Author: 'Bitch Is The New Black'

Author Helena Andrews is famous for her stories about young, successful black women. Now in her new memoir, Bitch Is The New Black, she writes about resisting and fulfilling expectations about being a modern black woman.

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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin.

Today we want to talk about the trials and tribulations of trying to find the right guy. And that's something many women can relate to. It certainly has consumed many forests' worth of newsprint. But for some reason, which we can talk about later, the love troubles of African-Americans, specifically the low marriage rate compared to other racial and ethnic groups in this country, has occasioned everything from scholarly studies to public service campaigns.

In a few minutes we'll hear from blogger and personal finance writer Keith Reed, who says he is going to separate fact from hype when it comes to African-American marriage statistics.

But, first, Helena Andrews. Her no-holds-barred memoir, which has already been optioned for a film, takes on dating, love and everything that happens in connection with those two. It's called - and I'm editing here - "B Is the New Black." You'll have to figure out what the B is on your own. A hint - it rhymes with... With that being said, Helena Andrews is here with us. Welcome. Thank you for joining us.

Ms. HELENA ANDREWS (Author, "Bitch Is the New Black"): Thank you. Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: I do have to start with the title. What are you hoping to convey with the title?

Ms. ANDREWS: You know, I always hide behind Tina Fey on this. She said it on "Saturday Night Live," B is the new black. And she was referring to Hillary Clinton, who was running for president at the time. And when she said it, it spoke to modern feminism to me. It didn't necessarily speak to black women, obviously. X is the new Y. That's pop culture shorthand, you know.

MARTIN: And black has a dual meaning, because on the one hand you are African-American. You're black.

Ms. ANDREWS: Yes. I am a black woman.

MARTIN: On the other hand, black is kind of the standard costume, right? For seriousness...

Ms. ANDREWS: It is. It's like the little black dress.

MARTIN: Little black dress.

Ms. ANDREWS: And that's what she was referring to, obviously. Tina Fey is a white woman and so is Hillary Clinton. And so is Amy Poehler, who was also in the room. So just when she said it, I just thought it spoke a lot to how we view ourselves, how we might be viewed - and this is women in general, educated women in general, single women in general. I think we all kind of get lumped into the same B pile, if you will. So I just - it was genius to me. And as soon as I heard it, I just thought, I got to steal that.

MARTIN: I can't read all this. I have to read around this, okay? But this is a passage which, I don't know that it's emblematic, but it says: I'm such a badass. I'm literally the baddest B on the planet. If there were a B contest between me and every other heartbroken, hissing, red-eyed, puffy-faced woman in the world, I would defeat every last one of them handily. People should start worshiping me. To that end, I've prepared a few imaginary lectures on the subject of B-ing - the B-word - yourself out of a relationship.

Step one: Treat him as you would a tardy Comcast guy after waiting from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. with zero emotions, save thinly sliced loathing. Yeah, I don't believe me either. I'm a B, but I swear I don't want to be. Really, I think I have to be.

Ms. ANDREWS: Oh yeah.

MARTIN: This is from the opening pages. So, really, Helena, yeah, I mean I get it that it's kind of a dual thing. It's like on the one hand I'm tough and I can take it. On the other hand, I don't want to take it. I don't want to take it.

Ms. ANDREWS: Oh yeah. I think a lot of women have that dichotomy, specifically that passage. It's talking about the world of having an entire relationship over Gchat and on Facebook and on the Internet where it's very easy to have this avatar that you push out there. Like, oh, this is me. This is me. I'm always funny. I don't care. I'm not concerned. Like, you breaking up with me for the 50,000th time over Gchat doesn't bother me. And of course, you know, the lie of that...

MARTIN: Me seeing you kissing another girl in the club.

Ms. ANDREWS: In the club, right.

MARTIN: Doesn't bother me - in front of my girlfriends.

Ms. ANDREWS: You know, you know the lie of that, even though you have to put -well, you feel sometimes that you have to put up this tough exterior. And I think that this is one of the things I will talk about specifically about black women is that we have what I like to call the black girl GPS. You know, we're going from college to the master's degree, to the new job, to the next job, to the next city, to the next city from, you know, one failed relationship to this one. Maybe this one will work out. But we're constantly in motion and there's never a lot of pause to sit and say, like, wait, that kind of sucked. Like, maybe I should take a moment, but you don't want to.

