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Tinggal menghitung hari lagi saudara-saudara kita kaum muslimin yang mendapatkan rahmad dari Allah Subhanahu Wata’ala akan
Tinggal menghitung hari lagi saudara-saudara kita kaum muslimin yang mendapatkan rahmad dari Allah Subhanahu Wata’ala akan berangkat menunaikan ibadah haji menuju Makkah. Menjelang keberangkatan, mereka disibukkanlah oleh kegiatan melakukan syukuran, dengan mengundang orang-orang untuk datang kerumah mereka persis layaknya seperti acara perkawinan.
Penulis beberapa waktu yang lalu menerima sepucuk undangan dari seorang kenalan yang akan menunaikan ibadah haji, undangan tersebut berisi kata-kata:
Dengan mengucapkan syukur kehadirat Allah Subhanahu Wata’ala atas izin dan kehendak Allah Subhanahu Wata’ala, kami mengundang bapak/ ibu/sdra/sdri kiranya dapat hadir dalam acara syukuran sehubungan dengan rencana kami berdua suami isteri akan menunaikan ibadah haji tahun ini.
Demikian sepenggal kutipan dari surat undangan yang kami terima dari seorang sahabat yang akan berangkat menunaikan ibadah haji bersama dengan isterinya.
Setelah membaca surat undangan itu, langsung didalam pikiran muncul pertanyaan, mengapa harus melakukan acara syukuran segala, padahal menunaikan haji adalah salah satu kewajiban sebagaimana yang dituangkan dalam rukun islam, yang kedudukannya sama wajibnya seperti sholat,berpuasa dan zakat. Sedangkan ibadah wajib tersebut dalam pelaksanaannya sama sekali tidak pernah ada terdengar orang mengadakan hajatan sjukuran dengan mengundang orang-orang secara beramai-ramai. Apa bedanya dengan sholat dan puasa,kenapa kalau akan sholat dan puasa tidak mengundang orang untuk syukuran.
Mengamati penyelenggaraan acara syukuran haji yang sekarang sudah menjadi tradisi dan membudaya ditengah-tengah kalangan kaum muslimin, sebenarnya baru berkembang dalam sepuluh tahunan terakhir ini. Sedangkan sebelumnya tidak pernah ada acara yang seperti itu. Jadi acara syukuran ini sebenarnya baru saja muncul dikalangan umat islam. Lagi-lagi apabila dilihat dari kaca mata syari’at islam, samasekali tidak ada satu keteranganpun atau satu haditspun baik yang ma’udhu/palsu, dha’if apalagi yang shahih yang menyinggung adanya syukuran berangkat haji. Sehingga acara syukuran haji hanya dibuat-buat oleh orang-orang yang suka membuat-buat atau menambah-nambah dalam agama, dimana para ulama maupun kiayi mendiamkan dan malah sepertinya merestui sehingga banyak orang-orang menirunya, dan menganggap sykuran selamatan tersebut merupakan suatu kebaikan. Mengingat didalamnya ada kebaikan berupa silaturahim dan memberikan makan kepada undangan yang mempunyai nilai ibadah.
Untuk menunaikan ibadah haji sekarang ini selain harus menyediakan biaya untuk ONH yang besarnya berberapa -puluh juta, juga harus diperhitungkan pula untuk ongkos selamatan syukuran. Sehingga semakin memberatkan bagi mereka yang akan berangkat haji, terutama bagi kalangan yang mempunyai dana pas-passan saja. Karena merasa malu atau tidak enak dengan tetangga apabila tidak melakukan syukuran, maka dipaksa-paksakan kanlah bagaimana caranya agar acara syukuran tersebut diselenggarakan dengan mengundang orang-orang dalam jumlah yang banyak yang untuk itu harus pula disediakan makanan dengan berbagai menunya. Untuk keperluan tersebujt tentulah tidak sedikit dana yang harus dikeluarkan.
Banyak diantara orang-orang yang menyebutkan bahwa acara syukuran dengan mengundang seluruh sanak keluarga, sahabat,kerabat, handai taulan dan para kenalan adalah untuk memberitahukan bahwa sipengundang akan menunaikan ibadah haji, suatu ibadah yang tidak semua orang dapat melakukannya sehingga didalamnya terselip rasa bangga dan ini merupakan sikap riya yang dilarang dalam islam.
