Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Book Review: The Mother of Black Hollywood

I just finished Jenifer Lewis' fabulous memoir: The Mother of Black Hollywood and I am even more in love with her than I was before. 

Jenifer chronicles her life from moving to New York City to break into the Broadway scene, to her experiences with men and her sex addiction, to her tumultuous relationship with her mother, to her struggles with bipolar disorder and her journey to healing through therapy. 

Jenifer is literally the hardest working woman in Hollywood. Growing up in the 90s I only knew Jenifer from her stint on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and her most recent role as Ruby Johnson in Black-ish (this role was made for her). But she has worked with literally everyone in the industry and has been in a ton of very well known Black films. She was also the first Black person to appear on Friends

As someone who has struggled and finally learned to manage depression and anxiety, Jenifer's struggles with bipolar disorder and manic depression were really relatable. I appreciated how open Jenifer was with her life and her willingness to be 100% transparent with every part of her life, even the parts she is less proud of. It was refreshing to see a Black woman talk about mental illness and therapy because as we know, therapy is not something the Black community has always been open to.

I started out by reading this book just on my Kindle and then decided to listen to the audiobook while I read. The audiobook is narrated by Ms. Jenifer Lewis herself and as we all know she has a great voice. It was a true delight hearing her tell me her story. The book was great enough on its own, but having her voice to follow along as I read completely enhanced the whole experience. 

I can't wait to continue my rewatch of Black-ish knowing how far she has come and how hard she has worked. She has worked to overcome her demons and has continued to have a positive attitude while doing it. She is an activist and a true inspiration.

Happy Reading! 
 

Friday, September 18, 2020

I'm Breaking Up With My Debt!

Let's talk about it! DEBT!

This thing that most people have normalized. Well guess what? I don't wan't to be normal anymore. Let's just say I've been "normal" since I was 18 and I am now 31. That is THIRTEEN years of being in debt. That is almost half of my life. For 13 years I have owed somebody. Well no more! I don't want to be shackled to my debt anymore. 

Now, I've tried to get out of debt before. Back in 2018, I had a high paying job and I was putting $1500 a month towards getting out of debt. But sadly I got laid off only after six months so my plans were thwarted and I fell off the wagon. Back then I only thought of my debt as my credit card debt, because I just thought oh I'm going to be in student loan debt forever. That's just the way of life. Boy, was I naive. 

But let me back up for a second and be SUPER transparent about how much debt I'm actually in. Let's just say I am less than $21,000 in debt but more than $19,000. I know that may not seem like a lot compared to the hundreds of thousands of dollars I know some people are in but any amount of debt in my opinion is scary. So here is my debt breakdown (from largest to smallest rounded to the nearest whole number):

Student Loan: $7,800

Car Payment (for a car I don't I drive anymore but my mom drives it): $6,800

Credit Cards: $6,000

In total that's about $20,000 in debt. Lord help me!

I've made some mistakes during quarantine, but one thing I've learned is that I NEED TO GET OUT OF DEBT! And I'm going to use Dave Ramsey's baby steps to do it!

1. Save up an Emergency Fund of $500-$1000 ✅

2. Use the debt snowball to pay off all debt

3. Save an emergency of 3-6 months expenses

4. Save 15% for retirement

5. College Fund for the Kids (I don't have kids yet so I won't be doing this one)

6. Pay off the House (I don't have a house. But maybe I'll start saving for a down payment)

7. Build Wealth and Give

I am currently on Baby Step #2.

The crazy thing is that I've decided to embark on this journey while being unemployed. But no time like the present right? But that obviously means that the first step I need to take is getting a job. Which I am in the extensive process of doing. I've created a budget and plan to live on half of my income. I've figured out the amount I need for my base level expenses (keeping a roof over my head without Netflix/Hulu or any extra subscriptions and keeping food in my fridge) and will use all extra income to get out of debt. With this plan and depending on my income (I need to make at least $40,000 a year after taxes) it will take me about a year to get out of debt. A year of sacrifice and intense budgeting. I've worked three jobs before and can do it again. I've worked 70-80 hour weeks and can do it again if I need to. I've already started selling books and putting any extra money I earn towards debt. At the beginning of this month I paid off my Amex card which is why it's not included in the 20k.

I'm ready!

If you've read this far thanks for coming on this journey with me!

-Sheri 


Saturday, September 12, 2020

My Top 16 quotes from Legendborn ⚔️

 

Read this book! That's really all I can say.

I was blessed when Hear Our Voices selected me to be a part of their book tour for Legendborn. This book was filled with Arthurian legend, Black girl magic, and Southern magic. 

Legendborn also asks the questions: 

What is a legacy and who gets to decide who and what groups have one?

