(Review) Out of No Way: Madam C. J. Walker and A’Lelia Walker, A Poetic Drama by Roje Augustin

Publisher and Publication Date: Boukman Press. May 9, 2020.
Genre: Poetry.
Pages: 106.
Source: I had originally received a complimentary pdf. I could not view the book, so I bought my own copy at Amazon. My review is of a self-purchased eBook Kindle copy. This review is my own opinion. I was not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of poetry. Women aged 18-55, young adults, high school and college students, teachers and professors, cultural institutions like Museum of African American History and Culture, etc.
Rating: Excellent.

Amazon link

I am apart of the Poetic Book Tours for this book of poetry.

Author Information:
Rojé Augustin is a native New Yorker who grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Her first novel, The Unraveling of Bebe Jones, on which her drama series pitch BEAU REVE is based, won the 2013 National Indie Excellence Award in African American fiction. She wrote the novel while
living in London and Sydney as a stay-at-home-mom. She established Breaknight Films shortly after her move to Sydney in 2009 to develop and produce projects across a range of formats, including television, web, and audio. Her first Sydney based project was a podcast and visual web
series called The Right Space, which explores the relationship between creatives and their workspace. In 2013, Rojé’s script The Weekly: Women Who Shaped a Nation was selected for the Australian Writer’s Guild Pathways Program. In May 2020, Rojé published a debut poetry
collection titled, Out of No Way Madam C.J. Walker and A’Lelia Walker, A Poetic Drama, which tells the story of Madam Walker’s phenomenal life story. Rojé continues to work as a producer while also writing in her spare time. She is an Australian citizen who currently lives in Sydney with
her Aussie husband and two daughters.

Summary:
A dramatic poetry book that tells the remarkable rags-to-riches story of Madam C.J. Walker and her daughter A’Lelia Walker.
New York, NY, July 2020 — Author, producer and emerging poet Rojé Augustin has written a groundbreaking debut collection of dramatic poems about hair care entrepreneur Madam C.J. Walker and her daughter A’Lelia Walker.
Out of No Way: Madam C.J. Walker & A’Lelia Walker, A Poetic Drama tracks Walker’s phenomenal rise from penniless orphan to America’s first self-made female millionaire in dramatic verse.
Born Sarah Breedlove to former Louisiana slaves in 1867, Madam C.J. Walker was orphaned at seven, married at 14, became a mother at 17, and was widowed at 20. After the death of her first husband, Sarah moved to St. Louis with her daughter where she earned $1.50 a day as a washerwoman. When her hair starting falling out she developed a remedy and sold her formula across the country. In the process she became the wealthiest Negro woman in America.
Rojé’s highly original and accomplished poetry is written through the lens of the mother/daughter relationship via different poetic forms — from lyric poems to haikus, blackout poetry to narrative (one poem takes its inspiration from Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Raven’) — with each chapter
addressing issues relevant to their lives at the time. Written against the backdrop of the Jim Crow era, Out of No Way is ultimately an examination of what W.E.B Du Bois called “conflicting identities.” Sarah was a proud African American on the one hand and a woman seeking America’s
acceptance on the other. She was a pauper who achieved the American Dream while denied the rights and protections of the American Constitution. She was a wife, mother, and business woman who juggled the demands of family with the demands of career. And she was an orphan who had to transcend a brutal childhood in order to be a loving mother to her child. As Du Bois stated at the time, “One ever feels a two-ness. An American, A Negro…Two warring ideals in one dark body.”
Indeed Madam C.J. Walker/Sarah Breedlove was an American and a Negro, as was her daughter, A’Lelia Walker, both of whom likely viewed herself through their own conflicting identities. What did they see?
Out of No Way tells Walker’s remarkable rags-to-riches story by exploring thoughtful questions —
What impact did Sarah’s busy work life have on A’Lelia? What was the bond between a mother orphaned so young and the daughter who might wait days or weeks for her return? Could the death of her parents when she was a child have compromised Sarah’s nurturing instincts? How did A’Lelia feel about their newfound wealth? What, if any, were the drawbacks of that wealth?
Rojé’s collection of dramatic poems joins an exciting line up of works about Madam C.J. Walker and A’Lelia Walker — from a forthcoming book by Walker’s great-great granddaughter, A’Lelia Bundles, to Self Made a Netflix original series, this trailblazing woman’s life story serves as an important reminder that race is a barbaric construct to be dismantled and discarded for good.

