"Black Joy: Stories of Resistance, Resilience, and Restoration," Reviewed by Catherine Wood
It often can feel as though joy is running scarce in the world today, with issues such as social injustice and inequality, a collective decline in mental health, climate change, and the pandemic, to name a few. However, Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts’ Black Joy: Stories of Resistance, Resilience, and Restoration, coming out in February 2022, weaves her own life into a collection of thirty-six nonfiction essays that elaborate on how she was able to find true joy through her heritage, her family, and her heart. Lewis-Giggetts is an experienced writer and in her sixteenth book she demonstrates her writing prowess and knowledge of current events. She teaches as a professor of English and Black Studies at the Community College of Philadelphia, and her passionate support of social justice can be seen in all of her works. The book’s epigraph, a quote by Toni Morrison, concisely describes Black Joy’s purpose: in the face of racism and hatred “there is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.”
Black Joy is divided into three sections: “… as resistance,” “…as resilience,” and “…as restoration.” In “... as resistance,” Lewis-Giggetts focuses on the ways in which systemic racism can cause Black people to feel hopeless and defeated. She says that she finds hope to be a slippery and elusive thing, one that can be snatched away very easily by watching the news and seeing the acts of violence towards people of color. However, she reminds her audience just how beautiful Black culture is, and the ways that they should fight back against these injustices by continuing to find joy in their lives. Black culture is so much more than just tragedy. Everyone who is protesting for racial equality has to decide if they will let racism steal their joy, which the author asserts is all they can truly claim. In “... as resilience,” she continues by explaining that these traumatic experiences can manifest in physical pain for Black Americans, and the key to limiting this hurt is through latching onto joy. Finally, Lewis-Giggetts concludes with “restoration”--the ways in which Black people can join together and form communities to fully embrace Black joy and lift one another up. She describes Black restoration as a solution that brings comfort and uses methods such as melody, comedy, music, heritage, and customs.
This book is a powerful ode to Black culture, current events, and finding the good in everyday life. Lewis-Giggetts writes in a deceptively simple and straightforward style, making it accessible to a wide variety of people, but her prose is very beautiful and she makes poignant, resonant points on practically every page. To me, it felt like a very timely and important piece, because the events of 2020-2021 have worn out and beaten down people. Lewis-Giggetts’ Black Joy reminds her readers that throughout difficult and traumatizing times, the best way to overcome despair is through forming communities based on kindness, love, and compassion. She specifically speaks to Black people, reminding them that they are valuable even when the news tells them otherwise, that they can internalize the ideas of Black Joy to help them persevere. Overall, I found this collection of essays to be a powerful tale of fighting hatred with love, and although it feels particularly devoted towards BIPOC communities, the story of human perseverance can resonate with any reader. Whenever you begin to feel as though your life is lacking positivity, simply pick up Black Joy to remember how to seek out true joy and love, for yourself and others.
Black Joy: Stories of Resistance, Resilience, and Restoration
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts
Catherine Wood is a junior English major with minors in Business and Communication. She lives in Rhode Island and currently attends Villanova University in PA. She loves nothing more than a good book.