Who gets a seat at the table (the round table)?

When trying to infiltrate a secret society started in the 1700s it's only inevitable that race and slavery would come up and that is not something we often get from these legend retelling stories. It was very refreshing to read a book that didn't shy away from the history of slavery and the part it played in the building of these secret societies. Oftentimes, the legacy of our white leaders and forefathers is held in such high regard that we often forget the lives that were lost and the land that was stolen. We cannot brush past the fact that many of these schools and famous buildings (The White House) were built by slaves and yet they would never have access to these very places. 

This book is filled with fantastic quotes, so here are some of the ones I loved*:

"To be able to trace one's family back that far is something I have never fathomed. My family only knows back to the generation after Emancipation. Suddenly, it's hard to stand here and take in the magnificence of the Wall and not feel an undeniable sense of ignorance and inadequacy. Then, a rush of frustration because someone probably wanted to, but who could have written down my family's history as far back as this? Who would have been able to, been taught to, been allowed to? Where is our Wall? A Wall that doesn't make me feel lost, but found." (135)

"I can't tell how old she is, of course, because Black women are magical like that." (160)

"This type of knowing is an expensive toll to pay. I can't forget the knowledge just because the price is high. And yet, something we have to tuck the reminders away today in order to grow power against them." (161)

"If the world is simple, certain people will always never be inconvenienced, never need to adapt. I disrupt these people, and you do too. You've been doing it since you walked in the door. I like disruptors and rhythm breakers. We should start a club." (185)

"How does this boy navigate my emotions like a seasoned sailor, finding the clear skies and bringing them closer, when all I seem to do it hold fast to the storms." (209)

"You're not a damsel to me, Bree. You're an Amazon. You're strong and you're beautiful and you're brilliant and brave." (215)

"Lots of Black folks in the States don't know their people more than four, give generations back, don't know names before the late 1800s -- and why would they? We didn't exactly inherit detailed family records when we were freed." (222)

Everything has two histories. Especially in the South." (230)

"Colonizer magic. Magic that costs and takes. Many practitioners face demons. Many of face evil. But from the moment their founders arrived, from the moment they stole Native homelands, the Order themselves gave the demons plenty to feed on. They reap what their magic sows." (233)

"I let my gaze draw lines here, too, from building to building, from tree to tree, from buried lives to beaten ones, from blood stolen to blood hidden. I map this terrain's sins, the invisible and the many, and hold them close. Because even if the pain of those sins takes my breathe away, that pain feels like belonging, and ignoring it after all I've just witnessed would be loss." (240)

"Our people have learned the hard way to hide our abilities from them, even when we were working in their homes and caring for their babies." (301)

"Love is a powerful thing. more powerful than blood, although both run through us like a river." (304)

"Death is not a connection. It is the sharp cut that severs us. Death separates us from one another, and yet it holds us close. As deeply as we hate it, it loves us more." (305)

"Don't make your life about the loss. Make it about love." (386)

"When the times comes, if it comes, don't be scared. Fight. Take risks. Follow your heart. and move forward." (391)

"I take the rest of the day to wash my hair -- and it's the most therapeutic, loving thing I could have done for myself. Condition, detangle, deep condition with a hear wrap, paint my nails and watch a movie while I wait, rinse. I emerge from the shower with my hair wrapped in a microfiber towel and rub the foggy mirror until I can see the genuine, full smile on my face. Tangles gone. Scalp clean. Curls moisturized and bouncy. Head and soul lighter." (399)

*book used for quotes: ARC of Legendborn

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

The Art of Letting Go: A Year of Loss

How do you bounce back from a year of L's?

Let's face it, 2020 has been the year of letting go. I've let go of my hair, my books, my desire to always purchase books, my desire to "own" more stuff, and the employment trajectory I saw myself on for the next year. We've lost countless Black lives and countless heroes. And it feels like I'm in a constant state of loss. Sometimes we decide to let go of things because they are not serving us anymore and sometimes things or people or dreams are ripped from us unexpectedly. 

When I decided to cut my hair off I was at the point where I was ready to let it go. Coco Chanel said, "when a woman cuts her hair, she is ready to change her life." I was 100% ready to change my life. And my life has been changing ever since. I cut my hair about six weeks ago and then again about three weeks ago. I kept wanting to go shorter. To get rid of more hair. I've kept so much negativity in my hair for my entire life and when quarantine hit I told myself I would give it another chance at life by not subjecting it to any heat or scrunchies, but most of the time that meant I was going to look like a crazy woman. So, I cut it all off and dyed it blonde. It needed to go. The girl that felt embarrassed by her hair needed to go. I CHOSE to let go of my hair. 

