From literary icon and Essence bestselling author of Imagine This and Dirty Red comes forth the classic urban novel that launched Vickie Stringer's wildly successful career -- Let That Be the Reason. This is the remix. Based on Stringer's real-life experiences, this epic tale has changed the face of contemporary literature and continues to resonate and provide voice to thousands of urban readers as a cautionary tale of will and redemption.
Pamela Xavier is a young woman left for dead by her drug-dealing boyfriend, Chino. With stacks of bills, no food in the fridge, and a baby on the way, Pammy turns to the streets for survival. Her back against the wall, Pammy relies on her alter ego, Carmen, to guide her through the male-dominated game and to achieve what she thinks will buy back her life and her happiness: money. In no time, Carmen graduates from call-girl service to leader of a major drug cartel -- all to raise her son so he may never know her same pain and struggle. But with money on her mind, Carmen soon realizes that the perilous choices and consequences of the game come at a much higher cost than she could ever have imagined.
Let That Be the Reason in this collector's edition, including additional chapters and dialogue, is a true-to-life saga of a woman's love, ambition to survive, forgiveness, and salvation.
This reading group guide forLet That Be The Reasonincludes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
Let That Be the Reason is Vickie Stringer’s debut novel based on her real-life experiences. Pamela Xavier is abandoned by her drug-dealing boyfriend with a stack of bills, no food in the fridge, and an impending eviction notice. With no job prospects, Pamela feels backed into a corner and decides to get her “hustle” on. As a woman caught up in a male-dominated game, Pammy relies on her alter ego, Carmen, to deal with the streets, playas, dealers, drug lords, and of course, the law.
In no time, Carmen is on the come-up, running a call-girl service, fencing operation, and drug cartel—and being a mom. With money on her mind, Carmen’s hustle is taking the streets by storm, but the ever-present danger of the police and rival hustlers makes staying in the game—or getting out of it—equally perilous.
Let That Be the Reason is a saga of consequences, forgiveness, and life-changing decisions.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. The novel describes Carmen as an “alter personality” to Pammy: “Only way I can explain Carmen was that she appeared and saved me." (p. 45) Carmen had plans. Big plans she’d only just begun, unbeknownst to Pammy. What do you think of the Pammy/Carmen split? Do you think Carmen is “just a role,” as Pammy tells Chino, or has Carmen taken on a life of her own? (p. 231)
2. The story of Pammy and Chino’s near-fatal argument is told through flashbacks throughout the novel. How did you feel about learning about the shooting bit by bit? Were you surprised at the outcome? Why or why not?
3. Pammy’s mother says, “I am your mother. I am not your friend.” (p. 277) What does she mean? How do these words reassure Pammy in her times of trouble?
4. Carmen promises in a prayer, “When I make fifty thousand dollars, I will stop the street life totally.” (p. 94) What are some of the reasons she breaks this promise? What is the result?
5. Before Carmen sees Chino for the first time since their break-up, she puts a ring on her left finger she bought for herself and declares, “I am married to myself.” (p. 200) What does she mean? How does this so-called marriage to herself affect her new relationship with Delano?
6. What are some of the challenges that Carmen faces as a woman in the male-dominated world of street crime? How does she address these challenges? Were you surprised that a woman could come to dominate the Columbus drug market? Why or why not?
7. How does China’s violent death serve as a turning point in Carmen’s life? What do you think China’s famous saying, “Let that be the reason,” means to Carmen after her former employee’s death?
8. In Chapter Eighteen, we hear from Chino for the first time. How does Chino’s side of the story influence your reading of the novel? Do you sympathize with Chino? Why or why not?
9. At the end of the novel, Pammy realizes that she has a “trump card” to cooperate with the authorities: she knows where to find the gun Chino used for murder. Could Pammy betray Chino, just as he has betrayed her? Do you think she should, even though she has said herself, “Betrayal is a very big pill to swallow?” (p. 45)
10. How do you think this book would have been different if Stringer had written her personal experiences as a memoir instead of a novel? What do you think the story gains through the fictional form?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. Have your book club make a soundtrack inspired by Let That Be the Reason! Music plays a big role in the novel, from the rap songs Carmen plays in her Jeep, to the R&B tunes she sings when she is alone. Make a list of your book club’s favorite hip-hop, soul, and R&B songs. Purchase the songs online and make a CD for each member of your book club to take home!
2. What does your book club think about mandatory minimum sentencing laws for drug convictions? Research both sides of the issue at the library or online, and then discuss your opinions together.
3. Carmen celebrates her “come-up” with plenty of shopping. Take your book club to the local mall and window shop for fly clothes that Carmen might wear in Columbus!
Vickie M. Stringer is the author of Essence bestsellers, including Imagine This, Let that Be the Reason, Dirty Red, Still Dirty,and Dirtier Than Ever. She is the publisher of Triple Crown publications, one of the most successful African American book publishers in the U.S. and abroad. She has been featured in such prominent news media as The New York Times, Newsweek, MTV News, Publishers Weekly, Vibe, Millionaire Blueprints, Writer's Newsweek, Black Expressions, and many more. She lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her two children.