Hunger: A Memoir of Body by Roxane Gay
It’s been at least a year since I’ve compiled a reading list. To be frank, it is because I haven’t been reading as much as I would have liked earlier this year. The beginning of 2018 has been filled with work, travel, family and dealing with my own health issues. I have to admit that I am a bit embarrassed with the fact that I began to read Roxane Gay’s Hunger this month (October), even though it was released in June of 2017.
When I was made aware of the release of Hunger, all I could do was think, “I’m glad she waited to tell her story and address her body on her own terms.” As a writer who understands marketing, demographic targeting and the pressure of the publishing industry, I was so happy Gay wasn’t convinced to make her memoir her debut release. She wasn’t pushed to give everything she had, only to end up emptied and reconnecting with her trauma before her sophomore book. It goes without saying that Roxane Gay’s body is her own, and in waiting to get to a point where her career was mature she had the creative control that gave her the opportunity to reveal her private life only when she was ready.
And when I finally read the book, I was relieved, inspired and comforted. Stylistically, she wrote in a way that I have been criticized for – writing with vulnerability and sensitivity. Many times her sentences were redundant, which showed her how she emotionally struggled to get through every word. Her structure was human, not sterilized and overly polished. I needed to read this book at the time I read it. I would not have been able to sit with it and understand it months ago, before I came to peace with my own body.
Along with Roxane Gay’s Hunger: A Memoir of Body, here are other books I have been reading and will be completing this winter. I highly recommend them. They’re feeding me.
Loose Canons: Notes on the Culture Wars by Henry Louis Gates Jr. Continue reading
Publik / Private and Publik / Private Small Press Presents:
An Evening with Author Jordannah Elizabeth & Special Guests
November 6, 2018
The Motor House
Local author and widely published journalist, Jordannah Elizabeth (O Magazine, Cosmopolitan, BmoreArt, Village Voice, Ms. Magazine and more) will be presenting never before read works from her upcoming chapbook, “The Warmest Low Reader: The Deep Blue Sea” along with poems and selections from her published books, “Don’t Lose Track Volume 1” (Zero Books) and “The Warmest Low (Chapbook One) Limited Edition Two,” and her favorite poets and authors.
Jordannah has taught at Maryland Institute College of Art, Creative Alliance and lectured at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, De Montfort University in Leicester, UK, and was a guest journalist at Harvard University’s Black Lives Matter: Music, Race and Justice Conference.
Her unique existential ode to Baltimore City will be presented in full at The Motor House!
There will be an audience Q&A at the end of the evening.
Special Guest Readers will include local poets and writers:
Lauren H. Smith
I used to think I was good at writing introductions. Now as the years go by, including this one, I cannot announce that I doubt my choices, cadence and intuition when it comes to my writing, but after writing so many introductions, so many lead sentences, so many year-end pieces, I find it important to reflect on exactly what it is I mean to say…every single day.
Some say to become a better writer, you need to read. I agree with that and more times that not, I like to read more than I write. Reading helps me form my thoughts. Books help me expand my theories and learn about history. They help me speak with vigor and knowledge on topics I’m called to lecture on…but more importantly, they help me slow down.
When I read I can escape the fast paced culture of American urban living. I can take time and head to a library or a bookstore and not have to talk. I don’t have to answer and retort, I don’t have to smile or become angry due to an engaging conversation. I don’t have to explain myself. Continue reading
Publik / Private will be hosting two panels at Baltimore Book Festival 2017
Black Existentialism Lends to Dystopian Afrofuturism
Friday, September 22, at 5:00pm
At the CityLit Stage
With so much emphasis on the Black body – police brutality, photographically dense explorations of the inner city, stories of reformed criminals, death and loss within plot lines of Empire inundating American culture, the exploration of Black consciousness, and the navigation of the Black perception of life has been nearly nonexistent in media.
Authors Jordannah Elizabeth, Jason Harris, and Olufunmike Woods (Olu Butterfly) will speak about Black consciousness and existentialism in writing and how it lends to dystopian stories and plot lines in Afrofuturism. The discussion will explore why Black consciousness, perception and relationship with the Western world should always be relevant in conversations in literature.
Black Voices in Music Criticism Are Essential w/ Greg Tate
Sunday, September 24, at 4:45pm
At Red Emma’s Radical Book Fair Pavilion
The panel would consist of renowned authors and music critics/scholars, Greg Tate, Laina Dawes and Rashida Braggs, who will share their perspective on commentary on Black music criticism, how they were able to succeed and create space for themselves, Black music in mainstream and alternative white media and how their work navigates the segregation of Western Contemporary music history. Jordannah Elizabeth will serve as moderator.
“Many prominent Black music critics and editors tend to go nearly anonymous to their general readership. If you do choose to pursue this career path — which, to be very honest, is arduous and full of rejection — share your entire being with your readers: Use your image, your thoughts, and your craft to inspire and equip other Black writers and readers to embrace literary and cultural criticism. This will ensure that Black voices will be expected — not just yearned for — in white alternative and mainstream music media.” -jordannah elizabeth, Black Voices Are Essential In Music Criticism Continue reading
Image by: Miguel A. García
Being different is a reality that I’ve lived for as long as I can remember. I’ve always waded through my vivid imagination, my mind full of stories of rockstars, fairy tales, travel and poetic adventures. Because I had such an engrossing inner life, I never really thought to much about my outer appearance. Of course, I dressed and bathed, and interacted in school, but ideas of my gender in regards to the way I dressed and behaved was not a prominent concern. By the time, I was 19 years old, my friends began to call me “queer”, not because of my sexual preference, but because I was unique and couldn’t be put into a box. My LGTBQ friends and I were like peas in a pod, and for the first time in my life, because queer seemed to fit so well with my free flowing – and what I later learned was genderfluid experience, I accepted who I was by being aligned with those terms.