By books. My massive book collection. Before a couple days ago I owned over 1700 physical books. Some here in NYC and some back home in Cali. Needless to say, the amount of books I owned was overwhelming. And from the books I owned in NYC I've probably own read about 7% of them and trust me that is not a lot. I've always had this obsession with buying books. My mom likes to call it my crutch. I bought an insane amount of books during quarantine (a decision I've lately regretted, but more on that in a later post). I think I did it just to cope with the absurdity that was and is COVID and quarantine. This crazy thing is happening in the world right now and we're all forced to stay at home. Some of us forced to leave our jobs. Forced to not see our friends or family. Forced to cancel vacations. It's a strange, frustrating, and scary time. So how did I cope? I purchased an insane amount of books. Why? Maybe to keep up with the Joneses or maybe to make myself feel better. Either way, it all become a bit too overwhelming and so things had to change. Initially, I just wanted to move around my apartment to make more room for my books and in that process I realized that I had to many books. So I touched each and every one of them like Marie Kondo tells us and sent over 100 books to their next home. I CHOSE to let go of my books. 

What I didn't choose and probably the hardest thing to let go of this year was my job. I had two jobs at the beginning of the year. One I had recently got promoted in and one I was about to get promoted at and now I have zero jobs. Not only did I lose two sources of income that were putting me on track to be out of debt this year, but I lost a working family. People I saw almost everyday and built relationships with each day, working together to make it through each shift. One of the biggest things is with the loss of my bookstore job I feel like I have lost my connection to my bigger job dreams. I moved here to get into publishing and I was working in a bookstore to work my way up to the publishing industry. And now, that link is gone. And honestly, I don't know what the next steps are. I didn't choose to let go of my jobs, they were taken from me unexpectedly. 

We've lost countless Black lives, #BreonnaTaylor #GeorgeFloyd #ahmaudarbery #tonymcdade and countless others that aren't on the news everyday and heroes like John Lewis and the devastating loss of Chadwick Boseman. Not to mention the countless lives lost to COVID-19. 

I'm fortunate enough to still be alive but to say this year has been the year of loss is an understatement. We've been forced to confront our inner demons and the demons of the world. Just to make it out of bed each day is an accomplishment. How do you handle loss? How do you let go of things you're not ready to say goodbye to? How do you grieve for these losses? 

How do you bounce back from a year of L's?

-Sheri 

Monday, August 24, 2020

My Path to Minimalism - Decluttering My Book Collection

One Bookshelf before declutter
Main bookshelf before declutter
Well well well, here we are. I have officially run out of space for my book collection. During quarantine I got tired of how my space looked. I've only been in my new apartment since January and it feels like I only half decorated it. I basically got furniture, ran out of money and stopped decorating. So I had no art on the walls, a cheap bookshelf, a big open space in the middle of the room, and while this open space was great for a while,  it started to get a little boring. I realized the space didn't function in the best way. This apartment redo lead me to watching tiny apartment tours on Youtube. Which then led me to minimalist apartments, thus be embarking on a minimalist journey of my own. When I think about what I have the most of I think of my books. I love reading and am an obsessive book collector and during quarantine I definitely used excessive book buying to cope with the loneliness and boredom that quarantine can be. When I put books in my cart and hit purchase, I would get a little rush of excitement followed by an oh shit I just spent $300 on books. Looking back on it, I 100% didn't need to order 15 books at one time. I will say though, my bookstore was closed, libraries were closed, and I wasn't a fan of reading on my Kindle at the time, so it felt like a way to get a quick fix. But now I have all these books that yes I plan on reading, but I also have a ton of books that I have accumulated since I moved to New York. My reading interests honestly change all the time so there could be a book I was really looking forward to reading a month ago that I am no longer interested in. So me buying an excessive amount of books is probably not the smartest idea. But that thought hasn't crossed mind much before more. 

Okay back to this idea of minimalism. For me I am extremely tied to my books andI always think, who would I be without my book collection? Would I read as much? Would I start reading less? For some reason I have always tied avid reading to having a large book collection, but I'm starting to realize that may not be true. I keep asking myself, do I absolutely have to have this book? I even used to keep books that I didn't like. After I had read a book I didn't like I would just put it back on my shelf. WHY? Because I couldn't bring myself to get rid of it. Then one day I said, well that's stupid. So I started doing a big un-haul once a year. Upon moving to NYC, I've done one un-haul and brought in more books in a very small amount of time. But I keep asking myself, why do I feel like I need to OWN all these books? And then I realize, I don't need to OWN all these books to actually READ all these books. Isn't the whole goal to read them anyways? I also realized there are a ton of ways to get books without spending money: The Library being one of the best. Both their physical and ebook selections. 
Rainbow Bookshelf - Not part of the declutter
Rainbow Bookshelf - Not part of the declutter

So over the last week I have started to declutter my book collection. Getting rid of books that I have completely lost interest in or books that did not bring me joy. I actually also got rid of some books that I read and liked but didn't feel like I wanted to keep. The books are all in bag and now I have to figure out a way to get them to Book-off where I can sell them or give them a chance to bring someone else joy. I've done two rounds and actually feel pretty good about it.

