It would not be an exaggeration to suggest that many people in our society feel it’s time for African Americans to get over slavery, that it is but a distant memory that should barely skim the surface of the nation’s consciousness. Needless to say, award-winning newspaper columnist Rochelle Riley is not among them. In her introduction to this cultural studies anthology, Riley announces in her quietly powerful words that she will not “shut up” about slavery, an institution that remains ingrained in American life. As the editor of this anthology, she gathers 23 contributors whose combined work enriches the African-American Studies canon with reflections and heartbreaking revelations. Actor Tim Reid deftly compares slavery to having cancer, drawing from his personal experience with the disease, to illustrate slavery’s insidiousness and impact. Author Betty DeRamus rolls back time to her eight-year-old self as she walks into a whites-only ice cream shop. Time stands still as the encounter unfolds. The unimaginable horror of slavery is shown through the journey of an old, patched cotton bag as described by anthropologist Mark Auslander.
The Burden is suitable reading for a college-level course on culture, race, or ethnic studies, or as a reference point for a public affairs panel discussion. It will hopefully reach a broad audience of Americans, striking a blow to the denials of slavery’s presence, reaffirming what so many in our society endure, and lead to a healthy dialogue on racial injustice.
The Burden will marinate in my consciousness, flashing in my mind like a highlight reel, reminding me of how much work still needs to be done in this country surrounding race.
Author: Kenneth Rogers Jr.
PUB Date: 2017. 219 pp.
Rogers steps into brave terrain, offering a rare guide that opens the door to the toxic masculinities that result from childhood sexual abuse. Referencing DC Comic Book superheroes and villains, Rogers traverses the path to healing by providing coping strategies for male survivors.
HEROES, VILLAINS, AND HEALING
Authors: Jasminne Méndez
PUB Date: 2018. 277 pp.
Reviewer: Dharani Persaud
Night-Blooming Jasmin(n)e is a beautiful and sometimes heartbreaking book of essays and poetry about navigating life and chronic illness while being a young Black woman in America. Jasminne Méndez, a first-generation Dominican Afro-Latina, writes honestly about her experiences managing the physical and emotional side effects that result from lupus and scleroderma. This collection of essays and poetry encompass topics like trying to find a doctor who will listen to her, the pain of a miscarriage and infertility, and her relationship with her parents after her diagnoses. While the subjects she writes about are serious, Méndez actively discourages readers to feel bad for her. Instead, she aims to drive home the point that while living with chronic illnesses requires navigating life differently, it does not make anyone any less of a person.
A few lines from one of her poems get at the heart of this book: “remind yourself you are human/even if this won’t change/the weather or the results/the diagnosis or the disease.”
In this work, Méndez invites us to follow her on her own journey of disbelief, understanding, and empathy about what it’s like to navigate the world with chronic illness.
Author: David Mura
PUB Date: 2017. 344 pp.
Mura curates this vital text that takes craft into the realm of the entire landscape of literature, voices that are no longer estranged by canon. Along with serving as a critical analysis on the exclusion of diverse literature within academia, this books acts as an acknowledgment to the ostracization diverse writers have endured in the literary world historically. Mura offers lessons on craft from a true, universal lens, a text that should become standard for any creative writing class.
A Stranger's Journey
2040 Review is a literary review publication dedicated to enhancing bookshelves by showcasing authors and reviewers of color. Get a copy.