TOMBOY BOOK CLUB- NANCY CUNARD!!!!

Hello again!!!!! It has been a hot minute since I’ve had a chance to write! I have been twitching to get the poetry/blog ball rolling again, and so I’ve decided to indulge myself and write about a poet I don’t know too much about, but whose work makes my soul sing in the lushest and funkiest of ways… NANCY CUNARD!!!

I first discovered this poet/heiress/bad-ass icon at an art exhibition- Modern Couples at the Barbican, to be exact. After having read a few more articles about her, I can paraphrase her fascinating life with my patchy knowledge as such: Nancy was born to filthy rich parents, magnates of the Cunard shipping line and famous for their posh parties. She was always embarrassed by her wealth, but used it to fund her art: establishing a printing press, The Hours, and hobnobbing with Modernist greats (she knew Virginia Woolf- FANGIRL MOMENT), even bedding many of them as her lovers too. SHE IS A COOL LADY. In her later years, she dedicated much of her life to fighting injustice: she was involved in the Spanish civil war, actively fought fascism as it spread throughout Europe, and also used her money to help champion the artistic talents and civil rights of black people in America to fight against racism there. Nancy actually lost her huge inheritance over her refusal to concede to her family’s wishes to break up with black Jazz musician, Henry Crowder (but sadly they split eventually anyways). She helped the French Resistance in London during WW2, and somehow was even on board SS Windrush from Jamaica when it travelled over to the UK (not that she was involved in fighting for immigrant rights so much, it is just a weird coincidence she was on board). Her activist efforts are sometimes dubious by today’s standards, many rightly criticise her efforts for being heavily steeped in exoticism and White Saviour-is, not really making the efforts to fully grasp how to best help people and rather revelling in the drama. However, I do like to believe Nancy had good intentions even if her execution was not always on point. In the end, her life was very sad- abandoned by most of her former friends and artistic cohorts, sick and mentally unwell in a Sanatorium; which is also why I think it is important to remember her now, so that grim loneliness in the hospital isn’t really her end at all.

Nancy’s poetry is full of heart and soulful observations about the world around her, infused with messages- whether it is an apple tree, a bunch of jonquils or a busy Parisian street, Cunard finds meaning in many places. One of the most stunning works to me is a long poem- Parallax– she wrote in response to T.S Eliot’s Wasteland, and what she felt was an uncompromising and somewhat misplaced negativity after the chaos of WW1. Where Eliot’s work is stark and undeniably morose, Cunard is febrile and sensitive, mingling the past sorrow of lost adolescence with the happiness from those memories that still lives in details of her contemporary post-war moment. She channels exuberance with grief, sensitivity with a tasteful gaudiness for expanding on minutiae, and doesn’t present a monotone landscape of emotion. Her works are serious in their poetic sincerity, adventurous in how they manipulate traditional motifs and structures in on themselves to create fresher voices, and saturated with nerve. Whether lamenting the loss of love and beauty, traversing and interpreting/interrupting urban landscapes or challenging social status quos and injustices- Cunard has a gravitas that can change its tune, but never its conviction to making us feel something.

Without going on and on, I will finish by including a poem of Nancy’s that I found very romantic and despondently beautiful in its intense stoicism on the pains of unrequited love. A sonnet of sorts that, in its strict structuring of lines, hides a trembling heart afraid of its own devotion, and the terribleness of the implications of being known. Nancy is a poet of mystic and fantastic vision, not fully understood but still starkly passionate in her various rebellions against family, cultural tradition and dominating politics. May we continue to rediscover and celebrate her legacy to modernism, activism, and generally being a bad ass rich bitch with a mission. The so called ‘socialites’ of today could never….WE LOVE YOU ALWAYS NANCY XOXOXOXOXXOXOXOXO

You Have Lit the Only Candle

You have lit the only candle in my heart that I am bound to worship,
Kneeling in the draughts of that cold and most solitary place,
Alone, without the stirring priests and breathless sounds of confession
That have made holy such other seclusions, and in their hour of grace
Absolved desires and sins that I am barren of. This sharp
Straight flame of yours is silent, and like a saint throws down on me,
Now I have knelt again after so long on this remembered ground,
The steadfast radiance of his mute impersonality.
You have lit the only candle that shall illumine my wayward paths;
And I tell you, before the time comes when its flames must tremble
and start,
Facing some great wind of eternity that rends and masters it,
I shall be gone with the thread of its tall spirit safe against my heart.

