Orang-orang ini dikenal karena memiliki
kebiasaan aneh ataupun kejadian unik yang dialaminya. Mulai dari orang yang tidak pernah tidur
selama 30 tahun lebih! Ada pula pria yang punya kebiasaan aneh, yakni memakan benda-benda yang
secara normal tak bisa dicerna tubuh manusia. Misalnya, sepeda, televisi, hingga pesawat Cessna
Orang-orang ini dikenal karena memiliki kebiasaan aneh ataupun
kejadian unik yang dialaminya. Mulai dari orang yang tidak pernah tidur selama 30 tahun lebih!
Ada pula pria yang punya kebiasaan aneh, yakni memakan benda-benda yang secara normal tak bisa
dicerna tubuh manusia. Misalnya, sepeda, televisi, hingga pesawat Cessna 150. Astaga!
Berikut 6 pria paling aneh di muka bumi seperti dirangkum dari dari berbagai sumber:
1. Thai Ngoc, tidak tidur 30 tahun lebih
Pria Vietnam ini tak bisa tidur sejak
menderita demam pada tahun 1973. Menurut media Vietnam, Thanh Nien, dia mengklaim tak pernah
tidur selama 33 tahun. Selama itu, Thai Ngoc atau Hai Ngoc yang dilahirkan tahun 1942 ini
menggunakan 'waktu luangnya' di malam hari untuk mengurusi lahan pertaniannya atau ronda
menjaga lahannya dari pencuri. Ngoc memiliki lahan pertanian seluas 5 hektar yang terletak di
wilayah kaki gunung di Que Trung, distrik Que Son, Thailand. Sehari-hari Ngoc sibuk bertani dan
mengurusi hewan-hewan ternaknya, seperti ayam dan babi.
Anehnya, kesehatan Ngoc tidak
terpengaruh dengan kebiasaan tidak bisa tidur tersebut. Sang istri pernah membawa Ngoc untuk
memeriksakan kesehatannya dan dokter menyatakan, secara keseluruhan kondisi Ngoc sehat.
Kecuali, ada sedikit masalah pada fungsi hatinya, namun tidak serius.
tahu apakah insomnia yang saya alami mempengaruhi kesehatan saya atau tidak. Tapi saya merasa
tetap sehat dan bisa bertani seperti yang lainnya," ucap Ngoc. Pria itu bahkan mengaku
setiap harinya masih mampu membawa 50 kg karung pupuk sembari berjalan turun gunung sejauh 4
2. Michel Lotito, pria pemakan segala
Michel Lotito yang lahir pada 15
Juni 1950 adalah seorang entertainer. Di Prancis, dia dikenal sebagai Monsieur Mangetout (Mister
Eat-it-all) alias 'Pria Pemakan Segala'. Dalam atraksinya, Lotito gemar memakan benda-benda
yang secara normal tak bisa dicerna tubuh manusia, seperti logam, kaca, karet. Bahkan juga
benda-benda lain seperti sepeda, televisi, hingga pesawat Cessna 150. Benda-benda tersebut
terlebih dahulu dibongkar dan dipotong-potong menjadi bagian yang lebih kecil, baru kemudian
dimakannya. Lotito diketahui pernah memakan badan pesawat selama 2 tahun, dari 1978-1980
. Kebiasaan makan benda-benda tak lazim ini dilakukan Lotito sejak kecil dan mulai
dipamerkan ke publik pada tahun 1966 silam. Meskipun kerap memakan benda-benda aneh, kondisi
tubuh dan kesehatan Lotito seolah tak terpengaruh. Dia sama sekali tidak mengalami sakit apapun
meskipun telah memakan benda-benda yang mengandung racun.
Ketika memakan berkilo-kilo
logam atau benda aneh lainnya, Lotito dibantu dengan minyak mineral atau air dalam jumlah banyak
untuk membantu pencernaannya. Menurut pemeriksaan medis, Lotito dinyatakan memiliki perut dan
usus dengan ketebalan dua kali lipat dari ukuran normal. Selain itu, asam pencernaan yang ada di
dalam lambungnya diperkirakan memiliki kekuatan luar biasa sehingga mampu mencerna benda-benda
logam yang dia makan. Luar biasa!
3. Matayoshi Mitsuo, mengaku sebagai Yesus Kristus
Politikus eksentrik Jepang ini mengaku dirinya adalah Yesus Kristus. Menurut visi Matayoshi,
pria ini mengklaim akan melakukan penghakiman terakhir sebagai Kristus namun dengan cara yang
benar-benar sesuai dengan sistem politik saat ini.
