One of the ways I’ve been coping during the tumult of our times is reading. My recent quarantine reading has included memoirs and essays by three authors who write about finding greater depth and resonance with their own voices as histories as artists, activists and writers.
Ta-Nehisi Coates’ We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy, Glennon Doyle’s Untamed and Alicia Keys’ More Myself all depict the authors’ major life transitions and evolutions — the journey in search of their own evolving voice amidst their search for truth, justice and understanding.
We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy is a collection of 8 essays written during Ta-Nehisi’s career path from an up and coming blogger on race in America, to a regular columnist at the Atlantic and a thought leader for our times. In the preface to each historical essay, he describes how he remembers his voice, perspective and family life at that time and how it has since developed.
Coates’ encyclopedic knowledge about race in America and his sharp and clear articulation of the detrimental and systematic impacts of racial discrimination in America in The Case For Reparations is tragically more relevant today amidst the atrocious killings of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd than when it was originally published in 2014. This book unseated me, challenged me and continues to push me beyond my own experience and perspective. It’s painful to read in parts and yet so necessary.
In Untamed, Glennon Doyle tells her remarkable story about meeting and falling in love with her wife, Abby Wambach, during her book tour for her New York Times bestseller, Love Warrior (a book about saving her marriage with her husband Craig). Untamed virtually swirls with Glennon’s new voice, a voice stripped down to its core, clear about her values and deliberately choosing the values of her life, including launching a philanthropic movement Together Rising.
Glennon reveals what it is like for an author, a mother, a wife and a public figure to reveal the most intimate details about herself. Untamed chronicles not only her coming out to her husband, children and her readership –many of whom subscribe to Christianity — but also her coming learning how to love herself. For me, the power of this book lies in how she openly unpacks her enculturation, painstakingly strips away layer after layer of conditioned varnish, and reveals what it takes to undergo such a transformation. Her book left me asking, “Where can I be more honest about who I am and what I love?”
More Myself won me over with the first sentence. Alicia Keys’ voice as the narrator for her memoir is 100% lyrical, rich and utterly mesmerizing. I could listen to her read to me all day long! I’m not someone who has followed Keys’ career, nor do I know all her albums. (Part of the fun of this one is that I listened to her work as I listened to her book). When she compares the evolution of her awareness to the images she projects on her album covers, I’m plugging them into my Spotify and I can see the parallels between the inner and outer transformation that she describes.
Alicia describes how she learned to stand up for herself under industry pressure, to create her own sound, and to educate her children about their powerful heritage African heritage. I was captivated with the methods she employs as an introvert to carve out space, stay connected spiritually, and create from a place of service and authenticity. Alicia’s description of her multiple pilgrimages to Africa to reclaim power and rewrite her families’ history through study of their ancestors inspired and educated me.
In sum, these three artists who continue to lift their voices and stand for truth—are my recent treasured quarantinspiration. Keep reading my friends.
Please send me your favorite recommendations!
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