Roby, Kimberla Lawson 1965–
Roby, Kimberla Lawson 1965–
PERSONAL: Born May 3, 1965, in Rockford, IL; daughter of Arletha Tennin Stapleton and Lucious Lawson; married Will M. Roby, Jr., September 1990. Ethnicity: "African-American." Education: Cardinal Stritch University, B.A. (cum laude).
CAREER: Novelist. Womanspace, Rockford, IL, member of board of directors. Also worked as a financial analyst for the City of Rockford.
AWARDS, HONORS: Blackboard African-American Bestsellers Fiction Book of the Year winner, 1997 and 2001; First-time author award, Chicago Book Fair, 1998; Blackboard African-American Bestsellers Fiction Book of the Year nominee, 1998 and 1999; Patron Choice Award, Central Mississippi Regional Library System, 2004.
Behind Closed Doors, Lenox Press (Rockford, IL), 1997.
Here and Now, Kensington Publishing (New York, NY), 1999.
Casting the First Stone, Kensington Publishing (New York, NY), 2000.
It's a Thin Line, Kensington Publishing/Dafina Books (New York, NY), 2001.
A Taste of Reality, William Morrow (New York, NY), 2003.
Too Much of a Good Thing, William Morrow (New York, NY), 2004.
The Best-Kept Secret, William Morrow (New York, NY), 2005.
Changing Faces, William Morrow (New York, NY), 2006.
Love and Lies, William Morrow (New York, NY), 2007.
SIDELIGHTS: Kimberla Lawson Roby has written numerous novels, several of which have been featured on national bestseller lists, including the New York Times's bestseller list. Roby's books have garnered numerous awards, including the Blackboard Fiction Book of the Year. Roby is known for writing about family and relationship issues, including single motherhood, domestic abuse, discrimination, and infidelity.
One of Roby's first novels was 1999's Here and Now. The book's storyline revolves around sisters Marcella and Racquel, who are experiencing difficult times in their lives and envy each other's situations. Racquel yearns to have a child so much that it causes problems in her marriage, while Marcella struggles as a single mother who is trying to earn a degree while working and providing for her children. Roby is a "great storyteller," wrote Lillian Lewis in a review for Booklist. Other readers agreed; many found that Roby addressed important issues and created likeable characters in this novel. The author "provides a window on a distinctive segment of American society," observed a Publishers Weekly reviewer.
In 2000, Roby published her next novel, Casting the First Stone. This story turns to the topics of marriage, infidelity, and religion as it follows Tanya and Curtis Black, a young married couple living in Chicago. Curtis is a minister at a prominent Baptist church, but begins to cheat on his wife as he struggles with doing his job well. While Tanya wants to save her marriage, the couple undergo many trials as they figure out who they are and what they want out of life. Reviews of the book were positive overall, with many reviewers citing Roby's talent for creating difficult yet realistic situations for her characters. Curtis and Tanya learn to "value the important things in life," wrote Lewis in a Booklist review. Yet other reviewers found the author to falter in the execution of the novel, particularly in the area of character development. Roby filled the novel with "stock characters," noted one Publishers Weekly reviewer.
In 2003, Roby published A Taste of Reality, a novel that takes on the topics of workplace racism and office relationships. The main character, Anise, is a sharp businesswoman working for a small company outside of Chicago. Recently she has observed that less-qualified candidates have been hired for the position within her company that she wants. While struggling with what to do at work, Anise also begins to experience troubles in her relationship with her husband. Overall, critics reacted positively to Roby's novel, lauding the author on her skill in writing and the ability to create interesting dialogue and scenes. Roby has developed "descriptive text and solid writing," observed Glenn Townes in a review for Black Issues Book Review. For other readers, it is the author's ability to tackle difficult issues that makes this book compelling to read. A Taste of Reality is a "thought-provoking novel," noted Lewis in a review for Booklist.
In 2004, Roby returned to character Curtis Black with the novel Too Much of a Good Thing. This book finds Curtis divorced and working at a teen center, missing his prosperous days working as a church minister. In order to return to that life, Curtis marries good girl Mariah in order to win favor with church officials. Once Curtis lands a new job, however, he returns to his old habits of infidelity and manipulation. Roby's revisiting of adulterer Curtis proved to be popular, as many critics and readers enjoyed the book and gave it positive reviews. Roby "leaves her fans eager to know more," wrote Booklist contributor Lewis. "This novel should be her biggest hit yet," noted one Publishers Weekly reviewer.
In 2006, Roby published her eighth novel, Changing Faces, a story that follows three friends as they encounter significant challenges in their relationships. Customer service manager Whitney is overweight and has difficulty in her relationship with her mother and sister. Taylor, an attorney, is in love with a man who is not interested in marriage as much as she is. Charisse, whose mother neglected her as a child, finds herself demonstrating similar behavior with her own children and husband. Changing Faces was met positively by readers overall, and Roby again was lauded for her talent as a storyteller. She "succeeds in writing another engrossing tale," wrote Lewis in review for Booklist. Some noted the novel's well-rounded scope of story and its ability to appeal to many readers with just one story. Roby's novel is "filled with comedy, love, mental illness, and loads of drama," observed Library Journal contributor Lisa Jones.
Roby told CA: "Because I center my novels on real-life issues, it is my hope that readers will always be able to relate the storylines to their own lives or relate them to the lives of friends or family members."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Black Issues Book Review, May, 2001, Tara Betts, review of It's a Thin Line, p. 23; January-February, 2003, Glenn Townes, review of A Taste of Reality, p. 34; May-June, 2005, Glenn Townes, review of The Best-Kept Secret, p. 71.
Booklist, December 15, 1998, Lillian Lewis, review of Here and Now, p. 727; January 1, 2000, Lillian Lewis, review of Casting the First Stone, p. 880; January 1, 2003, Lillian Lewis, review of A Taste of Reality, p. 851; December 1, 2003, Lillian Lewis, review of Too Much of a Good Thing, p. 647; December 15, 2005, Lillian Lewis, review of Changing Faces, p. 25.
Library Journal, September 1, 2005, Beth Farrell, review of The Best-Kept Secret, p. 190; December 1, 2005, Lisa Jones, review of Changing Faces, p. 115.
Publishers Weekly, December 7, 1998, review of Here and Now, p. 50; January 3, 2000, review of Casting the First Stone, p. 60; May 7, 2001, review of It's a Thin Line, p. 223; November 24, 2003, review of Too Much of a Good Thing, p. 42.
Exodus News, http://www.exodusnews.com/ (April 6, 2006), biography of Kimberla Lawson Roby.
Kimberla Lawson Roby Home Page, http://www.kimroby.com (April 6, 2006).