Matayoshi menuturkan, langkah
pertama yang harus dijalaninya sebagai Juruselamat adalah dengan terpilih menjadi Perdana
Menteri Jepang. Kemudian dia akan mereformasi masyarakat Jepang. Tidak hanya itu, Matayoshi
juga meminta PBB untuk memberikannya posisi terhormat sebagai Sekretaris Jenderal PBB. Dengan
demikian, Matayoshi akan bisa memerintah seluruh dunia dengan dua jabatan legal tersebut, tidak
hanya secara agama tapi juga secara politik.
Matayoshi telah berulang kali ikut serta
dalam pemilihan umum di Jepang, namun tidak pernah berhasil menang. Dia dikenal karena
kampanyenya yang eksentrik -dia pernah menyerukan para rival politiknya untuk bunuh diri dengan
4. Shoichi Yokoi, 28 tahun sembunyi di gua usai PD II
Yokoi tadinya seorang tentara yang tergabung dalam wajib militer di Tentara Kerajaan Jepang
pada tahun 1941 silam dan tak lama kemudian dikirim ke Guam. Pada tahun 1944, ketika pasukan
Amerika Serikat menduduki Guam, Yokoi memilih bersembunyi.
Hingga akhirnya pada 24
Januari 1972, Yokoi ditemukan di sebuah daerah terpencil di Guam oleh dua warga pulau tersebut.
Selama 28 tahun, pria itu hidup bersembunyi di dalam gua bawah tanah di tengah hutan. Yokoi
terlalu takut untuk keluar, bahkan setelah dia menemukan selebaran yang isinya menyebutkan bahwa
Perang Dunia II telah berakhir.
Yokoi akhirnya dipulangkan ke Jepang sembari membawa
senapannya yang telah berkarat.
5. Sanju Bhagat, 'mengandung' saudara kembarnya di
Pria asal India ini memiliki kondisi perut yang tidak wajar, yakni
membengkak seperti sedang hamil 9 bulan. Bhagat yang tinggal di Nagpur, India ini sering merasa
sesak nafas karena kondisinya itu.
Sampai akhirnya pada suatu malam di bulan Juni 1999,
Bhagat menjalani operasi di rumah
sakit. Isi perut Bhagat yang awalnya diduga tumor ganas, ternyata merupakan sesuatu yang tak
diduga sama sekali. Saat dioperasi, dokter menemukan sejumlah bagian tubuh manusia di bagian
dalam perut Bhagat. Bagian-bagian tubuh tersebut ternyata milik saudara kembar Bhagat yang
terjebak di dalam perutnya sejak lahir.
Dokter menyatakan, Bhagat mengalami kondisi
medis teraneh di dunia, yakni janin di dalam janin lainnya. Sangat jarang terjadi bahwa sebuah
janin bisa terjebak di dalam janin kembarannya sendiri. Menariknya, janin yang terjebak ini
mampu bertahan hidup sebagai parasit dan menyerap darah dan makanan dari tubuh Bhagat, hingga
dia bertambah besar dan mulai menyakiti tubuh Bhagat.
6. Mehran Karimi Nasseri, hidup
di bandara sejak 1988
Pria yang juga dikenal sebagai Sir, Alfred Mehran ini merupakan
seorang pengungsi asal Iran yang tinggal di Bandara Charles de Gaulle, Prancis sejak Agustus 8
Agustus 1988. Mehran tinggal di ruang tunggu keberangkatan di Terminal Satu bandara
internasional di Paris itu selama bertahun-tahun karena tak memiliki dokumen.
Mehran ini dimulai ketika dia dipenjara dan dianiaya di Iran, kemudian dibuang keluar negeri.
Mehran lalu berusaha mendapatkan suaka ke sejumlah negara di Eropa, tapi usahanya tidak
Saat mencoba pergi ke Inggris, Mehran mengklaim bahwa dirinya
dirampok dan tasnya dicuri orang saat akan berangkat menuju Bandara Charles de Gaulle untuk
terbang ke Inggris. Dia pun berhasil naik ke pesawat dan terbang ke Inggris. Tapi setibanya di
Bandara Heathrow di London, Inggris, Mehran yang tidak membawa dokumen-dokumen yang diperlukan,
diterbangkan kembali ke Bandara Charles de Gaulle.
