You Oughta Know: Don’t Shake the Spoon Literary Journal

On November 17th, I got to attend the Miami Book Fair for the first time. I didn’t get toDon't Shake the Spoon spend nearly as much time exploring and attending talks as I would have liked, but I’m profiling a couple of the sessions I attended and books I came across during my brief day experiencing the fair. As I’ve been processing everything I was exposed to and thinking of how I wanted to share it, the first thing I knew I had to share, the thing I wanted everyone who didn’t experience it to know about, was Exchange for Change and their literary journal, Don’t Shake the Spoon.

Before hearing about them at the Miami Book Fair, I didn’t know Exchange for Change existed. If you’re similarly unaware, here’s the description of the program from their website:

The nonprofit Exchange for Change teaches writing in prisons and runs letter exchanges between incarcerated students and writers studying on the outside.

Through this program, many inmates are learning to express themselves and wield the power of the written word. I’m absolutely here for a program that brings the power and dignity of being able to express yourself and share your story to those who might have never known that power.

Don’t Shake the Spoon is a literary journal filled with poems, essays and stories produced in the courses taught by Exchange for Change. They are currently selling their first volume, which I immediately purchased after hearing several pieces performed by guest speakers and volunteers. Listening to the pieces read at the fair and reading through the pieces in the journal, I’m struck all over again at the immense amount of talent existing within people that many have gone their whole lives not realizing they have. I walked away wanting to do something to facilitate this exchange of words and world views, to cultivate a conversation about our justice system, and to just be a part of something that can change someone’s perception of their freedom even in imprisonment.

I’m not attempting to argue about the how’s and why’s of people ending up in prison. I realize the conversations around rehabilitation and prison reform are much broader and nuanced than a simple post can address, and the answers much more complicated than the questions make them seem. What I am attempting to do is to shed a little light on what I think is an amazing literary journal, and an amazing endeavor undertaken by Exchange for Change.

If you’re interested in own voices, then I suggest you give this journal a try. If you’re in the Miami Area and are interested in seeing the students perform their original works at one of the upcoming graduations, or you want to get involved with Exchange for Change, please visit their website.

Stay tuned to find out how one session with National Book Award Non-Fiction Finalists piqued my interest in a topic that usually leaves me with extreme fatigue.

Your Turn: What wonderful book have you recently stumbled upon? Share it in the comments!

Get in My Kindle: Well Read Black Girl

Happy Monday, fellow book lovers! If you’re a lover of essay collections, today’s Get in My Kindle might be right up your alley. This book will also appeal to those seeking to add more diversity to their reading list.  *Thus far, Get in My Kindle is not a sponsored post, and I haven’t been given an advance reader copy of the book featured. I’m simply sharing the books I’m interested in reading as soon as they come out. 

Title: Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering OurselvesWell Read Black Girl

Author: Glory Edim

Release Date: October 30, 2018

Description: Remember that moment when you first encountered a character who seemed to be written just for you? That feeling of belonging remains with readers the rest of their lives—but not everyone regularly sees themselves on the pages of a book. In this timely anthology, Glory Edim brings together original essays by some of our best black women writers to shine a light on how important it is that we all—regardless of gender, race, religion, or ability—have the opportunity to find ourselves in literature.

Contributors include Jesmyn Ward (Sing, Unburied, Sing), Lynn Nottage (Sweat), Jacqueline Woodson (Another Brooklyn), Gabourey Sidibe (This Is Just My Face), Morgan Jerkins (This Will Be My Undoing), Tayari Jones (An American Marriage), Rebecca Walker (Black, White and Jewish), and Barbara Smith (Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology)

Whether it’s learning about the complexities of femalehood from Zora Neale Hurston and Toni Morrison, finding a new type of love in The Color Purple, or using mythology to craft an alternative black future, the subjects of each essay remind us why we turn to books in times of both struggle and relaxation. As she has done with her book club–turned–online community Well-Read Black Girl, in this anthology Glory Edim has created a space in which black women’s writing and knowledge and life experiences are lifted up, to be shared with all readers who value the power of a story to help us understand the world and ourselves.

Why I Can’t Wait to Read: I’ve been watching what the Well Read Black Girl brand has been doing for quite some time. As a well read black girl myself, I’ve loved using their website and book club to find books recommendations I wouldn’t have come across otherwise. I was very excited to see that founder Glory Edim was putting together a collection with many contemporary authors whose work I admire. When I learned the focus of the collection was on representation in literature and included stories of when these amazing authors first saw themselves in literature, I knew I had to get my hot little hands on it. I’m a reader who loves reading about when others fell in love with books and reading, when they first saw themselves in a story, and when they first became a reader or writer, and the fact that this collection includes stories of women of color gave it a special twist for me. I wonder if any of the books that changed me will make an appearance in the essays, and if my new favorite writers have a personal connection to the works of my favorite classic authors. I’m fascinated by other authors’ influences, so I’m counting the moments until I get to devour this one.

Amazon Associate links:

Paperback:


Kindle version:

Are you a fan of essay collections? Will Well Read Black Girl make your TBR pile? Any other essay collections or diverse literature you’re looking forward to this fall? Let me know in the comments section!