In This Issue:
  • A note from Leslie-Ann Murray
  • Interview with writer, Deesha Philyaw, The Secret Lives of Church Ladies
  • What Are You Reading? The Black History Month Edition
  • Come Get This Diversity, featuring poet, Nikki Finney

We are in a literary renaissance, but what does that really mean? This renaissance is about language. Black writers and writers of color are remodeling their stories to fit their cultural landscape, instead of using a white Western framework that usually mutes their agency. When we have access to our own language, our own sense of expression, we have access to who we are. Black writers and writers of color are using language on their own terms, we are no longer depending on the dominating class for validation. 

The dominant class depends on people who are not part of this class to follow their directions and regulations in order to sustain their positionality. When Black writers and writers of color use language on their terms, they are destabilizing the system of racial oppression and highlighting its social construction. 

Awakening is hard, but it’s a beautiful process. 

This month, we celebrate Black History Month, not as an act of remembrance, but to create “rememory.” Writer Ashraf H.A. Rushdy, says, “rememory is an outlet and effective use for self-discovery.” This new literary renaissance is compelling us to employ a radical imagination when writing and talking about black history, present, and future. 

Black People Are In The Future! 


Check Out Our Upcoming Interviews!

Our Feature Writer: Deesha Philyaw

Deesha Philyaw’s debut short story collection, The Secret Lives Of Church Ladies which was a finalist for the 2020 National Book Award for Fiction and for The Story Prize (2020/2021). The Secret Lives Of Church Ladies focuses on Black women, sex, and the Black church.

Deesha, welcome to Brown Girl Book Lover. 

In the collection, we see secrets create a sense of loneliness and displacement within the characters. Why was this important to explore? 

Deesha: You know the characters are hiding things from themselves and others, and this creates a kind of loneliness because the real you is not "the you" out in the world. The real you is alone. When these characters are confined and constricted, it puts them in a lonely place because they aren’t able to explore and celebrate themselves. 

LM: Do you think many people are attracted to your book because they feel that sense of loneliness and displacement?

Deesha: There are so many themes in my book that are relatable. It’s the loneliness, the mother-daughter stuff, the longing, the displacement, and fighting against binaries. It’s exciting and hopefully affirming when you can read a story that speaks to your sense of isolation and what you are grappling with. I wrote this book for black women, but I knew that people who aren’t black women could also access this book because the idea of getting free of secrets, free of our family’s expectations is a universal concept.

LM: When reading the stories, I noticed the places where the characters reside are not named, but we still got a firm emotional mapping of their world. Why did you choose not to give specific locations about the setting for each story?

Deesha: I didn’t think it was necessary to give a specific place to make the story more expansive because the women are the world, they are the center. It does not matter where the stories are located, the dynamics and the pressures the characters endured are the same. 

LM: You said you wrote your book for black women. Why is it important to write your book for black women, and for them to be seen and heard?

Deesha: The narratives have controlled how black women are viewed, and to some extent how we view ourselves. You know narrative is how slavery was justified. You can stay these people aren’t people, then you can justify enslaving them. You can say these women aren’t women, then you can justify raping them. The narrative of who we have always been distorted. I like telling stories from our perspective through our gaze only. 

LM: Lastly, at Brown Girl Book Lover, we celebrate diverse writers and their voices in the literary world, how does our society benefit from diverse voices? 

Deesha: It goes back to the narratives. This country was built on lies and when you have diverse voices telling their own stories, you are correcting the historical record. You are correcting the lie at the foundation of our story, and diverse voices bring about that reckoning that needs to happen. That’s long overdue. 


What Are You Reading?

This is my favorite section of the newsletter because the nerdy girl in me loves when readers "rep" the books that they love.  

From left to right: 
  • Michael is reading "Invisible Man" by Ralph Ellison. (Classic) 
  • I'm reading, "What is Not Yours is Not Yours" by Helen Oyeyemi. (Friend in my head)
  • Sheri is reading, "The Secret Lives of Church Ladies" by Deesha Philyaw (Adore her)
  • Rasheed is reading, "Horsepower" by Joy Priest. ⁣(Her poems are so good) 

We Want to Know What You Are Reading! Send Us A Photo. 

Come Get This Diversity! 

Amanda Gorman's inaugural poem. "The Hill We climb" reminded us all about the beauty of poetry. It not only enriches our lives, but it makes us feel whole and connected to something bigger than ourselves. 

Friends, I'm clutching my VP Harris' pearls and dancing at the same time. Nikki Finney will be featured in our April Newsletter for National Poetry Month. 

We will be discussing her latest poetry collection, Love Child's Hotbed of Occasional Poetry (2020) 


Nikky Finney, "Left"

Copyright © 2021 Brown Girl Book Lover, All rights reserved.

Friends, twice a month, we will bring you some good diverse literary news. You are probably receiving this email because you are following us on social media or registered to receive email newsletters with us on our website.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.