[Note from Frolic: We’re so excited to have writer and poet Jasmine Mans guest posting on the site today. She’s sharing the inspiration behind her stunning poetry collection Black Girl, Call Home. Take it away, Jasmine!]
Writing Black Girl, Call Home has been, indeed, a scary experience. I think we are always, constantly, trying to remember our truth. We are always trying to remember what happened to us. Black Girl, Call Home started with me trying to remember myself. For many of us, to go inside ourselves is a scary thing, we don’t know what we’ll find.
Soon enough, family became very important in this text. I am learning how to write with truth and honor, even when those things conflict in the story. I wanted my family to feel honored, and cared for in my writing. I did not want to relinquish the harsh truth that revolves around family but I wanted to honor the complex love there. Something that I sought to color, instead of diminish.
I wrote about my grandmother’s battle with cancer because, on many days, it was most present for me. I sat in her chemo treatment updating and editing my manuscript. Her energy made its way into this book. For me to acknowledge cancer in Black Girl, Call Home was my way of acknowledging time. I think, as writers, we fear writing things into existence, but we also seek to write things out of existence. Writing pieces of my grandmother in this book was both homage and healing.
This book holds all of my heartbreaks, maybe every relationship I’ve ever been in. Ohh and it makes me feel ugly. Reading those specific poems remind me of people I hurt, and how poetry may not be poetry at all, but us using language to out stay our welcome. I have written a poem to every woman I ever loved. I know that, sometimes, I’m not writing to be a poet. Sometimes I write because I want someone to come back for me.
Throughout this book I wanted to include moments that were unique to Black Women: our language, food, hair, and sisterhood. I hope this book feels like a good inside joke between Black Girls, that it conjures a good memory of “girlness”.
“Girlness” has been paramount in this writing quest. In so many books and films we see the Black girl as already woman. “Girlship” was never something we were allowed to claim. The Black child has always been called an adult to suit how America wanted to abuse them. I wanted to use my writing to be very specific about “girlness”. It was important to be a daughter in this book. It was important for every woman in this book to be a daughter. It was important to honor girl bodies.
I sought to find the texture of youth not just in my story, but for the 4 little girls in Birmingham, for my own mother, and in turn, I’d discover a world of a woman.
Writing Black Girl, Call Home taught me that art is not about mastery or a Western standard of “goodness”. Black Girl, Call Home is about how well I can capture my mother’s Mac and Cheese. It’s about being about being able to perfectly remember the house my grandmother had to sell. These stories are mine. Black Girl, Call Home taught me that if I could find my own story, it would be worth telling. I found the “worthiness.”
About the Author:
Jasmine Mans is a Black American poet, artist from Newark, New Jersey. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin Madison, with a B.A. in African American Studies. Her debut collection of poetry, Chalk Outlines of Snow Angels, was published in 2012. Mans is the resident poet at the Newark Public Library. She was a member of The Strivers Row Collective.
About Black Girl, Call Home:
From spoken word poet Jasmine Mans comes an unforgettable poetry collection about race, feminism, and queer identity.
With echoes of Gwendolyn Brooks and Sonia Sanchez, Mans writes to call herself—and us—home. Each poem explores what it means to be a daughter of Newark, and America—and the painful, joyous path to adulthood as a young, queer Black woman.
Black Girl, Call Home is a love letter to the wandering Black girl and a vital companion to any woman on a journey to find truth, belonging, and healing.