Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Black Lives Matter

I was going to work on my May books read post tonight but I am going to follow the lead of other bookish people and use my space to bring more attention to black voices.  And as much as I love Octavia and James I'll be focusing on living voices so that you can go out and buy their books! The links here do not pay me anything, I'm trying to link to original publishers or authors as much as possible.

I love the the Breakbeat Poets collections from Haymarket Press so much. Most of them feature black poets but my two favorites are Volume 2 - Black Girl Magic, featuring black female poets across the diaspora, and Volume 3 - Halal if You Hear Me, is one co-edited by Safia Elhillo and Fatimah Asghar. All the poets included are Muslim, so of course some of them are black.

Nicole Dennis-Benn was born and raised in Jamaica, and I just saw her in conversation with Roxane Gay last night. Her first novel, Here Comes the Sun, goes deep into the lives of three generations of women in a family, one who is a lesbian deep in the closet because of the danger of being out at that time. Patsy is the story of a woman who leaves her daughter in Jamaica to try to make a better life for them in New York, and it doesn't go well. It is heartbreaking but shows a side not always seen, about motherhood, about the immigrant experience.

Jesmyn Ward is best known for her fiction, specifically Salvage the Bones and Sing Unburied Sing, both of which won the National Book Award.

Her non-fiction includes The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race, which she edited and is in homage to James Baldwin and a reflection of this era. The root to most of her writing seems to be her own life, some of which is revealed in Men We Reaped, chronicling five black men she lost who were close to her. It is heartbreaking but not unique.

I'm going to mention one more poet because to me there is nothing like poetry to bring you into another person's experience. Danez Smith is a powerful voice; I can't believe I have not yet read Homie, their newest collection, but Don't Call Us Dead is powerful, and just look them up in YouTube to experience poems such as Dear White America, or various poetry publications to read others, for instance not an elegy for Mike Brown

Memoirs from Roxane Gay, Mychal Denzel Smith, Ta Nehisi Coates, Kiese Laymon, novels from Brandon Taylor, Brit Bennett... I am only scratching the surface but if you are frozen, if you want to do something but don't know what, if you have not at least given time and space in your library bag or your bookshelves for black voices, here is one place to start.


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