19 November 2020

Out of No Way, by Rojé Augustin (Poetic Book Tours)

There is beauty in almost all things in the world, but history has its secrets and sad realities. Hidden tales of real people who are forgotten.

To me, it is increasingly saddening to know that there will always be people in history that are forgotten about. It certainly doesn't mean we can't try to do everything we can to make their legacy live on, and that's when we always try to remember, to learn, and to teach each other. It is our responsibility to continue the education, to memorialize the hero by always talking about it over and over to as many people as possible.

Do you know who Madam CJ Walker was? She is the first Black self-made entrepreneur turned millionaire.

Did you know America held a formal Anti-Lynching Conference? And that this same Madam CJ Walker delivered a speech?

It is yet another unbelievable reality that history forgets entrepreneurs like Madam CJ Walker. Or, if remembered at all, briefly discussed. There was only a small overview in an African-American studies class at the University of Maryland many moons ago, but never once do I recall this incredible woman of history in my high school, or earlier, years. Why?

So this is why I am honored to read Rojé Augustin's poetry, to be part of her blog tour hosted by the Poetic Book Tours. I read her work and I'm reminded that I haven't read more poetry in my life, and especially from people of color about people of color, because voices like this cannot be forgotten. Augustin's poetic drama has done something so creatively thought out that when I read each page, I immediately could see her work crafted into a monologue, then into a play of sorts. I realize that a show has already been created on a streaming service, but I can actually see in my mind an authentically different format, into that play; I can even see college students scurrying to figure out which scenes and segments to use to audition for it, and I am inspired. I believe this will happen.

I am getting ahead of myself. Let's talk about all of it. The structure and subject. The beauty of the words. It's safe to say I'm now a huge fan of Augustin.

Rojé Augustin has put onto paper something that is truly memorable and filled with so much story, vigor, and awareness. Madam CJ Walker and her daughter's relationship while developing a product for African-Americans and paving a way for other people of color, while still constantly experiencing racism and more, all told in verse of varying ranges and styles: acrostic, sonnets, haiku, alliteration, and more, like her variation of an Edgar Allen Poe's The Raven), is both stunning and thoughtful; a lyrical play with each achievement of mother and daughter, interspersed with photos and illustrations, some fascinating and intriguing, and some horrifying to see images of American men lynched from trees; yet this is the reality of this one American story. Sometimes it is the very picture of despair in a period of time completely unwilling to support a Black woman with intelligence and determination that makes me so sad; all I wish is that members of the white community group together for educating themselves and not for violence; to instead correct each other on their own preconceived notions and to increase awareness so that our society moves better, kindly, differently.

After all, it is not a Black person's responsibility to always be the ones over and over to educate those who are not marginalized because it is exhausting. It is vitally important for those not of color to do the work, to reflect on where they can make change, to open their minds more so that we can ultimately partner together to further each other and help each advance up that ladder of success.

Racism has no place in America anymore (or ever), and Augustin's work on Madam CJ Walker has become instrumental in reminding us of a history that is simultaneously sad to remember, but crucial to learn so we can help our neighbors, the future Madam CJ Walkers and their daughters. I would imagine we would not ever want to be mired in a past that holds each other brutally back.

So here is a bold statement, my bottom line critique/analysis of Rojé Augustin's work, but I am eager to write it - this might very well be one of the most truly amazing creations I've read in a very long time. A bold statement to many, I am sure, but I am doggedly adamant that this is so. This was an experience to read and I am SO thankful for it. I want to see this everywhere, I want the vision of it being brought to the stage as a play to actually happen. Augustin has presented, in an extremely unique way, the story of an American visionary, the first Black women millionaire, and I want to hear more about her, learn more of other Black voices, because it goes right back to - why don't we learn this history more, and why can't we celebrate these voices more where it becomes part of our curriculum everywhere?

I want to see this as a Broadway play - I'm going to put the positive vibes out there and hope it comes true.

And side note: I also love Augustin's personal story and would love to see her story as a memoir.

About the author

Rojé Augustin is a native New Yorker who grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Her first novel,  The Unraveling of Bebe Jones, won the 2013 National Indie Excellence Award in African American fiction. She wrote the novel while living in London and Sydney as a stay-at-home-mom. She established Breaknight Films shortly after her move to Sydney in 2009 to develop and produce television projects across a range of formats, including television, web, and audio. Her first Sydney based project was a podcast and visual web series called The Right Space, which explores the relationship between creatives and their workspace. Rojé continues to work as a television producer while also writing in her spare time. She is an Australian citizen who currently lives in Sydney with her Aussie husband and two daughters.

Visit the author:


"Why Our Hair Is Not Straight"

"Elegy for my Mother"

"The Lost Letters"

"Graves & Thrones"

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for being on the blog tour for this book. Such an important work, and I thought the same about it being a play! What a production that would be!