INTERNATIONAL WOMENS DAY!!!!

Hello everyone, I am sure you know why I am writing again today… HAPPY INTERNATIONAL WOMENS DAY!!!!!! The official day of the year when our globe celebrates the influence and life-force of all its womyxn, and a chance to raise awareness for current issues affecting womyxn which still need to progress. I was uncertain of what to write today, as I hope it’s pretty evident that I already believe feminism is a vital ideology – I didn’t wanna just spew my guts up about how amazing feminism is BECAUSE I DO THAT EVERY DAY ANYWAYS!

So I looked online for some inspiration, and saw that this year’s theme for today is #balanceforbetter- highlighting feminism’s goal to bring identity balance to economic, political and social structures as a sustainable way of bettering the planet, and saving it from nuclear annihilation under patriarchy. The idea of balance and feminism- in how the wider world can engage with feminism, and how those immersed in the culture practise it- got the gunged cogs of my noggin cranking, and hey presto this blog post was born!

I considered balance and feminism in three ways:
1.) Balancing the onus of labour for change
2.) Balancing conflicting ideologies within feminism
3.) Balancing your time as a feminist

THE ONUS OF LABOUR

What I mean by balancing the onus of labour, is that I think everyone should be invested (to a certain extent) in social change and helping each other, and that the sole responsibility for this change should not be forced onto people already being oppressed. It takes two to tango basically. Womyxn are not the ones not employing themselves, womyxn are not murdering themselves, nor are they generally speaking the ones who implement most of the public policies which impact our lives negatively- so why are womyxn given the burden of fixing problems caused by people who aren’t engaging to fix the problems they cause, or even worse aren’t aware of the damage they do?!?!? Feminism, like a good pantomime, can only really get its razzmatazz on if there is a willing and participant audience to listen and learn from the wisdom. I can give all my money to feminist causes, scream myself hoarse for change- but if there isn’t going to be a big wig with a heart listening (we could try and blow up government, but I don’t think that would be very proactive) or willing to help bring home the bacon, nothing will happen. This goes for all oppressions, btw- not just womyxn’s issues. The way racism is handled in the West is another example. There are plenty of books defining the black experience, about what slaves had to endure to overthrow their masters, about the martyrdom of freedom fighters and the bullets black people have had to face- but not nearly as many on defining what whiteness has done to black and white people, or what role white people play in aiding the perpetuation of inequality. The study of whiteness is growing now, but for ages, the liberation of black people was seen as just a black problem, which makes no sense when it was the whites making all the problems. Oppressed groups of course should always continue to strive for expanding their powers, the lexicon and scope of an inclusive revolution; but this growth has to be accompanied by a willingness from others to take on board and implement measures to materially shift inequality. Men- all oppressors- have to be accountable in understanding where they fit into and benefit from the current systemic hierarchies of gendered and racialized bodies, so that they can begin to fight for change from without the community of oppressed activist groups. The labour must be shared.

CONFLICTING IDEOLOGIES

I also thought about balance within feminist communities, and the need for tolerance of different ideas and approaches. I don’t mean that you have to necessarily agree with anything another feminist says, and actually if you are sincerely committed to helping each other you should be critical and analytical of new ideas. However, being critical and finding intellectual issue with someone’s ideas doesn’t mean that you simply have to set every single thing they’ve ever done or achieved on fire and start again. Nobody is perfect, and we all at different stages in our lives go through rough patches of the soul which affects how we think and see the world, and I think a bit of lee-way has to be found between fostering acceptance and community with honesty and critical analysis without it turning into a rhetorical fist fight. Nobody can be expected to know absolutely everything correct about a certain topic, and so time has to be taken in order to educate people with good intentions, and not alienate them further from the ultimate goal of feminism to uplift all peoples by being too harsh or dismissive. Obviously this becomes more complex when the issue of who should educate who and why comes in, for instance black folk do not at all have to educate white people. Everybody has to stay in their lane and be accountable. But apart from issues of tackling varying levels of ‘knowledge’ and education when it comes to unpicking feminisms conflicting directions, I also think there has to be balance in terms of different camps of feminists somehow finding a bridge for us to move forward together. I fucking hate white feminists and tory bitches who turn their backs on their sisters, just as I am certain there are feminists out there who would dislike me and think I’m a nut case – but that doesn’t mean either one of us is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. I think feminism should sometimes be taken out of morals and just used as a calculator is in the world. ‘Will my idea/ activism materially assist to improve the wellbeing of a real breathing womynx’s life?’ If both the left and right wings have tangible ideas for change, we should be balancing the perspectives and mingling new combustions of revolution! Differentiation and small grass-roots groups are necessary to keep a focus on the most marginalized, and to stop specific issues from being over-generalized or white-washed like too much of history. However, polarising the feminist movement between warring camps into tit for tat before any action is even taken only detracts and diverges from feminism’s ultimate goal: a good life for everyone. We must find balance to let all different modes of activism breathe, be sure to criticise when it is needed, and let the potential for solidarity between varying ideologies of feminism support each other so we are all uplifted. And if the tory feminists won’t compromise after honest critical debate, then you can fart in their face and tell them to fuck off.

