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  • Writer's pictureArchuleta A. Chisolm

Why My Upcoming Book Is Specifically For Black Women

After I released my first book in 2006, it seemed that I was embarking upon a new stage of my life, even though I didn’t know what the heck I was doing. On the outside, I had what appeared to be the perfect life. I was married, lived in a beautiful house, and had a good job. Truth be told, I was full of grief and miserable. My marriage was falling apart, and the family I desperately wanted was not going to be a reality. I hated my good accounting job. I was going through the motions. I was vulnerable. I lost my self-identity and faded into anxiety and depression.

The one thing I did have were notebooks full of poems that stared at me every day. I stared back at them with resistance. One day, I mustered the strength to submit them to a publisher and I was holding my book nearly a year later. Heaven Knows Your Existence was everything; a hodgepodge of poems from my adolescence and young adulthood. They didn’t have much form or flow, but they spoke honestly to who I was at that time. Surprisingly, the book spoke to women and I found myself with a community I didn’t know I needed.

Since the pandemic started, I’ve been pouring into my fourth poetry book, When We Breathe, that focuses solely on Black women and their relationship to their unique experiences, and to each other. These poems depict Black women being not only strong, but strength in the flesh. Yet the “strong black woman” trope is not the foundation here. Rather, these poems are an acknowledgement of the resilient Black woman who explores her emotions.

I don’t declare myself a feminist but I champion Black women’s stories in my writing, and will always amplify their voices. In When We Breathe, Black women’s emotions, especially those that stem from mistreatment and disrespect, are expressed through how we view, accept, and manage our life experiences. We can acknowledge there can be hurt in how much we sacrifice, how much we give, how much we do, yet still have light to honor and reconcile ourselves.

The book title is remembering Black women’s lives lost. However, instead of allowing that unpleasantness to halt our lives, we push forward turning those experiences into a revival of our own spirit. It is a nod to the life awaiting us. A life that is our birthright.

(When We Breathe)

When We Breathe is more than a collection of poems for Black women, or even a showcase of my own humanity. It is a narrative of how Black women’s healing is communal. We need each other. We must hear each other. We must see each other. Healing might arrive through writing, cooking for one another, holding hands in solidarity, or simply standing in the presence of those who are in pain. This book touches on many forms of heartbreak but it shows that pain does not ravage the Black woman’s experience but rather revives it, for it is through that pain that we recognize our own resolve.

We may be separated by various things - proximity, wealth, privilege - but we still connect through emotion. None of us are immune to pain and letdown. It is not unusual or uncommon. When We Breathe invites Black women to rest in who they are – not who anyone says they should be or how they should feel.

When We Breathe will release January 2021.


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