Friday Media Prep: You MUST Read These 5 Books By Black Women

Every Friday I will feature the inspiring books, movies, TV shows, and other works of art you have to check out.  Please share your suggestions below!

Who would we be without books? I often think about the times in my life when a book brought be back from the darkness, and the ways reading made my life seem worthwhile again. On the other side of that coin are all the times an author pushed me to the brink, forcing my spirit to see things I hadn’t previously perceived. There is magic in the written word and being able to wield worlds in the space between covers.

Black women who write have been my salvation. In this life, in this body, I have felt the most magically undone at the hands of their words.  That is why I’ve chosen to feature five books by five authors who came into my life at exactly the right time. Each book has coaxed a pinch of growth from my soul whether I was prepared for it or not, which is precisely what a good book is supposed to do. I truly hope you will give one or all of these books a go after reading why I have loved them. Enjoy!

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The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison 

I owe an eternal debt to Oprah’s Book Club for selecting this book, which led to my mother buying the book, leaving it laying around, and catching my eye (no pun intended). The young black girl on the cover – a representation of the heroine, Pecola – felt familiar in a way no book had before. The contents were more familiar than I’d dare imagine.

Set in Ohio, the short novel follows two black sisters and their relationship with the young Pecola, a little girl who is considered ugly, because of her dark skin, short hair, and poverty. Pecola wishes for blue eyes so that she may be as beautiful as the dolls in the shops, and the novel tracks her quest to capture them. To call this book heartbreaking would be an understatement, but reading it made me feel less alone and seen in unforseen ways. It’s a brilliant  exploration of generational trauma, colorism, self-loathing, racism and the effects of poverty. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

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Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

I don’t think there’s a more  pertinent book for any of us to read in these times. Set in the very near future, Octavia E. Butler’s book (the first of two) is set in a time of climate-related disaster, broken governments and wealth inequality. The heroine, Lauren, possesses “hyperempathy”, or the ability to feel the pain and emotions of others as she witnesses it.  Lauren develops a religion called Earthseed in order to prepare those who follow her for a life beyond Earth.

Octavia E. Butler’s books changed my mind about what kinds of books Black women are allowed to write. For years I thought only White men could craft science fiction adventures, as that was all I had available in my library. Stumbling upon Ms. Butler’s books in Barnes and Noble one day changed all that, thankfully. Her vision is unmatched, in my humble opinion, and her capacity for hope has kept me from losing my own.

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Dancing on the Edge of the Roof by Sheila Williams

Black women in love gives me my greatest joy. Plain old, regular degular love, folks. I have inherited a soft heart from my mother, one that craves romance and tales of starting over to discover what lies beneath our fears and dreams. This lovely book by Sheila Williams was one of my first romance novels, and I have returned to it time and time again. It is delightfully effervescent, the kind of story that I didn’t want to end when it finally had to.

The story follows middle-aged mother and new grandmother, Juanita, on her journey to California to start her life again. She gets broken down in a small Montana town along the way and finds more than she bargained for – home.

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White Teeth by Zadie Smith

This book i just damn good. I mean, hopefully you know about the powerhouse talent that is Zadie Smith, but if not you should get acquainted with her via this one. I can scarce sum it up without going on for days, so just suffice to say that you have to give her a go. White Teeth has it all: War, love, science, 90s-era nostalgia, race, and transcendence. Dear reader, you would be remiss to skip it.

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Passing by Nella Larsen

Nella Larsen tackled a topic that I believe is still very taboo in the Black community. The concept of “passing”, i.e. being of a light enough complexion to cross the color barrier and claim a White identity, was and is something few of us talk about. Nella Larsen herself played with race in her own life, living alternately as a Black woman in the Harlem Renaissance, then attempting to disappear into White society to escape the persecution.

This book explores the lives of two friends who can pass for White and the paths they chose, one as a White woman married to a White man, and the other as a Black woman married to a Black man. It left me with sinking feeling, but it was a necessary exercise if I want to truly be considered a “book person”. This book is going to be made into a film, which I look forward to watching.

That’s all for today, my friends! Thank you, as always for coming along on the journey with me. Enjoy your weekends, whether you be snowed in, or free to roam the streets. Maybe give one of these titles a once-over?

 

Friday Media Prep: Viola Davis is Basically My Religion Now

I’m not even going to waste your time with a flashy-pants intro, because it’s Friday and we need to jump right into the goods and the celebration!

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Movies: Widows

At a very young age I was taught that it’s wrong to idolize people. As humans, we’re doomed to let one another down, ideals of what makes a good person are constantly changing and we all eventually fade away. More than anything, though, I think my parents were just afraid I would join a cult. Sadly (for them) I officially belong to the cult of Viola Davis, but can you blame me?! She’s brilliant, talented, kind, and emulates the kind of beauty I’ve spent most of my adult life chasing. So, you can bet your sweet booty that I’m running out to see Widows this weekend. The film, starring Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriquez, Liam Neeson, and Daniel Kaluuya, is about a group of widows to bank robbers who must take up their husbands’ failed heist to save themselves. I’m so there. Here’s the trailer if you need a little more of a push:

 

Reading: “A Toy Monkey That Escaped Nazi Germany And Reunited  A Family”

Gert Berliner by Claire Harbage/NPR

I was fortunate to read some quality works this week, but this piece from NPR about a man who escaped Nazi Germany with only a toy monkey for comfort and how that toy changed his life really punched me in the gut – in a good way. I highly recommend reading and giving in to some therapeutic crying. Read it [here]

Bonus: The School of Life

It always seems like The School of Life knows what silent battles are being waged in the back corners of my heart, so I shouldn’t have been surprised when they posted this video on how to stop worrying about being liked. It’s been one of the hardest lessons of my life, but I’m close to getting to a place where I’m not broken by every rejection, or burning for approval from the people I come into contact with. This video is a great reminder that deep, genuine connections are often rare, but always worth the vulnerability.

