. The genuine love that once connected Black people together can not be felt, at least not by me. Our lives certainly matter. At the same time, in order for us to win in any real way, we will have to straighten ourselves. Of course we are not being murdered because we are not straight. However, I believe we are not receiving spiritual protection because we are not straight. We have not humbled ourselves before our maker. Many of us get on our knees for all kinds of foul reasons, but never get on our knees to make a sincere prayer to the one who gave us life. I believe in one God, one aim, one destiny. Our people today want to win without God, without aim, precision, study, unity and Lord have mercy without love or truth. That's not going to happen. I'm calling for a complete humbling, a return to a sincere love, genuine hearts, good intentions, sober minds and intelligent action. Faith is the first ingredient. I don't worship any man, woman, preacher, politician, entertainer, athlete or scholar. I worship the maker of all souls and live my live within limits and boundaries and humble myself in prayer. I still write and fight and love fiercely and deeply. However, my confidence and trust and power come from the MOST HIGH.