I am setting up some ground rules for myself moving forward or else I will just go back to my old habits of excessively buying books which hasn't ever helped my wallet. I would like to do a book buying ban but I'm really bad at those so I don't think I want to call it that. I just want to be a more mindful consumer when it comes to books. I don't spend a lot of money on other areas of my life but I'd like that mindful consuming to spill over into all the areas. Now that I've kept these books I have to give them a chance to prove to me why I deemed them worthy of keeping. I also think this will make me be more selective when buying. Quality over quantity!

Buying rules moving forward:

1. I can only buy ONE book at a time

2. If I decide to buy a book, that is the next book I'm reading

I'd like to reevaluate in another 3-6 months because if all the same books I decided to keep are still sitting on my shelf unread, then it might be time for them to go. Because the books aren't serving their purpose if they are just sitting on my shelf unread.

Happy Reading!


Thursday, August 20, 2020

Book Review: Now That I've Found You

We all love a fall from grace story mixed with a little romance. And that is exactly what Now That I've Found You is all about. Set mainly in New York City, we follow young starlet Evie Jones as she goes to stay with her fabulous grandmother Gigi, classic movie star of the '60s, when she is fired from a big role after her best friend leaks a video of her mocking the director. But when Evie's grandmother decides to take a little break from life and disappears one day, Evie enlists the help of young musician, Milo, and embarks on an adventure to find her. 

The biggest theme that stuck out to me while reading this book was the idea of seeking approval and validation from all the wrong people. Evie is only 18 and she is in the midst of what we might call her "15 minutes of fame." We're in the age of social media and the constant need to stay relevant. Even I've fallen victim to feeling inadequate or feeling like my work is not good enough on bookstagram. But then you have to reel it back in and realize why you started doing any of this in the first place. Evie is constantly seeking that approval whether it be through social media, from her grandmother, from Hollywood, from her followers and fans, even from her parents. And ultimately she lets that dictate her self worth. At first I thought that Evie was just self-centered, if I'm being completely honest, but then I realized that this approval seeking could possibly stem from feelings of abandonment, which is one of the other themes that really started to stick out to me as I was reading. 

Trust and letting people in play a big role in this story. Evie's parents are famous documentary film makers so they are always away shooting something. Evie has one close friend who ultimately betrays her and then there is her famous grandmother who moved across the country to escape and deal with her own issues. Evie is very reluctant to let Milo in and I can see why. She can't really trust anyone in her life and almost has no one to really guide her. She feels like a disappointment to her parents so no wonder she seeks approval from her social media following and would do anything she can to fix up her image, even if that means working with someone her grandmother hates.

Lately, I've been reading books that really make me think about the idea of how much we really know our parents or grandparents. And in working to get to know them, we oftentimes get to know a little bit more about ourselves. Evie is physically searching for her grandmother, but doing so she must stop centering herself in order to understand why her grandmother leaves. And in doing that Evie discovers things about her own internal struggles with abandonment and self worth. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Book Review: The Black Kids - Rodney King and the '90s

When I heard that Christina Hammonds Reed was writing a book about being a Black kid in the '90s in Los Angeles, I jumped at the chance to read this book. I grew up 20-30ish minutes outside of what some would call "LA proper" in the city of Downey, but worked in LA for most of my adult life. So I knew this book would be extremely nostalgic. I was only three when the Rodney King Riots erupted throughout LA so I don't remember much. We were not extremely close to the riots but my mom remembers vividly the things she saw. Christina Hammonds Reed is an LA native so I love that she included things like earthquake drills and fire season.

The amazing thing about this book is that even though it's about what happened in the '90s, it honestly feels like it is happening today. The way she talks about the way the rioters, looters, and protesters are portrayed and how the media makes them out to be monsters and animals. "The media and the politicians keep stereotyping everyone who was out during the riots as"savage" or "lawless" or "hooligans" or "thugs," an "underclass" not representative of the "real America."(Reed) The thing is, that is the real America. There are people today who are not looting who are fighting for justice and peacefully protesting and being met with intense force, tear gas, rubber bullets, and now we have federal agents coming in and kidnapping people. All at the Presidents orders. We just want justice. We want things to change. Real change. 

