“I had not been prepared for the simple charm of watching someone you love grow. “

So far the most surprising, beautiful sentence in Ta-Nehisi Coates’ We Were Eight Years in Power. It’s about his wife and part of one of the meta-essays that introduce his previously published essays in this collection. Some have aged better than others, but the meta-essays alone are worth the read alone. Man, that guy can write.

“I think it’s logical to assume that many, many black folk fell in love with many, many other black folk. This assumption is the rational consequence of acknowledging black humanity." 

The quoted statement should be obvious, but for long stretches of history, it wasn’t. In “The Dear Pledges of Our Love,” an essay about Philis Wheatley and her husband, the free black man John Peters, Honorée Fanonne Jeffers argues that the negative portrait of Peters in the authoritative literary biography of Wheatley may be an expression of racial stereotypes against Black men. Stereotypes that still exist today. 

In: The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race Jesmyn Ward (ed.) Simon & Schuster (2016) 

Black Children Matter

I basically inhaled Toni Morrison’s new novel God Help the Child because it left me breathless. It’s a short novel, but it  is so rich in everything: Language, narrative perspectives, themes, settings, characters. The prose is poetic, not as in lovely-beautiful but as in dense with emotional and intellectual heft. Characters and themes are true Morrison: Racism, colorism, lives of Black women, violence, abuse, love, hurt. 

Particularly the main character, Bride, and her mother Sweetness are both modern and timeless. Their story is not only one of racism and colorism (the main character is “blue black”) but also of abuse, adolescence, growing up, woman- and motherhood.  Bride answers the resentment towards her based on her skin with power based her beauty. 

Morrison manages to tell so many stories of fleshed out characters, with so few words. Even the conception of characters makes an interesting statement – I believe the darker the skin tone of a character, the richer the qualities and flaws of the character.  If I listed all stories told you’d never believe they’re all found within 178 pages. But Morrison makes it work, by not using one superfluous word. A truly amazing book.