Discoveries and disclosures regarding SJF Books
Before I ever became an author, I was a reader first; which means before I wrote characters wrestling with the questions I, myself, have, I was looking for books that did the same. When I came across Courtney Milan‘s Cyclone series, I was drawn to the stories because of the covers and then stuck around because the protagonists were diverse (culture, gender identification, race, sexual orientation). Also, because I have enjoyed previous Courtney Milan books I’ve read, I felt assured I’d enjoy these as well. However, what I didn’t count on was being all in my feels.
All in my feels.
These two books reminded me we do not read in a vacuum. Even as we try to escape the real world, no one ever goes on vacation without bringing baggage. We might not understand all that we’re packing, but it’s coming with us. And during these two reads, I ended up rifling through all the baggage I’d been carrying since childhood. This was a good thing.
A timely thing.
Fifty years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. celebrated his very last birthday, so it seems fitting that this year his holiday falls on his actual birthday. That being said, I’m sure Dr. King is rolling over in his grave at where this country has gone since his fateful assassination. The man who occupies the presidency is diametrically opposed to what Dr. King advocated for, and on the eve of Dr. King’s holiday weekend, Mr. Trump made explicit one of the implicit and insidious reasons why the immigration debate has always been so fraught.
When the man who occupies the presidency labels the very first Black republic in the world and the second-largest continent on the planet known for its majority-Black populations shitholes compared to a wealthy and prosperous majority-white country, one can no longer deny how he feels about people of a certain hue. When the man who occupies the presidency is so unmoored from history, and how that history has led to a contemporary where citizens of these countries feel they must leave their own nations to find opportunity in one that claims to accept “the tired, the poor, the huddled masses“—but with an asterisk and the tiniest of fine print that reads “Whites Only (even if this also had some rules and regulations based on ethnicity)—we must realize we are facing a crisis of conscience, and this conscience is entirely out of whack from the man we honor today.
A week into the New Year, I’m still carrying baggage from 2017, 2016, 2015, etc., and the thought of putting it down makes me chafe. Why am I so comfortable with this burden that I’m already adjusting 2018 to make room for it? My hands aren’t that big and my muscles aren’t that strong. The baggage must be made with TARDIS technology and the ability to redistribute weight so that the only discomfort I feel is the anxiety tension in my left shoulder that stays with me constantly. Nevertheless, my posture is all out of whack from this load, contorted to accommodate the negative narratives and energies that have been with me for longer than I’d like to admit.
I’m tired, y’all. I’m turning 35 in May. My back ain’t what it used to be (hell, it hasn’t been great since college). I need to find a river and lay these burdens down. I need the strength to let go. The courage.
My 2018 word, everyone: Courage.
I’m a week out from the BookBaby Independent Authors Conference and I have been thinking long and hard about what I write, why I write, and for whom I write. It’s been a fraught thought process, one that has forced me to confront something I’d known for a while but didn’t want to accept—to the point I even confessed to one of the speakers about the revelation. In the week since, I’ve not been responding well, culminating in a complete meltdown on Friday where I couldn’t be the Strong Black Woman™. I was all out of spoons. My internal mason jar of emotions had been filled up. The excess had to go somewhere, out, and even then what I’d shed was simply enough to put the lid back on so I could power through another day and on to the weekend.