BALANCING TIME

This one is obvious, but still important. In order to stay strong for the sustained fight of feminism, you have to balance your time between offence and defence. This might seem privileged coming from a middle-class white girl, and it undeniably is, as many people cannot avoid their fight if they are political prisoners or constantly targeted by authorized violence. However, for a lot of people- like and unlike me- feminism doesn’t operate in a life or death scenario constantly. So you’ve got to find balance between arming yourself for the fight and letting your heart breathe away from all the confusion and pain and upset that comes with confronting the ugliness inflicted upon each other every day. I think of it like a dog fussing a toy; sometimes, the more and more you try to make something work, the more frantically you try to make sense, the less and less sense you will have and you will just end up a hot and bothered mess of rage and confusion. Be gentle with yourself, because trust me, whilst it is important to stay informed and armed, watching the news constantly and mourning each and every story will not help anyone unless you actually do something. The world needs you empowered and able, not drained and defeated. To all the white girls out there, this is not an excuse to avoid hard work or let white fragility obstruct the path of progress. It is just a simple observation that everybody needs downtime from harsh truths and re-arranging reality away from insidious colonialization under the patriarchy.

And that is that! I just wanted to share some thoughts on this special day to keep the flame of feminism alive and burning like bad bitch! I hope you all have a lovely day contemplating the glorious existence of all the womyxn who have ever touched your life, and that you plot many ways of overthrowing the capitalist machine that keeps us apart from one another using no other criteria than our genitals. BIG UP THE GALDEM FOREVER AND EVER AMEN INSHALLAH AND PEACE!!!! XOXOXOXOXOXXOXCOXOXOXO

VALENTINES DAY- Where is the Love?

Hello everyone!!!!!

Today’s post isn’t in honour of a particular book or poem, but a feeling, an emotion we all (like to think we) know … L-O-V-E!!!! Valentines Day is upon us and that means, according to popular imagination, that you will either be up the Eiffel Tower with a bouquet of roses serenaded by a violinist on one knee, OR a sobbing mess sequestered beneath layers of duvet, shovelling ice cream and discounted chocolates down your gob. One of the main reasons I began writing, and specifically poetry, was to try and find the truth of love. It sounds horrendously cheesy like a fucking Richard Curtis rom-com, but it is a fact. I have always been beguiled as to what this emotion that everybody needs and wants, but can never define or explain really is.

And although Valentines Day is meant to be a celebration of that divine mystery, I think just as with most other sincere emotions/traditions, capitalist patriarchy has sucked out the life blood and made of love a travesty. For starters, Valentines never originated as an innocuous trading of fluffy pink things and shitty lingerie. IT STARTED AS A REBELLION MOTHER FUCKERSS!!!!! Yes, St Valentine got his head chopped off by the bastards in charge for the audacity of believing that people should have a right to dedicate themselves to one another if they were thus inclined. I’m not about to start halooing and yaying for the indoctrination of heterosexual Christian monogamy (ew.) into us all, but it is still important. Valentine’s Day did not start as a chance to brag about how rich and beloved and pretty you are. It started as a statement of intent: I can love without permission.

