'Big Girls' do climb the bestseller lists

Wednesday, February 10, 2010 at 2:53pm

Romantic, dramatic and mystery tales about women aren't exactly new items in literary circles, but Carl Weber's current novels venture into different territory. His latest, Big Girls Do Cry (Dafina/Kensington), is his second devoted to the exploits of a special group, The Big Girls Book Club (BGDC).

These are plus-size black women (members must be at least a size 14 to join) who regularly convene to discuss various volumes. It's also the followup to Something On The Side, which cracked the New York Times' bestseller list, and introduced sisters Egypt and Isis, founding members of BGDC.

Weber, who'll be appearing Thursday at both the Nashville Library and Borders Bookstore, said in a recent interview he wanted to focus on issues and personalities usually ignored by mainstream media and writers.

"Our society doesn't pay much attention to larger women other than in a negative way," Weber said. "The Big Girls Book Club was a way for me to spotlight a sizable segment within the black community that's usually overlooked, and I also wanted to explore many issues that don't get discussed in a compelling and informative way."

Big Girls Do Cry's plot revolves around Egypt and Isis relocating from New York City to Richmond, Virginia, where they've started a Southern branch of the club. Egypt's now married to successful hedge fund manager Rashad, while Isis, recovering from a disastrous affair and near fatal suicide, is living in Isis's home. Although it seems things are going well for both sisters, there are major problems ahead. An already sticky situation becomes even stranger after Egypt and Rashad make a life-altering request of Isis, one that eventually turns everyone's life upside down.

Weber's pithy, fast-moving work weaves into the narrative such topics as surrogate mothers, class and generational conflicts, the "down low" (gay men masquerading as straight) syndome, and the prominence of black Greek organizations and churches. He also introduces other fascinating figures like Egypt's boss Loraine and Loraine's best friend Jerome. Each chapter is told from a different character's viewpoint, a technique that not only bolsters the pace, but provides plenty of twists and surprises. It also sets the stage for another book, Torn Between Two Lovers, which will be released later this year.

"There were so many things I wanted to do with this story as I got into it that it seemed best to tell it in two parts," Weber continued. "This one pretty much completes it for Egypt and Isis, but there are lots of things in store for Loraine and Jerome, and I think readers will enjoy the fact I didn't try to jam everything into Big Girls Do Cry."

Despite being released only 10 days ago, Big Girls Do Cry has already given Weber another entry on the select Times list. Yet despite his writing success, Carl Weber's initial professional goal was to become an accountant. He earned an B.A. in accounting from Virginia State University and an MBA in marketing from the University of Virginia.

"But even as I was doing that, there was a part of me that always wanted to write," Weber acknowledged. "I've been a voracious reader since childhood and I knew I wouldn't be happy if I didn't pursue it as a career, even though I was under no illusions about attaining immediate or even long-range success. It was simply a case of doing what I really wanted to in life."

But Weber's accounting and marketing education hasn't gone to waste. He's the publisher and editorial director of Urban Books and the owner of a chain of bookstores. Weber sees his writing and entrepreneurial activities as part of an overall mission to serve a neglected constituency.

"There's definitely a market and audience out there for literature in the black community, one that needs writers who know its history and culture," Weber concluded. "I write passionately about these subjects because one thing I told myself from the start was write about what you know, and if you don't know it, go out and learn about it before you start writing about it. The things I discuss in my books much of the time mainly come from experience, and that's the best way to keep your credibility with the audience."



Who: New York Times best-selling author Carl Weber discusses and signs copies of his new novel Big Girls Do Cry
When: 12 noon and 7 p.m. Thursday
Where: Main Library, popular materials division, 615 Church Street (noon), Borders Bookstore, 2501 West End Ave. (7 p.m.)
Cost: Both free
Info: 862-5800 (Library), 327-9656 (Borders)