By Martel Sharpe
With 20 books in 20 years serving as the foundation of her career, Mary B. Morrison has built a legacy of empowering women, especially Black women as a New York Times-bestselling author.
Through her books, the New Orleans-native and Atlanta resident has made it her mission to either showcase Black women in powerful positions or warn them of the repercussions of their missteps.
“What I’m most interested in is female empowerment,” said Morrison. “That’s my platform for every book no matter what the woman goes through, she’s going to overcome it.”
Regardless of what, she decides to write about, Morrison intentionally decides that her literary depictions will ultimately be of service to Black women. According to her, that’s been her mission since her first novel.
“From book one, Jada Diamond Tanner had her own everything,” Morrison said. “Her own business and her own money. She met a guy with money, but she was empowered and in control. I always try to put women in a position of power.”
The main character of her first novel “Soulmate Dissipate,” Jada Diamond Tanner is a fashion photographer who learns some tough lessons about commitment and trust through her relationship with a successful financial advisor. However, her biggest lesson was learning to love herself, whether she’s in a relationship or single.
It’s stories like “Soulmate Dissipate,” that resonates with Morison’s audience. She not only gives them love, drama, and sex, but also life lessons that can be applied outside of the bindings of a book.
“I knew right out the gate that I was going to write about relationships and sex,” Morrison said. “I’m not going to hold back, because sex causes a lot of problems in relationships. I try to address it in such a way that people have to draw their own conclusions.”
Morrison claims that she aims to address common problems and issues that many of her literary peers have shy away from; sex being one of them.
“I don’t sugar coat, I don’t dumb it down, I don’t tone down, I just write it,” Morrison said. “If you rewind 20 years ago a lot of authors weren’t writing sex scenes. They would kind of just graze over it.”
After living in Oakland, CA, for 20 years, Morrison relocated to Atlanta a couple of years ago where she discovered that the dating scene was very different from what she was used to.
“I find dating in Atlanta to be very interesting,” Morrison said. “I’ve met men everywhere but the men in Atlanta are by far the most interesting. A lot of the guys here pretend that they have things that they don’t. A lot of guys date up and women date down.
“California was just the opposite I was always dating up.”
In particular, Atlanta’s attitude towards sex was more appalling than Morrison has imagined.
“Guys here just want to have sex, and they want to have sex raw. Nobody wants to wrap it up. They’re running around acting like AIDS, HIV, and STDs are not real.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that Atlanta ranks fourth in the nation for new HIV diagnoses; pointing out that the AIDS/HIV epidemic in Atlanta is on par with some third-world African countries, according to Atlanta Daily World.
“Downtown Atlanta is as bad as Zimbabwe or Harare or Durban,” said Dr. Carlos del Rio, co-director of Emory University’s Center for AIDS Research.
Because not all problems can be solved through a great storyline and dynamic characters, Morrison recently decided to start dishing out her message, straight up.
In her latest book “Never Let a Man Come First,” Morrison provides women, especially young ladies, with information about sex and dating that their mothers may have neglected to tell them.
“‘Never Let A Man Come First’ is non-fiction and it’s the real deal,” Morrison said. “I’m talking with women about how you have to know yourself and know what you want. A lot of women don’t take the time to think about what they really want in a relationship. it’s either the ring or this and that.”
Morrison says that she also talks about the “baby doll syndrome”, which consists of the repercussions of giving a toddler or two-year-old girl a baby doll.
“When you give a two-year-old girl a baby doll, you teach her to love something outside of herself,” Morrison said. “She becomes the woman who thinks that it’s her role in life to become a mother and wife, and then to have kids.”
“A lot of my girls stay in relationships five, ten, and fifteen years with no ring on it. He leaves (them) and marries somebody else.”
In her article “The Barbie Doll Syndrome: Why Girls Are Becoming Obsessed With Unrealistic Curvy Bodies,” published on the online platform “Women’s,” Annie Akkam expressed that the “baby doll syndrome” is also partially responsible for women trying to obtain “unrealistic, unhealthy and a nonexistent” appearances.
In extreme cases, these issues show up as low self-esteem, unhealthy eating habits, abnormal weight loss and mental disorders such as Body Dysmorphic Disorder which is “characterized with the addition of changing their appearance as they are thought to be extremely defective.”
According to Morrison, the “baby doll syndrome” also results in a lot of teen pregnancies.
“(Girls) grow up to be that woman thinking about the little boy in high school, ‘oh, we’ll make a cute baby together,’” Morrison said. “The baby is going to cost $276,000 from birth to getting them out of the house. It’s going to cost you at least a quarter of a million dollars.”
“What you need to do is ask him for half. When a guy says let’s go half on a baby, half of what? (He) got $125,000? Put it on the table right now, then you can put it in perspective.”
It’s these types of upfront and in your face conversations that Morrison enjoys having with her audience. She even goes so far as to start a conversation about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
“I talk about STDs because we don’t talk about it enough,” Morrison said. “I tell girls, these what are the symptoms for gonorrhea, this is chlamydia, this is what trichomoniasis looks like.”
“They need to have an idea because sometimes they may be experiencing something but don’t know it because they don’t know what an STD really feels like.”
Though it seems as though Morrison’s method of getting her message across in books is effective, she says that one of the reasons she moved to Atlanta was to break into the city’s ever-growing film industry.
However, Morrison also desires to start promoting her message of Black women empowerment on college campuses across the country.
“I want to be on the HBCU college speaking circuit. I have to get to these girls before these guys do,” Morrison said. “I will always write, however, I feel like just being out in front of individuals will be great.”
This article originally appeared in the Atlanta Voice.