Performance occurs in a myriad of ways, from spoken and written poetry to taking the stage, to playing a game of spades. In fictional universes, particularly in fantastical worlds, a character’s performance can range from their abilities to their descriptions. This week, the intricate tapestry of Black performance is explored through many different lenses in the books.
This week, poetry once again takes the national stage with Amanda Gorman’s The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country. Her reading of this poem at President Joe Biden’s inauguration shook the nation as she not only brought hope to all who were watching but ignited and inspired creativity in young writers across the country. On that note, parts of her poem are also included in a new anthology, You Don’t Have to Be Everything: Poems for Girls Becoming Themselves, which focuses on building up young women’s confidence through lyrical and prose poetry.
Hanif Abdurraqib’s long-awaited collection of stories on Black performance, A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance, examines all types of performance narratives and how they have shaped not only Black American culture but American culture across the board. Dawnie Walton’s debut novel, The Final Revival of Opal & Nev, also examines Black performance, but through a fictional lens with twists and turns that show the fragility of both relationships and the music industry.
So how does performance affect the ways in which culture is formed? Is it more impactful from a lyrical standpoint, in person, or in prose? In their own ways, each of these authors examines how the world is shaped through performance, whether that world be the one we know or the ones in which we immerse ourselves.