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'Gotham Diaries': Gossip of a City's Black Elite

FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

The novel "Gotham Diaries" got the upper crust of New York's African-American society talking. One critic said that what the book, quote, "lacks in editorial sophistication, it makes up for in authenticity," end quote. The piece of so-called gossip lit is just out in paperback. The co-authors are Tonya Lewis-Lee and Crystal McCrary-Anthony, the wife of basketball star Greg Anthony. They spoke with Ed Gordon about getting a peek into the lives of Manhattan's black elite.

Ms. CRYSTAL McCRARY-ANTHONY (Co-author, "Gotham Diaries"): Educated, intelligent African-American who are proud in their own skin and who have succeeded and are not trying to apologize for it.

ED GORDON reporting:

Tonya, Spike and I have talked about this--and for those who don't know, that guy Spike--you somehow know him, but...

Ms. TONYA LEWIS-LEE (Co-author, "Gotham Diaries"): Yeah. We sleep in the same bed together every night.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GORDON: That being said, we talk about the idea that the media sometimes turns a blind eye to what is called the black elite, the fact that there is a solidly black middle class and now, frankly, upper class. When you wrote about this group of people, how much did you feel like you were going to keep it as you knew it, or did you need to heighten it a bit?

Ms. LEWIS-LEE: Well, I think, as Crystal said, when we were writing the book, we were really telling a story that we wanted to tell almost for ourselves. So what we really hoped to accomplish was tell a story about very affluent African-Americans who were very human. They are--they have their scandals, they have their foibles. They are successful. They're not perfect. And they are on a journey.

GORDON: Crystal, funny enough, The New York Times wrote a story about--when the book came out, there were actually parlor games going on, people trying to figure out who they were in this book. You heard about that, I'm sure. How many people came to you and said, `Girl, I know that's me,' or...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. McCRARY-ANTHONY: Well, several people came to us. In fact, I mean, when it was--first got wind, the public, that we had written this book, I think The Daily News, they--it started off that parlor of guessing games. You know, `Who's Ed Thomas, the African-American billionaire? Is that so-and-so? Who's the outrageous, new-monied couple, Coffee and Daryl Raye? Is that so-and-so?' I mean, I'm hesitant to even repeat the comparisons because I don't want anyone to think that we're writing about them, which we were not.

But I will say this: One of the characters, our African-American real estate broker, who was a gay man who moved up from Alabama and sort of found his dream in New York City, is the one character who's loosely inspired on a real-life character, of course, without the scandal and unethical behavior.

GORDON: Of course.

Ms. McCRARY-ANTHONY: But as far as any other characters, truly, our research for this really is life. I mean, life is research for a writer. And we put that, I think, in our story set against the backdrop of New York City, where Tonya and I live in the middle of Manhattan. And we watch--or have watched--shows like "Sex and the City" and "Friends" and "Seinfeld," which are taking place in the middle of New York City, but you do not see African-Americans in this world. And we know that that is not the case.

GORDON: How much did you concern yourself with the fact, Tonya, that there were going to be people who were going to live vicariously through this but, also, maybe take some shots at the idea that it is dealing with materialism, dealing with infidelities, dealing with things that the black community offtimes wants to move away from because we're too often targeted with these?

Ms. LEWIS-LEE: Well, again, I think that Crystal and I really wanted to tell a full-bodied story with complex, interesting, real characters. And in order to do that, you have to deal with the good and the bad. And I do think that while some of our characters are quite scandalous and quite naughty, there are good characters. There are some that are--have a lot of integrity. So I think we run the gamut, and that's, again, one of the things that we wanted to accomplish with "Gotham Diaries." We wanted to include a wide range of African-Americans. So while we're dealing with the upper echelon, we're also dealing--we're dealing with a cross-section. We have rappers. We have ballers. We have investment bankers. We have businesspeople. We have lawyers. We have housewives. We have artists. So you get a full range of African-Americans and, also, the full range of the economic spectrum as well.

GORDON: All right. Well, "Gotham Diaries" now in paperback. Ladies, I thank you for your time. Appreciate it.

Ms. McCRARY-ANTHONY: Thank you so much for having us.

Ms. LEWIS-LEE: Thank you.

CHIDEYA: Once again, Ed Gordon with "Gotham Diaries" authors Tonya Lewis-Lee and Crystal McCrary-Anthony. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.