Story one, in “How Long til Black Future Month?,” was everything I hoped it could be. And more. I purchased the much anticipated book at my local, adorable bookstore: Reads & Co. It was a self-splurge after dropping whatever I could afford on my daughter’s first visit to this inviting, carefully curated collection of books. My daughter’s words encapsulate the welcoming vibe at the store, when to the kind co-owner – Jason Hafer – she said, “can I stay here forever?”
Complete with a spaceship in the kids’ section and the very it book I’d been craving to read (since happening upon an interview with Black Future Month’s author, Jemisin, in Writer’s Digest) my daughter and I left the store – literally – skipping. And she asked, “when can we go back there again?” And I said, as soon as mommy can afford it.
But about the it book.
I believe authors to readers (like teachers to students, therapists to clients) pop into our world, at the very time they are needed, and we cling to those that speak to our truest longings.
That is where Jemisin found me. And held me.
In story one, The Ones Who Stay to Fight, Jemisin choreographed a world where I’d like to reside: halfway between speculative fiction and philosophical brushstrokes that, together, dance a scene for a better world. In Jemisin’s constructed world, aside from a well thought out and carefully debated violent moment, there is fresh ground on which I hope to plant my feet in a not-so-distant future.
The author’s voice, to me, is part clairvoyant, part anthropologist, part diplomat, part social worker (and she does a fabulous job, my fellow social workers, of directly addressing the dilemmas and bravery of social workers!! in this story, woohooo). Jemisin presents a place that I can picture and yet feels perhaps out of my grasp in my own lifetime, but hopefully not out of grasp during my daughter’s. She closes the story with a calling, “Now. Let’s get to work.” And, I cannot help but feel like she embodies the best of a Reframe Your Artistry world, gathering a thing or two of beauty through artistry, and trying to elevate our existence on both a micro and macro level.
Jemisin’s world? Oh, glad you asked. It’s centered around a city named Um-Helat, and maybe the most approximate realish place may be Brooklyn. But Um-Helat presents a:
“realization that once…differences of opinion involved differences in respect. That once, value was ascribed to some people and not others. That once, humanity was acknowledged for some, and not others…they begin to perceive that ours is a world where the notion that some people are less important than others has been allowed to take root, and grow until it buckles and cracks the foundation of our humanity.” pp.9-10
I wonder, in naming the city – Um-Helat – might Jemisin be teasing her readers to ask for more cities and more stories like this, like, “Um-Hell-of-a-Lot?”
If I take nothing more with me, forever, from this story (and I do take pride in my memory vice v. virtue….that great art stays with me, like a tattoo), it is that I shall not stop believing in tomorrow. Because, like Jemisin, in my mind – I am living it, today.