Change is about acknowledging that something isn't working and needs to be remedied. When something doesn't serve you anymore, the goal is to fix it or replace it with something that will. Today our nation is divided. To mend the bond, we need to acknowledge that minority groups, particularly the Black community is often misrepresented or underrepresented. This extends into the deepest parts of our society, including the publishing industry.
Media is important because it influences how our society views a person, place, or location. It helps decide the attitudes and tone of our culture. It educates us. It guides us in behavior. It tells us what is normal and acceptable. It also tells us what we should strive for. The question I'm posing today is how can we expect things to change when the media and the publishing industry largely remains white-washed?
When the vast majority of those hired and published within the publishing industry are white, what we end up with are stories about white people and their experiences. This is great! Except for one thing: we're only getting one side of the story.
As you know, the best kinds of stories are well-rounded. They share a broad overview of life but also delve into the unique experiences of its characters. When stories are two-dimensional they tend to fall flat and grow tiresome. Extend the metaphor to current predicament. Our society is only telling one side of the story- it's two-dimensional. Now image how vivid and exciting the story would be if we developed it fully and told the truth with depth and honesty.
This acknowledgement series it to shine a light on Black writers and poets, to thank them for their contributions to the literary world, and to share their stories so that we can add depth to our narrative. Today we are recognizing Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Frederick Douglas, and Audre Lorde. To see more influential Black writers and poets, check out our other posts in our Acknowledgement Series.
Our first influential writer is Barack Obama. A man of many talents, he helped move the nation forward with his progressive ideas and eloquent speeches.
Here's a closer look at some of his works:
Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance
Published in 1995, a memoir.
In this lyrical, unsentimental, and compelling memoir, the son of a black African father and a white American mother searches for a workable meaning to his life as a black American. It begins in New York, where Barack Obama learns that his father, a figure he knows more as a myth than as a man, has been killed in a car accident. This sudden death inspires an emotional transcontinental odyssey where he confronts the bitter truth of his father’s life, and at last reconciles his divided inheritance.
The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream
Published in 2006, a political call-to-action.
Barack Obama's call for a new kind of politics—a politics that builds upon those shared understandings that pull us together as Americans. Lucid in his vision of America's place in the world, refreshingly candid about his family life and his time in the Senate, Obama discusses his political convictions and inspires us to trust in the dogged optimism he represents.
Of Thee I Sing
Published in 2010, a more personal work. Illustrated by Loren Long.
In a letter to his daughters, Obama has written a moving tribute to thirteen groundbreaking Americans and the ideals that have shaped our nation. From the artistry of Georgia O'Keeffe, to the courage of Jackie Robinson, to the patriotism of George Washington, President Obama sees the traits of these heroes within his own children, and within all of America’s children.
Change We Can Believe In: Barack Obama's Plan to Renew America's Promise
Published in 2008, political campaign literature.
Change We Can Believe In outlines Obama's vision for America.
Here bold and specific ideas about how to fix our ailing economy and strengthen the middle class, make health care affordable for all, achieve energy independence, and how to keep America safe in a dangerous world are outlined.
Barack Obama: In His Own Words
Published in 2007, political campaign book.
Barack Obama in His Own Words, a book of quotes from the Illinois Senator, allows those who aren't as familiar with his politics to learn quickly where he stands on abortion, religion, AIDS, his critics, foreign policy, Iraq, the War on Terror, unemployment, gay marriage, and a host of other important issues facing America and the world.
Oprah Winfrey is a name we've all heard. From her notoriety as a television host, to her philanthropy on and off the set, her sunshine personality has motivated Americans for decades.
Here's a closer look at her works:
What I Know For Sure
Published in 2014, a collection of essays.
With themes of joy, resilience, connection, gratitude, possibility, awe, clarity, and power, these essays offer a rare, powerful and intimate glimpse into the heart and mind of Oprah while providing readers a guide to becoming their best selves.
The Path Made Clear: Discovering Your Life's Direction and Purpose
Published in 2019, a self-help book.
Oprah shares what she sees as a guide for activating your deepest vision of yourself, offering the framework for creating not just a life of success, but one of significance. The book's ten chapters are organized to help you recognize the important milestones along the road to self-discovery, laying out what you really need in order to achieve personal contentment, and what life's detours are there to teach us.
The Wisdom of Sundays: Life-Changing Insights from Super Soul Conversations
Published in 2017, a collection of essays.
This collection of essays offers insight into Oprah’s own spiritual journey and features selections from the most conversations between Oprah and visionaries like Tony Robbins, Arianna Huffington, and Shonda Rhimes, authors and teachers like Eckhart Tolle, Thich Nhat Hahn, Marianne Williamson and Wayne Dyer, and writers like Cheryl Strayed, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Elizabeth Lesser.
Food, Health, and Happiness: 115 On-Point Recipes for Great Meals and A Better Life
Published in 2017, a food book.
Oprah shares not only her struggles with food but also the recipes that have allowed food to be a source of joy for her again. With help from the chefs who have cooked for her over the years such as Rosie Daley, Art Smith, Mei Lin, Taryn Huebner, and Sonny Sweetman, this is a personal cookbook while also being an invitation to Oprah’s many fans to eat both healthfully and happily.
The Uncommon Wisdom of Oprah Winfrey: A Portrait in Her Own Words
Published in 1996, an autobiography.