Islam sebenarnya telah melengkapi syari’atnya secara sempurna sampai kepada hal yang sifatnya kecil dan bahkan sepele dalam bentuk as-sunnah Rasul. Sebagai contoh bagaimana tata cara masuk wc, buang air dan beristinja sudah di patentkan . Apalagi yang sifatnya besar dan berkaitan dengan ibadah tidaklah akan tertinggal sedikitpun pengaturannya. Semua sudah lengkap dan tidak perlu ditambah-tambah dengan ketentuan baru yang dibuat oleh orang-orang yang tidak mempunyai hak mengatur agama ini. Hak mengatur dan menetapkan ketentuan agama ini berupa syari’at hanyalah Allah Subhanahu Wata’ala dan Rasullulah shalalahu'alaihi wasallam. Tidak ada orang lain yang dibolehkan, setinggi apapun ilmunya dan setinggi apapun keulamaannya, diharamkam membuat ketentuan dan menambah hal-hal yang baru dalam agama. Ketetapan syari’at yang ditetapkan sejak awal oleh Allah Subhanahu Wata’ala dan Rasullulah shalalahu ‘alaihi wasallam, sampai sekarang tetap sama dan tidak berubah.
Syari’at islam telah sempurna sebagaimana yang tercantum dalam al-Qur’an surah al-Maa-idah ayat 3 : “Pada hari ini Aku telah sempunakan bagi kamu Agama kamu “
Sehingga tidaklah layak untuk ditambah-tambah lagi dengan hal-hal yang dianggap baik menurut pikiran dan hawa nafsu manusia belaka.
Mengingat haji adalah ibadah, maka apapun yang berkaitan dengan ibadah haji tersebut bila dilakukan diluar yang disyari’atkan maka itu adalah suatu kebid’ah – an yang terlarang .
Mengenai hal ini berkata Syaikhul Islam Ibnu Taimiyah dalam “ Majmu Fatawa IV: 107-108”: Bid’ah dalam islam adalah : segala yang tidak disyari;atkan oleh Allah dan Rasul-Nya, yakni yang tidak diperintahkan baik dalam wujud perintah wajib atau berbentuk anjuran “
Hadits Rasullulah shalalahu ‘alaihi wasallam riwayat Imam Bukhari rahimahullah dari Aisyah radhyallaahu ‘anhuma , ia berkata : Telah bersabda Rasullulah shallalahu ‘alaihi wasallam : “ Barang siapa yang mengadakan di dalam urusan (agama) Kami apa-apa yang btidak ada darinya, maka tertolaklah dia “.
Selain hadits tersebut diatas Imam Muslim rahimahullaah juga meriwayatkan sebuah hadits dari Aisyah radhyallaahu ‘anhuma, ia berkata : Telah bersabda Rasullulah shallalahu ‘alaihi wasallam : “ Barang siapa yang mengerjakan sesuatu amal yang tidak ada keterangannya dari Kami ( Allah dan Rasul-Nya), maka tertolaklah amalnya itu “
Dan hadits yang paling keras yang membicarakan tentang hal-hal yang baru dalam agama yang dikenal dengan sebutan bid’ah adalah sebagai mana riwayat dari Imam Muslim rahimahullaah : “Amma ba’du ! Maka sesungguhnya sebaik-baik perkataan adalah Kitabllah (al-Qur’an) dan sebaik-baik petunjuk adalah peunjuk Muhammad shalalahu ‘alaihi wasallam. Dan sejelek-jelek urudsan adalah yang baru (muhdats) dan setiap muhadts adalah bid’ah, dan setiap bid’ah adalah sesat dan setiapkeesatan tempatnya dineraka ”
Dari hadits-hadits yang dikutipkan tersebut,maka mengingat berbagai bentuk acara syukuran bukan merupakan bagian dari agama yang disyariatkan, yang termasuk di dalamnya acara syukuran utuk menunaikan haji adalah termasuk peruatan bid’ah yang tidak patut dan tidak layak dilakukan oleh kaum muslimin.
Menunaikan haji adalah merupakan ibadah yang akan mendapatkan ganjaran pahala dan merupakan perbuatan yang diwajibkan, maka perbuatan baik tersebut tidaklah boleh dicampur dan ditambahi dengan perbuatan munkar berupa acara syukuran yang bid’ah.
Mudah-mudahan kita termasuk kedalam golongan orang-orang yang menegakkan sunnah sesuai dengan pemahaman para salafus shalih, sehingga kita selamat dari segala bentuk perbuatan bid’ah. ( Wallaahu Ta’ala ‘Alam )
Pemberian Uang ke Pegawai Pajak Bukan Hanya Sekali
PT The Master
Steel diduga memberikan uang kepada dua pegawai Direktorat Jenderal Pajak Mohamad Dian Irwan
Nuqishira dengan dan Eko Darmayanto secara bertahap.
