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Sister Souljah's 'Midnight' series -- and her quest to understand love

May 1, 2011 |  7:03 am

During a conversation with actress Jada Pinkett Smith on Saturday at the Festival of Books, author Sister Souljah fielded several questions from the audience, two of which began in a foreign language. The presence of these voices seemed particularly appropriate, as Souljah’s new novel happens to be a global love story.

“Midnight and the Meaning of Love” is a follow-up to Souljah’s 2008 novel “Midnight: A Gangster Love Story,” which is a prequel to her best-known and bestselling 1999 novel, “The Coldest Winter Ever.” The new book chronicles the relationship of two immigrants in America (one from Africa and one from Japan).

Souljah lived in Japan for three years and traveled to Korea and China in preparation for her latest book. She sought to immerse herself and her family in the different cultures to better understand their perspective, specifically in the way they experience and express love.

“I think the best writers are the ones who live life and are able to be quiet sometimes and observe life, who are willing to get off of their block and examine life. Travel around and see different things,” she said.

Souljah later spoke about being a voracious reader, saying her only criteria in choosing new material is that it must be on something she doesn’t already know about.

In addition to being an author, Souljah is widely known as an activist and recording artist. In 1992, she made controversial statements regarding the Los Angeles riots that were criticized most publicly by then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton. Her history as an activist was evident in the questions she received from fans. They were political or issues-based as often as they were centered on literature.

Souljah said her passion for social politics fueled her writing even as a child, and that passion remains present in her novels. She spoke about being questioned for her portrayal of women in the "Midnight" series and called upon African American women to take responsibility for how they are portrayed in the media.

“Yes, we’ve been maligned. We’ve been misrepresented. We’ve been victims of racism and sexism, but we are huge propellants of those problems ourselves,” she said.

The largely African American crowd cheered when Souljah affirmed that the "Midnight" story would continue in future works and again at the prospect of the novels making their way to the big screen. Souljah said she wants all of her work to be adapted to film and would like to write the screenplays herself.

-- Caitlin Schneider

Photo: Sister Souljah, left, and Jada Pinkett Smith. Credit: David Livingston/Getty Images