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Robinson, C. Kelly 1970- (Chester Kelly Robinson)

Robinson, C. Kelly 1970- (Chester Kelly Robinson)

PERSONAL:

Born 1970; son of a physician and a teacher; married; wife's name Kyra (a writer). Education: Howard University, B.B.A., 1992; Washington University, M.B.A.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Dayton, OH. Office—Against the Grain Communications, P.O. Box 58, Dayton, OH 45315. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Writer and novelist. Worked for Price Waterhouse, Emerson Electric Company, and the NCR Corporation.

WRITINGS:

Not All Dogs, Against the Grain Communications (Dayton, OH), 1997, published as Between Brothers, Villard (New York, NY), 2001.

No More Mr. Nice Guy, Villard (New York, NY), 2002.

The Perfect Blend, New American Library (New York, NY), 2004.

The One That Got Away, New American Library (New York, NY), 2005.

The Strong Silent Type, New American Library (New York, NY), 2005.

SIDELIGHTS:

C. Kelly Robinson earned his degrees in business and finance and worked in the corporate world before he took his first steps to becoming a writer. On his Web site Robinson recalled, "In early 1997, I looked at my business career and all its facets—tedious work, office politics, the occasional drops of racism and prejudice, and the fact that I just was not happy—and thought back to my high school years in my hometown of Dayton, Ohio. I realized that out of all my classes, the ones I most enjoyed were English and Literature." Robinson was gifted in these subjects, and earned awards for his essays, but it had never been suggested that he could earn a living doing what he loved. When he decided to become a writer, he started small, taking courses and reading books on writing, and churning out short stories.

Robinson now lives in Dayton, Ohio, where he has formed his own publishing company, Against the Grain Communications, through which he published his first novel, Not All Dogs, later published as Between Brothers by a Random House imprint. The story is set in Washington, DC, and is about four black, male college students in their senior year at fictional Highland University, where they try to save Ellis Community Center in DC's Shaw neighborhood. The four young men come from very different backgrounds. Terence Davidson, who is being raised by his grandmother and whose younger brother became a drug dealer, struggles to pay his tuition and fees. Brandon Bailey is a doctor's son who also plans to enter that profession and, because of a failed romance, vows to remain celibate. Larry Whitaker wants to be like his father, successful in business and with women. O.J. Peters, a preacher like his father, uses his charisma to seduce young women. The four solicit monies from alumni to keep the center open, but there are those who would prefer that it remain closed. They include drug dealer Nico Lane, who will do whatever it takes to sabotage the plan to keep it funded. A Kirkus Reviews contributor noted that Between Brothers offers "a refreshing variety of characters in a low-key redemptive tale."

On his Home Page, Robinson talked about his inspiration for writing the novel, based in part on the way black men and women were being portrayed in literature and on film. "I knew very few men like the ones in most books and movies of that time. Most of my brothers, cousins, and friends want to find the right woman and settle down with her. You rarely see us in literature! … With the leads for Between Brothers, I felt I could showcase some positive brothers like the ones I knew in my days at Howard: guys who are good at heart, who want to better themselves and those around them, despite the baggage they may carry from past hurts and pains. Best of all, as the story unfolded I knew it wouldn't be a ‘female-bashing’ type of deal. I could bring out the strengths and challenges of the sisters as well."

In The One That Got Away, perpetually single Tony Gooden, a radio executive in Chicago, finds his world rocked when he runs into Serena Kincaid, his old girlfriend from college. Tony realizes he has never really gotten over her, even after crashing her wedding ten years earlier. After being injured in an accident, Tony seeks solace through volunteer work in Ghana, where he is pursued by a local chief's daughter. Though he knows he cannot court the Ghanian woman, the chief advises Tony to find out if Serena has similar feelings for him. Reconnecting with Serena poses considerable problems for him, however, as he struggles with professional conflicts and with Serena's unresolved issues with her ex-husband and daughter. In the end, the pair "must decide if they are really meant to be together or if their time has passed," observed Lillian Lewis in Booklist.

Deacon Davis, the protagonist of The Strong Silent Type, is a former pro football player, the son of a prominent civil rights figure, and a business executive. He is also a stutterer, and he struggles to overcome the difficulties his condition causes him in his personal and professional life. After suffering embarrassment during a television interview, Deacon is fired from his job as executive director of the American Dream Party, the country's first African-American political party. He is doubly stung by this turn of events: not only does he lose his job because of his stuttering problem, he is dismissed from the political party started by his own father. As Deacon searches for help with his stuttering, he enrolls in a speech therapy program. There, he meets and falls for Mara, a speech therapist. Both Deacon and Mara struggle against personal difficulties, Deacon with the suspicious death of his father and his attempts to stay active in his children's lives, and Mara with past mistakes and the attempt to reconnect with a child she gave up for adoption. Through it all, the two provide strength and comfort for each other as their relationship grows ever stronger and deeper. Based in part on Robinson's own experiences overcoming stuttering, the story "rings true," commented Mary N. Oluonye in Black Issues Book Review, who concluded that "Robinson's fans will not be disappointed." Lewis, in another Booklist review, called Robinson' novel "a compelling story."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Black Issues Book Review, May-June, 2004, Glenn Townes, review of The Perfect Blend, p. 47; May-June, 2005, Mary N. Oluonye, review of The Strong Silent Type, p. 70.

Booklist, December 15, 2004, Lillian Lewis, review of The Strong Silent Type, p. 709; November 1, 2005, Lillian Lewis, review of The One That Got Away, p. 31.

Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2001, review of Between Brothers, p. 1158.

ONLINE

African-American Literature Book Club,http://www.aalbc.com/ (April 15, 2007).

C. Kelly Robinson Home Page,http://www.ckellyrobinson.com (April 15, 2007).

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