These were my favorites this year. It was extremely difficult to choose one to review. I felt they were interrelated, serving a much-needed POC point of view on the art of grieving. I’ve pored over personal memoirs and books related to the grieving process. These two gems were therapeutic and magical.
Both books deal with the author’s grieving of their mothers. Zinzi Clemmons and Edwidge Danticat pay homage to their mothers’ memory, taking the reader from the cancer diagnosis to their mothers’ last breaths–and the aftermath of their deaths.
Danticat delves into her own experience by citing death scenes in literature, including Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and Toni Morrison’s Sula. She also mentions my favorite Elizabeth Alexander’s The Light of the World, which saved me. The ability to describe death through the eyes of the protagonists was breathtaking. She also points out that unless you have experienced death firsthand, particularly the death of a parent, it’s very difficult to understand it. These examples from literature provide comfort, analysis and insight as Danticat relates them to her mother’s journey. She points out that the art of dying and grief is a current theme in all her stories. She pays homage to her mom at the end by transitioning to Haitian, which was a beautiful tribute.
In What We Lose, Clemmons discusses the loss of her mom to cancer and the after effects of that loss. Her mom is South African and her dad is American. The duality of living in two cultures and not fitting in either of the two is spread throughout in mini vignettes. I learned today through a twitter lit chat that her vignettes in the book were actually her journal entries, which confirms the importance of journal writing as part of her process. The book ended abruptly, and I was sad that it did. Clemmons created a beautiful character who is incredibly brave, and I wanted to see more. She is such an incredible writer, and I look forward to her future work. She also is a fellow VONA alum. In her acknowledgements at the end, she writes, “[T]o this big, beautiful, fucked-up country, especially my black and brown brothers and sisters. We gon’ be alright.” Amen.
Both books were heaven-sent to me and described the grieving process in the most magical way. It was so important to have a POC perspective for me personally after losing my father. The art of writing through grief, which I have done, is a way of processing and honoring your love ones. Both authors were so successful in achieving that.
My Experience with MUSA
“We all met in Writing our Lives with our beloved Vanessa Mártir. My fellow sisters and I wanted to continue that magic of talking about books, writing among sisterhood and perfecting our craft. We gather several times a year, and it feels like home. We set our writing goals and intentions in a sacred place. We read each other’s writing and provide no-bullshit filtered feedback. We call each other out knowing we can push each other’s boundaries and write our truths on the page. A writer’s draft is sacred, and very few writers ask others to review their work. There is no other circle like this for me. I feel blessed to be in this magical circle by Wendy. In our first meeting we declared our writing intentions, and I wanted to apply to VONA and become part of their family. With the assistance of these beautiful writers and souls, my dream came true. We are each other’s biggest confidantes, cheerleaders, sisters and fans. We push each other to the limit and hold each other accountable in our writing. I am forever grateful to my favorite writers and loves. Happy 1st Anniversary MUSA. Can’t wait for what the new year brings. We will all be published and paid for our gifts. Make it happen Mujeres!”