But today en masse it feels like this burning desire has been replaced with obligation and FOMO. Real love is powerful, and The Man doesn’t want us to believe it. LGBTQ+ people are being called sinful and aberrant for their love, whilst pornography constantly fetishizes their desires into a mockery for the mainstream. People are clinging to stay in or start toxic relationships just so that they can say they have a bae, pretending that forcing someone else to (pretend to) love them is a gratifying substitute for the real thing. Black girls are feeling like they don’t measure up to billboards of whiteness selling us pants and weekend breaks, force-feeding us the Imperial lie that only pale skin is worthy of attention and ‘protection’. Boys are made to feel like they can’t ask for love at all, locked up in macho cages. And little girls are made to feel like failures because they didn’t get the most cards in their class, being taught by stick insect Disney princesses or Love Island drones that the most defining sign of success for a woman is ‘love’.

To be loved, for beauty and selflessness. But the patriarchy has weaponized love, and it no longer actually means what it says on the tin. To be loved = men want to fuck you and for you to be grateful for everything they steal and exploit for themselves. And of course, womynx (womyxn= term including cis women, Trans women, queer people, feminine people, non-binary people e.t.c) are taught to give love like a handout, an infinite resource of patience and tenderness arising from no effort whatsoever. Love is infinite, but it does not come without effort. The emotional labour of which is, SHOCK HORROR, pushed on womyxn. To love= give all you have whilst simultaneously being a placid doormat, one of the bros.

I used to think ‘love’ was the only thing that I ever wanted, but as I age and see the haranguing cruelty of the patriarchy crush all things sincere and delicate; I have to admit that the version of love I thought I needed (old-school hand holding in the park, sharing sweets on the bus with a lover who will cherish me forever in sentimentalized photo albums and diaries- don’t judge me.) VS the ‘reality’ of what is inside each individual, is never going to calibrate with this hypocritical cess pit of ‘society’. So many ‘concepts’ I cannot wrap my head around.

Monogamy, and partnering in general is a myth of patriarchy to keep womyxn feeling like they aren’t enough if they aren’t ‘chosen’. Like womyxn need to complete themselves with a man who will ‘take care of them’, which really just means less women working and being bosses for themselves. NEWS FLASH: WOMYNX DON’T NEED MEN. WE NEVER HAVE. STOP RIDICULING SINGLE WOMYNX. STOP DEMONIZING PEOPLE WHO ARE HAPPIER ALONE. WOMYNX WANT LOVE. WE WANT HAPPINESS. WE WANT TO FUCK. WE DO NOT NEED MEN FOR THESE THINGS. WE TOLERATE MALE BULLSHIT TO TRY AND FIND DIAMONDS IN A SHIT STACK. I am glad I got that off my chest, because that is one of my main despairs at modern depictions and thoughts about love: that we need someone else. It is such bullshit, because as soon as you feel you need love, and that you’ve got to force and be desperate and do anything you can to be completed, then it isn’t love but fear.

What I’m saying isn’t anything new, feminist movements since the suffragettes and before have been saying that womynx need to stop relying on men, and I think it’s especially important when it comes to love. We do not need permission to feel beautiful, we do not have to feel ugly just because a man said it so. Men (lol NOT ALL MEN) are pretty stupid, we should not be following the same rules they have been trying to enforce. Their rules are leading to the 6th mass extinction of earth. We can do better than that, we can choose ourselves and start thinking of important things other than what men want their dates to dress like, or how to lose weight fast.

I know it may seem hypocritical, considering I myself have a boyfriend. But, actually he is one of the reasons why I am trying to be more astute in recognising the difference between needing and wanting love. He always tells me that I should never let a man break my heart, and that’s him included. Knowing that you can survive alone, and that anyone else is just a glorious bonus of extra colour to an already mystifying and divine existence, is a much more beneficial foundation for happiness than feeling that you will be nothing unless you force another creature to be tethered to you always. People like Chidera Eggerue ( AKA- The Slumflower), Audre Lorde (MY QUEER QUEEN) and Virginia Woolf (the way she cherishes the world and writes so exquisitely could not have been done had she been chasing a man incessantly) are much more eloquent on the importance of self-love before anything else much more than me. But I hope that this little snippet of thought has given a different perspective on one of the most tired and money-fuelled exploitations of love this western world has created.

If anything, I hope you all have a lovely day by yourself. I hope you romance yourself, take yourself on a date so that when you are encountered with amazing humans you can fully appreciate them without the clouded perspective of desperately searching for validation. Fuck the patriarchy, smoke a blunt and bask in the miniscule yet cosmic significance you hold on this fleeting planet, ignoring how pretty you may or may not be. Love without permission, from the state, or God, or family, or popular culture, or even yourself.

