This little tome of essays is an easy read with identifiable themes that had me recognizing myself in the author’s tales. I too have a dark-skinned child whom I’m afraid to send out into the world. He too has a form of high functioning autism that makes it hard to let him go forth and sally about his way. Yet, what marks our differences is that the author is speaking from the authority of being a strong Black woman in the south, in our current time, when it is so damn dangerous to be a mama, and to speak one’s truth, there is also something primal and keen about the short spurts of stories that Kristie Robin Johnson tells about herself, matriarchal lineage, and raising children.
This book could not have been published at a more perfect time. It is much like reading the background story of the Black Lives Matter movement begun by other strong Black women in the the south. The essays weave a thread of feminism that leaves behind the white liberal variety that so often marches its grievances into national capitals for attention… and I should know about that, as I am seen as one of those marchers. I have a privilege in the world that allows me to speak up ugly and forcefully. It is for this reason that I’ve been sitting on this review for too long. Really, too long. I haven’t been using my voice to lift up this critical piece as I should have. There are so many important themes and turns of phrases that I really think need to be heard and felt and consumed into our psyches. When so many mothers are losing their children to police/state violence, it seems more important than ever to share this literary perspective. This is a truthspeaking pack of ideas and cries out to us to take heed.
I still don’t think I could tell you exactly why I was sitting on this review, letting it languish in my computer drafts. I loved reading this book. But would I shout from the rooftops about it, thinking that you might love it too? That, I am not so sure about. The tales are quick reads, much like blog posts or nano-writing offerings from other literary genres. It is a great series of separate stories. However, I’m not so sure that it all quite comes together as a cohesive unit. And that, I guess is where my reticence lies. It makes me think very much of Alice Walker’s In Search of My Mother’s Garden, which, if you haven’t read it is a collection of poems and essays; Womanist Prose as they call it in feminist Lit Crit circles. For that reason alone you might want to pick this book up. However much it might ring clear, it won’t feel the same as Walker’s offering to be sure. Walker was strict in her circling of the theme and circling back again. I think that’s why it was so popular amongst the literati. Yet what I loved was that reading Johnson feels like talking to myself in some way, I felt like I knew this author, that I could sit in her psyche for a moment or two. It’s such a powerful skill to share one’s insides, and Johnson has that skill in spades.