Oprah recalls her impoverished childhood in the Deep South, her heralded rise as America's most successful talk show host, her experience as a movie actress and Academy Award nominee, and her life as a single, enormously wealthy black woman in a white, male-dominated world..
The Wisdom Journal: The Companion to The Wisdom of Sundays
Published in 2018, a companion novel.
The Wisdom Journal features an exclusive introduction by Oprah and showcases the hand-picked quotations from the world renowned thought-leaders who have enlightened her throughout the years. This book will prompt you to express your feelings and to discover what it means to actualize the truest expression of yourself.
Frederick Douglas is known in history as one of the greatest and most influential African Americans in history. Known for his advocacy against slavery and for equal rights for people of all races and women, he has helped transform the nation that we know today.
Here are some of his works:
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave
Published in 1845, the first of three autobiographies.
Born a slave in 1818 on a plantation in Maryland, Douglass taught himself to read and write. In 1845, seven years after escaping to the North, he published Narrative, the first of three autobiographies. This book calmly but dramatically recounts the horrors and the accomplishments of his early years: the daily, casual brutality of the white masters; his painful efforts to educate himself; his decision to find freedom or die; and his harrowing but successful escape.
My Bondage and My Freedom
Published in 1855, his second autobiography.
Douglass's second autobiography, written during his celebrated career as a speaker and newspaper editor, My Bondage and My Freedom reveals the author of the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845) grown more mature, forceful, analytical, and complex with a deepened commitment to the fight for equal rights and liberties.
Life and Times of Frederick Douglass
Published in 1881, his third and last biography.
In this final memoir Douglass gives more details about his life as a slave and his escape from slavery than he did in his two previous autobiographies. After his escape from slavery he went on to have a career in politics where he was outspoken regarding antislavery legislation and equality for both African Americans and women.
The Heroic Slave
Published in 1853, his only piece of fiction.
The Heroic Slave was Frederick Douglass' only piece of fiction. He wrote it in response to the Rochester Ladies' Anti-Slavery Society's request for a submission to be included in their anthology Autographs for Freedom. It is a retelling of an actual rebellion led by Madison Washington on the slave ship Creole. Douglass shows how the rebellion is part of a revolution and therefore fundamentally American.
The North Star
Published in 1847-51, Abolitionist Newspaper.
The North Star was a nineteenth-century anti-slavery newspaper published from the Talman Building in Rochester, New York by abolitionist Douglass. The paper commenced publication on December 3, 1847, and ceased as The North Star in June 1851 when it merged with Gerrit Smith's Liberty Party Paper (based in Syracuse, New York) to form Frederick Douglass' Paper. The North Star's slogan was "Right is of no Sex. Truth is of no Color. God is the Father of us all, and all we are Brethren".
Unfortunately this is a historical document, so it is not for sale.
In the Words of Frederick Douglass: Quotations from Liberty's Champion
Published in 2012, a collection of quotations.
In the Words of Frederick Douglass is a rich trove of quotations from Douglass. The editors have compiled nearly seven hundred quotations by Douglass that demonstrate the breadth and strength of his intellect as well as the eloquence with which he expressed his political and ethical principles.
Audre Lorde spoke out against social injustice, particularly about LGBT and women's rights. Thanks to her outspoken outrage against the plights of these two groups, her work remains relevant to this day, even predicting the presidential reign of Donald Trump (of which she wasn't even alive to see).
Here are some of her works:
The First Cities
Published in 1968, poetry.
Lorde's first volume of poetry.
Currently out of print and unavailable for sale, but
you may still be able to find it in second-hand bookstores or libraries.
Zami: A New Spelling of My Name
Published in 1983, a chronicle.
Zami is a fast-moving chronicle. From the author's vivid childhood memories in Harlem to her coming of age in the late 1950s, the nature of Lorde's work is cyclical. It shows the nature of her relationship with the women who have shaped her. She brings into play her craft of lush description and characterization.
The Cancer Journals
Published in 1980, a personal work.
Moving between journal entry, memoir, and exposition, Lorde fuses the personal and political as she reflects on her experience coping with breast cancer and a radical mastectomy. Includes photos and tributes to Lorde written after her death in 1992.
Cables to Rage
Published in 1970, poetry.
Poetry that explored her anger at social and personal injustice and contained the first poetic expression of her lesbianism. Her next volumes, From a Land Where Other People Live (1973) and New York Head Shop and Museum (1974), were more rhetorical and political.
Also out of print, but you may be able to find a copy in the library
or a third party bookstore.
Your Silence Will Not Protect You
Published in 2017, a glimpse into future from 1992.
Lorde seems prophetic writing in and about the US of 2017 in which a misogynist with white supremacist followers is president. But she was born in 1934, and died in 1992. She emphasizes how important it is to speak up. To give witness: “What are the words you do not yet have? What do you need to say? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence?
These writers have all earned their place amongst the most influential writers in the literary world. With these short bios and lists of their works, I hope to inspire you to read and learn more about them. Happy reading!
I do not own any of the book cover images, nor the pictures of the writers. They are only used for creative purposes, not for profit. Below are my sources.
https://www.goodreads.com/ (for book cover images), with the exception of the book cover for The Noble Star which came from Wikipedia. All images of the writers themselves came from https://www.wikipedia.org/. Dates accessed 7/16/20 and 7/17/20.
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