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Claretta Street by Colette Barris is a novel of a generation, which follows four young girls affectionately known as the “Babies” as they weave through the turbulent sixties and Civil Rights, coming of age in the decadent and destructive eighties.
Claretta Street is set in the small Los Angeles suburb of Pacoima, a bustling Black-Pride filled town during the Civil Rights era. Pacoima, California, was one of the few places in California where racial covenants were non-existent, allowing African Americans to buy property and businesses without repressive laws working against them. African Americans flocked there to live the “American Dream.” Claretta Street is the complete tale of the African American fate.
Colette Barris brings a fresh voice to the plight of Black experience in America. Claretta Street is clear, concise, yet layered with the complexities that encompass the Black experience in a way not articulated in American literature in years.
Today countless discussions on the peril of Black America proliferate in the media, academia, and among social scientists, propelling this continuous Greek tragedy into the main view of America and the world. However, the incendiary foundation and epoch of this unfolding disaster must be told and the veil of destruction exposed-the eighties. Claretta Street takes the reader on a ride of unbelievable clarity and cause, as Denise, in ancient griot form, becomes the voice of the diaspora both prophetic and naïve, stripping down in plain view the causes and emotions of a time of great hope and sadness to preserve through decadence and decline.
Claretta Street is the story of hope and change coupled with the unfortunate forces and juxtaposition of man’s inhumanity and struggle all the while seeking hope and love.
“Claretta Street is a classic in the making which depicts the voice and soul of Africans in America. Claretta Street by Colette Barris is a novel of a generation; gut wrenching, it leaves a knot in your throat wanting more.”
—Jackie Ferguson, daughter of famed Pan African nationalist Herman Ferguson
“Check out Claretta Street an amazing read needed now.”
—Kenya Barris, creator of Black-ish, Peabody winner and Emmy nominee.
By Marissa Wells
“Claretta Street” follows the lives of four young African-American girls living in Pacoima as they navigate the turbulent change of the 1960s, coming of age in the decadent and destructive 1980s.
Through the lenses of the young women, the sound and textures of life unfold as the devoted friends provide vivid accounts of one of America’s greatest periods of social change.
This work of historical fiction is the first novel by Pacoima native Colette Barris, who was inspired to write her debut book as a testimony to the struggle and triumph of Africans in America.
Much is written about the African-American experience, most of which purposely spins black achievements as not much more than snippets of missteps, one depicted (often) as simple and jovial,” Barris said. “While in actuality, the black experience is one of unbelievable intelligence and courage.”
In “Claretta Street,” Barris explores America’s black past without marginalization. The author hopes readers gain “knowledge and appreciation of black female sisterhood and comradery” and “depth and insight of the African-American experience in the development of America further dismantling the mythology of American development.”
The author’s favorite character is Denise, the protagonist, because of her love and appreciation for family and sisterhood.
“I wanted to bring up the element of sisterhood for young African-American women because they need to know that they have it within them,” Barris said. “It’s in their DNA and they can reach out to one another for support.”
“Claretta Street” is the first installment of Barris’ trilogy. The second book is set to debut in early 2019.
In addition to being an author, Barris is a science teacher in Los Angeles. She lives in the San Fernando Valley.