PageTurners: How Trauma and Love Converge at a Literary Point

PageTurners: How Trauma and Love Converge at a Literary Point

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Thick Skin; Open Water’ Ghost in a Black Girl’s Throat
Thick Skin; Open Water’ Ghost in a Black Girl’s Throat
Image: Kernpunkt Press, Grove Press, Black Cat, Red Hen Press

How does trauma affect the way we live our day-to-day lives? Is inherited or intergenerational trauma more significant than a trauma—or traumas—experienced firsthand? There are perspectives and arguments to consider for each side: Dealing with inherited trauma is multilayered, convening in a complex web of emotions. Being exposed to or experiencing an immense trauma can be just as complex, if not more.

There are also many ways to deal with trauma, but committing it to paper and releasing it can be cathartic in more ways than one. No doubt that’s why we see so much literature that explores and examines trauma in both the fiction and nonfiction genres; it can function as an escape from the past and a point of empathy.

Writers Wes Moore, Khalisa Rae and Marlon Peterson each look at trauma through the lens of their personal experiences. In the paperback release of Wes Moore’s Five Days: The Fiery Reckoning of an American City, he shines a light on the 2015 uprising in Baltimore in the wake of Freddie Gray’s death. Author and prison abolitionist Marlon Peterson picks apart his time in prison in the aftermath of a robbery gone wrong and his work to change the narrative around the prison system in his memoir, Bird Uncaged: An Abolitionists’s Freedom Song. The way we look at inherited trauma is exposed in Khalisa Rae’s debut poetry collection, Ghost in a Black Girl’s Throat, as she reckons with living in a haunted southern town that not only tolerates racism but encourages it.

But as always, literature is a place where love can grow and thrive. Bolu Babalola reimagines the most beautiful tales of love and romance explored in folklore and mythology in Love in Color: Mythical Tales from Around the World, Retold, and Caleb Azumah Nelson pulls together love, fear, artistry and tenderness in his debut novel, Open Water.

Trauma—and love—are things Black people grapple with on a daily basis This week’s literary releases look at how they impact and intertwine.

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Bolu Babalola – Love in Color: Mythical Tales from Around the World, Retold (Fiction)

Bolu Babalola – Love in Color: Mythical Tales from Around the World, Retold (Fiction)

Bolu Babalola – Love in Color: Mythical Tales from Around the World, Retold
Bolu Babalola – Love in Color: Mythical Tales from Around the World, Retold
Image: HarperCollins

Love in Color is a celebration and examination of romance of all forms. International acclaimed writer Bolu Babalola reimagines “the most beautiful love stories from history and mythology” in her debut collection. Each story is looked at through a new lens and picked apart with incredible detail and clarity. Love in Color focuses on stories from long-forgotten lands, Greek mythology, and the magical folklore of West Africa.

April 13, 2021, HarperCollins

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Jenni McFarland – The House of Deep Water (Fiction)

Jenni McFarland – The House of Deep Water (Fiction)

Jenni McFarland – The House of Deep Water
Jenni McFarland – The House of Deep Water
Image: Penguin Random House

River Bend, Mich., is an idyllic type of town that no one ever imagines leaving—except for three women, Linda Williams, her mother, Paula and Beth DeWitt. Their escape from the town doesn’t last long, and upon returning home, the three women’s paths collide under Beth’s father’s roof. Beth, one of the only Black daughters in River Bend, is now a mother of two with failed plans to raise her children anywhere other than the town.

The House of Deep Water delves into the voices of mothers, daughters, husbands, lovers and fathers and McFarland’s debut novel delves into the secrets and lives of family and the complicated relationships stemming from trauma.

Paperback release: April 13, 2021, Penguin Random House

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Wes Moore, Erica L. Green – Five Days: The Fiery Reckoning of an American City (Nonfiction)

Wes Moore, Erica L. Green – Five Days: The Fiery Reckoning of an American City (Nonfiction)

Wes Moore, Erica L. Green – Five Days: The Fiery Reckoning of an American City
Wes Moore, Erica L. Green – Five Days: The Fiery Reckoning of an American City
Image: One World

The paperback release of Wes Moore’s Five Days: The Fiery Reckoning of an American City (original publication March 2020) looks at the aftermath of the April 2015 death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Md. There has been a long history of police brutality in Baltimore, but the violent and unnecessary death of Freddie Gray was the city’s breaking point—leading to the five days described as a riot and uprising that garnered attention for the country and shook the nation awake.

