I am diving into Substack after a lot of deliberation over whether I should just keep writing for free on my personal blog about books or if there was a way to cultivate an audience just for the book reviews and commentary that I’ve been creating over the last year over on YouTube on my Book Tube channel, Black Book Stacks. This newsletter is the result of that contemplation.
If you’re reading this, chances are you have seen me posting about my puppy on Instagram or Twitter, or maybe you’ve read some of my work over the years. I’m a former newspaper reporter - I was in the second class of Hearst Newspaper Fellows more than 20 years ago and I’ve been a reporter for the Houston Chronicle, the Beaumont Enterprise, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Austin American-Statesman. Back in Austin, I also earned a library science degree from the University of Texas at Austin (Hook ‘em!), mostly because I love libraries and also because I adore Audre Lorde, who was a trained librarian who contributed timeless commentary on just about everything decades ago.
I’ve been publishing poetry, fiction, essays, Op-Eds and random social media content since 1998. Being an early adopter (or, in this case, a little late) has always excited me because it is, in a way, just like being a writer: You create something, you put it out there into the world, and you get little ping backs letting you know who your people are, and who really gets it, and where you really messed stuff up and you need to try again. Nothing seems as good for the soul as failing in public, even if it’s not so good for the heartburn.
My book reviews have appeared in Bitch Magazine, the newspapers I mentioned above, the New York Times Book Review, TIME Magazine, the Boston Globe, Publishers Weekly and I had the great pleasure of interviewing authors for some time for Kirkus Reviews.
There have been times in my career when I was confused about whether it was beneficial or detrimental to my career to actually enjoy what looked to some as being pigeonholed — as the only Black journalist, or one of a few Black journalist at the publications I’ve worked at, I was often automatically volunteered to write “the Black stories” and also to write about the Black books. Sometimes it feels like a continuation of the historical lack of imagination that legacy or traditional media has for creators or reporters of color and it has also allowed me to make a living in many ways by writing about an area of literature that deserves and requires the particular context and care that I am honored to have the skillset to provide.
I hope if you’re a fan of work that is often dismissed or underrated, marginalized and written about without nuance or the proper context, that you will find my work here of value.