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Porgies Are Best: A Fishmonger’S Daughter

Porgies Are Best: A Fishmonger’S Daughter

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Porgies Are Best: A Fishmonger’S Daughter

144 pages
3 hours
Apr 15, 2010


B.J. Ray is on a hilarious journey with one goal in mind, an interracial marriage. For sixteen years, she has been planning her escape from the South Bronx projects. If she ignores the experiences and opportunities, she may be stuck with project dwelling forever.
She encounters the challenge of having to ingest salt tablets and collect rocks in one-hundred-degree weather, a prerequisite for interracial dating.
She also attends Hampton share parties where white folks drink out of paper cups, not Welchs grape jelly jars, and a share consists of a cot in the laundry room every fourth weekend. She finds invited guests to your home demand bottled water, request organic wines, organic foods, and really cant tell the difference about most things in life, not to mention water, foods, and wine.
One March night, B.J. Ray attends her middle sisters birthday party with her younger sister and they are summoned to pick up the Carvel cake. They dont return until the wee hours of the morning. B.J. Ray meets a man and
discovers that he is the key to her becoming a highly successful individual.
Porgies Are Best: A Fishmongers Daughter is a book of vignettes of a young African American, Jewish girl from the projects of the South Bronx, who experiences love, humor, misfortune, compassion, and accomplishment.
Apr 15, 2010

Tentang penulis

B.J. Ray was born in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, and was raised in the Andrew Jackson Projects located in the South Bronx with four siblings and two parents. She is a licensed group psychotherapist, school administrator, and certified licensed mental health counselor (LMHC). She lives on the east side of Manhattan.

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Porgies Are Best - B.J. Ray



This book could not be written without the inspiration, resources, and endless support of my family, who provided me with the courage to pursue my dream.

I’m grateful to my many friends, colleagues, and mentors for their tireless enthusiasm, encouragement, and constructive criticism that helped bring this book to its completion.

In addition, I would like to pay special thanks to Rosalind Letcher, who graciously gave of her time to design the incredible front and back covers, which truly capture the essence of this book.




The Projects

School Daze

Nine to Five

Dating 101

The Rabbit


My Hood



The Gambler


All-Purpose Men


Coming Out

The Party



The Needy People Syndrome

Bill Collectors

The Rap Era

The Good Old Days


Multiple Partners




CP Time

Environmental Hazards

Organic Foods

Cooking with Gas

Breaking Up

Exclusively Yours

Money, Money, Money

Domestic Violence

A Squared Plus B Squared

Financial Burdens


Disney World

Cosmetic Surgery



The Ranch

On My Own

Author Biography


There is nothing I want to remember about my childhood and living in the projects except for my parents, my husband, my siblings, and a few relatives. Not the place, not the food, not the schools, and not even the people. I often wonder how I made it out of there alive—full of love, humor, compassion, and accomplishment.

My dad, the owner of Ray’s Fish Store in the South Bronx, had connections with the mafia within the hood. This made life in the projects a whole lot easier. No, I don’t remember names or faces. Alzheimer’s needed to set in at a very young age with me. My mom cleaned offices during the week and people’s homes on the weekends. She had hernias as big as the Empire State Building from working so hard. My dad instilled the business sense in me, and my mom gave me the hard work ethic.

Three out of five of my siblings got caught up in the project drama. Two of us are pretty successful although not millionaires. From two single moms with deadbeat men to a brother who still resides in the projects. He started collecting Social Security disability payments after his first two days of work and believes that those of us who made it out owe him a non-project lifestyle.

People have a tendency to tell me their problems. They think I’m their therapist on call. The stories I’ve witnessed and heard are so outlandish. I hope the advice I share will spare you some life struggles, spared from losing lots of money, headaches, and heart attacks.

My dad, mom, and husband gave me the inner courage to write this book. With these people as my support system, I have found anything to be possible. In the midst of poverty, despair, and tragic events, we could always find humor. Despite limited financial resources, I have been the beneficiary of many rewards. My parents provided a safe haven inside of our project apartment. This place allowed my siblings and I the opportunities to explore our potential as individual human beings and work toward making a difference in the world.

I have a long list of credentials that include a bachelor’s degree in education, master of science in guidance and counseling, administrative degree in education. I am also a licensed psychotherapist for both individuals and groups, a mental health counselor, a symbol formation therapist, and am currently an assistant principal in a New York City high school. All of these experiences, coupled with the nuances of daily living, have resulted in my success. From this background, I’ve tried to convey lessons of my life, instill in people the desire to achieve, and live life to its fullest. As you read, visualize the struggles, good times, and humor that were part of my life in the South Bronx.