XOXOXXOXOXO

TOMBOY BOOKCLUB- ‘ZAMI: A NEW SPELLING OF MY NAME’

HELLO EVERYONE! LONG TIME NO SPEAK!!!! I am truly very sorry that I have been so neglectful tending my little nook of internet, but this year I am trying to be happier, badder, and in control of my self-made destiny (whatever the fuck that means) – hence, I have been a busy bee. Every weekend since the New Year has consisted of me cramming as much littiness and love into 48 hours as is humanly possible. I’ve been to the pub from 6 until 1 am with my cousin, been clubbing in Leeds, rolled many a zoot in Guildford and even managed to fly out and gallivant around the Netherlands. So you can see I haven’t been quiet for nothing, but now it’s time to get this show back on the road! I am starting 2019 (and today is Chinese New Year’s, so it does count!!!! YEAR OF THE PIG, OINK OINK BITCHES) with a bang, and will talk about one of the most beautiful, tender and courageous books I have read in a while. I am happy that I have started this new year with such an inspirational tome to guide me onwards: Zami: A New Spelling of my Name by Audre Lorde will be the jewel in the crown of today.

For anyone who hasn’t been blessed by her presence yet, Audre Lorde is the fat, black, queer poet/lover/essayist/activist/teacher of your dreams. Audre ended up being the poet laureate of New York before her tragic and too early death of Cancer at the young age of 58; in her reign upon earth, she befriended James Baldwin, was admired by Adrienne Rich and anthologized by Langston Hughes. Audre is a big fucking deal, to be frank. But this book is the story before her canonization into modern literature. This book follows her growing up as a young girl, an outsider determined with visions of poetry and survival through love, making her way in a cruel world that at best doesn’t give a fuck, and at worst actively hates her for being a fat, half-blind black girl who loves girls.

Although this book isn’t a feminist theory study guide, it is a fascinating look into the experience of what it is like to live in clashing intersections of identity, and what feminism must do to include these people. The way Audre frames her personal narrative enables her to talk honestly about the loneliness she felt in self-professed, so-called ‘progressive’ circles- and the need, if feminism truly wants to uplift all people, for feminists to encourage more discussion of difference and clashing perspectives. For instance, Audre being a lesbian in hetero-centric black spaces made her feel alienated, but simultaneously her being black in predominantly white queer spaces also made her feel aberrant. Audre lived a life of difference, embracing and cultivating all the separate influences which made up who she became, regardless of whether people approved or not. Audre knew she couldn’t please everybody, and so performed for nobody; Zami is a reckoning of different histories and mythologies- personal and private, uniquely combining to build up one life – of all the people and stories that clashed, merged, and catalysed to create the mystical being that is Audre.

Moving on from the feminist aspect, the way Audre writes her environments gripped me like a kid going to the cinema for the first time. She infuses the streets and markets with sounds and light like you’re a tiny bug flying through the air next to her, drinking in a new way of seeing. Her gentle power manifests in the sustained attention to detail throughout, turning a stoic eye on the most fleeting of moments to craft a world of mundane beauty and vibrancy. One of the most evocative moments for me is when Audre is a child and first gets new glasses (and I don’t just like this part because I too am a four eyed poet child). The world transforms with a new pair of glasses, from a smudged blur of thick shapes and shades, occasionally startled with the glamour of warbling white lights, into an unforeseen language. “Enthralled, I started up at the sudden revelation of each single and particular leaf of green, precisely shaped and laced about with unmixed light.” For Lorde, poetry is a way of seeing, of reorganizing worldly objects into alignment with unworldly emotions and ideas, shaping ‘reality’ into a coherent meaning and art. Just how her glasses helped Lorde to make sense of her place in the world, enabling her to study and appreciate the delicacies of her surroundings, poetry is also a guide towards creating new worlds. Audre didn’t just write poetry, she lived in it too.

I know I am writing a lot, but please bear with! I just AM OBSESSED with this book a lot!!!

