'Diary of Tippy Ellis' tells the story of a wealthy African-American teen in Portland

It’s not exactly an autobiography.

But “Diary of Tippy Ellis: Mama’s Daughter,” the new novel from Wilsonville author Lady Boss Amanishakhete, is not far off, either.

Amanishakhete is the pen name of Lenora Daniel, an African-American woman who grew up and came of age in a largely white world in the Willamette Valley. In much the same vein, Tippy Ellis, the 17-year-old protagonist in “Diary,” was born and raised in Atlanta. But after a move to Portland, Ore., and the posh Abraham Lincoln High School, she finds herself thrust into an entirely different reality.

“Most of my writing is inspired by my upbringing,” said Amanishakhete, who prefers to be known by her pen name when talking publicly about her writing. “My parents are from the South and my dad was in the military. My sister was born in Tokyo, and I was born in Osaka. We left Japan when I was 4 and we moved to Arizona. We were all over the place.”

From there, her parents’ careers eventually left the family with a choice: New York City or Oregon.

“My mother didn’t want her daughter raised in New York City,” Amanishakhete said.

That’s how she found herself first in Astoria, then Salem. That cultural roller coaster is replicated in “Diary of Tippy Ellis.”

Tippy finds in the largely white Pacific Northwest a distinct sense of culture shock that is only amplified by the turmoil of adolescence. She also discovers a thriving, yet strangely insular, African-American community in Portland. At the same time, she also finds herself attracted to a white hip-hop artist by the name of Diminis. by: SUBMITTED - Lady Boss Amanishakhete was born in Japan, moved to the South and later to Oregon, where she spent her formative years. The namesake in her new novel, 'Diary of Tippy Ellis,' follows a similar path.

“It’s not my life from my perspective of being raised in Oregon,” Amanishakhete said. “It’s a person coming and getting used to the environment. She’s in Portland and she goes to school downtown and she enters culture shock there after moving from Atlanta. But she starts finding friends, white girls, and she starts experiencing all these different things.”

Tippy is also surprised to find a distinct lack of skinheads. After all, she’d heard all the horror stories before moving west.

“I wanted people to know that it may be different, but there are black people here,” Amanishakhete said. “(Tippy) is shocked to find black people here. She had heard from her friends that it was terrible, there are skinheads, there were all these horrible things that will happen.”

Tippy does not share the urban background that is pervasive in many stereotypes about African-American culture. Neither does Amanishakhete, whose mother comes from a wealthy land-owning Southern family. Her father, she said, does come from the “poor side of the tracks,” but worked to become university educated and carved out a career in the military and later the Oregon Department of Corrections.

“I wanted to bring a different look at the black experience,” she said. “I was not raised in the ghetto, I was not raised poor. I was considered upper-middle class. I learned how to sew from my father. He taught me to be a tailor, and that’s how I made extra money in high school.”

This unique perspective comes through in “Diary,” as the cast of characters is as varied as the people its author has met over the years.

“The nicest thing in the book is the characters come from different backgrounds,” she said. “They are lesbian, hip-hop artists, the wealthy, middle class, etcetera. I don’t know anything about the streets.”

Lenora Daniel holds several college degrees in business and international relations and has worked extensively in the corporate world on marketing, public relations and business.

Her pen name is taken from the name of Nubian Queen Amanishakheto, who ruled the kingdom of Nubia from 10 B.C. to 1 A.D. It means mother of peace, beauty and love. It also helps guide her writing.

Amanishakhete regards herself as a warrior for humanity and seeks to share her tale through the eyes of fictional characters. Tippy Ellis is not the first such outlet. In 2012, Amanishakhete released a music video she describes as a cross between spoken word, rap and hip-hop.

“I wanted to make sure all these experiences converged,” she said. “The black experience in Oregon is not like the Detroits, the Atlantas or the Philadelphias. That’s just the backdrop of the story, because the thrust of the story is about scandal and murder.”

There’s also politics, unavoidable in today’s America.

Tippy is raised by her father, who, like Amanishakhete's own family, hails from a long line of liberal Democratic Party supporters. Meanwhile, Tippy’s mother’s family members are ardent Mitt Romney backers, despite being African-American.

“My life has been very colorful,” Amanishakhete said. “I’ve met people from all walks of life, and the book has a lot of teachable moments. It also talks about the sexual assault of women and girls; Tippy gets confronted with those things that have happened to people she knows.”

None of this should be hidden, she emphasizes. It’s real life — not just a book.

“I want this to be a platform to address violence against women and young girls,” she said. “It crosses all lines.”

At a Glance

What: “Diary of Tippy Ellis “Mama’s Daughter” by Lady Boss Amanishakhete

Where:, and

Cost: $17.99


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