Erica Green, an award-winning journalist for The New York Times, joins Moore in telling the story of the uprising from his own perspective and the eyes of other Baltimore residents. From Partee, a conflicted Black captain of the Baltimore Police department to a young white public defender, Jenny, who was drawn into the center of the uprising herself, to Tawanda, who understood better than most having spent a year of solitude protesting and fighting against the police, as they were responsible for the death of her brother.

Each new voice brings a new perspective and shines a light on the injustices, screaming them into the world and catching the attention of everyone who resonates with them.

Paperback release: April 13, 2021, One World

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Caleb Azumah Nelson – Open Water (Fiction)

Caleb Azumah Nelson – Open Water (Fiction)

Caleb Azumah Nelson – Open Water
Caleb Azumah Nelson – Open Water
Image: Grove Press, Black Cat

In Nelson’s debut novel about love and finding one’s self, Open Water follows two Black British protagonists as they bond over their similar upbringings in a crowded London pub. They find solace in the fact that they’ve both felt like outliers and in their current careers as artists trying to make a mark on a world that both celebrates and rejects them. Afraid to be torn apart by fear and violence, the two tentatively fall in love, holding their tenderness close to their hearts while pushing each other away as they face obstacles beyond their control. Nelson’s tender words and sharp ideas examine what it means to live in a world that only views you as another Black body and the challenge to be vulnerable when you are expected to be strong.

April 13, 2021, Grove Press, Black Cat

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N/A Oparah – Thick Skin (Fiction)

N/A Oparah – Thick Skin (Fiction)

N/A Oparah – Thick Skin
N/A Oparah – Thick Skin
Image: Kernpunkt Press

Nneka copes with the aftermath of being abandoned by her partner by thickening her skin physically and spiritually. Using mud, knives, tweezers and a therapy that could only be described as questionable, the young Nigerian-American woman undertakes this harrowing mission. Trying to survive the emotional abuse that stemmed from her relationship, Thick Skin embodies the way we obsess over the cards we are dealt in relationships. Inspired by N/A Oparah’s own experience, Thick Skin is layered with the meaning of memories and half-lived moments. Told in vignettes, she asks the question: When it all comes crashing down, who must take responsibility for the carnage?

April 13, 2021, Kernpunkt Press

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Marlon Peterson – Bird Uncaged: An Abolitionists’s Freedom Song (Memoir)

Marlon Peterson – Bird Uncaged: An Abolitionists’s Freedom Song (Memoir)

Marlon Peterson – Bird Uncaged: An Abolitionists’s Freedom Song
Marlon Peterson – Bird Uncaged: An Abolitionists’s Freedom Song
Image: Bold Type Books

He was the definition of the American dream. Marlon Peterson grew up in Crown Heights in the 1980s, raised by Trinidadian immigrants. Peterson managed to meet the expectations of his parents—high achieving in school and a devout child—even amid the violence and fear that rampaged through his neighborhood daily. When an immense trauma shook his world, Peterson got caught up with the wrong crowd and involved in a robbery that left two dead; at 19, he was charged, convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

But his time incarcerated gave him something more than just doing time—Peterson immersed himself in anti-violence activism, education and prison abolition work. Challenging the typical “redemption” narrative and assumptions about justice, Peterson draws from his time in jail and explores the vulnerability that comes with exposing one’s trauma.

April 13, 2021, Bold Type Books

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Khalisa Rae – Ghost in a Black Girl’s Throat (Poetry)

Khalisa Rae – Ghost in a Black Girl’s Throat (Poetry)

Khalisa Rae – Ghost in a Black Girl’s Throat
Khalisa Rae – Ghost in a Black Girl’s Throat
Image: Red Hen Press

Khalisa Rae’s debut poetry collection explores the haunting truths of Black people living in a world where racism and the remnants of the Confederacy are not only tolerated but encouraged. Rae wonders if it is possible to make a home and find peace in a place that haunts her? Is it possible to cope with the inherited trauma of her ancestors when living in a place that still disrespects them so fully?

Ghost in a Black Girl’s Throat is a searing confrontation of the living and reconciliation with the ghosts that exist deep within Rae as she examines the racism, sexism and bigotry she is subjected to on a daily basis. The book calls out to women and asks them to speak on their experiences with their ghosts—ancestral spirits, internal hauntings and the ghosts that plague them in society.

April 13, 2021, Red Hen Press

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