Book Review! BLACK JOY – An Essay Collection

picture of Lois holding a copy of Black Joy.

Black Joy by Various

Black Joy is an unapologetically freeing collection of essays, edited by Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff, an award-winning journalist and editor and Timi Sotire, also a journalist specialising in music and culture. It was recently released in the U.K. on 2nd September so the paperback edition is not yet available at the time of writing this but you can purchase the hardback and kindle versions on Amazon.

I thought long and hard about how best to express my appreciation for this book such that you would be moved to read it. There’s still so much ambivalence in the book community towards Black voices and their stories in favour of more dominant white-centric narratives. But to only read those stories is to miss out on such gems as 𝐁π₯𝐚𝐜𝐀 𝐉𝐨𝐲, a euphoric expression of the many ways in which Black people can find joy in spite of the relentless racial challenges and othering that typically signifies our experiences.

From essays about revolutionising the way we perceive masculinity to Carnival to Caribbean food to creating spaces for Black people to enjoy cultural expression to finding joy in existential nihilism to dancing the Electric Slide to ‘Candy’ by Cameo, these essays discuss how 𝐁π₯𝐚𝐜𝐀 𝐉𝐨𝐲 can either be a deeply personal or collective experience. There were some golden lines in this book, positive affirmations inspire confidence and self-acceptance. I also love how every chapter ends with an interactive exercise in finding one’s own joy.

“As much as we should value and uplift individuals, to find our joy as a generation we have to move into a space where Black mediocrity is valued as much as Black excellence.” pg. 212

“Sacrificing my comfort in the name of other people’s opinions is something I no longer wish to do.” pg. 237

This book resonated with me in a way that touched the core of my identity. I felt so seen and understood in the small details expressed by these essayists; eating rice and peas with my family (but with gungo peas not kidney beans) sitting between mother’s legs whilst she put Blue Magic grease in my hair, listening to Soca music with my dad, it was so refreshing to be able to connect so deeply with this book.

Unfortunately some editing mistakes were made that I couldn’t overlook. I’m not sure if it was the advance reader copy that I received but pages 280 to 282 were printed in the wrong order! πŸ˜– And I did slightly cringe inside when Harrow Road (my ends) in London was referred to as ‘the Kensal Green high street’ in otherwise what was a beautifully construed essay.

Some essays might feel too feverishly giddy but those moments are also of crucial importance. With all the trauma we see around us, sometimes the best way to keep up the fight against inequality is to give yourself the freedom to seek pure, unadulterated joy and not feel guilty about it!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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