Author Deesha Philyaw hand-picks 5 selections to awaken an enlightened version of ourselves.
– KEYS SOULCARE
Deesha Philyaw is an author, mother, friend, and connector who loves bringing people and ideas together to widen perspectives — both of themselves and of the world around them.
Her recently published book, The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, explores themes of authentic living, fear, pleasure, and freedom through nine unique stories as well as the lens of Black church culture and teachings.
We chatted with Deesha about the perspective-widening books that have inspired and shaped her perspective — just as she’s done for us and others.
What’s the best feedback you’ve gotten about your own book?
I love hearing from readers that the book has sparked healing conversations between them and their mothers or other loved ones. Or, that it’s helped them see their mothers or other church women in their lives as fully realized people. It’s also been interesting to hear from men who say that reading the book felt like eavesdropping on women’s conversations and that they learned something they didn’t know about women’s experiences and perspectives.
In your opinion, how can we see ourselves and fellow humans more fully (and less secretively) as we move through life?
Look at people through the lens of justice. Where there is injustice, people’s full humanity isn’t being recognized or respected. When you recognize someone’s humanity, you want justice for them — the same as you want for yourself. And, you commit to the hard work of pursuing justice on their behalf.
Obvious question! Which books continue to inspire you, and/or have allowed you to see the world more fully?
Milk Blood Heat by Dantiel W. Moniz
I discovered via Twitter that Dantiel is my homegirl; she’s also from Jacksonville. Her incredible debut collection of stories serves up Florida and longing in ways that make me nostalgic, but also aware of how much I don’t know about the place I left more than 30 years ago, yet still call home.
The Prophets by Robert Jones, Jr.
I usually have a hard time with stories set during slavery, but when a book is written from a place of deep love and even deeper knowing, as this one is, I’m pulled right into it. Jones’ storytelling is fantastic.
You Don’t Have to Go to Mars for Love by Yona Harvey
Love, family, bodies, Afro-futurism, Chaka Khan… there’s so, so much in this collection of poems. I love reading them aloud, which forces me to slow down, hear the music in them, and to sit with the spaces and sighs between the lines.
Finna by Nate Marshall
The title of this collection grabbed me first because it felt like home. These poems delight in and wrangle with language and vernacular in a way that captures my attention and curiosity, which is no easy feat during this pandemic.
Oreo by Fran Ross
There are only a few satirical novels by Black women, and this one, first published in 1974, is still so fresh, brilliant, and laugh-out-loud funny. I’m re-reading it, this time with a closer eye on Ross’ craft, but again savoring what she had to say about race, class, and sexuality.
Have you read any of Deesha’s picks? Have more faves of your own to share? Let’s get reading — and chatting — in the comments.