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Novelist, Educator. @JoshundaSanders on Twitter | @joshunda on IG.

Celebrating a Profound Literary Inheritance: Glory Edim on the Well-Read Black Girl Anthology

Authors Jesmyn Ward, Jacqueline Woodson, and Lynn Nottage. Tina Fineberg / Associated Press, Jessica Gow / Associated Press, Charles Sykes / Associated Press

Joshunda Sanders | Longreads | November 2018 | 10 minutes (2,718 words)

More than three years ago, in July 2015, Glory Edim sent her first Well-Read Black Girl newsletter, describing how she came to personally experience Black Girl Magic for the first time: through an “enchantment with storytelling” that began with Eloise Greenfield’s Honey, I Love and Other Love Poems.

Greenfield’s first book of poems, Honey, I Love was initially published in 1978 before subsequent reissues and has become a modern-day classic. Long before renewed calls for representation and increased diversity in children’s literature, Greenfield wrote a picture book inspired by the title poem alone. It was illustrated by Diane and Leo Dillon and features a Black girl on the cover — in part because, though Greenfield went on to write 40 books, she was unable to find books for her own children to read and see themselves in before she wrote her own.

“I liked that phrase, ‘Honey, let me tell you,’” Greenfield said in a 1997 National Council of Teachers of English profile. “It was a phrase that was used a lot by African American people, but it had not reached the point where it had become stereotyped. So I wanted to use that, and that’s where the title came from. And I wanted to write about things that children love, about childhoods where there may or may not be much money, but there’s so much fun.”

These sentiments from Greenfield — taking a Black expression usually uttered with intimacy between women and making it a public affirmation of love centered on children — shaped for Edim a landscape of possibility. “I recognized myself immediately on the page;” Edim writes, “a Black girl with wide eyes, full lips, and thick braided hair. The book was my first introduction to poetry that was full of rhythm and everyday language. I was delighted to learn that my trip to the grocery store could be a poem.”

At five years old, Edim was proud to be Black. It set her on a path that would lead her to establish a lifelong ritual of reading as self-discovery — from Greenfield to “authors like Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker, Audre Lorde, Maya Angelou – and many more…their books and profound literary legacy have become my inheritance.” Read more…

Who Sank El Faro? An Interview With Rachel Slade

Bob Self/The Florida Times-Union via AP

Joshunda Sanders | Longreads | May 2018 | 14 minutes (3,119 words)

El Faro rolled farther into the wind, exhausted by the fight, until her deck edge dipped into the brine. Superheated Caribbean waters beckoned her in. The ship’s floors turned to the sky and became walls, her walls became ceilings. She was going gently into the eternal night of the deep ocean.

Two people remained on the bridge as she sank.

“Captain,” Frank Hamm pleaded. “Captain. Captain.”

Davidson braced himself on the high side of the bridge, looking down what was now the steep ramp of the floor. At the end of it, the heavy seaman was pinned to the corner by gravity and fear. He couldn’t climb up to the starboard side of the bridge to get out. The angle of the floor was too steep.

“Come on, Frank,” Davidson said. “We gotta move. You gotta get up. You gotta snap out of it. And we gotta get out.”

— from Into The Raging Sea: Thirty-Three Mariners, One Megastorm, and The Sinking of El Faro

Rachel Slade has never lived more than five miles from the Atlantic — she lives in Massachusetts and Maine — and her admiration for the ocean ripples through Into the Raging Sea. The poetic gaze of a boat-lover, sailor, rower and coxswain is apparent on every page.

Slade’s book is a comprehensive account of what led to the mysterious October 2015 sinking of the shipping vessel El Faro. While on an oft-charted path delivering goods from Jacksonville, Florida, to Puerto Rico, El Faro sailed directly into Hurricane Joaquin. It was the deadliest American maritime event in more than three decades.

More than the story of how a ship was overcome by a storm, Into The Raging Sea is an allegory for what it means to be a part of the nation’s largely invisible working and middle class. Mariners are literally set adrift and set apart from the rest of us for many weeks and months at a time, out of view and, apparently, out of the reach of the rules and regulations that should protect them. Read more…