3 Books That Changed My Life

Kindred By Octavia Butler: My friend gave me this book and I never gave it back. Instead I loaned it to someone else. Dana, a black woman in 1976 gets transported to a Maryland Plantation before the Civil War in order to save her ancestor Rufus. Turns out he’s her great-great-great-great (something like that) grandfather, a red headed, hot tempered slave master. She only travels back in time when his life is in peril, because if he doesn’t exist neither will she. African Americans are a product of slave and master, a torturous truth; we hate the former, but without them we wouldn’t be. How does one reconcile that? Butler uses science fiction to explore this dynamic of lineage brilliantly. It brought so many questions to mind: what type of slave would I be? One who risks the dogs and runs? One who is subservient? One who chooses suicide as an escape? Changed my life and everything about my trip to Paris made sense. I will post about that later this week.

The Fountainhead By Ayn Rand: Howard Roark is my spirit animal. No matter what anyone told him he did it his way, getting him kicked out of school. Architecture is an art form and passion for him. While his contemporaries stuck to the ways of old (with classical buildings typical of Greek and Roman structures) Roark could see the future. His creations were unique, modern and never before seen. He starved for his art, everyone writing him off as a joke. Sheep. Roark taught me to continue to live with integrity despite social norms. Are you living truthfully or as others want you to be?

I love architecture because of my dad. When I walk around the city I always wonder which buildings Roark would have built.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi: Two sisters in Africa are given necklaces as heirlooms from their mother. They have different fathers and come from different tribes. The book spans centuries showing the continuous lineage of the sister who remains in Africa versus the one who gets forced into slavery. It perfectly encapsulates the African diaspora, how the slave trade has impacted the history of those stolen and those who stayed. The necklaces are so perfectly symbolic, it’s meaning staying with me long after finishing the book.

What three books changed your life? Why?

Books By Johan Deckmann

This genuinely cracked me up. The horrible habits of humans, sociologically and psychologically. Absolute genius. Which book are you reading today?

The Reckoning: Melinda Parker

An introvert happier with a book, I often wondered how I was born into a family of people with such loud personalities. I was the quiet sensitive one, more prone to tears in moments of conflict, even if it didn’t involve me. My older cousin, Seraphina is the exact opposite. Bold, unafraid, captivating everyone upon entering a room. Always rushing in like a surprise tornado of long limbs and big curly hair, that fought to escape the heaviest of scrunchies. We didn’t get along.

When I was 10 I found my voice, in large part due to her. She got into a fight with the son of a family friend, in the church basement, where they sent us kids, when the sanctuary became overcrowded. Brian, was a young misogynist. Confidently carrying on about what Seraphina couldn’t do, because she was a girl. We all watched as she quickly made him eat the words he so cockily spit at her. Seraphina always found a fight she was eager to finish. I was taught that if you didn’t go looking for trouble, it couldn’t find you. Life showed me differently.

After our older cousins finally pulled Seraphina off Brian, our aunt reprimanded us. Barely paying attention, I continued to read my book and bite my nails (a disgusting habit that I’ve broken. For the most part) because this had nothing to do with me.

The following Sunday, we were called to the front of the church to be shamed over this fight, that wasn’t really a fight. I call it the Reckoning, because that boy thought twice before getting crazy with us again.

“And then Melinda, rolled her eyes at me.” Almost as though this was planned, I responded with “No, I didn’t! I was biting my nails in the corner.” Everyone laughed breaking the tension of our public chastisement. What I’d done was out of character. Up until that point, I accepted life the way it was, never throwing tantrums or asking why. My dad told me that I was wrong to have spoken up. It was inappropriate and not the time to have addressed my aunt. It wasn’t the time for me to respond to a false accusation? Why was it ok for her to speak up and not me?

This was a small event that rewired my thinking. People don’t like discomfort, even if it’s true, even if it’s detrimental to their wellbeing. They rather say nothing over speaking out. Since then, I’ve spent years trying to take up as little space as possible, feeling guilty doing otherwise.

Believing that you will be treated with the same respect and compassion that you give others, is a beautiful naive notion. People will seek you out to tell you your experience is wrong. When that happens, gather yourself, take a deep breath and unleash the Reckoning. Absolutely no one has the right to negate your experience.

If people have the audacity to try to diminish what you’ve endured, you must have the fortitude to put them in their place. Even if they don’t get it now, they’ll hear the echo of your voice when they try to do it to someone else. Keep your foot on their necks, beloved. May the spirit of reckoning always be present in your life. Photo: Hoeshell

Forever Hold Your Peace

It’s so hard giving a book review without spoiling it. This book was seriously f*cked up. So this famous artist is accused of killing her husband and placed in a mental facility, where she doesn’t speak a word for seven years. She also stops painting. Theo, determined to get her to speak, joins the psychiatric team. Others have tried and failed at getting her to talk, but he is convinced he can do it.

The director of the ward allows him to try unconventional tactics to do so. In a desperate attempt to prevent the facility from being shut down. Theo has been warned not to fall in love with the artist, as she has a way with men. A femme fatale if you will.

This book is actually funny in a dark way. It’s filled with twist and turns, as the reader tries to determine who really committed the murder. Dude, it does not end the way one would expect. Truly a brilliant piece of work. Photo: A Girl On An Adventure

Before We Were Yours

Based on the true story of families torn apart by Georgia Tann, who stole poor children to sell to the rich for exorbitant prices. From the 1920’s to the 1950’s Georgia Tann lied to families in hospitals, telling them their newborns were stillborn or didn’t make it. She tricked illiterate parents into signing over their older children, under the guise of helping get them a free hospital bill. When distraught mothers and fathers were finally able to locate their missing kin, their names were changed and they were told they’d already been adopted (even if they weren’t). Hundreds of children died under the care of this abhorrent woman.

It’s mind boggling that she got away with trafficking children for thirty years. A riveting tale that is both heartbreaking and uplifting.

Makes me wonder what prominent lineages in our world were affected by her actions.