Lil’ Kim told a reporter “It wasn’t good enough to be a regular black girl anymore,
they only wanted light-skinned women.
Mamma and them used to say they beat the black off you, as if blackness were a toxic disease which must be annihilated in childhood by corporal punishment.
She would holler out the window, “Don’t stay in the sun too long, baby. You’ll get black.”
So we wore long pants and shirts,
sweat cascading down our coca-buttered frames,
hiding in the bushes til’ the sun stops chasing us.
We fear becoming what we are.
And from South Africa to South Bronx to South Baltimore, we are slowly dying, inhaling the fumes of
self loathing; assassinated by the advent of MTV we stand on the auction block of western capitalism,
body parts discarded across America’s sliver screens only to be discarded.
Mamma said, “He will love you if you don’t get dark. Nobody loves a black girl.”
Since slavery’s inception we have been running from ourselves.
Mamma’s pupils meet our own begging for answers we dare not render.
– By Emelda De Coteau
|Untitled [I Do Not Always Feel Colored], 1990
If you have not noticed by now, I love to read. Although I frequently enjoy the work of women writers, this month, I particulary want to uphold their work. Check out reviews of Edwidge Danticat’s Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work and Jasmin Darznik’s The Good Daughter: A Memoir of my Mother’s Hidden Life.
Simple gems abound in these chapters, which underscore the deep connection of family – both biological and artistic. It’s a celebration of artists, their uniqueness and perseverance in battling enormous adversities, ultimately, creating art rooted in resistance and resilience. Danticat, like all brilliant writers and other artists, push us to think critically about the other, and expand our humanity.
Grand Central Publishing (324 pgs.)
We rarely contemplate the lives of our mothers. Instead, they exist solely in relation to us, not as separate entities. Jasmin Darznik, assistant professor of English at Washington and Lee University, courageously delves into her mother Lili’s life, uniting the stories of three generations of women, including her grandmother and great grandmother.
Darznik’s ear for language and poetic imagery produce a deft memoir which also educates readers about the shifting experiences of women in that country – from the earlier part of the 20th century to the Islamic revolution. Not unlike children of many immigrants, early on Darznik dismissed her mother’s protective nature or frequent admonishments to be good. “Over the years the good daughter became a taunt, a warning, an omen… The Good Daughter I knew back then was just a story she’d made up to scare me and make me into a good daughter, too.”
Although Lili initially refused to talk about the discovery, after some time, she began sending Darznik cassette tapes by mail, ten in all, chronicling a life of strength which included fleeing physical abuse in her first marriage, education in Germany, and life abroad, but most shocking of all, the birth of her first daughter, Sara, Lili’s daughter who still lived in Iran.
Perhaps the only lingering disappointment is we are left to wonder what became of Lili’s relationship with Sara, the beautiful daughter who once banged on her mother’s door as a child and as a rebellious teenager, accused her of not studying abroad but being a prostitute. Instead, one is left to imagine the possibilities. Still, all in all, The Good Daughter: A Memoir of my Mother’s Hidden Life, is a beautifully layered book, imbued with the binding love of mothers for their children.