JAKARTA, Saco- Indonesia.com - PT The Master Steel diduga memberikan uang kepada dua pegawai Direktorat Jenderal Pajak Mohamad Dian Irwan Nuqishira dengan dan Eko Darmayanto secara bertahap. Sebelum tertangkap tangan pada Rabu (15/5/2013), Dian dan Eko diduga telah menerima uang dengan nilai yang sama, yakni 300.000 dollar Singapura pada 7 Mei 2013.
Adapun, Dian dan Eko tertangkap tangan sesaat seusai diduga menerima uang 300.000 dollar Singapura atau sekitar Rp 2,3 miliar dari karyawan PT The Master Steel bernama Effendi melalui Teddy yang diduga sebagai kurir.
"KPK juga memeroleh informasi bahwa ED (Eko Darmayanto) dan MDI (Mohamad Dian Irwan) juga menerima 300 ribu dollar Singapura sebelum proses yang tadi dari sumber yang tadi. Bisa dikatakan pemberian lebih dari sekali, yang dapat diinformasikan KPK dua kali, kita kan belum tau kalau ada lagi," kata Juru Bicara KPK Johan Budi, Rabu (15/5/2013) malam.
Johan juga belum dapat memastikan berapa total nilai komitmen fee yang dijanjikan PT The Master Steel kepada dua pegawai pajak itu. Kedua pegawai pajak itu masih diperiksa KPK bersamaan dengan Effendi dan Teddy. Menurut Johan, pemberian uang ini diduga bertujuan menyelesaikan persoalan pajak PT The Master Steel. Perusahaan baja itu diduga memiliki tunggakan pajak.
"PT The MS (Master Steel) ini punya persoalan pajak kemudian dikoordinasikan dengan ED (Eko) dan MDI (Mohamad Dian) biar tidak jadi persoalan. Jadi ada semacam tunggakan," ungkapnya.
Direktur Jenderal Pajak Fuad Rahmany mengakui bahwa PT The Master Steel memang bermasalah dalam pembayaran pajak. Ada semacam upaya untuk menghindar dari kewajiban membayar pajak.
"Penghindaran pajak lah intinya," kata Fuad.
Dia juga mengatakan, masalah pembayaran pajak The Master Steel ini sudah masuk tahap penyidikan di Direktorat Jenderal Pajak. Proses penyidikan masalah perusahaan ini, menurut Fuad, dilakukan tim penyidik yang beranggotakan Mohammad Dian, Eko, serta pemeriksa pajak lainnya.
"Si antara tim penyidik tersebut ada beberapa orang dan yang dua ini kongkalikong dengan wajib pajaknya," ungkap Fuad.
Dia juga mengaku tidak tahu apa yang dijanjikan The Master Steel kepada dua pegawai pajak itu sehingga terjadi kongkalingkong di antara kedua belah pihak. Seperi diberitakan sebelumnya, KPK menangkap Mohamad Dian dan Eko sesaat setelah diduga menerima uang dari Effendi melalui Teddy.
Dian dan Eko tertangkap di halaman parkir Bandara Soekarno-Hatta bersama dengan Teddy, sementara Effendi diringkus dalam perjalanan di Kelapa Gading, Jakarta. Johan menuturkan, modus serah terima uang yang dilakoni para pegawai pajak dan pihak swasta ini tergolong unik. Pada Selasa (14/5/2013) malam, menurut Johan, Mohamad Dian membawa Avanza hitam ke halaman terminal III Bandara Soekarno-Hatta. Dian kemudian memarkir mobil tersebut di halaman bandara, lalu menyerahkan kunci mobil itu kepada Teddy yang diduga sebagai kurir.
"Mereka kemudian pergi," tambah Johan.
KPK menduga, Teddy kemudian meletakkan uang 300.000 dollar AS di dalam mobil Avanza Hitam tersebut setelah Dian pergi. Pagi harinya, setelah uang dimasukkan ke dalam mobil, kata Johan, Dian dan Eko kembali ke parkiran bandara. "Di sana juga sudah ada T (Teddy) dan ada uangnya," tambah Johan.
Setelah uang dipastikan berpindah tangan, tim penyidik KPK langsung meringkus ketiga orang itu, kemudian menangkap Effendi.
