To Old Endings & Better New Beginnings
Shortly after the pandemic sent New Yorkers home I decided to take a break and step back from participating on social media, working on my podcast, and starting on the numerous plans and intentions I have to create in my space here. The world changed in a blink. I went home one week from work fully expecting to be back in a couple of weeks but still, I am working from and valuing that privilege but also unnerved by it. As the turmoil and reckonings continue, we’re all feeling the growing pains of an emerging new reality and more inclusive world.
There is potential on the rise, but it can only come as our current reality is revealed for the inequitable, fearful and hate-filled place it is. Yet and still, I mourned the life I had known while thinking about who I would be and what I will hold dear and champion going forward. How I can more deeply stand for my own support and for those who look like me? My friends who in addition to dealing with the highs and lows of life have the additional burden (not that we would trade being Black) of being Black (and women) in a hostile world. Neither big city, small country town, educated, or being wealthy can protect us. But there are things I have loved and do mourn.
At the end of this phase of quiet grief, anger closely followed by purpose and considered action have arrived. I’m looking forward to showing up here and in the world more confidently myself. Watch me grow.
Last week the nonfiction bestseller list of The New York Times displayed titles of books by Black authors speaking to racial injustice, becoming anti-racist, and sharing their lived experiences (often carved from the embrace of oppression and racism). Coming in the wake of protests and a seemingly significant number of the White community vowing to be allys and actively anti-racist, these books have always been necessary and are being newly rediscovered and shared among a wider audience.
Among the many conversations prompted during this historic time of reflection and protest is the one centering on the lack of substantive representation in the publishing industry, systemic racism within the industry, and the stark disparity in the publishing advances for White authors and their Black counterparts.
One of the initiatives born from these discussions is amplifying melanated voices, highlighting the need for more stories and resources for Black people in publishing, and showing that the demand for those voices is there.
I read from a diverse group of authors because I seek out that diversity and I am endlessly curious about the people who inhabit this earth and their experiences, but when I look for authors in the Black experience the volume of stories, books and authors I have to choose from is limited and it is so disheartening and hurtful to see in Black & White that those I value are so poorly compensated. To see the obstacles in working on an industry that so many of us love.
I love the idea of this week (today is the last day). To have the opportunity to amplify Black voices in the publishing industry, to have everyone share their favorite stories as suggestions and the new voices they look forward to sampling.
I had just done a big book purchase the week before but absolutely could not resist buying two more books in support. I made my purchases at Bookshop.org with my proceeds being directed to the Lit. Bar, a Black-owned bookstore in the Bronx. I also called my mom and told her about what was going on this week and she was so happy to participate as well. She asked that I make some suggestions, so I am sharing my picks for the both us.
Saving Ruby King by Catherine Adel West
I can’t remember where I first heard about this book, it might have been when I was reading through Algonquin’s catalog of upcoming releases, but I was immediately intrigued. The novel is about the powerful friendship between two young Black women (Ruby & Layla) whose relationship is threatened when Ruby’s mother is murdered and violence in her home puts her in danger. Layla’s efforts to save Ruby are undermined by her father, a preacher in the community, who may have secrets connected to Ruby and her family that he doesn’t want exposed. (Bookshop.org | Amazon.com)
Black is the Body: Stories From My Grandmother’s Time, My Mother’s Time and Mine by Emily Bernard
I have spoken many times on the podcast about how much this book moved me. Bernard shares warm stories of her family and Southern upbringing but also relates the experience of being a Black Woman married to a White man and primarily inhabiting all White spaces. I could relate to many of her stories of awkward moments and conversations and pondering the proper way to proceed or thing to say. I can’t find my copy of this book. I have looked high and low, so I am buying it again. Very much looking forward to reading it again too. (Bookshop.org |Amazon.com)
Luster by Raven Leilani
I love stories where an outside party or troubling dynamic is introduced into a family/marriage/relationship. This looks like a good one. Edie is a young Black woman living in Brooklyn and working as an admin when she come involved with Eric, a digital archivist. But she also becomes entangled with his wife and adoptive daughter because they have an open marriage. Tension rises when Edie develops strong bonds with both his wife and his daughter. (Bookshop.org | Amazon.com)
A Kind of Freedom by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton
Margaret Wilkerson Sexton writes books whose premise I find intriguing. I have another of her books called The Revisioners, which I have yet to read, but that still hasn’t stopped me from picking up another of hers. A Kind of Freedom examines Black lives during multiple time periods in New Orleans (World War II, the 80s, and during present-day Katrina era). (Bookshop.org | Amazon.com)
+ If you have listened to Beyonce’s Lemonade you’ll have an inkling from the songs and videos how she presents powerful themes and imagery for consideration about the place of Black people, and particularly Black women, and the oppression and hardships that have nonetheless sprouted immense joy, love, compassion and creativity. For a deeper dive into its rich construction, Black life and culture I highly recommend you listen to the Dissect Podcast. The exploration of Lemonade is in Season Six. It is a phenomenal undertaking and so well done. The accompanying guide on the website provides the footnotes, articles, and other sources informing the text of the podcast. I highly recommend it. You can binge a good 8 or 9 episodes while you wait for it to be updated weekly.
+ Just in case you need a mattress. During the more restrictive quarantine I was in dire need of a mattress and unable to shop for one or get anything that would require delivery or intallatiom. This Ashley mattress was a lifesaver. It come in a box, you unfold it and poof you have a bed. And it is so comfortable! I was just getting something to ride out the next few months until I could get a proper replacement, but I’m not sure that will be necessary. My cousin just moved and had similar constraints and she loves hers too.
+ The ‘Rona has mostly laid waste to my winter bucket list and I didn’t even attempt a spring one. I’ll try again for the summer. I am sure it will be much more interior than it would have been at any other time!