Kepada otoritas Prancis, Mehran tak
bisa menunjukkan identitas maupun dokumen-dokumen yang membuktikan dirinya sebagai seorang
pengungsi. Dia pun dipindahkan ke zona tunggu, sebuah tempat 'penahanan' bagi pelancong tanpa
Kisah Mehran ini konon menjadi inspirasi bagi film 'The Terminal' keluaran
tahun 2004, yang dibintangi oleh aktor Hollywood, Tom Hanks. Namun tidak seperti karakter yang
diperankan Hanks dalam film tersebut yang tinggal di area transit bandara, Mehran justru tinggal
di area keberangkatan, juga di dekat butik-butik dan restoran yang berada di lantai dasar.
Selama tinggal di bandara, Mehran terlihat jarang berkomunikasi dengan orang lain. Dengan
membawa-bawa kereta dorong dan tasnya, Mehran tampak seperti pelancong biasa, tanpa ada yang
menyadari bahwa dia sebenarnya adalah gelandangan.
MOBIL BERISI MAYAT WANITA ATAS NAMA PENGUSAHA
saco-indonesia.com, Mobil Nissan March yang bernomor polisi F 1356 KA warna putih yang berisi mayat perempuan, merupakan mobil y
saco-indonesia.com, Mobil Nissan March yang bernomor polisi F 1356 KA warna putih yang berisi mayat perempuan, merupakan mobil yang telah dikelurkan dari Samsat Polres Bogor.
Kasat Lantas Polres Bogor, AKP M Chaniago telah membenarkan, jika mobil Nissan yang telah berisi mayat wanita yang terparkir di samping TPU Pondok Kelapa, Duren Sawit, Jakarta Timur, Selasa (28/1), juga merupakan mobil yang telah dikeluarkan pihaknya.
Sayang AKP Chaniago menolak untuk memberi rinci siapa pemilik mobil tersebut.”Untuk nama pemilik mobil, saya juga tidak bisa memberitahu. Ini telah menyangkut penyelidikan,”kata Chaniago.
Namun dari data di lapangan, pemilik mobil berisi mayat ini beralamat di kawasan elit Kota Wisata Gunung Putri Bogor.
“Pemilik mobil Nissan berstiker logo Paspampres ini, berinisial J, seorang pengusaha sukses. Apakah mobil itu juga masih punya dia atau sudah dijual ke orang lain, saya juga tidak tahu,”kata sumber di Polres Bogor.
Saat ditanya apakah mayat wanita dalam mobil adalah korban pembunuhan, sumber yang enggan namanya disebutkan ini juga mengaku, penyelidikan oleh tim Polda Metro masih berjalan.
“Kami juga tidak hafal kasus ini secara utuh, karena TKP nya di Jakarta. Yang bisa dipastikan, mobil ini telah dikeluarkan di Kabupaten Bogor. Tim sedang bergerak kelokasi,”paparnya.
Editor : Dian Sukmawati
Obama Finds a Bolder Voice on Race Issues
As he reflected on the festering wounds deepened by race and grievance that have been on painful display in America’s cities lately, President Obama on Monday found himself thinking about a young man he had just met named Malachi.
A few minutes before, in a closed-door round-table discussion at Lehman College in the Bronx, Mr. Obama had asked a group of black and Hispanic students from disadvantaged backgrounds what could be done to help them reach their goals. Several talked about counseling and guidance programs.
“Malachi, he just talked about — we should talk about love,” Mr. Obama told a crowd afterward, drifting away from his prepared remarks. “Because Malachi and I shared the fact that our dad wasn’t around and that sometimes we wondered why he wasn’t around and what had happened. But really, that’s what this comes down to is: Do we love these kids?”
Many presidents have governed during times of racial tension, but Mr. Obama is the first to see in the mirror a face that looks like those on the other side of history’s ledger. While his first term was consumed with the economy, war and health care, his second keeps coming back to the societal divide that was not bridged by his election. A president who eschewed focusing on race now seems to have found his voice again as he thinks about how to use his remaining time in office and beyond.
In the aftermath of racially charged unrest in places like Baltimore, Ferguson, Mo., and New York, Mr. Obama came to the Bronx on Monday for the announcement of a new nonprofit organization that is being spun off from his White House initiative called My Brother’s Keeper. Staked by more than $80 million in commitments from corporations and other donors, the new group, My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, will in effect provide the nucleus for Mr. Obama’s post-presidency, which will begin in January 2017.
