I Can’t Read Another Slavery/ Jim Crow Narrative Right Now

2 Jun


Nearly two years ago, my boyfriend was working at Best Buy, when an older black man came in asking where he could get a copy of Fruitvale Station. When Ryan asked him what Fruitvale Station was, the man judgingly responded “Damn black people never heard of Fruitvale Station,” and walked off shaking his head. 

That man would have had words for me too, since I also hadn’t seen the movie. 

Lately, I’ve also been dragging my feet on seeing Selma, and have avoided reading the recently released God Help the Child from my favorite author, Toni Morrison. And for the last several years, two of the black feminist fiction must-reads, The Color Purple and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, have sat on my reading list and book shelf untouched.

Though it’s a teensy bit embarrassing to have not read and seen some of these iconic books films, I have to admit, they haven’t exactly been of high priority for me.

On the news, social media, and in our everyday lives, we are inundated with accounts of police brutality, racism, white supremacy, injustice, oppression, and our nation’s embarrassing inability to embrace diversity.

This is not easy stuff to read or hear about, much less, experience.

I currently have “oppression narrative fatigue.” With all of the horrible stories of police brutality and the increasing number of victims added to the list on a frighteningly regular basis, sitting down to read a Jim Crow-era narrative like The Warmth of Other Suns (another I’ve been slacking on) seems to add more pain to the current mood.

Sometimes, I have to take a break from those stories. So I mix in a little fantasy, sci-fi, mystery, and if I’m feeling super cheesy, romance. Black authors write oppression narratives well—but they also thrive in other genres.

I just finished reading Melissa Harris Perry’s Sister Citizen and am currently reading Patricia Hill Collins’ Black Sexual Politics. Both are Black feminist books that discuss injustice experienced by black women in our society. And when I’m done with these, I’m moving onto some fantasy, starting with the novel B. Sharise Moore’s Taste. Then I’ll read some Afrofuturism with some lesser-known black authors from this awesome list.

But I always return to the narratives about our history. Those Toni Morrison-esque— remind-you-of-where-you-come-from—narratives are important. Though heavy, they are also inspiring. They arm us with knowledge.They remind us how hard our ancestors fought for injustice, and give us guidelines for how to do so in current situations.  These narratives are also stories of triumph, where characters overcome difficult situations and remind us that we must do the same. And of course, they are not always read in schools—we have to read them on our own.

So maybe, after my break, I’ll dust off The Color Purple when I’m done with my sci-fi and fantasy books.

 I’m an avid reader, always on the hunt for a good book. Recommend your must-reads in the comments section.

Photo courtesy of Sarah Browning via Flickr.

One Response to “I Can’t Read Another Slavery/ Jim Crow Narrative Right Now”

  1. Renée Norrils June 9, 2015 at 8:05 AM #

    “1919, The Year of Racial Violence: How African Americans Fought Back” by David F. Krugler

    “At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance – A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power” by Danielle L. McGuire

    Liked by 1 person

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