Hard Times Require Furious Dancing

Thoughts on Alice Walker’s 2010 book of poetry

Years ago, a dear friend of my husband’s was living in Jamaica. As a white man with rural American roots, this friend had no prior connection to the island; I don’t remember what drew him there initially.

Quickly, he set-up residence and lived for some time in an impoverished part of Kingston. While visiting with us in New York, he recounted stories of a community that he was becoming a part of and growing to love. One thing that struck him, and stayed with me, was that he could not understand how people who, in his view, had so little could be so joyful. 

Something within me that I could not explain understood that joy precisely. 

Joy is an act of resistance. (I love this quote from rayo & honey)

And hard times require furious dancing.  

If nothing else, I know these two truths. 

I knew of Alice Walker’s 2010 book of poetry, Hard Times Require Furious Dancing, but hadn’t read it until this weekend.

It’s wonderful. The poems are private meditations. She shares deeply painful personal experiences, like being estranged from her daughter and grandchild, alongside moments that bring her pure joy - planting in her garden.

What I found most fascinating about the book is Alice Walker’s author photo.

The photo reminded me of what I heard Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie say during her book tour for Americanah. Adichie spoke about her love of fashion and the courage she found to pose for her author photo with braided hair, in bold colors, while smiling.

Serious authors, she joked, rarely show their teeth on a book jacket. And it’s so true! I’ve been checking for smiles on book jackets ever since.

Well, not only does Alice Walker show her teeth, she is also wearing fresh collard greens on her head!

I’ve never seen an author photo like this.

Joy is Alice Walker’s resistance.

Take this except from the poem The Taste of Grudge:

Let the 

joyful

heart

that

knows

the

dance

return!

Sorrow has

banished

it,

grief

has

stilled

my feet.

But there

remains

internal

movement

toward

life’s

margin

where

all

begins

again

in

solemn

beat. 

It’s that hope, the space where all begins again, that we find joy, can laugh loudly in the face of adversity and dance.


Thank you for reading Birth/Werk!  When I started, I didn’t know what I would be writing about every week. What I knew was that I wanted to share some of my thoughts with intersecting communities that are dear to me - birth workers, birth givers, creative types and readers. 

I now know that I love to write about motherhood and Black life in contemporary literature and culture. Thank you for meeting me here. I love your comments, your emails, and your shares. Your support is everything.

xo, Naima

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