Another reason I cherish this book as a bible for survival, is for how precious and important love is. Love, and specifically love for women, whether it be friendship, romance or familial, is a serious and driving force behind Lorde’s activism.  Let me quote: “Any world which did not have a place for me loving women was not a world in which I wanted to live, nor one which I could fight for”. It gave me Goosebumps to read her lines of intimacy, when Audre bares her soul in poetry remembering the love she made real. With different women, in different ways, sometimes believing she could never love again, but always surviving with a heart softer and stronger after suffering.

It starts with Ginger, the effervescent chubby girl Audre works at a factory with; coarse, direct and giggling in daily life, but who becomes “precious beyond compare” in Audre’s embrace. Lorde’s respect, admiration and devotion to the pleasure of the female body is serious big pussy energy which I and the world needs more of. Specifically, it warmed my soul throughout to read fat and chubby women being written as elegant, as desirable, and unquestionably loveable. The adoring way she describes Ginger as having “skin the colour of well-buttered caramel… (and) gorgeously fat, with an open knowledge about her body’s movement that was delicate and precise”. Today, fat bodies are pathologized into caricatures of negativity and shame- but Audre will have none of it. To read the pride and beauty of fat black lesbians having sex is a life affirming moment, a big fuck you to the powers that be that want us all to ignore or berate each other. This book’s revolution is in the bed sheets- tender and delicate- resonating an energy of love and togetherness that remains when we go out into the streets. I think this is a good quote to show the scope and strength that Audre believed love, WOMEN LOVE, AUTHENTIC SINCERE INCLUSIVE LOVE, could provide us to survive this cruel society: “We had come together like elements erupting into an electric storm. Exchanging energy, sharing charge, brief and drenching. Then we parted, passed, reformed, reshaping ourselves the better for the exchange…”

One of the most enduring loves in all her escapades through our hostile society is Audre’s love for her first best friend, Gennie. Gennie was “the first person (she) was conscious of loving”– reading the deep, sincere and unspeakable amounts of devotion in these words made my heart flush a hundred shades of wow. Gennie and Audre would toast marshmallows on pencils lounging on Gennie’s mother’s sofa, smoke cigarettes and craft various outfits for exploring the city, transforming each other into different characters. “Bandits, Gypsies, Foreigners of all degree, Witches, Whores and Mexican princesses”. The freedom and fun the girls relish in, exploring New York’s avenues and side-streets with candour still engrossed in their own private fantasies made me want to sing with happiness. But, it is this enchanting warmth that makes the pairs’ ending even more brutal and devastating than it already is. Without giving too much away, Gennie is lost to Audre, and it is enough to make the grim reaper weep. I couldn’t believe what I was reading when their lives started to unravel on the page, and I haven’t cried at a book like I did reading about Gennie in a long time. But, it isn’t the sadness that shines out the most. It is what Gennie taught Audre in their togetherness. That love doesn’t have to be obedience, or fear or a tradition. Love makes you feel like you can do anything, that you deserve everything, too. When love is built and then stolen, it is possibly the most devastating thing that can happen to a person. But the fact that this doesn’t necessarily have to destroy us, that we can learn from what we have lost to create new versions of the same emotion, is the hallelujah and amen of life Audre is trying to get us to sing… “how hard it was to explain to anyone who didn’t already know it that soft and tough had to be one and the same for either to work at all”.

I wish I could summarize how much this book means to me and all it can teach in a neat little explanation, but that is futile. Instead, I will leave you (at last) with a quote as per usual. But, if you think I have missed anything important in talking about this book and Audre, if there are any other Audre stans out there please join me!!!! I hope this post hasn’t been too long, but it is good to be back xoxoxo

“In a paradoxical sense, once I accepted my position as different from the larger society as well as from any sub-society- black or gay- I felt I didn’t have to try so hard. To be accepted. To look femme. To be straight. To look straight. To be proper. To look ‘nice’. To be liked. To be approved. What I didn’t realize was how much harder I had to try merely to stay alive, or rather, to stay human. How much stronger a person I became in that trying.”

TOMBOY BOOKCLUB!!! ‘Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?’

Hello everyone!!!! Today’s book is one that I’ve had my eye on for a year or so, and finally I found it again at a feminist book fair I went to a few weeks ago and said to myself I CANNOT LEAVE WITHOUT THIS BOOK!!!! It is a collection of short stories, not a genre I usually dabble in but this was glorious; so, without further ado, I introduce to you ‘Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?’ by Kathleen Collins.

