Eldridge Cleaver’s Soul on Ice—Still Relevant 50 years later

Eldridge Cleaver, Soul on Ice

Soul on Ice is comprised of different writings—essays, letters, and musings by Eldridge Cleaver, a former Black Panther Ministry of Information party leader. He writes about who he was, what he did, and why. He does not hide anything: his past actions, his past anger, his past crimes. He also writes about who he becomes, and from Folsom Prison he writes about being 18 years old in 1954, the “crucial turning point in the history of the Afro-American—for the U.S.A. as a whole—the year segregation was outlawed by the U.S. Supreme Court” (Cleaver, 3), which was when he started serving a sentence for possession of pot. This decision shaped what it was like “to be black in white America.” (Cleaver, 3)

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Roxane Gay’s Hunger Helped Me Recognize My Goth Roots Stem from Something Darker

Hunger, Roxane Gay, Bad Feminist

Roxane Gay‘s latest book, Hunger, opens up with “Every body has a story and a history. Here I offer mine with a memoir of my body and my hunger.” (3). Gay writes of being fat in a world that shames and demeans people for taking up space. And she looks at her body’s history: how did she get where she is? Why does she weigh so much? What happened to create this body? It wasn’t merely eating. It wasn’t just not taking exercise or being weak or lazy. I could not handle some of the physical challenges she’s endured. Hunger is not a self-help book, it’s not a feel-good book, nor is it a change-your-life book. And while it is not any of those things, this book is everything to me. This book is a writer opening up about her past, exposing the very things so many of us don’t talk about, this book made me feel connected to her in a way very few authors do.

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Patti Smith Writes About Nothing in M Train…So she writes.

Patti Smith, M Train

Patti Smith spoke at a church in Berkeley and did an impromptu musical performance. Her self-deprecating humor was exquisitely charming. Her book, M Train, is about nothing. Really, on page one, first paragraph, first sentence, she writes, “It’s not so easy writing about nothing.” (Smith, 1). I devoured M Train. I was on vacation in New Mexico reading it, at my Aunt’s ranch, sitting on the porch, drinking coffee out of my deceased Uncle’s mug. Everything felt so connected, so immediately relevant. And yet, I suspect I would relate to this book and connect everything wherever I was while reading it.

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Death-A-versaries: The Annual Mourning of Seedy Wofford

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Last week I started to feel numb. I realized I was feeling off and couldn’t figure out why. And then, it clicked. Clay’s death-a-versary. This is the third year since he died. And I’m horrible at dates. I can’t remember people’s birthdays. I never know anniversaries when I’m dating someone. I never bother to pay attention. So why would I remember a death-a-versary? But my body knows. My body mourns and reminds me of the great loss of the weirdest, coolest, most annoying, most awesome person, Clay Wofford, aka CD Wofford, aka, Seedy Wofford.

And of course, this day reminds me of the deterioration of his body and mind. And subsequently, the deterioration of our friendship. For years after we broke up, we remained friends. We were in weekly contact: at some points, daily contact.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates’ New History in Between the World and Me

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Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote Between the World and Me as a letter to his fifteen year old son growing into a black man in America. This letter, is 152 pages long. Because this work feels precisely like a letter, it results almost in guilt while reading it because you feel all the love and pain and anguish and anger that Coates experiences and expresses to his son. These are emotions that aren’t generally shared when writing about American history.* Books about history can induce anger, frustration, and guilt, but those are experienced by the reader, and not outright expressed by the writer. Why? Because we were told that history is what actually existed. We do not learn until later that history alters by who is telling the history, who is the writer, the “academic.” And so these “history” books we read growing up, are very one-sided, and of course, emotions are removed, falsely assuming objectivity. But how are they objective when they are only telling one version?

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