The title character in CHASING DESTINY, while not necessarily the
main protagonist, plays a major role in the shaping of the story.
Destiny is the 15-year-old daughter of Keith and Carmen, who have
been married for nearly 18 years. Keith and Carmen had filed for
divorce, but as the story opens, Keith's girlfriend Billie
announces that she is pregnant with his baby, while he tells her
that the divorce is off. He is going back to Carmen; although he no
longer loves Carmen, he's doing what he thinks is right for their
daughter. The news about her pregnancy and his divorce are
confessed in a public place (at a Starbucks in Ladera Heights, no
less), and it's not a pretty scene.
Billie's and Keith's lives are worlds apart. While Keith and his
family live the life of upper class African-Americans in the better
part of Los Angeles, Billie is barely making ends meet. She is a
part-time substitute teacher, does some singing on the side, is a
bartender at night, and also teaches people how to ride
motorcycles. She's famous for her yellow Ducati, riding it all over
Los Angeles and looking sexy. She attracts a lot of people, men and
women alike, but loves Keith and has been patiently waiting for his
divorce to become final.
Thus begins the story of Billie and Keith, and the secret life of
Destiny, in a world that is dangerous and shocking.
Carmen and Keith see their daughter as an innocent child who is
about to become a woman, but is a child nonetheless. They have no
idea that she sneaks out at night and hangs out with other teens
and young adults who sell drugs, make pornographic DVDs, and pimp
on the side. Destiny is trying her best to find someone or
something to feel connected to, and she gets mixed up with the
wrong crowd. She learns to speak their lingo, pretending she is one
of them. Reading about Destiny's adventures almost shocked me, and
it is her dealings with these "friends" that help add to the spice
and tension of this fast-paced book.
Billie is angry at Keith because he reacts to her pregnancy as if
it is not his concern, and it feels like a slap in the face when he
announces he's returning to Carmen, who has a lot of issues. What
Billie doesn't realize is that Keith is doing what he thinks is
right, based on the threats by Carmen and her parents, two fiercely
protective Jamaicans who will do anything to keep their daughter
There is some comic relief in the form of Billie's Korean
housemate, Viviane, who was raised by a black stepfather and her
Korean-born mother. She is a very glamorous woman with an almost
insatiable appetite for sex and is always telling Billie about her
latest exploits. The banter between the two brings a light touch to
a novel in which tension levels reach an all-time high by the end
of the story. What one may find interesting is how all these
various characters crisscross and unknowingly affect each other's
futures. At first, there are no connections, but it seems that
Destiny's dangerous liaisons on the streets are what eventually
ties them together. And Destiny, who at first gives the impression
that she approves of Billie, later reveals her true colors. The
girl is in definite need of a psychiatrist. A very troubled
teenager, she's about to cause more havoc than anyone could have
ever guessed. It's not surprising, however, seeing how crazy Carmen
can be --- and the grandparents are a piece of work as well.
I found CHASING DESTINY to be grittier and much darker than Eric
Jerome Dickey's usual fare, but filled with the raunchy sex scenes
and wiseguy characters he's known for. Also, events don't take
place in just the ghetto or in some fancy upper class neighborhood.
His characters cross over into one another's territories, creating
stories with a lot of energy and high-packed action when these two
worlds collide. For fans of African-American lit and those who want
to venture into this growing genre, I recommend CHASING DESTINY.
But one should be forewarned that the book is violent in parts, and
the sex scenes may be a bit much for some readers.
Reviewed by Marie Hashima Lofton (Ratmammy@lofton.org) on December 26, 2010