MARTIN: But you do describe two polarities here in detail. And I assume that, you know, this is very funny. And so some of it is funny and I assume that some of it is for effect. But some of the men that you encounter behave badly. They are selfish, they are narcissistic. They seem to think that women are just there to be used.

Ms. ANDREWS: Right.

MARTIN: And there are times when you aren't any picnic yourself. You behave rather badly.

Ms. ANDREWS: No, not at all.

MARTIN: You are kind of...

Ms. ANDREWS: I often behave badly.

MARTIN: If I may, and I don't endorse the use of this term, kind of a B.

Ms. ANDREWS: Yes. I'm human.

MARTIN: But I guess what I'm asking you is that human or is there something in particular in the relationships between African-American men and women that has some particular dysfunction to it, that bears some additional scrutiny? And is there a problem? And if so, what do you think the problem is?

Ms. ANDREWS: I think the problem is, if we were to say there was a problem, is that women in general occupy a much different space than we have in a very long time. And I think we're seeing that in the world at large, in the community at large, and I think in the African-American community it is blown up. And I think that's why the African-American community now becomes the guinea pig for the entire community, because this is a situation that I think the entire American community is dealing with. The - I don't want to call it the end of marriage, but the procrastination of marriage, the putting off of marriage, the putting off of children, is not something just African-Americans are doing. I think this is something that happens in the community at large.

And I think that African-Americans serve as this kind of like microcosm. It's easy to zero in on us and say oh, well, what's going on with y'all - as opposed to like what's going on with all of us? And I talk to a lot of my guy friends who are tired of the conversation being just about black women. You know, I have a guy friend that I - one of my good guy friends is married, been married for, I don't know, two or three years - and he'll always say, I am not a unicorn. Like, I'm not the only black man out there who wants to have a wife; it's not just me.

And I think eventually, black men will get together and say listen, stop vilifying our women for what's going on with the community issue, right? It's not just a female issue, right? Because if women aren't getting married, then neither are men. But, at the same time, when I see black men talking about this and they're, you know, in their late 30s, early 40s and still single, I'm like well, duh, you know what I mean? You're telling me you didn't meet anybody that was marriage material all those years? So I don't know, I think we're pushing it back. I think we are definitely pushing it back.

MARTIN: Can I get you to read something for me?

Ms. ANDREWS: I guess I can read from the "RuhBuhDuh" chapter. It's one of my favorite chapters.

MARTIN: Okay.

Ms. ANDREWS: And this is about a Facebook group that I joined - the entire chapter. But the beginning is just about growing up.

(Reading) There comes a time in every 27-year-old's life when one realizes that the space between dormitory and factory has folded unflattering crow's feet into one's social life. Gone are the days when friends are an elevator ride away, dinner plans are made on the way to somebody's hall and Thursday is Friday or Friday is Thursday, who cares, you'll figure it out in Philosophy C203. Dry-erase boards, once the standard-bearers of celebrity are now vintage signboards of a bygone era.

Helena, me again. Just thought I'd remind you that that random guy you picked up about taking off your shoes. You spent the entire Sunday cleaning footprints off your ceiling. Also, please don't throw your condoms out the window. You're creating a small mountain. P.S., meet us in the dining hall at seven. That was a joke.

Life is now a really misleading rerun of "Friends" with no all-star cast and only one storyline - yours.

MARTIN: So, what's next for you?

Ms. ANDREWS: Next for me is the movie. We are adapting the book for a feature film, with Shonda Rhimes, who is the creator of "Grey's Anatomy" and "Private Practice." And Fox Searchlight Pictures has bought the rights, so I'm going to be writing the screenplay. That's the next thing, so I'm excited.

MARTIN: Seeing anybody?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. ANDREWS: That's the first question people ask me. It's so funny.

MARTIN: Well, it's the last question I'm asking you, so I hope...

Ms. ANDREWS: Oh. Right. Yes and no. No one seriously, but I see people. But, you know what? I love living in my apartment by myself, me and my dog. That's a great life for me right now. And I like going out to dinner, every now and then, and going seeing a play and all those types of things. So, yes, I see people and I'm having a good time - a very good time.

MARTIN: Helena Andrews is the author of the new book - and I'm editing here -"B," you can fill in the blank, "is the New Black." She joined us from our studios in Washington.

Thank you so much for joining us.

Ms. ANDREWS: Thank you for having me.

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