Get Ya Hands Off of Your Imagination

The 70s.  1970 – 1979.  The decade of my birth. The rise of disco.  The birth of hip hop.  Some of my favorite television shows debuted during  this decade.  The JeffersonsThree’s CompanyDiff’rent StrokesGood TimesWhat’s Happening.

The 70s.  The decade of bell bottoms, dashikis, mini skirts, mules, jumpsuits, and platforms.  We were styling and profiling.


The 70s saw the birth of Mildred Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, Judy Blume’s Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, and Beverly Cleary’s Ramona the Brave.

Good times, indeed.

Saturday morning cartoons were what we looked forward to all week long.  To lie on the floor in front of the TV that didn’t have a remote control with our bowl of cereal as we watched Fat Albert, The Jackson 5 and Schoolhouse Rock.  Conjunction junction what’s your function!

And the radio overflowed with songs that we love to now hear on the radio and yell out, “That’s my song!”  The Jackson 5’s “ABC.”  Sly and the Family Stone’s “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin).”  Ike and Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary.”  This was the era of great music by Roberta Flack, Al Green, The Isley Brothers, Marvin Gaye, The O’Jays, The Temptations, Patti LaBelle and the Blue Belles, The Supremes, Chaka Khan and Rufus.  “Sweet Thing.”

Sweet Thang is the title of the debut novel written by Allison Whittenberg.  Set in 1975, Charmaine Upshaw is a teenager battling the unfairness of life.  She’s being overlooked by a cutie at school because she’s not light skinned and it’s hard to feel pretty when Lena Horne is the model of beauty.  At home, her family is still dealing with the death of her father’s sister, her favorite aunt Karyn.  Not to mention, Aunt Karyn’s son Tracey John now lives with them which means more adjustment including Charmaine sharing a bedroom with her brother Leo.  Plus Tracey John and Charmaine continually butt heads because Charmaine is fed up with the royal treatment that Tracey John gets from everyone.  Charmaine is tired of life not being fair so she faces her options – either deal with it or work to change how she responds to what happens in her life.

Sweet Thang hums with the sights and sounds of life in Philly in 1975.  When I read the line where Mrs. Upshaw tells her daughter, “Get your hands off of your imagination,” I cracked up because I hadn’t heard that in years since it was last said to me by my mother.  This is a good read that is a stroll down memory lane with some of the references – Lena Horne, Vietnam War — but it has a timeless quality to it that young adult readers will enjoy it as well. 

I came across Sweet Thang in December when I was browsing the shelves for a book to read on my flight home for Christmas.  At the time, I was familiar with Allison’s name thanks to the Brown Bookshelf.  Once Allison was chosen to be a part of the 28 Days Later spotlight, I was eager to research more about her in preparation for her interview.  It was cool to see that she also admires poet Gwendolyn Brooks who I met my freshman year of college. That was a heady experience for me to sit across a table from Ms. Brooks and actually eat a meal while discussing her poetry.  Like me, Gwendolyn capitalizes the B in Black when referring to Black people.

The Pool Players.
Seven at the Golden Shovel.

We real cool. We 
Left school. We 

Lurk late. We 
Strike straight. We 

Sing sin. We 
Thin gin. We 

Jazz June. We 
Die soon.


Like Ms. Brooks, Allison is also a poet and a playwright.  Her next book Life is Fine comes out March 11, 2008.  And then next year, she will treat us to a return to the 70s with the companion piece to Sweet Thang called Hollywood and Maine.

6 Responses to “Get Ya Hands Off of Your Imagination”

  1. Gregerson Says:

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  2. Lageman Says:

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  3. Maybrier Says:

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    it’s very useful.

  4. Floris Says:

    thanks my friend.Nice post.

  5. Allvin Says:

    Good. Thanks.

  6. Housley Says:

    Great. 🙂

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