I love reading, but I don’t always get to read as much as I would like because life happens! I always have more books available than I have time to consume. This summer was no exception. I didn’t get to read all of the books on my desired reading list, but I did get to read a few great ones. I read each of them for different reasons and enjoyed them all.
Today, I’m sharing a few reflections on three books I read this summer that were authored by black Christian women.
I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made of Whiteness
By Austin Channing Brown
In recent years, Austin has become an emerging voice for racial justice and reconciliation. From the first sentence, “White people can be exhausting,” Austin gives a raw account of her life living as a woman in brown skin, whiling being educated and then working in predominately white spaces. Austin has written words to unapologetically affirm her identity as a black woman and she has written these words to celebrate the presence and gift of black women and black girls just like her. As a black woman, I appreciate the honesty of this book. It’s unfortunate that simply telling the truth has become a revolutionary act. Prophetic voices are needed when deception is normative among the nation’s powerful and elite.
I appreciate that she has given herself permission to become angry. She has wrestled spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and sometimes physically and has determined to survive. In a world made for whiteness, her survival will not be dependent upon what white people do or don’t do. Austin writes, “the reason we have not yet told the truth about this history of Black and white America is that telling an ordered history of this nation would mean finally naming America’s commitment to violent, abusive, exploitative, immoral white supremacy, which seeks the absolute control of Black bodies. It would mean doing something about it.” Our country’s history and present reality inform us that a black person’s standard of success or thriving in this life cannot be dependent on what white people do. We all have to decide for ourselves how we will stand! Austin has done the hard work, and she’s still standing.
Connect with Austin Channing Brown.
The Hate You Give
By Angie Thomas
This is a New York Times best seller and award-winning young adult novel. Over the last year, I’ve been intentional about reading more fiction. While writing A Sojourner’s Truth, I wanted to grow in my ability to craft my own story. One of the ways to become a better writer is to read other great writers. In this book, Angie has done an excellent job of crafting a storyline with strong characters who are learning to navigate the tensions of life. I love that the protagonist in this story is a sixteen-year-old black girl named, Starr.
The book contains some language and material that might not be appropriate for younger readers, but it gives adults a lens to view the various perspectives of a black family, whose views are shaped by their social economic class and location. It lets us peep into Starr’s heart as she wrestles to understand her identity and how to navigate the world in spaces and through systems that are not created for her. By the end of the book, she comes into her own and learns the power of her own voice. She has a loving and supportive community, that is also something to celebrate. Love overcomes hate.
The message of this book is coming to theaters next month, October 19, 2018.
Connect with Angie Thomas.
All the Colors We Will See: Reflections on Barriers, Brokenness, and Finding Our Way
By Patrice Gopo
Patrice’s story is a sojourner’s story—a story that crosses continents, history, and culture. She is of Jamaican descent, raised in Alaska (practically another country), spent several years of her adult life in South Africa where she met her Zimbabwean husband. Now they reside in Charlotte, North Carolina with their two children. This book of essays is Patrice’s coming of age story—a story of loss, brokenness, defeat, and triumph. With every essay, Patrice teaches about the reality of her existence, and invites us to reconsider the world we think we know.
She is a learner and deep thinker. Although our backgrounds are different, I resonate with her story. Hers has been a young life of many transitions…from leaving a career in engineering to becoming a full-time writer, to traveling the world, to becoming a wife and mother. She has taken a risk to love in spite of the failing she has witnessed on her journey. The journey is God’s invitation to us.
The journey is so much bigger than we could have ever imagined, the stories are so much greater, and in sharing our stories, elevating them, we all get to see more of God. We see God’s diversity and creativity. He is the architect of all the colors we see. When we read stories like Patrice’s, Austin’s, and Angie’s, we are reminded of who we are and who God is. God shaped each of us in his likeness from the beginning. In Patrice’s words, it is he “who formed something from nothing.”
Connect with Patrice Gopo.
On some level, all of these stories call us to wrestle with our understanding of race, justice, brokenness (our own and those that impact our communities), misogyny, politics, and how we view God. Is he present? Is he near? Has he forgotten or abandoned us along the way?
As we enter into these stories, let us leave behind the desire to critique, shame, scandalize, or pass judgment. Let us not enter these stories and pages as students. Let us enter as fellow travelers—each human on this journey we call life—all of us trying to find our way home.
Blessings on the journey, Natasha