“This will remain a mission for me and for Michelle not just for the rest of my presidency but for the rest of my life,” Mr. Obama said. “And the reason is simple,” he added. Referring to some of the youths he had just met, he said: “We see ourselves in these young men. I grew up without a dad. I grew up lost sometimes and adrift, not having a sense of a clear path. The only difference between me and a lot of other young men in this neighborhood and all across the country is that I grew up in an environment that was a little more forgiving.”
Organizers said the new alliance already had financial pledges from companies like American Express, Deloitte, Discovery Communications and News Corporation. The money will be used to help companies address obstacles facing young black and Hispanic men, provide grants to programs for disadvantaged youths, and help communities aid their populations.
Joe Echevarria, a former chief executive of Deloitte, the accounting and consulting firm, will lead the alliance, and among those on its leadership team or advisory group are executives at PepsiCo, News Corporation, Sprint, BET and Prudential Group Insurance; former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell; Senator Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey; former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.; the music star John Legend; the retired athletes Alonzo Mourning, Jerome Bettis and Shaquille O’Neal; and the mayors of Indianapolis, Sacramento and Philadelphia.
The alliance, while nominally independent of the White House, may face some of the same questions confronting former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton as she begins another presidential campaign. Some of those donating to the alliance may have interests in government action, and skeptics may wonder whether they are trying to curry favor with the president by contributing.
“The Obama administration will have no role in deciding how donations are screened and what criteria they’ll set at the alliance for donor policies, because it’s an entirely separate entity,” Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, told reporters on Air Force One en route to New York. But he added, “I’m confident that the members of the board are well aware of the president’s commitment to transparency.”
The alliance was in the works before the disturbances last week after the death of Freddie Gray, the black man who suffered fatal injuries while in police custody in Baltimore, but it reflected the evolution of Mr. Obama’s presidency. For him, in a way, it is coming back to issues that animated him as a young community organizer and politician. It was his own struggle with race and identity, captured in his youthful memoir, “Dreams From My Father,” that stood him apart from other presidential aspirants.
But that was a side of him that he kept largely to himself through the first years of his presidency while he focused on other priorities like turning the economy around, expanding government-subsidized health care and avoiding electoral land mines en route to re-election.
After securing a second term, Mr. Obama appeared more emboldened. Just a month after his 2013 inauguration, he talked passionately about opportunity and race with a group of teenage boys in Chicago, a moment aides point to as perhaps the first time he had spoken about these issues in such a personal, powerful way as president. A few months later, he publicly lamented the death of Trayvon Martin, a black Florida teenager, saying that “could have been me 35 years ago.”
That case, along with public ruptures of anger over police shootings in Ferguson and elsewhere, have pushed the issue of race and law enforcement onto the public agenda. Aides said they imagined that with his presidency in its final stages, Mr. Obama might be thinking more about what comes next and causes he can advance as a private citizen.
That is not to say that his public discussion of these issues has been universally welcomed. Some conservatives said he had made matters worse by seeming in their view to blame police officers in some of the disputed cases.
“President Obama, when he was elected, could have been a unifying leader,” Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a Republican candidate for president, said at a forum last week. “He has made decisions that I think have inflamed racial tensions.”
On the other side of the ideological spectrum, some liberal African-American activists have complained that Mr. Obama has not done enough to help downtrodden communities. While he is speaking out more, these critics argue, he has hardly used the power of the presidency to make the sort of radical change they say is necessary.
The line Mr. Obama has tried to straddle has been a serrated one. He condemns police brutality as he defends most officers as honorable. He condemns “criminals and thugs” who looted in Baltimore while expressing empathy with those trapped in a cycle of poverty and hopelessness.
In the Bronx on Monday, Mr. Obama bemoaned the death of Brian Moore, a plainclothes New York police officer who had died earlier in the day after being shot in the head Saturday on a Queens street. Most police officers are “good and honest and fair and care deeply about their communities,” even as they put their lives on the line, Mr. Obama said.
“Which is why in addressing the issues in Baltimore or Ferguson or New York, the point I made was that if we’re just looking at policing, we’re looking at it too narrowly,” he added. “If we ask the police to simply contain and control problems that we ourselves have been unwilling to invest and solve, that’s not fair to the communities, it’s not fair to the police.”
Moreover, if society writes off some people, he said, “that’s not the kind of country I want to live in; that’s not what America is about.”
His message to young men like Malachi Hernandez, who attends Boston Latin Academy in Massachusetts, is not to give up.
“I want you to know you matter,” he said. “You matter to us.”
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.”