I'm rather choosy about participating in publicity for a book. When I received an email about possibly participating in this blog tour for Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson, my immediate answer was yes, yes, and yes. Not only do I love Watson's work in general, but I had already read my ARC of Piecing Me Together and knew exactly how special this book is.
There is a link to a giveaway sponsored by Bloomsbury following Renée's lovely words on art and finding your people.
On Finding My People
by Renée Watson
“She is a friend of my mind. She gather me, man.
The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order.
It’s good, you know, when you got a woman who is a friend of your mind.”
–Toni Morrison, Beloved
I am often asked, “What advice would you give aspiring writers?”
I usually start by saying what every English teacher I’ve ever had told me, something we writers all know and have heard time and time again: “Read. Good writers read.” This is the advice I give and then I go into my whole spiel about how I try to read every book twice—once just to take in the story and the second time to study what the writer did to make me love it (or not love it). Sometimes I go into the importance of taking your work seriously even before a book deal and I encourage writers to take classes or join a critique group. The last few times I’ve been asked this question, I am sure to add, “Find your people and hold on to them.” Of course, this isn’t only true for aspiring writers. Every person needs an inner circle of supporters, people who will not let you quit on yourself, on your dream.
In Piecing Me Together, Jade is nurtured and challenged by her mother, her mentor, Maxine, and her best friends Lee Lee and Sam. These women steady her when life feels overwhelming. They ask her questions that push her to rethink and reassess her decisions. They learn how to listen and become a safe space for Jade, where she doesn’t have to hide her fears or downplay her brilliance.
Writing Jade’s story, I was reminded of the women who mothered and mentored me, whose friendship was a buoy. These women weren’t necessarily writers and we didn’t all have the same goals but they were dreamers, too. They were makers, thinkers, doers. They set an example for me of how to go about achieving a goal, of how to bounce back after loss. Some of these friends were my work session buddies. We’d often meet up at coffee shops and have “create dates.” I’d be revising a manuscript, my friend would be knitting and working on product for her Etsy shop, another friend would be writing her thesis, while another would be grading the papers from her tenth grade English class. We’d work alongside one another, keeping each other company, holding each other accountable and then, we’d talk and share about our day, about what was coming up next. When we weren’t physically together, we were just a phone call away when life got hard and we needed to vent, or needed advice, or distraction. Surrounding myself with these women kept me focused and encouraged. These women were friends of my mind.
I wanted Jade to have that kind of community. I wanted to balance out the harshness she often encounters out in the world with moments of cooking with her mom, doing homework with friends, taking walks with her mentor. It is in these moments that she pieced back together, that she is restored and strengthened.
Jade finds her people not only in the living family and neighbors around her, but in historical figures, activists, and renowned artists who she models her own art after. Studying the work of Romare Bearden, Mickalene Thomas, and Kehinde Wiley teaches Jade about collage and painting, yes. But more than that, it validates Jade’s own creative expression. It gives Jade permission to see black as beautiful, to see value in what is often disregarded. It gives her a roadmap to follow.
Perhaps this is why teachers and writers say, “Good writers read.” Perhaps we are saying, good writers find their people. Good writers seek out stories that inspire them to tell their own. Maybe it is not only about reading to hone our own craft but about reading to find authors who we connect with, who are likeminded and telling stories in ways that move us, heal us, keep us in suspense, make us laugh out loud. These books mentor and guide, letting us know that the stories we want to tell are worth telling, are possible.
Like Jade, I hold on to my artistic people—Lucille Clifton, Lorraine Hansberry, Sandra Cisneros. I read and reread Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, and Jacqueline Woodson. Their work gathers me, puts me back “in all the right order.”
THANK YOU, RENÉE!
I loved so much that this is a book about female relationships and we build up and empower each other. (You can read my complete review here.)
If you would like to enter to win a copy of Piecing Me Together, use the Rafflecopter link below to enter.