This book tackles a lot of themes. Ultimately, it's a coming of age story but it deals with racism and race, class, family pressure, the distance between two people, painful family history, and the push and pull of teenage and female friendships. But there were three that really hit me on a personal level: Finding your identity in a sea of whiteness, being Black in America in the midst of a riot or civil unrest, and existing in the in between: not feeling "Black" enough to fit in with the Black kids while not actually being white so not truly fitting in with that crowd.

I didn't grow up in a predominately Black neighborhood and I didn't have a lot of Black friends growing up so as I grew up it felt really hard to discover parts of my identity when not many people around looked like me. This is the same thing that our main character Ashley is facing. She goes to a very white prep school and has all white friends. There are a group of Black kids in her school but she doesn't interact with them at all. Throughout the whole book Ashley straddles the line between trying to fit in with her white friends who never let her forget she is Black and say some VERY inappropriate things. I'll just say her friends are racist and they suck. But at the same time Ashley watches this group of Black kids from a far always thinking that she wont fit in with them. She feels very disconnected from them and almost "others" them. Her friends have made her feel that since she grew up in a good neighborhood, her family has money, she doesn't have any Black friends, and doesn't "act Black" (my least favorite term) that she is not actually "Black" or as her friends remind her that she is not "Blackety Black," which is extremely offensive. But when you're sheltered all your life and told these things you wouldn't know what else to believe so I feel for Ashley to be honest. I've been called an Oreo multiple times in my life and have also been told that I'm "not really Black," which I've always hated. But throughout the book Ashley starts understanding her family history more, spending more time with the Black kids at her school and people outside her white friend group, trying to reconnect with her activist sister, trying to understand the Rodney King riots, and from experiencing her own run in with the police, that at the end of the day her class does not separate her from her Blackness because unfortunately her Blackness is what the world sees first.

The Rodney King Riots are probably the first time Ashley has every experienced anything like that. So being Black during a time like that where there is a collective anger among the Black community is another layer that Ashely has to figure out. She has to figure out how she feels about all of it and if she wants to take a stand against it and if so, what lane she can make the most change. In the beginning, we know that Ashley feels like what is happening is wrong but at the same time she is so wrapped up in her little bubble that she doesn't realize there is actually a bigger issue that just Rodney King. And throughout the novel Ashley has to come to terms with this. Her sister Jo is on the front lines fighting for justice and Ashley is clearly scared for her and often times there was a lot of tension within her family because of the stance that Jo was taking because she knows that her sister is not the type of person the media was portraying the rioters to be. Through her sister, Ashley really starts to dig deeper and look past all the rioting and looting to start looking at the deeper issue and realizes that" maybe the problem isn't only the "bad" people; maybe the problem is with the whole system." 

There are so many things I could say about this book and honestly I'm still getting my thoughts together. There are so many good quotes and Christina Hammond Reeds writing is almost lyrical and the imagery she puts forth is magical. I highlighted and tabbed a lot of quotes and passages. This book is timely and important. This book feels deeply personal because I know what it feels like to be an Ashley.

This book comes out August 4th and everyone should read it!

Happy Reading

Mid Year Book Freak Out Tag 2020

I can't believe we're already coming to the end of July. This four months since I've been on quarantine have flown by and it's super weird. Well since we're midway through the year, I thought I'd participate in the mid year book freak out tag. I"m doing this a little late so I tried to pick books that I read from January - June since that'e the actual six month mark. So here we go!

1. Best book you’ve read so far in 2020 : SLAY & Just Mercy
2. Best sequel you've read so far in 2020: The Proposal by Jasmine Guillroy. I don't know if this is considered a traditional "sequel," but it's the second book in her Wedding Date series all the books are set in the same universe and connected in some way or another so I'm counting it.
3. New release you haven't read yet, but want to: The Only Good Indians!!
4. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year: The Year of Witching!! Hands down. No if, ands or buts
5. Biggest disappointment: Verity by Colleen Hoover. This was actually my first book by her and I don't think this was a good place to start. From what I've heard Verity is unlike any of her other works.
6. Biggest surprise: Evvie Drake Starts Over. When I first obtained this book I was reading a lot of contemporary romance. But now it's one of my favorite genres and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I actually liked this book. And it's a quick read.
7. Favorite new author. (Debut or new to you): Echo Brown. Her book Back Girl Unlimited was one of the most beautiful and heartbreaking things I've ever read.
8. Newest fictional crush: Rhen from A Curse so Dark and Lonely. He has his flaws but he seems like he actually is a nice guy.
9. Newest favorite character: Rhen. Fictional crush and character that I wanted more of in the sequel.
10. Book that made you cry: I'm not much of a book crier, but Black Girl Unlimited had me in tears at the end.
11. Book that made you happy: This one is so hard. Most of my books make me happy. I'm generally happy due to the fact that I get to read at all.
12. Most beautiful book you've bought so far this year (or received): There have been some AMAZING covers this year. But I'm absolutely in love with the covers of A Song Below Water, Sex and Vanity, and Incendiary. Honestly I couldn't fit all the covers I love in this picture.
13. What books do you need to read by the end of the year? Ha, there are too many for me to narrow down!