The Projects

I wouldn’t wish project dwelling on anyone, not even my worse enemy. I didn’t hang much but managed to get some project schooling. Yeah, I can speak the language. I can still go there: stop grilling me, get my name outta your mouth, all nonsense, you don’t need outside of the projects. B.J. Ray is on a hilarious journey with one goal in mind, an interracial marriage.

Growing up in the projects wasn’t so bad for me; I became a highly successful individual with many degrees and a six-figure yearly paycheck. Being a successful therapist has enabled me to help people change their stinking thinking into positive thoughts and action. Success is a long and difficult road that I learned to navigate early on in life.

To begin, I had two parents, which is unusual for the project dwelling folk of today. My dad was from Georgia and my mom was from Virginia. I have two older brothers and two younger sisters. I’m a middle child, which explains my ability to be flexible and someone with diplomatic skills. My family talks about a brother who would have been older than me. He died of pneumonia before I was born. Back in the day, cameras were only for the filthy rich and not for those of us who lived in the project, so we only have one little photo of him.

We lived in the Marcy Projects in Brooklyn, better known as Bed-Stuy. My parents didn’t stay there long, as they didn’t like the borough of Brooklyn for raising children. There was something about this borough that made my parents shake in their boots. Perhaps it was all those crimes, killings, and drive-by shootings that they heard on the news. Most people moved to the suburbs; we moved to another project.

I remember putting on beige crocheted bathing suit and going downstairs. My older brother was sitting on the benches right in front of the building with his homeboys. Well, that was the last time I pulled a stunt like that. My brother tore my ass up. The child abuse hotline—or, in this case, sibling abuse hotline—didn’t even have a telephone number at this point in time. You have to realize that there was no swimming pool or hint of water to be found in the neighborhood. We did have a sprinkler, but there were always too many broken bottles on the ground to be able to play in it. A thorough cleanup didn’t help. The person responsible for the supervision of the park never turned on the sprinkler system. I guess he was looking out for our safety and not our comfort. With this in mind, exactly what was my intent? I can’t imagine.

I never had a room to myself as long as I lived in the projects. In fact, all three girls always slept in the same room and the same bed. We were even relocated when relatives came to stay. One of us had to bunk with the boys, and it was always me because I could talk my way out of anything just in case some shaky boy stuff was going to go down.

A friend once told me that she was going home to study in her room. I was amazed that she and her brother had their own rooms. We finally got separate beds when I was eleven years old, but you could forget about separate rooms. The separate beds arrived at our apartment when my younger sister set the room on fire when she was trying to light a sparkler. I guess she wasn’t aware that people celebrated the Fourth of July on the East River in Manhattan and not in the projects.

Most people that live in the projects have at least one fire—that’s the culture of project dwelling. Watch the news if you don’t believe me. The next time you listen to the news, I bet you that the newscaster will mention at least two big fires for the day, and many times those fires will be in the projects. You never heard of project people talking about their new furniture or new threads. People didn’t have money in those days just to be buying new shit for their apartments or themselves. Fires came with the territory, and a new look came with a fire. You always hear of fires on the news and how the families lost all of their possessions. Your parents had a huge layaway bill, which they hated because they had to buy all new furniture and clothing due to the fire.

The only other event I remember from that neighborhood was at the age of five, jumping rope in the kitchen as my mother was boiling water. The rope caught the pot handle, and the water that spilled scalded me all over my chest. Yes, breasts included. Plastic surgery was not an option for me then, as we barely had enough cash flow for the basic necessities.

At the age of six, we moved to a newly built project. This housing development was in the South Bronx and called the Andrew Jackson Projects. When we first arrived at this project, it was like living in another world. We moved from an eight-story project building to a sixteen-story project building. I felt like the Jeffersons—moving on up, not to the Eastside but to another project dwelling. There were actually white people living in this building, and we lived on the same floor. The white people even let me babysit for their children. At a young age, I was already hanging in the multicultural melting pot.

The project male drama began when I was in the fourth grade. I was selected to attend an elementary school gifted program on the Grand Concourse for grades four through six. I had to take public transportation. Can you imagine riding a bus at a very young age in the South Bronx? Don’t tell anyone—it was totally safe in those days and it is safe again in the year 2010. The new Yankee Stadium has been built and all new high-end stores like Target and Marshals. People of all ethnicities and neighborhoods come into the area just recently for entertainment and shopping.

The bus trip to school was somewhat stressful. I couldn’t miss a specific bus or I would be late for school and I would miss the boys. I rode the bus with boys that lived in the Melrose Projects across the street from my projects. I had a relationship with a few of them. Don’t get the wrong impression; it was one at a time. Unlike today, we did a lot of petting at that time; there was no sex at such an early age in those days. Today, girls show up at the Department of Health (DOH) as young as thirteen. I once overheard the clerk at the DOH ask a young girl, Do you know who you caught the Big C from? The young girl replied, Yes, Number 16, sitting right back there. God,

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