This Black History Month I spent long and hard thinking about what my theme would be this month.
Last year, I discussed in detail Black British history and how Americanised it is. I detailed my thoughts on Britain’s struggle to accept that racism is built into society. I created book recommendations for learning more about Black British History and discussed how to support Black British authors. I enjoyed how much I learned that month and even the books, And although, I learned so much and discovered so many books, I wanted to do something different.
In my post titled ‘Black British Authors Deserve More Recognition‘, I touch on this supposed rhetoric that had been prominent in publishing in which there was a belief that ‘Black joy’ doesn’t sell.
I don’t need to tell you how inherently racist that is.
But for those that don’t understand how – a publisher saying that the only Black books that sell are the ones about Black struggle and pain is dangerous. I’ve spoken repeatedly about the impact these books will have on young Black children.
We don’t want to push the narrative that Black people are confined to pain and struggle. Normalising that is simply not acceptable. Our imaginations are designed to be limitless and as carefree as we want it to be.
So this year, I’ll be delving into Black Joy and how that’s synonymous with Black books. In this post, I wanted to talk about what Black joy means to me and why I decided to pick this as my theme. But I also wanted to make you guys think about what Black Joy means to you.
Joy – what does it mean?
To begin with, I decided to look up what Joy means and Google says:
Joy – a feeling of great pleasure and happiness
Now when I began writing this post, I wasn’t sure what direction I was going to go in. All I did know was that I wanted to talk and read books that make me happy this month.
Happiness is something I always strive for. I’ve begun to learn that it is something I don’t want to compromise unnecessarily so. Whether that’s in relationships, working environments or at home…being happy is so much more than an emotion or a feeling. It’s a mental state.
I’ll be honest. At times, it’s incredibly hard to achieve.
In an attempt to be a little open, I’ve recently begun to seek help for my anxiety and it’s helped tremendously. My anxiety has stopped me from doing so many things and also meant I lived in a constant state of worry.
The experiences I had of happiness were few and far between.
So how does this all relate to my theme…I’m getting there…just bare with me a little.
If happiness is an extension of joy…I question if I have ever experienced pure undulated joy. I’ve been happy before (before everyone thinks I’m just sad all the time) but joy seems like that one step further.
How to find Joy?
This is personally how I’ve begun to seek out joy.
I surround myself with things that make me feel good. From sitcoms to family…anything that I know will make me laugh or happy, I keep close to me. I’ve learned to keep things that upset me or trigger my anxiety in any way at a distance.
My peace is uncompromisable.
It took my years to recognise that but more importantly, I’ve only recently begun to accept it.
I began to celebrate myself (sounds weird) but honestly, it’s a gamechanger. Instead of relying on other people to recognise my achievements, I celebrate every milestone. It could be something incredibly small…but I’ll celebrate it.
And that’s precisely how books fit into all of this.
Books make me happy.
Call me a nerd, geek…whichever or whatever you want. It took me years to be entirely comfortable saying that sentence because of the way I would be teased.
But it’s an undeniable truth that I’ve had since a little girl.
If I’m celebrating myself, more often than not, I’m likely to buy myself a book. Any book…but especially something that I’ve been wanting to read for a long time.
So are there different genres that depict Joy?
And this may seem very controversial.
Any genre can be a form of joy as long as it makes YOU happy. I’m not going to sit here and say ‘you should avoid this genre etc’…because every single person is different.
I struggle with horror books but you may really enjoy them.
It takes me ages to get through non-fiction and classics but they may be your source of joy.
This is why my theme this month feels very much like a personal journey. And if you decide to embark on this journey with me…it should be personal to you. I’m going to be reading books that I’m sure will make me happy for the entire month. I want to end the month feeling fulfilled and joyful with everything I’ve read.
However, I can tell you which books I’ll be avoiding and why.
Why I’m avoiding struggle and pain?
In other words…any books to do with racism, segregation or slavery will not be seeing me this month.
For the sake of my own mental well-being, I’m tired.
I think this deserves an entire blog post which I’ll be releasing later this month but honestly, I can’t read those types of books anymore. There’s only so much one person can take.
That doesn’t mean to say I won’t be reading Black books where the main characters go through something…there’s a distinction between the two.
- Racism, segregation and slavery are a reminder of a pain-filled history where Black people were degraded and dehumanised.
- Reading about Black people dealing with life struggles outside of racism can be relatable and somewhat reaffirming (depending on what is being read).
I think recognising that distinction is incredibly important. I’ve reiterated how troubling it is reading the horrors of slavery knowing that:
A) My ancestors actually went through this – it’s not just fiction.
B) It’s probably 1000 times worse than it’s written.
And honestly, when you’ve grown up only reading these types of books to seek out characters that look like you…your brain decides enough is enough.
What to expect this month?
So, what can you expect me this month in regards to this theme?
Book recommendations, book reviews, more discussion posts about Black struggle books. I want to explore how Black Joy sells. How much we as the Black community crave more of it and how you, regardless of colour, should not be just reading Black pain.
If your go-to recommendation for a Black book, features segregation or slavery…this entire month on Black joy is dedicated to you.
But these blog posts are also for the Black community, we want more joy and happiness in our lives.
Lord knows we need it.
Our communities are beautiful, uplifting and incredible with a variety of cultures. There are books out there that explore and portray this so incredibly well.
I want to help be that voice and bring a spotlight to these books. And perhaps prove to publishers that we want more of these books…
So, this Black History Month (and forever more, of course), not only do I challenge you to read one book by a Black author. I also ask that it’s a book focused on joy.
A book that you know will make you smile.
A book that’s devoid of segregation, slavery or racism.
A book that will bring you so much happiness that you’ll look back on it and remember just how it made you feel.
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Liz Dexter says
This is fascinating, thank you – and I wish I’d had your post on Black British history when I was searching out books about our specific experiences here rather than everything being American (I can tell you what’s harder than finding those, though, and that’s British Chinese voices!). I still get recommended American books and I will read them, but I wanted to start by understanding more of British people’s experience.
I was startled into thinking about this issue reading Emma Dabiri’s What White People Can Do Next. I recently read the “Black Joy” collection by Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff and Timi Sotire (my review here https://librofulltime.wordpress.com/2021/09/03/book-review-charlie-brinkhust-cuff-and-timi-sotire-eds-black-joy/) which had some interesting takes on the term, and this month have so far reviewed Ore Agbaje-Williams and Nancy Adimora (eds) – “Of This Our Country: Acclaimed Nigerian Writers on the Home, Identity and Culture they Know” which was to be fair a mix, but many joyful pieces celebrating specifically Nigerian and NIgerian-British culture. Looking ahead in my NetGalley books, Yinka, Where is Your Huzband?
by Lizzie Damilola Blackburn looks to be a fun romance and fairly light-hearted. I’ll come back to see what you and other people recommend.
I completely agree and it was something I really struggled with last year. Finding books, aside from the widely popular ones, was extremely difficult. It just reiterated how much of a problem it is that Black history is Americanised over here.
I haven’t read either books yet but I’m very intrigued to read Black Joy! I’ll check out your review. Oo! Yinka, Where is Your Huzband by Lizzie Damilola Blackburn sounds utterly fantastic and is definitely the type of book I’m looking out for!