Editor :Liwon Maulana(galipat)
From T Magazine: Street Litís Power Couple
THE WRITERS ASHLEY AND JAQUAVIS COLEMAN know the value of a good curtain-raiser. The couple have co-authored dozens of novels, and they like to start them with a bang: a headlong action sequence, a blast of violence or sex that rocks readers back on their heels. But the Colemans concede they would be hard-pressed to dream up anything more gripping than their own real-life opening scene.
In the summer of 2001, JaQuavis Coleman was a 16-year-old foster child in Flint, Mich., the former auto-manufacturing mecca that had devolved, in the wake of General Motors’ plant closures, into one of the country’s most dangerous cities, with a decimated economy and a violent crime rate more than three times the national average. When JaQuavis was 8, social services had removed him from his mother’s home. He spent years bouncing between foster families. At 16, JaQuavis was also a businessman: a crack dealer with a network of street-corner peddlers in his employ.
One day that summer, JaQuavis met a fellow dealer in a parking lot on Flint’s west side. He was there to make a bulk sale of a quarter-brick, or “nine-piece” — a nine-ounce parcel of cocaine, with a street value of about $11,000. In the middle of the transaction, JaQuavis heard the telltale chirp of a walkie-talkie. His customer, he now realized, was an undercover policeman. JaQuavis jumped into his car and spun out onto the road, with two unmarked police cars in pursuit. He didn’t want to get into a high-speed chase, so he whipped his car into a church parking lot and made a run for it, darting into an alleyway behind a row of small houses, where he tossed the quarter-brick into some bushes. When JaQuavis reached the small residential street on the other side of the houses, he was greeted by the police, who handcuffed him and went to search behind the houses where, they told him, they were certain he had ditched the drugs. JaQuavis had been dealing since he was 12, had amassed more than $100,000 and had never been arrested. Now, he thought: It’s over.
But when the police looked in the bushes, they couldn’t find any cocaine. They interrogated JaQuavis, who denied having ever possessed or sold drugs. They combed the backyard alley some more. After an hour of fruitless efforts, the police were forced to unlock the handcuffs and release their suspect.
JaQuavis was baffled by the turn of events until the next day, when he received a phone call. The previous afternoon, a 15-year-old girl had been sitting in her home on the west side of Flint when she heard sirens. She looked out of the window of her bedroom, and watched a young man throw a package in the bushes behind her house. She recognized him. He was a high school classmate — a handsome, charismatic boy whom she had admired from afar. The girl crept outside and grabbed the bundle, which she hid in her basement. “I have something that belongs to you,” Ashley Snell told JaQuavis Coleman when she reached him by phone. “You wanna come over here and pick it up?”
In the Colemans’ first novel, “Dirty Money” (2005), they told a version of this story. The outline was the same: the drug deal gone bad, the dope chucked in the bushes, the fateful phone call. To the extent that the authors took poetic license, it was to tone down the meet-cute improbability of the true-life events. In “Dirty Money,” the girl, Anari, and the crack dealer, Maurice, circle each other warily for a year or so before coupling up. But the facts of Ashley and JaQuavis’s romance outstripped pulp fiction. They fell in love more or less at first sight, moved into their own apartment while still in high school and were married in 2008. “We were together from the day we met,” Ashley says. “I don’t think we’ve spent more than a week apart in total over the past 14 years.”
That partnership turned out to be creative and entrepreneurial as well as romantic. Over the past decade, the Colemans have published nearly 50 books, sometimes as solo writers, sometimes under pseudonyms, but usually as collaborators with a byline that has become a trusted brand: “Ashley & JaQuavis.” They are marquee stars of urban fiction, or street lit, a genre whose inner-city settings and lurid mix of crime, sex and sensationalism have earned it comparisons to gangsta rap. The emergence of street lit is one of the big stories in recent American publishing, a juggernaut that has generated huge sales by catering to a readership — young, black and, for the most part, female — that historically has been ill-served by the book business. But the genre is also widely maligned. Street lit is subject to a kind of triple snobbery: scorned by literati who look down on genre fiction generally, ignored by a white publishing establishment that remains largely indifferent to black books and disparaged by African-American intellectuals for poor writing, coarse values and trafficking in racial stereotypes.