The immediate weeks leading up to this birthday have been mercurial to say the least, which makes sense considering my ruling planet is Mercury (which was apparently in retrograde, and isn’t that always fun?). A colleague of mine passed away suddenly on the same day as my grandmother had six years prior at a similar age as my mother had twenty-three years prior, who left behind two young ladies just as my mother had. Also, this was the Monday after Mother’s day, so I was already in a state of unexpected grief (I’d thought after two-plus decades having no actual mother to celebrate I wouldn’t be as affected as I’d been, but this year it’d snuck up on me, and the metabolizing of the day I must have subconsciously been doing years prior didn’t happen this year). I don’t mean to start this off unhappily, but Dr. Conseula Francis, the woman who passed, was a champion of the romance genre – particularly Black romance – and especially for the right for Black women to feel love and all the pleasures that come with it without shame or negotiation or excuse. And for her to do this in academia, a place that is usually insidiously hostile to all of these things, with the level of success and gravity as she’d done was so refreshing and exciting for me. The last personal interaction I’d had with Dr. Francis was a few months ago (she was an incredibly busy associate provost at the College of Charleston where I also work) and she gave a talk about Black women and romance. There was only a handful of people there, and I was the only other Black person in the room besides Dr. Francis. I was happily her Amen Corner, because everyone else had little idea what she was talking about (not their fault, considering Blackness is always marginalized, and anything having to do with Black women even more so). To hear Dr. Francis name drop and big up so many fantastic authors – including myself – was a point of pride not just for me, but for all of us Black women who give voice and space for ourselves to be loved and cherished and adored and pleased, and for all of the women who choose to occupy that space with the fullness of themselves and the freedom of their undeserved guilt. To hear her discuss how romance interacts with, wrestles with, contends with social status quos that have actual ramifications of how we live our everyday lives and that these novels aren’t simply an “escape”, but are in many ways a blueprint of how Black women can pursue and live their fullest selves, was empowering for me to hear, as she’d articulated a subconscious drive I’ve had for why I even write what I write in the first place.
Sometimes you have to sit with a thing; let it soak, then simmer, then sink further down into the psyche where the real metabolism can begin.
Prince’s death hasn’t soaked, simmered, or sunk yet, but I’m going to write about it, anyway. I’d tried to write something about it the day after he’d passed, but nothing I was producing really hit where I wanted it to go. I could feel the ramble begin, trying to do a chronology of my relationship with Prince, such as it was, on the cusp of staying up late well passed my bedtime watching Purple Rain, a film I’d only halfway seen once before and only in the last five years. Truthfully, I’m not a “fan” of his in that I didn’t actively pursue his music—not like I did with Whitney or Michael—but he was a foundational artist to me nonetheless.
“Kiss” is one of the first songs I ever remember hearing that wasn’t a lullaby or a hymn. At first, I’d thought Prince was a woman, because in a three-year-old’s mind, women have “high” voices and men have “low” voices. So the fact Prince dips down into the lower registers of his voice for “You” to catapult him to the “don’t have to be rich…” at the end of the song didn’t faze me at all. And really, it’s just his voice, a drumbeat, and harmonies above it that drove the song, with the guitar to add flourish, some synths to fill it in, and no bass line. “Kiss” never fails to get me tapping my feet or shaking my shoulders; it’s that motivating of a song. And now that I’m older, I can also appreciate the lyrics for what they are—just be yourself; I dig you for just who you are. I suppose three-year-old Savannah understood those lyrics would be important one day, even if she couldn’t articulate it then.
A few years later, Prince then releases “Diamonds and Pearls”, which is actually my favorite Prince song. Again, it’s a simple song, not really complicated—complete with a bridge that features a breakdown of D-I-A-M-O-N-D that goes hard in the paint. By this time I’m eight years old when the song drops, and I admit I liked the song because I could sing along with it and I liked the melody. Yet with age and life lived, the lyrics of “Diamonds and Pearls” are gorgeous and resonant, especially the verse after the bridge. Gems are nice, but what we have to offer from inside is the real value we give to each other. “All I can do is just offer you my love,” how completely precious is that? How completely simple, yet difficult to do, especially if you think you’re not worthy of it, or full of it?
Savannah will be attending the 2016 RT Booklovers Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada from April 12, 2016 – April 17, 2016. She will be participating in the Giant Book Fair on Saturday, April 16, 2016 and would love the opportunity to chat and sign your books! Please visit the website for more details.
Welcome to the new SJFBooks.com! This is will be the first stop to any and all things related to author Savannah J. Frierson and SJF Books, including blogs, upcoming releases, excerpts, and appearances.