If you live for political activism and Love stories (all the best people do), these stories will fill you with a nostalgic delight so that you’ll wish you had a time machine to go back to the early 60’s, pick up a placard and march along (and fall in love with) the people who trail blazed the world’s progressing social justices we are still working on today. Collins hearkens back to the time when integration, interracial communities and ‘the melting pot’ were young American ideals still unsullied from failure. When young white people and black people still believed that simply living together would solve all the problems created by white ancestors. Of course, we know this idealism failed and that the benefits of multiculturalism often turn out in reality to contribute to the erasures and misunderstandings that it is trying to solve. But Collins is both nostalgic and critical- revealing a tense undercurrent of dissatisfaction with this periods’ short-comings whilst also celebrating it as a time of energy, of enthusiasm and hope- even if free love didn’t have such strong foundations as the political arguments that would come after. Collins shows the bad and the good of the time when people didn’t want their love to be confined by race, and these are stories of love- in all its complexities of heart-break, young love, marriage and friendship. Love and race, how the two interact with each other in the lives of young, vivacious black women.

That is one of my favourite things about this collection: all of the stories centre around black experience, and most specifically, the vast majority are focused on the narratives of black women. IDK about you, but I can hardly think of any main-stream romantic heroine/ hero of screen or fiction who is black, and not made into some mistress, sexualized beast or just generally chastised because of it (I am always open to being wrong, so if I am mistaken please let me know which rom-coms to watch which don’t make me feel like I am observing a Nazis dream of marital eugenics). Most romantic stories, in trying to please white male publishers and producers, have constructed stories of love that fulfil their notions of what it is that will complete them. Unsurprisingly, most men (whatever race) don’t want their meek beloved- who they will supposedly save from the cruelty of spinsterhood (yawn) – to outshine them; hence why so many female romantic protagonists turn out the same: white, ‘beautiful’ (read: able-bodied and skinny), alone and needing dick to rescue them from whatever it is women can’t possibly have enough brain to solve themselves- everyone KNOWS that dick is the answer to all life’s problems!!!!

But in these stories shine black women, from many different class back grounds, but specifically focusing on middle-class/ boujie black girls which I found refreshing opposed to the stereotype of all black people always being poor. Black Women (Collins often chooses to focus on lighter skinned black girls) who are exploring love on their own terms and are not afraid to break out of stereotypes white people and even their own well-intentioned family’s force upon them. There’s the girl who cuts her hair and lets it grow natural and falls in love on a summer French course (with her professor- I didn’t wanna give spoilers but that story was so sweet I couldn’t stop smiling); there’s the sophisticated, cultured and elegant black girl who doesn’t need white validation, or to demean other black girls to prove her worth; there’s painters, mothers, freedom fighters, violinists, and daughters. They may not always be ‘empowered’ as such, as in many stories the girls are wrangling with men emotionally distant, abusive and just generally immature- not leaving relationships as quickly as we may like with our more modern ways of thinking. But each woman is an agent of her desire, and all the stories speak of some awakening, whether it be realising what love is, or figuring out how your skin colour affects what love is available to you- these stories are beautiful in how they show emotion so fleetingly and yet so powerfully, without the breadth or scope a whole novel would have to use.

Collins also worked with film, and this influence can be seen in some of the stories. Because they’re so short, many of the stories don’t get their emotional depth from the coming together of plot, but from the overlapping of time periods and omissions of narrative that allow you to fill in the gaps yourself. One short story, ‘Interiors’, is a set of two monologues from a husband and wife; its 9 pages, but the way Collins’ fits so much story into such ‘little’ prose, so much heart into sentences that don’t reveal everything- it does as much work that a story triple its length may not achieve.

I will stop blabbering now, but honestly these stories do not take ages to read and anyone interested in race, relationships, civil rights, art or LUV would adore these stories! Collins has long been forgotten as a black woman playwright, director and author and reading these stories it is wonderful she has been rediscovered from the mire of history to enlighten us again!!!!!!!

“… The night I danced for you. Why am I recalling such a simple time? We were taking a walk and suddenly I started dancing. I don’t know why; it wasn’t like me at all. I just wanted to jump outside my coloured looks and make you laugh… Why am I recalling such a simple time? We said good bye. We never saw each other again. Once my father mentioned that you’d moved to Washington, become a doctor, married. But all that seemed beside the point. It took so well between us…