Well there you have it! I feel like my reading game has only gotten stronger over the last month so I can't wait to see what my answers for these questions will be at the end of the year. I've also linked some of my reviews in case you wanted to check them out.

Happy Reading!

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Book Review: The Voting Booth and the Power of the Vote

"That's what people want—for us to be too scared to stand up for ourselves and what we believe in. I think that's more dangerous than trying to change things."

This book is important! We're at the height of an election year and in the midst of COVID as well as one of the largest movements ever: Black Lives Matter. Using your voice and voting is just one of the ways you can help make changes in this country and it is clear that we need to make some drastic changes. And don't forget it's not just about voting for the President, but you can also vote for your Senators, every member of the House of Representatives, and mayors just to name a few. Register to vote here!

I honestly loved everything about this book because it's about so many different issues. We follow Marva and Duke over the span of one day as they navigate the perils of election day and the struggle that sometimes comes with voting. On top of that, Marva is navigating boyfriend trouble and a missing cat while Duke is dealing with his own grief about losing his brother and trying to make it to a gig on time. 

Right from the opening pages it took me back to when I was able to vote for the first time and how special that felt. The first vote I ever got to cast was for the first Black President. As a Black women, that is insanely powerful. I remember the electricity of that day and how it felt like I could finally use my voice and my vote to make real changes. I actually wasn't into politics all that much around this time, but it was because of that special time that I started really getting involved and making sure I watched the debates, researched the candidates, and voted for the person who I thought would get us closer to a more fair and just country. I know that a lot of people think their vote doesn't matter, but if you look at what happened in 2016, it's clear that it matters! As a Black woman, I've been reading a lot of non-fiction just about my history and the history of our country, and as we know Black people fought tooth and nail, and sometimes died, for their right to vote. So I will exercise my right to vote for as long as I can, because I will not let those deaths be in vain. 

What I feel this book does so cleverly is bring to the forefront the issue of voter suppression. Voter suppression is a big issue in this country. We have a President who doesn't want to allow absentee ballots, polling places that close down without any warning, broken voting machines, long lines, and a whole host of other issues, including transportation, that keep people from voting. And this book talks about these issues so well. Marva (our main character) even says, "How can we vote in the people who want to make it easier for us to vote if we can't get in to vote in the first place." And this is the exact issue that happened in Atlanta and many other states with this most recent Primary election. It is our Constitutional Right to vote and we need a government that allows everyone an equal and fair shot at actually exercising that right. 

As we're at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, there is a lot of positive activism going on and this book definitely touches on that. I'm learning that there are many ways to be an activist. One of the characters in the book, Ida, likes to be out on the front lines, Marva has been canvasing and raising awareness about voting for the 2 years prior to the events of this book. In today's world we have protesting, social activism, artistic activism, digital activism, organizing, petitions, donating, spreading the word, distributing literature, sending emails and calls to our Representatives, and so much more. But we must remember that we don't have to occupy every lane, but you have to at least pick one. It is not enough to be quietly non-racist on the side lines anymore. We must be actively working to dismantle racism everyday in any way we can. Find out how to get involved here!

I know this book is called The Voting Booth, but it's also about grief from losing someone from gun violence, "the talk" which for Black families is what to do and how to act when/if you get pulled over by the cops, and even on the importance of Juneteenth. My favorite thing is that The Voting Booth normalizes therapy for Black families and I'm here for it. 

After finishing the book you realize that there is no mention of any political parties, and I absolutely love that because it's not about that. It's about making your vote count. 

I don't know how Brandy Colbert included all these important issues into this 293 page book but she did it! And she did it like a true Queen!

Happy Reading!

Saturday, July 4, 2020

June Wrap Up: Reading While Black

June was probably one of the worst month's I've had emotionally in a long time. After witnessing the murder of George Floyd and then continuing to hear about the atrocities done to the black body, I was not in a good place mentally. As a Black woman living in America I have experienced by fair share of racism but in this moment in time it feels like our Blackness is at the forefront of conversation, as it should be, but at the same time I just want to be able to live my life without the fear of walking outside, being confronted by the police, or being harassed for the color of my skin. I am proud to be a Black woman and it took me a long time to feel this way, because how do you feel proud in a society that constantly tells you that you are a second class citizen. But I know I can finally say (and I've felt this way for a while now) I am proud to be Black.

