Over the past two months, I’ve read three books and one literary journal—the most continued book reading I’ve done in years.
Michelle Obama’s Becoming reminded me so much of my own upbringing in Baltimore as a Black girl in a large and functional family that aspired to learn, grow, and excel while overcoming obstacles of circumstance, life events, and racism both systemic and ingrained. Apart from our growing up in different parts of the country about a decade apart, and her marrying Barack Obama and becoming the first Black First Lady in U.S. history, I felt a real kinship, love, and pride in her story. It is an affirmation for all the little girls in the world who ask from an early age, who, what, when, where, and why will I become? Michelle Obama’s answers to those questions are both inspiring and challenging: becoming is a journey, not a destination.
Obama: An Intimate Portrait is a photographic record of the presidency of Barack Obama compiled by his official White House Photographer, Pete Souza. It is an extraordinary and beautiful work that includes many of the most famous and popular photos of this president and his family, such as the young boy who felt Obama’s hair to see if it was similar to his own, and the then-106-year-old Black lady, Virginia McLaurin, who while visiting the White House danced with the President and First Lady in the Oval Office. [Mrs. McLaurin is still alive, having celebrated her 110th birthday this month!] But more than this, the book chronicles the highs and lows, as well as the ordinary and fun times of being the Leader of the Free World. For those of us who feared that the Obama presidency might by whitewashed or erased by historians and who, like me, saved newspaper clippings and memorabilia to be preserved in personal scrapbooks, I say buy this book instead.
Night, the Holocaust memoir written by Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel, is a slim but eloquent telling of the horrors of experiencing and surviving one of the most hateful and cruel periods in the history of mankind. Being herded out of homes with belongings taken away; being forced into cattle cars and taken to concentration camps and seeing family members sent off to die in ovens; being stripped of decency and humanity are experiences no one can or wants to imagine, much less live through. Yet I’ve been studying this era—the rise of Hitler and German nationalism (Nazism), the pogroms and genocide against the Jewish people, and the unfathomable hatred, destructiveness, and sheep-like behavior of the people who allowed/enabled this evil—since I was in elementary school(!) in the late 1950s to early 1960s. Yes, we were taught about this era in school! Given the ignorant resurgence of this mindset now—in the 21st century, I believe it’s past time that our schools once again teach our children about this era of history. So that we do not repeat it.
midnight & indigo is a new literary journal dedicated to and written by Black female storytellers. The inaugural issue contains 13 short fictional narratives of life, death, love, and loss, told by 13 Black female writers of varied experience. All the stories are intriguing—uniquely told, but universally understood. Some are grounded in real-life, everyday experiences; others conjure up magic and fable. A few of the stories left me hanging, either wanting to read more or causing me to re-read them to understand them better. At a time when Black male writers are rightfully gaining a place in the public eye and the world of ideas, I am delighted to see Black female writers get their due, as well. I am so inspired by this new publication, that I am trying my hand at writing short fiction. And I look forward to future issues of this journal.