All in all, no term can define one’s experience in full, and of course, a gender assignment cannot define my story of survival, but being queer, gender fluid, and more importantly, “Jordannah” has helped me understand that my work in life is to live without limitations and rigid definition.
Nonetheless, what should be understand as I write as survivor or sexual abuse is that even though my body survived, my identity struggles with how deeply I want to be entangled with my survivorhood. My brain is permanently damaged due to trauma and nearly a decade after the abuse, I still work to train it how to proportionately react to emotional stressors, conflict and intimate relationships. How does a fluid gender identity cohabit with the brain of a survivor?
You must understand, when you’re born and raised in Baltimore, there’s a certain type of paranoia you experience when you’re in the dark. Yes, it could be because of violence, it could be of abuse and drugs, but over in my neighborhood where middle class families, college students and 30+ artists all mingle peacefully with the homeless, my paranoia more or less has to do with invasion of my privacy.
Don’t get me wrong, a little over a year ago, five blocks down the street, my neighborhood did insight the worries of needles on the sidewalk and the safety of the prostitutes I would hear being beaten in the downstairs apartment, but yes, in my current home, during this season, I only worry about 5-0…and now that I write it, I guess no matter where you live in Baltimore, being Black and from this small, complex City, our fears are all the same.
My partner had to go back into my apartment to look for something after we’d been mingling on my porch. After a couple of minutes, I followed him in and, I saw him shining a flashlight over my desk. He found the item he was looking for on my lounge chair, after I turned the light, and when we stepped back out onto my porch to chat, I asked him accusingly, “This is the second time you were looking around my desk…” He replied, “What are you hiding on your desk?” I replied, “I think you’re five-0.” Continue reading
Photo Credit: Galore, Photography & Creative Direction By Prince + Jacob
“Conscious Self Assertion & Black Women’s Identity: Writing Workshop”
July 15, 2017 & July 29th
Fred Lazarus IV Center, 131 W North Ave, Baltimore, MD 21201
Publik / Private Presents: “Conscious Self Assertion and Black Women’s Identity” will be a writing course on Black women’s existential experience with interpersonal interactions and how systemic pushback affects their self identity. When Black women and women of color make bids and investments in their relationships and environments, many times they are met with accusations of aggressive behavior. I’d like to take “Aggressive” back and call it, “Conscious Self Assertion” bringing self esteem and persistence into Black women’s relationships with the world.
Through discussion and writing, we can learn more about our own self images and how we think the world see us. Later, we can discuss and write about our assertion of presence of the world and how to withstand societal pushback.
Written By: Jordannah Elizabeth
Originally penned for Jazz Right Now
One thing I am working on these days, in my personal life and in my writing life is to not be presumptuous. Without admitting that presumption is an overwhelmingly prevalent trait in my personality and work, I believe it is not only important to listen, but to go back and check myself – to go back and check the “facts.” So, before I proclaimed that the Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda record and debut world music compilation from David Byrne’s Luaka Bop Records, Spirituality Classics 1: The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda sounded almost completely different than her previous works, I went back and listened to the catalog of her music that was available on Spotify.
I listened to the first few minutes of each record and audibly examined 17 of her albums, including her Carlos Santana collaboration record, Illuminations. The only album that very loosely resembled this newly issued collection of works was the 1976 album, Radha-Krsna Nama Sankirtana which embodied the singing of a chorus of voices.
Upon hearing the silky voice singing on the lead single and track two from the new album, World Spirituality Classics 1: The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda, “Om Shanti,” I asked myself if Alice was the voice singing. I second guessed myself, I was slightly confused, but her honey dipped, alto voice sounded like her face, her demeanor. Obviously, because of my young age, I’ve never had the pleasure to meet or see Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda perform live, but her presence, her music and style has been with me for some time, and the voice seemed to fit. Upon reading the background on the album on Luaka Bop’s website, my question was answered: this is the first collection of recordings that features Alice’s voice. Fascinating. Continue reading
Written By: Jordannah Elizabeth
On June 12, 1967 The United States Supreme Court deemed it unconstitutional to prohibit interracial marriage in the United States of America.
While leading a graduate level writing course on self identity in Black women in Baltimore, MD, one of my attendees confessed that in her personal understanding, and after living in Mississippi for several years, Baltimore was in many ways more racist than Mississippi. She expressed that White and Black people were very comfortable around each other there, and there wasn’t an underlying tension that she experienced in Baltimore.
I was not surprised to hear this. I personally found the racial segregation in the city to be profound. I moved around often as a teenager and young woman and spent extensive time in cities like New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, which seemed to be utopias even as the white artist and technology class continued to overwhelm the comfort of people of color in those cities, no one ever blinked an eye, questioned or combated my involvement in interracial relationships until I moved to Baltimore. There, I was treated as if I had been brainwashed or was under a deep generational curse for bonding with people intimately who were outside of my race. Continue reading