On top of all this we are still in the middle of a GLOBAL PANDEMIC, so yes my mental health during these past few months, especially this last month, has taken a nose dive. But at the same time I'm trying to not be so hard on myself about the lack of places I may feel my life is going or the lack of reading I did in June, because the world is literal shit right now. I will not accept that the world will be shit forever because I'm determined to see change in politics, legislature, on the city and state level, in society, and definitely in book publishing. 

Over the last month I have gained A LOT of new followers and I feel like I've almost been thrust into this new level of Instagram responsibility. At the same time, I've also lost a lot of followers. I could physically feel the height of the movement in the book community through the engagement in my posts and then the "return to normal" that happened when following a Black bookstagrammer was no long a thing you felt you had to do in the moment or maybe when my content got too controversial, or maybe for no reason at all. But I need people to remember that being Black is not a fad because we live in this skin everyday so we can't just "turn it off" or "return to normal." Black Stories Matter. Black Voices Matter. AND BLACK LIVES MATTER. They always have and they always will. My life matters! So I do want to thank everyone who has stuck around, or shouted me out during this time and is actually invested in and engaging with my content. 

I started this bookstagram because I LOVE to read! I think I got lost for a second there in what it really means to be an advocate for your community. I got caught up in doing more scrolling instead of reading. It's important to make sure I'm staying up to date on all the news and how I can help my community and all the voices who are struggling to be heard. I thought people were just here for the black book lists and once things "returned to normal" no one would care. and yes, honestly at times it feels like that, but I have to remember why I started all of this. Because I love to read and share my love for books. I love getting books out there and talking about them with people. So, that is exactly what I'm going to do. You're going to see me doing more reading and book updates because I do have things to say and opinions to give, but I have to remember at the forefront of all of my work is doing the actual reading. 

JUNE WRAP UP

Warcoss - ⭐️⭐️ ⭐️
I finished this book in the early hours of June 1st so even though I wanted to focus on Black Voices and stories for June, I still have to count this for June. I really wanted to love this book but unfortunately it just didn't do it for me. I was also coming off the high of SLAY (and we all know how much I loved Slay) so honestly this book probably never stood a chance. I liked the storyline and the diverse cast, but I just felt like it was just too slow. I didn't feel any action and that's why it probably took me almost a whole month to read this book. With that said I will be reading Wildcard because I already own it and I'm a completist in certain aspects of my life. 

Hunger - ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
This book was an open and honest account of Roxane Gay's body and how she inhabits that body. The trauma that has happened to that body and how it has effected her entire life. To me, this is what vulnerability looks like at its most raw. 

Black Girl Unlimited - ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I don't even know how to put my thoughts in order to describe my love for this book. I actually started this book at the beginning of the month as a buddy read with Jess (@jessreadit). This book took a little longer than I would've wanted. I read half of the book at the beginning of the month and then fell into a horrible reading slump. And it definitely had nothing to do with this book. This book is beautiful, heartbreaking, triumphant, and magical. I'm not usually a book crier but I was basically in tears at the end of this book and after I read the last sentence I hugged the book and just laid there. This book is literal Black Girl Magic. Echo, who the story is about, has a rough upbringing and goes through insanely traumatic things when she is in High School, and yet she still wants to use her power for good. She is determined to help the the people around her create a better life for themselves. Echo is strength and she is triumph. To fight against all odds to create a better future for yourself and the people around you is beautiful. Even thought at times this story is hard to read because it's so raw, this is always a story about the relentless magic and strength of Black Women.

The Burning : Massacre, Destruction, and the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 - ⭐️💫
This book triggered me a lot. I had a lot to say in my Instagram stories about it as well as the review I wrote. My biggest problems were with the language the author used and the way events were presented. Please read my full review here.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Book Review: The Burning - Massacre, Destruction and the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921

I went back and forth about writing up a full review for this book because I felt like I said a lot of what I had to say in my stories on Instagram, but then I thought maybe I have more to say? Maybe not, but I wanted to give myself the space to explore that. 

I'm not a big non fiction/history reader but when I found out about Tulsa 1921, and very recently I might add, I figured this was something I wanted to read more about. I'm a little ashamed to admit that I had never heard of the Tulsa massacre of 1921 until very recently. I honestly don't even remember where I heard it first. It might've been on social media or it might've been in conjunction with the show Watchmen on HBO. I did a very small amount of research on the actual events and jumped right into the show. To say that a television show in 2020 is where I first heard about something like this is honestly insane but also speaks volumes about the time we're living in. Anyway, after watching the series twice through, I finally picked up an actual book on the subject. I chose The Burning because it had better reviews than some of the other books I had seen. Because of the subject matter and the fact that I'm a Black woman living in America I had to really almost check myself while reading to make sure I wasn't showing any bias towards either position. I basically just wanted to get the facts about what happened during the two days where Greenwood, also known as Black Wall Street, was burned to the ground.

