My Fine Lady

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Yolanda Joe’s My Fine Lady takes its inspiration from the film My Fair Lady, based on George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion. The book’s protagonist Imani, a singer, is torn between her lifelong companion Taz and his plans for her rap career and Professor Hopson’s dreams of her jazz singing future. The novel also contrasts several young and mature peoples’ lives in the Maryland town that is home to Arlington College.

Joe uses her various characters as foils to each other and also focuses on their influences on each other. Taz, more a promoter/manager than a musician, has strong, devoted relationships to club owner Maceo, Imani’s father, and to Biggie, who is involved in crime. Biggie offers Taz much advice on his business affairs and his love life. Shari, Imani’s close girlfriend, the owner of a hair salon, similarly acts as the heroine’s confidant and advisor. However, it is Shari’s mother, Ma June, who offers Imani the best counsel on conducting one’s emotions and devotions. Professor Hopson’s friendly rival is fellow music instructor Professor Sherman. These two attempt to out maneuver one another into climbing the academic ladder to success.

While these main characters are being carefully developed, Joe is simultaneously leading the reader through a fine maze of complex plots, plot twists, and parallel subplots. Joe weaves all these strands together so skillfully, that she engrosses the reader. Also, her detailed description of the scenes, people, and activities of the two contrasting communities she creates (the campus and the town) are finely wrought with convincing authenticity.

In the end, the music of Imani’s parents, her friends, and her mentor all combine to create a talented, unique singer. At the same time, she matures to become a confidant, secure young woman.