But if a certain kind of cultural prestige is shut off to the Colemans, they have reaped other rewards. They’ve built a large and loyal fan base, which gobbles up the new Ashley & JaQuavis titles that arrive every few months. Many of those books are sold at street-corner stands and other off-the-grid venues in African-American neighborhoods, a literary gray market that doesn’t register a blip on best-seller tallies. Yet the Colemans’ most popular series now regularly crack the trade fiction best-seller lists of The New York Times and Publishers Weekly. For years, the pair had no literary agent; they sold hundreds of thousands of books without banking a penny in royalties. Still, they have earned millions of dollars, almost exclusively from cash-for-manuscript deals negotiated directly with independent publishing houses. In short, though little known outside of the world of urban fiction, the Colemans are one of America’s most successful literary couples, a distinction they’ve achieved, they insist, because of their work’s gritty authenticity and their devotion to a primal literary virtue: the power of the ripping yarn.
“When you read our books, you’re gonna realize: ‘Ashley & JaQuavis are storytellers,’ ” says Ashley. “Our tales will get your heart pounding.”
THE COLEMANS’ HOME BASE — the cottage from which they operate their cottage industry — is a spacious four-bedroom house in a genteel suburb about 35 miles north of downtown Detroit. The house is plush, but when I visited this past winter, it was sparsely appointed. The couple had just recently moved in, and had only had time to fully furnish the bedroom of their 4-year-old son, Quaye.
In conversation, Ashley and JaQuavis exude both modesty and bravado: gratitude for their good fortune and bootstrappers’ pride in having made their own luck. They talk a lot about their time in the trenches, the years they spent as a drug dealer and “ride-or-die girl” tandem. In Flint they learned to “grind hard.” Writing, they say, is merely a more elevated kind of grind.
“Instead of hitting the block like we used to, we hit the laptops,” says Ashley. “I know what every word is worth. So while I’m writing, I’m like: ‘Okay, there’s a hundred dollars. There’s a thousand dollars. There’s five thousand dollars.’ ”
They maintain a rigorous regimen. They each try to write 5,000 words per day, five days a week. The writers stagger their shifts: JaQuavis goes to bed at 7 p.m. and wakes up early, around 3 or 4 in the morning, to work while his wife and child sleep. Ashley writes during the day, often in libraries or at Starbucks.
They divide the labor in other ways. Chapters are divvied up more or less equally, with tasks assigned according to individual strengths. (JaQuavis typically handles character development. Ashley loves writing murder scenes.) The results are stitched together, with no editorial interference from one author in the other’s text. The real work, they contend, is the brainstorming. The Colemans spend weeks mapping out their plot-driven books — long conversations that turn into elaborate diagrams on dry-erase boards. “JaQuavis and I are so close, it makes the process real easy,” says Ashley. “Sometimes when I’m thinking of something, a plot point, he’ll say it out loud, and I’m like: ‘Wait — did I say that?’ ”
Their collaboration developed by accident, and on the fly. Both were bookish teenagers. Ashley read lots of Judy Blume and John Grisham; JaQuavis liked Shakespeare, Richard Wright and “Atlas Shrugged.” (Their first official date was at a Borders bookstore, where Ashley bought “The Coldest Winter Ever,” the Sister Souljah novel often credited with kick-starting the contemporary street-lit movement.) In 2003, Ashley, then 17, was forced to terminate an ectopic pregnancy. She was bedridden for three weeks, and to provide distraction and boost her spirits, JaQuavis challenged his girlfriend to a writing contest. “She just wasn’t talking. She was laying in bed. I said, ‘You know what? I bet you I could write a better book than you.’ My wife is real competitive. So I said, ‘Yo, all right, $500 bet.’ And I saw her eyes spark, like, ‘What?! You can’t write no better book than me!’ So I wrote about three chapters. She wrote about three chapters. Two days later, we switched.”
The result, hammered out in a few days, would become “Dirty Money.” Two years later, when Ashley and JaQuavis were students at Ferris State University in Western Michigan, they sold the manuscript to Urban Books, a street-lit imprint founded by the best-selling author Carl Weber. At the time, JaQuavis was still making his living selling drugs. When Ashley got the phone call informing her that their book had been bought, she assumed they’d hit it big, and flushed more than $10,000 worth of cocaine down the toilet. Their advance was a mere $4,000.
