In Search of the Pear Tree

I’ve read Their Eyes Were Watching God almost every year since I was a sophomore in high school. Each experience grounds me deeper into my self, revealing new truths even after I left the last reading assured I learned all there was to know. This time around, I found the life of Janie Crawford drawing me closer to another woman in my life, my great-grandmother. The woman’s life hangs over my family like a legend. Much like Janie, my great-grandmother ran away from home at a young age in search of, I believe, that same pear tree that awakened Janie in her grandmother’s front yard. And like Janie, my great-grandmother paid a price for such curiosity, such fearlessness, such hope.

When Janie’s grandmother sees her granddaughter begin to blossom with the same curiosity, fearlessness and hope that ignited my great-grandmother, she cuts the young girl down with the reality that the negro woman is the mule of the world. I’m not sure if my great-grandmother had gotten that talk from her mother before she ran off, but I can imagine that life sure did to my great-grandmother what Janie’s grandmother did to her: “[take] the biggest thing God ever made, the horizon,…and [pinch] it in to such a little bit of a thing that she [Janie’s grandmother] could tie it about her granddaughter’s neck tight enough to choke her.”

I wonder often about the woman I’ve never met, but whose life story I can recite as if it were my own. I wonder what pieces of herself she had to hide, like Janie, in order to stay outwardly alive. What had fallen off her internal shelf and did she ever pick it up? Did she ever get to experience what Janie witnessed the bees and the buds of flowers did in that pear tree? Did she ever get time to pull in her horizon and look over what was caught in its meshes? How many of our great-grandmothers lived like Janie, or longed to? These are questions that sparked Alice Walker’s collection, In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens, and it is one that I think about each time I try to understand my own life. The freedoms, however little they sometimes seem to be, were paid for in gold by women like Janie, like my great-grandmother, who dared to follow their heart.

Their Eyes Were Watching God has, in some magical way, brought me closer to my great-grandmother as I find myself capable of looking at her story as something more than a larger than life legend and something tangible, tactile, like the textures of my own life that change with each new life experience. Though I imagine that a lot of my great-grandmother’s naive dreams were crushed after she ran away from home, I admire her the same way I do Janie Crawford; they were women who were not satisfied being anyone’s mule, women who believed that there was joy and pleasure and sweetness to be had from this life and were relentless in their search for it. They are both women I aspire to be.

Another reading of Zora Neale Hurston’s classic novel has left me eternally grateful for her own relentless truth telling. She has, yet again, brought me closer to myself. Closer to a self I was almost a century ago in Columbus, Mississippi who snuck away from the well and ran from home in search of that pear tree. Today, I am still searching, as I believe all black women are and should be.

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Sunday Reading: CoRregidora

It’s nothing short of a blessing when you can devote an entire day to reading a book, or when a book is so compelling it requires your undivided attention until completed. That was my experience with Gayl Jones’ CoRregidora. Not since I was in high school had I experienced the giddy feeling of curling up and fervently turning the next page, needing to know what happened next. CoRregidora isn’t as suspenseful as it is spellbinding. Jones’ quick pacing, perfect dialogue, and gothic themes transfixes you until you’ve realized you reached the end. And what an impactful ending it is.

There is no one that explores the sexual, emotional, social, and physical trauma of slavery on their descendants like Jones. She perfectly melds the past and present showing how we are a single thread on the spool of time, merely continuing what has already transpired before our existence. It’s dark and uncomfortable, but it’s the truth of Jones’ work that will resonate with you and shake you to your core.

I’ve been a huge admirer of Jones’ work, and CoRregidora, edited by the great Toni Morrison, is a necessary staple that should be on everyone’s bookshelf.

BookMates

*taps mic* Is this thing on?

Hi everybody,

It’s been a long minute, huh?

Well, I’m excited to say I’m back and I did not return empty-handed. For MONTHS I’d been working on a web series that took many twists and turns and has finally evolved into what I’m so thrilled to share with you all.

BOOKMATES is a series following two book-loving friends and the situations bibliophiles find themselves in.

They’re short and sweet skits that I hope you enjoy as much as I enjoyed making them.

The teaser is below…catch all the fire names we dropped in just 26 seconds!

Comment below, I wanna know what you guys think!

Black Herstory short film

In honor of Women’s History month I wanted to create a short film that payed homage to the love, sacrifice, and overall contribution that black women have made since their 4 centuries of being in the Americas.

 

Jane Eyre is Still Relevant

When one thinks of great literature there often three classics that come to mind: The Bible, Any and Everything Toni Morrison has ever written, and Jane Eyre.

For close to two-hundred years Charlotte Bronte’s tale of a young woman’s quest for independence and self-love has been the inspiration of several film adaptations, fan-fiction stories, intertextual prequels, web series, etc. There are several reasons why the stubborn and passionate character of Jane Eyre continues to be relevant in the 21st century:

Independence:

“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”

It’s a theme that echoes through each page of the novel.

Jane is a young woman who has felt the neglect and the abuse of being dependent on others as a child. As a young adult she is steadfast in her quest to be financially and emotionally independent.

Self-Love:

“I can live alone, if self-respect, and circumstances require me so to do. I need not sell my soul to buy bliss. I have an inward treasure born with me, which can keep me alive if all extraneous delights should be withheld, or offered only at a price I cannot afford to give.”

Though Jane is described as : “poor, obscure, plan, and little,” that is no cause for her to think lesser of herself. She stands up to the man she loves and demands his respect, not on the bases of “mortal flesh,” but from spirit to spirit.

Resilience:

“Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs.”

Faced with the tragedy of heartbreak from family members, institutions, and her beloved, Jane does not crumble into a pool of sorrow. She is a follower of the “if at first you don’t succeed” philosophy where she dusts herself off and continues to go forth in life without bitterness and hate in her heart. Though she may be guarded, love and passion still burn underneath her cool exterior.

Jane Eyre is a novel about a young woman with principles. She challenges her society’s idea of femininity and chooses happiness and self-worth over image and acceptance. She is not a flat, life-less character who only comes alive through the presence of a male. She is a resilient, self-respecting, independent woman; one we can still draw inspiration from today.

Vintage Black Glamour

vbg

(Nichelle Gainer, Vintage Black Glamour)

As a young girl, I was always fascinated by the beauty of Dorothy Dandridge, the courage of Josephine Baker, the confidence of Eartha Kitt. I often dreamt of a place where I could see these faces printed on posters, magazines, etc. I wanted their images and their stories to be as ingrained in our nostalgia for vintage Hollywood as Marilyn Monroe and Mae West (both stars in their own right). Thanks to Nichelle Gainer, I no longer have to imagine such a place–she has brought it to life with her encapsulation of the glamour of African-American female entertainers in her book, Vintage Black Glamour.

The book presents historic photographs of famous actors, dancers, writers and entertainers who worked in the 20th-century entertainment business, but who rarely appeared in the same publications as their white counterparts

This incredible collection includes women like:

  • Aretha Franklin
  • Lorraine Hansberry
  • Diana Ross
  • Donyale Luna

Not only are there rare pictures of these iconic women, but biographical text is included to tell the dynamic and inspiring story of each starlet. Gainer, who writes for: 55 Secret Street, Revenge of the Curves, and Anovelista, brings us an important archive of history with this book, one that I can’t wait to purchase.

Check out some of Gainer’s amazing work on the Vintage Black Glamour site  and order your copy of, Black Glamour, today.