With fun, clever references to Pygmalion and its movie counterpart, My Fair Lady, Yolanda Joe has taken the story of a guttersnipe-turned-lady to a whole new level in My Fine Lady. Here, the classic story is moved to an urban setting, and the dialogue and narration are similarly updated.
Imani is a street rapper moonlighting as a shampoo girl. Her boyfriend, Taz, works as her manager and also keeps an eye on her father, Maceo. Maceo has musical talent, but he also has an affinity for alcohol and gambling and has built up a little debt to the local loan shark. When a suspicious fire takes Maceoís music club and house, Imani turns to street rapping for some quick money to help out the family while the insurance company investigates.
Nearby, at the local black college of fine arts, Professor Hopson is a young, talented, albeit stuffy jazz prodigy. If only he could connect with his students, heíd be perfect. Because of his inability to relate, the chairman of the college is threatening to turn in another professorís paper and dismiss Hopsonís theory that music can completely change a personís life. Enter Imani. A quick bet between the professor and the chairman has Hopson attempting to turn Imani into an elegant jazz diva in two months time.
After months of grammar lessons, breathing lessons, and music appreciation lessons, Imani is no longer sure exactly who she is or where she belongs. Sheís faced with a decision that boils down to deciding who she is, what she wants, and where her loyalties lie.
The main characters of the novel are easy to relate to, something that makes any book that much more enjoyable. Imani is smart and headstrong but full of insecurities. She often lets her heart make her decisions and only uses her intellect in retrospect. Professor Hopson is all brains and has forgotten how to use his heart. To watch the two try and meet in the middle is to watch a ballet that takes place in the middle of a mosh pit. Who canít relate to that kind of a love story?
My Fine Lady is exactly what it claims to be on the cover: A hip-hop novel about finding your voice. The story, though vaguely familiar to the story of Eliza Doolittle, is still all its own. The voice of the novel is young, fresh and fun, and keeps the book moving along rather quickly. Some of it is somewhat far-fetched and hard to swallow (how many professional people actually make wagers that affect the life of another person?), but all in all, itís an entertaining story that is very well-written.