But about half way through the book I started to ask myself, "what is this author trying to do?" When we read historical retellings I think it's important to understand what the author is trying to give to the reader. What is the story the author is trying to present while making sure personal opinions do not get too mingled with facts. I do think when writing anything personal feelings or opinions will show up in some way, shape or form. Whether it be with the language the author is using or even the way information is presented. And that was my biggest problem with this book.

Yes, it is a huge endeavor to research events and conduct interviews with victims and witnesses who were present during the Tulsa Race Riots and I do not take that away from our author at all. Having to take all that research and shape it into a digestible text for the masses to understand seems like it would be a daunting task. And that is what our author did. What I believe he was trying to do was give us an overarching picture of what was happening at the time and how those events "inevitably" would've let to this riot and massacre. I personally disagree with the inevitability that was presented, but I am not the author.

As the author, you get to choose the way you'd like to present the information and the language you want to use when depicting time, place, and people, and that was my biggest problem with this book.
1) This book was written in 2001. The fact that the author called Black people "Negroes" all throughout the book felt problematic to me. Yes, he's writing about an event that happened in 1921, but he could've brought the language into the present. 

2) The words in which our author described White people (including the KKK) v. Black people really stuck out to me. Words used to describe White people - brave, impressive, "who could blame them?" Words to describe Black people - belligerent, stubborn, beast. 

3) I know that this book was constructed based on interviews with both Black and White people and articles from that time, but there were a lot of times when I wasn't sure if the author was summarizing what someone had said or just writing to fill in history or conversations that he wasn't a part of. And that to me is problematic. If I can't distinguish between something racist someone is saying and what the author is saying, then we're going to have problems. 

For example, the author spends a lot of time at the beginning of the book talking about the racial tensions that were always brewing between White and Black people, especially when it came to the interaction of Black men and White women. The author states, "How many times had the trouble started with a Negro man smiling at a white woman, who would scram bloody rape, causing a mob of outraged white men to avenge the woman's honor, and another black corpse to dangle from the end of a rope." Which of course we know to be extremely true during that time. He then proceeds to tell us that it's funny though because slave masters raped their slaves all the time giving us "mulatto" babies, but of course no one talks about that. BUT THEN HE SAYS,   
"But then the Union triumphed and the slaves were freed. Mingled with the Southern white man's fury at the destruction of his way of life was this fear: what sort of retribution might the Black buck now exact on white women? Negro men were now free to do to white men's beloved wives and daughters what the white men had done to the Negro women. Great vigilance was required to prevent such abominations. After all, how many rapes began with just a smile?" (Madigan, 52)

Okay WTF. I need to know if this is what the author assumes the fear is or if this is gathered from actual research of talking to people who said these exact things. Also, there are no quotation marks to be found when the authors makes statements like this.

Another example: Our author tells us about a Tulsa grocer names Huge Gary and how he "loved" Black people. In fact he had plenty of them on his payroll. He then proceeds to tell us this, "So why did those uppity, belligerent coloreds across the tracks try to make trouble for the peaceful, happy Negroes like Gary's employees at the grocery store, make trouble for his beloved mammy at home?" (Madigan, 113) He goes on to say some pretty horrible stuff about how lessons needed to me taught. We know this is the author talking because he mentions Gary! If this were Gary talking he wouldn't mention himself like that. Which brings me to my next and final example.

And I quote, "For whatever private sorrows that might have remained, the burning of 1921 has affirmed the superiority of the white race. At the same time, it was a powerful lesson to any colored person with ideas of tampering with the right order of things." (Madigan, 233) The "right order of things"?!?! FUCK OFF. (Excuse my language)

These are just some of the problematic things I encountered throughout the book. No matter how this book presents the information, we must be clear that it may have started as a riot but 100% ended as a massacre. Black people were essentially blamed for what happened which in my opinion is 100% bullshit. They were dragged from their homes which were set on fire. Either shot or taken to a containment camp and basically became prisoners unless someone they worked for (usually a white person) could vouch for them. This was a horrendous event in American history and this is not the only one. I took AP and Honors classes in high school and can tell you none of this was taught in any of my classes. As a society we need to be more aware of the atrocities that have happened to Black people since 1619. It is our duty to do better!

Rating: ⭐️💫