There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé by Morgan Parker

Date Read:  February 22nd 2017

Published: February 14th 2017

Publisher: Tin House Books

Pages: 80

 

The Blurb

There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé uses political and pop-cultural references as a framework to explore 21st century black American womanhood and its complexities: performance, depression, isolation, exoticism, racism, femininity, and politics. The poems weave between personal narrative and pop-cultural criticism, examining and confronting modern media, consumption, feminism, and Blackness.

This collection explores femininity and race in the contemporary American political climate, folding in references from jazz standards, visual art, personal family history, and Hip Hop. The voice of this book is a multifarious one: writing and rewriting bodies, stories, and histories of the past, as well as uttering and bearing witness to the truth of the present, and actively probing toward a new self, an actualized self. This is a book at the intersections of mythology and sorrow, of vulnerability and posturing, of desire and disgust, of tragedy and excellence.

Review – ★★★ (3 stars)

Morgan Parker’s There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé was one of the top poetry collections released this year that I was eager to read. I have been following Parker for a while and I love this short documentary (from 2015) that explores a bit of Parker’s life as a writer and her relationship with Brooklyn, NY. I’m simply a fan of any black woman writer with a unique, quirky character – hence my love for Morgan Parker.

There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé is more of a 3.5 stars book for me though. Initially, I wished Beyoncé wasn’t Parker’s muse because it made the poems that were named after her (Beyoncé) seem trivial and nonsensical. BUT, after meditating on select poems, I realize Parker uses the poems as political commentary on the criticism Beyoncé has received over the years, and how these criticisms spill over into how society views black women as a whole.

This collection explores Black American womanhood, performance, oppression, loneliness, power, sexuality and mental health – but in a whiny way. I like to believe Parker wrote this collection targeting (black) women, millennials and true poetry lovers as her audience. To be honest, only a few of these poems will actually stick with me. I think I’d love this collection more if they were read out to me, maybe at a reading and with some background to the randomness of it all. Don’t get me wrong, these poems are well-thought-out and layered with lots of (black) pop culture references, but the wordiness of it all could go over your head if your mind isn’t alert while reading.

Above is a screenshot (from my Kindle app) of one of the poems that’s oh-so relevant to the times, which I especially loved –13 Ways of Looking at a Black Girl’. The haphazard display of the words spilled unto the pages, in and of itself, is telling of how society regards black women. Are words like ‘thick, diva, nappy, flawless, loud, sex, wifey, chocolate, sassy, carefree, strong, exotic, slut’ accurate depictions of how people view black women? From whose lens are black women regarded in these ways? (please click on the image above to get a closer glimpse of the poem).

I’m in awe of the artistry of There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé, but most poems may seem abstract and meaningless to the oblivious reader of the times. I wouldn’t highly recommend this collection to anyone who isn’t a hardcore poetry fiend, but I personally admire this body of work for its eccentric nature.

★★★ (3 stars) – Good book. I recommend it, I guess.

Purchase There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé on Amazon

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A Deeper Love Inside: The Porsche Santiaga Story by Sister Souljah

Sister Souljah porscheDate Read: January 28th 2015

Published: 2012

Publisher: Emily Bestler Books/ Washington Square Press (Simon & Schuster, Inc)

Pages: 432

 

 

 

The Blurb

At last, mega-bestselling author Sister Souljah delivers the stunning sequel to The Coldest Winter Ever that fans have been eagerly waiting for. Frighteningly fierce, raw, and filled with completely unpredictability, this coming-of-age adventure is woven with emotional intensity.

A Deeper Love Inside is written in the words of Porsche Santiaga, Winter’s sharp-tongued, quick-witted younger sister. Porsche worships Winter. A natural born hustler, Porsche is also cut from the same cloth as her father, the infamous Ricky Santiaga.

Passionate and loyal to the extreme, Porsche refuses to accept her new life in group homes, foster care and juvenile detention after her wealthy family is torn apart. Porsche- unique, young and beautiful – cries as much as she fights and uses whatever she has to reclaim her status.

Unselfishly, she pushes to get back everything that ever belonged to her loving family. In A Deeper Love Inside, readers will encounter their favorite characters from The Coldest Winter Ever, including Winter and Midnight. Sister Souljah’s soulful writing will again move your heart and open your eyes to a shocking reality.

Review – ★★★★ (4 stars)

This was a fun read! It was a bit slow in the beginning or first 150 pages, but it got better. I read The Coldest Winter Ever about 10 years ago and all I remember is that it was ahhh-mazing! With that said, A Deeper Love Inside: The Porsche Santiaga Story is not a sequel – this book has very little to do with Winter, Porsche’s older sister.

This book is a coming-of-age and cautionary tale that focuses on how ghetto-born, 10 year old Porsche Santiaga, coped with being sent to juvy (juvenile detention) after her family was separated by the arrest of her father- Ricky Santiaga who was a notorious drug lord from Brooklyn, New York. After spending about 2 years in juvy and forming some key friendships (The Diamond Needles) that positively influenced her life, she successfully escapes juvy with some members of the Diamond Needles and soon learns many, many, many lessons about love and life through her painful adventures.

Love is the reason behind all of Porsche’s actions- whether good or bad. She was striving to bring her separated family back together, only to realize that life outside of juvy had really changed and maybe the familial love disappeared…

Sister Souljah is the only urban fiction author I’ve read and I respect her writing sooo much. Unfortunately, books in the Urban Literature or Urban Fiction genre are not given the same respect as other literary genres. But these are stories that need to be read to possibly help end the sad cycles of drug abuse, senseless killings, alcoholism, teenage pregnancies, the spread of HIV/AIDS, etc in the Black community. There is so much to say about this book and I don’t want to give away any spoilers…but I’m glad it ends on a positive, uplifting note. I love the fact that Porsche heals and found real love in Elisha, who loved and appreciated her deeply- a love she had been craving and working hard for, to no avail from her sister and mother.

I gave this 4 stars because the beginning was quite slow and almost made me want to give up. Also, The Coldest Winter Ever and Souljah’s memoir, No Disrespect were more exciting reads compared to this book. But I highly recommend this! It’s a relevant narrative.

Other well-known Urban Fiction writers:

Sapphire (author of PUSH which was adopted into the film, ‘Precious’), Teri WoodsZane (her books are a blend of urban fiction & erotica), Nina FoxxKimberla RobyK’wanOmar Tyree (author of the popular book, Flyy Girl), Eric Jerome DickeyDonald Goines.

*Check out this great Youtube video by Tiffany (TiffReads) for an extensive discussion on Urban Fiction, for other recommendations and to learn more about the genre if you are interested – HERE(This video was part of the February #ReadSoulLit Photo/Booktube Challenge on social media, organized by Didi of Brown Girl Reading)*

★★★★ (4 stars) – Great book. Highly recommend!

Purchase A Deeper Love Inside: The Porsche Santiaga Story on Amazon