That’s all for me this Friday! Go out and live like you’re meant to.

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Friday Media Prep: The Books of Juliet Marillier

One of my favorite things to do is wandering the aisles of book stores. I can spend hours dragging my fingers across the bindings, sniffing the paper scent,  quietly daydreaming about the adventures within the pages. I spent a lot of time in Barnes and Noble when I was back in Kansas, munching on the New York style cheesecake sold at the cafe as I flipped through a book that caught my eye. I have no shame in admitting that I very often judge books by their covers, because my prejudice (when it comes to literature) has yet to lead me astray.

The last time I bought a book based solely on the composition of the cover was Heir to Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier. I had never heard of the author before, but the title sounded promising enough to warrant some investigation. Next to it were the last two books in The Sevenwaters Series: Seer of Sevenwaters and Flame of Sevenwaters, but I didn’t want to buy all three without knowing if I would enjoy even one. So, after a little internal negotiation, I went home with the first, only to discover that  Heir to Sevenwaters wasn’t the first in the series (silly me!) but the fourth installment. Praise be to Google books and online reviewers who made the plot of the previous three books clear enough for me to feel certain I could follow along!

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The author with her pup.
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Such a juicy cover!

Luckily, Juliet writes with such precision and beauty that I was instantly sucked into the world of medieval Ireland  and the story of the family destined to protect the magic of their lands. If you enjoy strong female leads who are resourceful, bright, brave and loving then this series is definitely for you. It doesn’t hurt that there’s some romance, too. I’ve finished the entire series now and I must say that I am so glad the cover caught my eye that day in Barnes and Noble, or I might have missed out on a family that I’ve come to love. I’m looking forward to reading more of Juliet’s work and discovering different authors and their stories as I wander the aisles. What are you reading these days?

Friday Media Prep : Long Live the Queen

Every Friday we will feature the inspiring books, movies, TV shows, and other works of art you have to check out. Please share your suggestions below!

The passing of Aretha Franklin, the eternally-reigning goddess of music, has sent a ripple of sorrow around the world. You didn’t have to know her to be shaken by the beauty of her voice, nor the incomparable stature of her career. Beyond her music, Aretha Franklin was an outspoken champion of civil rights who wasn’t afraid to assert her worth as a black woman. She knew she was a queen and would be damned if we didn’t as well. Today’s Media Prep is in honor of the everlasting mark Aretha left on the world; it’s a rundown of some of the ways I’ve seen the spirit of her life reflected in media recently. I hope you’re inspired to assert your worth as well. Enjoy!
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Articles

  • First up, The Cut profiled women in Appalachia working tirelessly to secure women’s healthcare, with the fate of Roe v. Wade hanging in the balance. I highly recommend this piece. [ The Cut ]
  • Oftentimes, when we talk about the Suffrage Movement of the late 19th to early 20th century we conveniently gloss over the truth of how the movement was rooted in segregation. This article from Bust explores how black women were forced to fight for their place in the discussion. [Bust]
  • Beyonce. Normally I wouldn’t have to say more, but I want to hit home how important this interview really is. She tackles generational trauma, body image, and emotional wellness in women and men. This piece means the world to me. [Vogue]

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Books

  • The Color Purple by Alice Walker is one I wish I could hand out on the streets. Alas, I’m not brave enough to implore strangers in person, which is why I’m hawking it on the internet instead. You have to read this book at least once in your life. Watching the movie is a good start, but you really must give the book a go. Set in the deep South of the early 20th century, the story is the life of a young black woman named Celie. After having two children by her father, then having those children taken away, Celie is sold as a bride to the abusive “Mister”. Through literacy and empowering female relationshios, Celie begins to find herself. It’s a beautiful, heartbreaking, necessary work.

Movies

  • “Crazy Rich Asians” is out this weekend, a film that,  in addition to being super enjoyable, is a huge deal historically. It’s the first time in 25 years that an all- Asian cast has led a film. But, I’m not just supporting the movie for the historical weight. I shamelessly champion movies about love, humor and taking chances, so this one is a must-watch for me. Some might call it melodrama, I call it my sustenance. The movie follows the relationship of Rachel and Nick as they travel to Singapore to meet Nick’s wealthy, traditional family. Tears, abs, love, pretty sights? I’M THERE.

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Music

Finally, the only music you need today is the voice that inspired the post. This video comes from the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors, where Aretha Franklin honored Carole King with her rendition of “(You Make Me Feel) Like A Natural Woman”. It’ll give you chills.

Friday Media Prep

Every Friday we will feature the inspiring books, movies, TV shows, and other works of art you have to check out. Please share your suggestions below!

This week’s Media Prep is particularly exciting, because it will be my last one written as a Kansan. My husband and I are currently deep into the process of packing up our lives to head across the country to settle near the Sierra Nevada mountain range of California, which has been an invigorating and exciting experience. It’s a huge move, a huge step forward for both of us, and I’m excited to see how And then I lived will grow along with me. Today, in honor of this adventure, I’ve put together some media for you to engage with that reminds me of home. While a little light on content today (packing is hard!), what you get still packs a punch. Ideally, you’ll be inspired to face each new horizon with more joy than fear. Enjoy!

Music

“Kansas” by Talos from the album Wild Alee

Reading

  • “Mars to track blood moon in double celestial treat on Friday” [ The Guardian ]

You can watch the lunar eclipse live tonight [here]

  • “Sorry racist nerds, but Starfire is a black woman” [ i09 ] 
  • “The heartbreak of raising a black daughter in a red state [ NYT ]

As always, thank you for joining this space and stay safe out there!