Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Rereading... Shawne Johnson


I remember when I first bought "Getting Our Breath Back" back in 2004.

I remember reading about Violet, Lilly and Rose, three sisters, and Imani and thinking to myself that I've never read a book with words that flowed like song lyrics, like poetry, with sentences that would have the scribbly lines underneath them if I typed them in MS Word.

I remember 5 years ago when I thought I was happy in a relationship that consisted of us drinking liquor and smoking cigarettes just to have something to talk about.

I remember bringing this book home to read to him and explaining to him how hard it was for me to read it because of the way it flowed, my mind couldn't comprehend it.

I remember how he said, "Yeah that's deep baby", just a response as empty as our involvement.

I remember thinking that if I ever penned a novel, I wanted to write just as eloquently as Shawne Johnson.

It's no coincidence that I picked up this book again after 5 years. It has been my favorite reading of my 20s and one of many favorites now that I'm in my 30s. As I've come to appreciate my sisterfriends, my mothers and just women in general, I so appreciate this work as it speaks of womanhood, of strength, of love, of beauty.

As I'm rereading it now, I am no longer confused by the run of Ms. Johnson's words. I smile each time I read a paragraph such as where Rose is describing to her daughter, Imani, how being pretty doesn't mean much because "...pretty just is. That's all". And then I sit in awe after the Imani chapter because Shawne Johnson has managed to connect a heart with no body to a child with no father.

At least that's my interpretation...

Five years later and I am no longer confused... I can feel where I have matured, how I have learned so much more about myself, how more comfortable I am in my being. I feel how I connect with Violet, Lilly and with Rose. I can feel even more now that I've kicked my bad relationship, smoking and terrible drinking habits.

I'm pretty sure that if I reread this any other time other than this, my eyes would have passed over the words, I would have taken the story in but not like this. Maybe more deeply, maybe surface. I probably would have thought Violet to be weak, judged Lilly harshly and thought Rose too selfish. Or maybe I would identify more with Violet, be empathic of Lilly, and fascinated with Rose. I truly can't say for sure but I know this time I experience that range of feelings.

I always remembered the plot and how the story ends. I remember Lilly and her striking expressions. I remember how each time she speaks, she's poetic and dreamy. I remember the artistic Rose and her gem of a daughter. An even more prominent connection I feel with this story is remembering how Black Power pulses through each passage and each chapter and now in the throws of this inauguration, now as we're facing tough financial times, now when a BART officer murders a young man, we are still need that Power, that power that is sometimes frightened, proud, discouraged, victimized, abused, elevated, celebrated... power that is "like a prayer"... power that is a current, a fuel and a balm for our souls.

5 comments:

Kiayaphd said...

I have not read this book, nor am I familiar with the author, but it looks like this may be something I need to add to the list.

Thanks for the heads up.

I'm kinda feeling you on your comment about reading an old thing with new eyes. One of the reasons I like to journal is for that very reason. Things may look one way and then reading it years later and you're like, wow!!

TRUTHZ said...

i haven't heard of this either..but i am definitely gonna check it out when i get some time

The True Urban Queen aka Sharon said...

I must admit I have never heard of this book before. I will have to look for it.

MzTeeJaye said...

I've heard of this book but never picked it up..you make me want to read it

Torrance Stephens - All-Mi-T said...

maybe u will read some of my books one day

just have faith folk.

Nice spot u have here, hope u don’t mind the drive by, do chk me out one day

rawdawgbuffalo and if u like what u read, maybe u will come back, even Blog Roll Me