Those advances would soon increase, eventually reaching five and six figures. The Colemans built their career, JaQuavis says, in a manner that made sense to him as a veteran dope peddler: by flooding the street with product. From the start, they were prolific, churning out books at a rate of four or five a year. Their novels made their way into stores; the now-defunct chain Waldenbooks, which had stores in urban areas typically bypassed by booksellers, was a major engine of the street-lit market. But Ashley and JaQuavis took advantage of distribution channels established by pioneering urban fiction authors such as Teri Woods and Vickie Stringer, and a network of street-corner tables, magazine stands, corner shops and bodegas. Like rappers who establish their bona fides with gray-market mixtapes, street-lit authors use this system to circumnavigate industry gatekeepers, bringing their work straight to the genre’s core readership. But urban fiction has other aficionados, in less likely places. “Our books are so popular in the prison system,” JaQuavis says. “We’re banned in certain penitentiaries. Inmates fight over the books — there are incidents, you know? I have loved ones in jail, and they’re like: ‘Yo, your books can’t come in here. It’s against the rules.’ ”
The appeal of the Colemans’ work is not hard to fathom. The books are formulaic and taut; they deliver the expected goods efficiently and exuberantly. The titles telegraph the contents: “Diary of a Street Diva,” “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang,” “Murderville.” The novels serve up a stream of explicit sex and violence in a slangy, tangy, profane voice. In Ashley & JaQuavis’s books people don’t get killed: they get “popped,” “laid out,” get their “cap twisted back.” The smut is constant, with emphasis on the earthy, sticky, olfactory particulars. Romance novel clichés — shuddering orgasms, heroic carnal feats, superlative sexual skill sets — are rendered in the Colemans’ punchy patois.
Subtlety, in other words, isn’t Ashley & JaQuavis’s forte. But their books do have a grainy specificity. In “The Cartel” (2008), the first novel in the Colemans’ best-selling saga of a Miami drug syndicate, they catch the sights and smells of a crack workshop in a housing project: the nostril-stinging scent of cocaine and baking soda bubbling on stovetops; the teams of women, stripped naked except for hospital masks so they can’t pilfer the merchandise, “cutting up the cooked coke on the round wood table.” The subject matter is dark, but the Colemans’ tone is not quite noir. Even in the grimmest scenes, the mood is high-spirited, with the writers palpably relishing the lewd and gory details: the bodies writhing in boudoirs and crumpling under volleys of bullets, the geysers of blood and other bodily fluids.
The luridness of street lit has made it a flashpoint, inciting controversy reminiscent of the hip-hop culture wars of the 1980s and ’90s. But the street-lit debate touches deeper historical roots, reviving decades-old arguments in black literary circles about the mandate to uplift the race and present wholesome images of African-Americans. In 1928, W. E. B. Du Bois slammed the “licentiousness” of “Home to Harlem,” Claude McKay’s rollicking novel of Harlem nightlife. McKay’s book, Du Bois wrote, “for the most part nauseates me, and after the dirtier parts of its filth I feel distinctly like taking a bath.” Similar sentiments have greeted 21st-century street lit. In a 2006 New York Times Op-Ed essay, the journalist and author Nick Chiles decried “the sexualization and degradation of black fiction.” African-American bookstores, Chiles complained, are “overrun with novels that . . . appeal exclusively to our most prurient natures — as if these nasty books were pairing off back in the stockrooms like little paperback rabbits and churning out even more graphic offspring that make Ralph Ellison books cringe into a dusty corner.”
Copulating paperbacks aside, it’s clear that the street-lit debate is about more than literature, touching on questions of paternalism versus populism, and on middle-class anxieties about the black underclass. “It’s part and parcel of black elites’ efforts to define not only a literary tradition, but a racial politics,” said Kinohi Nishikawa, an assistant professor of English and African-American Studies at Princeton University. “There has always been a sense that because African-Americans’ opportunities to represent themselves are so limited in the first place, any hint of criminality or salaciousness would necessarily be a knock on the entire racial politics. One of the pressing debates about African-American literature today is: If we can’t include writers like Ashley & JaQuavis, to what extent is the foundation of our thinking about black literature faulty? Is it just a literature for elites? Or can it be inclusive, bringing urban fiction under the purview of our umbrella term ‘African-American literature’?”
Defenders of street lit note that the genre has a pedigree: a tradition of black pulp fiction that stretches from Chester Himes, the midcentury author of hardboiled Harlem detective stories, to the 1960s and ’70s “ghetto fiction” of Iceberg Slim and Donald Goines, to the current wave of urban fiction authors. Others argue for street lit as a social good, noting that it attracts a large audience that might otherwise never read at all. Scholars like Nishikawa link street lit to recent studies showing increased reading among African-Americans. A 2014 Pew Research Center report found that a greater percentage of black Americans are book readers than whites or Latinos.
For their part, the Colemans place their work in the broader black literary tradition. “You have Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, James Baldwin — all of these traditional black writers, who wrote about the struggles of racism, injustice, inequality,” says Ashley. “We’re writing about the struggle as it happens now. It’s just a different struggle. I’m telling my story. I’m telling the struggle of a black girl from Flint, Michigan, who grew up on welfare.”