My Thoughts:
These poems are original and evocative, but the first word that comes to my mind is powerful.

The poems are deeply emotional. My first impression is the love between the mother and daughter. However, there are other emotions explored. For example, the fear and anguish because of the lynchings and murders.

Some examples of the types of poetry is acrostic, alliteration, couplet, dramatic monologue, elegy, epistle, lament, and occasional poem.
I love the creative idea and work of using different types of poetry. I feel this is original and brilliant.

Included is a speech given by Madam C. J. Walker at an Anti-Lynching Conference in June 1918.

My favorites poems:
Lelia, Knoxville College 1902-1904 “Reading”
The Prison of Racism that Hate Built
The Salon that Art Built
The Lost Letters

Included are quotes from: Ancient Proverb, Booker T. Washington, Frederick Douglass, and Susie King Taylor.

(Review) Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Publisher and Publication Date: Harper Perennial Modern Classics. 2013. First published in 1937.
Genre: Fiction. Women and literature. African American literature. Classic literature. Romance. Relationships between men and women.
Pages: The story has 219 pages. An additional 40 pages for the “Foreword”, “Afterword”, 2 bibliographies, “Chronology”, “P.S.” section, and an excerpt of Barracoon.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of women and literature. Readers of classic literature.
Rating: Excellent.

PBS Great American Read Top 100 Pick

Christian Book link
Abe Books link
Amazon link

Zora Neale Hurston, 1891-1960

Summary:
Their Eyes Were Watching God is the story of Janie Crawford. She is a light-skinned African American woman living in a rural area of Florida. The time period is the early 20th century. She is raised by her maternal grandmother. The first part of her life is determined by her grandmother and first husband. Then, like a sudden direction change in the wind, Janie is married to another man who takes control of her life. Later, Janie’s life take a different direction.

My Thoughts:
Janie is independent, rebellious, bold, and resilient. She is a person who ponders. She is a person who makes up her mind about a decision and moves forward with determination.
I enjoyed reading the “Foreword” by Edwidge Danticat. It provided well thought-out questions and answers about the story itself. Also, Janie’s choices versus women of this era’s choices. And, has she been a solid “role model for women” and “is this important?”
Their Eyes Were Watching God is a character driven narrative. Janie is a character that provides through her thoughts, attitude, words, behavior, and actions everything needed to make the story dramatic and memorable.
The narrative structure is chronological. The story begins when Janie is a child and progresses to midlife.
This story is less about “what is going to happen next” and more about how Janie is transforming as a person.
This is a story that is full of things to review. It’s a story heavy with further conversations. It is a book highly worthy of a book club.

Questions I have about the story:
~If Janie had children would she have made the same choices?
~Did Janie (at some point) understand her grandmother’s reasoning?
~Why did she tolerate certain behavior from one husband, but not the other husband?

Further Thoughts:
The dialogue is difficult for some readers. They become bogged down in the southern sayings, dialect, and accent. It’s best to read through the dialogue quickly and don’t stop to try and enunciate each word.
The story has author contributions. For example, the behind the scenes information and wise observations.
The story is filled with beautiful quotes. The opening line is beautiful, poetic, and memorable.

Their Eyes Were Watching God is a story that provokes my mind and heart. The choices I have made. The experiences I have had. And, my response to those.

Their Eyes Were Watching God is now a favorite book of mine. It’s a story I treasure.