Monday, May 11, 2009

Book Review: by Gary Earl Ross

Gary Earl Ross, a Buffalo English professor, novelist and playwright recently wrote the following review of our book. He has sent an excerpt to Essence, which is posted on their blog

The election of the first African-American president will be recorded as a signal event in the history of 21st Century America, a giant leap for a nation attempting to shed its troubled past on the road to the fulfillment of its creed. But the elevation of Barack Obama's wife Michelle to the role of First Lady will be remembered as nothing less than inspirational. Her presence on the international stage makes tangible for the world the strength of the African-American woman, a strength that has long been the foundation upon which communities of color are built. Go, Tell Michelle, African-American Women Write to the New First Lady is a deft, complex, heartfelt celebration of that strength. Compiled and edited by Barbara A. Seals Nevergold and Peggy Brooks-Bertram, the book is a many-faceted love letter laden with history, herstory, empathy, and hope.

Inspired by the dignity and accomplishments of the new First Lady-to-be, Nevergold and Brooks-Bertram, founders of the Uncrowned Queens Institute for Research and Education on Women, located at the University at Buffalo, issued a call for writing from Black women addressed directly to Michelle Obama. The response was overwhelming and international, with letters and poems coming in from all over the United States, the Caribbean, and Africa. The resulting book has the words of contributors from all walks of life: writers, professors, nurses, administrators, artists, teachers, entrepreneurs, social workers, consultants, mental health professionals, engineers. They are mothers, grandmothers, wives, daughters, aunts--all sisters, all bound by memories of the past and visions of the future. Their writings are laced with kinship, pride, concern, affection, advice, encouragement, faith, hope, gratitude, and joy. Most of the entries begin with "Dear Michelle," revealing the sense of personal connection felt by so many writers. That several begin with "Dearest Michelle" underscores how heartfelt the pieces are.

Still, the letters reveal much more about their authors than they do about
Michelle Obama. Individual stories are remarkable. Faith Childs-Davis recalls the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., on her ninth birthday. Cynthia A. Bond Hopson describes her home in Tennessee as the site of the 1960-61 Tent City, for African-Americans driven out of their houses for having voted. Jacqueline Frazier writes of a grandmother who narrowly escaped being lynched in 1931. After sharing the hope and support of the poor women of her native Niger, Zeinabou Hadari writes, "I childishly dream of getting an autograph from you." Shirley A. James
Hanshaw even includes a recipe for pecan pie!

Go, Tell Michelle is a wonderful linking of women's arms in nurturing celebration of the new First Lady. It sings to her--and to all of us--"You will not be alone." It is a fine way to close the first decade of the 21st Century.
May 7, 2009

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