Perhaps there is a high-minded case to be made for street lit. But the virtues of Ashley & JaQuavis’s work are more basic. Their novels do lack literary polish. The writing is not graceful; there are passages of clunky exposition and sex scenes that induce guffaws and eye rolls. But the pleasure quotient is high. The books flaunt a garish brand of feminism, with women characters cast not just as vixens, but also as gangsters — cold-blooded killers, “murder mamas.” The stories are exceptionally well-plotted. “The Cartel” opens by introducing its hero, the crime boss Carter Diamond; on page 9, a gunshot spatters Diamond’s brain across the interior of a police cruiser. The book then flashes back seven years and begins to hurtle forward again — a bullet train, whizzing readers through shifting alliances, romantic entanglements and betrayals, kidnappings, shootouts with Haitian and Dominican gangsters, and a cliffhanger closing scene that leaves the novel’s heroine tied to a chair in a basement, gruesomely tortured to the edge of death. Ashley & JaQuavis’s books are not Ralph Ellison, certainly, but they build up quite a head of steam. They move.
The Colemans are moving themselves these days. They recently signed a deal with St. Martin’s Press, which will bring out the next installment in the “Cartel” series as well as new solo series by both writers. The St. Martin’s deal is both lucrative and legitimizing — a validation of Ashley and JaQuavis’s work by one of publishing’s most venerable houses. The Colemans’ ambitions have grown, as well. A recent trilogy, “Murderville,” tackles human trafficking and the blood-diamond industry in West Africa, with storylines that sweep from Sierra Leone to Mexico to Los Angeles. Increasingly, Ashley & JaQuavis are leaning on research — traveling to far-flung settings and hitting the books in the libraries — and spending less time mining their own rough-and-tumble past.
But Flint remains a source of inspiration. One evening not long ago, JaQuavis led me on a tour of his hometown: a popular roadside bar; the parking lot where he met the undercover cop for the ill-fated drug deal; Ashley’s old house, the site of his almost-arrest. He took me to a ramshackle vehicle repair shop on Flint’s west side, where he worked as a kid, washing cars. He showed me a bathroom at the rear of the garage, where, at age 12, he sneaked away to inspect the first “boulder” of crack that he ever sold. A spray-painted sign on the garage wall, which JaQuavis remembered from his time at the car wash, offered words of warning:
WHAT EVERY YOUNG MAN SHOULD KNOW
ABOUT USING A GUN:
MURDER . . . 30 Years
ARMED ROBBERY . . . 15 Years
ASSAULT . . . 15 Years
RAPE . . . 20 Years
POSSESSION . . . 5 Years
JACKING . . . 20 YEARS
“We still love Flint, Michigan,” JaQuavis says. “It’s so seedy, so treacherous. But there’s some heart in this city. This is where it all started, selling books out the box. In the days when we would get those little $40,000 advances, they’d send us a couple boxes of books for free. We would hit the streets to sell our books, right out of the car trunk. It was a hustle. It still is.”
One old neighborhood asset that the Colemans have not shaken off is swagger. “My wife is the best female writer in the game,” JaQuavis told me. “I believe I’m the best male writer in the game. I’m sleeping next to the best writer in the world. And she’s doing the same.”
Dave Goldberg Was Lifelong Womenís Advocate
Even as a high school student, Dave Goldberg was urging female classmates to speak up. As a young dot-com executive, he had one girlfriend after another, but fell hard for a driven friend named Sheryl Sandberg, pining after her for years. After they wed, Mr. Goldberg pushed her to negotiate hard for high compensation and arranged his schedule so that he could be home with their children when she was traveling for work.
Mr. Goldberg, who died unexpectedly on Friday, was a genial, 47-year-old Silicon Valley entrepreneur who built his latest company, SurveyMonkey, from a modest enterprise to one recently valued by investors at $2 billion. But he was also perhaps the signature male feminist of his era: the first major chief executive in memory to spur his wife to become as successful in business as he was, and an essential figure in “Lean In,” Ms. Sandberg’s blockbuster guide to female achievement.
Over the weekend, even strangers were shocked at his death, both because of his relatively young age and because they knew of him as the living, breathing, car-pooling center of a new philosophy of two-career marriage.
“They were very much the role models for what this next generation wants to grapple with,” said Debora L. Spar, the president of Barnard College. In a 2011 commencement speech there, Ms. Sandberg told the graduates that whom they married would be their most important career decision.
In the play “The Heidi Chronicles,” revived on Broadway this spring, a male character who is the founder of a media company says that “I don’t want to come home to an A-plus,” explaining that his ambitions require him to marry an unthreatening helpmeet. Mr. Goldberg grew up to hold the opposite view, starting with his upbringing in progressive Minneapolis circles where “there was woman power in every aspect of our lives,” Jeffrey Dachis, a childhood friend, said in an interview.
The Goldberg parents read “The Feminine Mystique” together — in fact, Mr. Goldberg’s father introduced it to his wife, according to Ms. Sandberg’s book. In 1976, Paula Goldberg helped found a nonprofit to aid children with disabilities. Her husband, Mel, a law professor who taught at night, made the family breakfast at home.
Later, when Dave Goldberg was in high school and his prom date, Jill Chessen, stayed silent in a politics class, he chastised her afterward. He said, “You need to speak up,” Ms. Chessen recalled in an interview. “They need to hear your voice.”
Years later, when Karin Gilford, an early employee at Launch Media, Mr. Goldberg’s digital music company, became a mother, he knew exactly what to do. He kept giving her challenging assignments, she recalled, but also let her work from home one day a week. After Yahoo acquired Launch, Mr. Goldberg became known for distributing roses to all the women in the office on Valentine’s Day.
Ms. Sandberg, who often describes herself as bossy-in-a-good-way, enchanted him when they became friendly in the mid-1990s. He “was smitten with her,” Ms. Chessen remembered. Ms. Sandberg was dating someone else, but Mr. Goldberg still hung around, even helping her and her then-boyfriend move, recalled Bob Roback, a friend and co-founder of Launch. When they finally married in 2004, friends remember thinking how similar the two were, and that the qualities that might have made Ms. Sandberg intimidating to some men drew Mr. Goldberg to her even more.
Over the next decade, Mr. Goldberg and Ms. Sandberg pioneered new ways of capturing information online, had a son and then a daughter, became immensely wealthy, and hashed out their who-does-what-in-this-marriage issues. Mr. Goldberg’s commute from the Bay Area to Los Angeles became a strain, so he relocated, later joking that he “lost the coin flip” of where they would live. He paid the bills, she planned the birthday parties, and both often left their offices at 5:30 so they could eat dinner with their children before resuming work afterward.
Friends in Silicon Valley say they were careful to conduct their careers separately, politely refusing when outsiders would ask one about the other’s work: Ms. Sandberg’s role building Facebook into an information and advertising powerhouse, and Mr. Goldberg at SurveyMonkey, which made polling faster and cheaper. But privately, their work was intertwined. He often began statements to his team with the phrase “Well, Sheryl said” sharing her business advice. He counseled her, too, starting with her salary negotiations with Mark Zuckerberg.
“I wanted Mark to really feel he stretched to get Sheryl, because she was worth it,” Mr. Goldberg explained in a 2013 “60 Minutes” interview, his Minnesota accent and his smile intact as he offered a rare peek of the intersection of marriage and money at the top of corporate life.
While his wife grew increasingly outspoken about women’s advancement, Mr. Goldberg quietly advised the men in the office on family and partnership matters, an associate said. Six out of 16 members of SurveyMonkey’s management team are female, an almost unheard-of ratio among Silicon Valley “unicorns,” or companies valued at over $1 billion.
When Mellody Hobson, a friend and finance executive, wrote a chapter of “Lean In” about women of color for the college edition of the book, Mr. Goldberg gave her feedback on the draft, a clue to his deep involvement. He joked with Ms. Hobson that she was too long-winded, like Ms. Sandberg, but aside from that, he said he loved the chapter, she said in an interview.
By then, Mr. Goldberg was a figure of fascination who inspired a “where can I get one of those?” reaction among many of the women who had read the best seller “Lean In.” Some lamented that Ms. Sandberg’s advice hinged too much on marrying a Dave Goldberg, who was humble enough to plan around his wife, attentive enough to worry about which shoes his young daughter would wear, and rich enough to help pay for the help that made the family’s balancing act manageable.
Now that he is gone, and Ms. Sandberg goes from being half of a celebrated partnership to perhaps the business world’s most prominent single mother, the pages of “Lean In” carry a new sting of loss.
“We are never at 50-50 at any given moment — perfect equality is hard to define or sustain — but we allow the pendulum to swing back and forth between us,” she wrote in 2013, adding that they were looking forward to raising teenagers together.
“Fortunately, I have Dave to figure it out with me,” she wrote.