While in high school, I had an opportunity to perform in the starring role in Shay Youngblood’s play Shakin the Mess Outta Misery. In graduate school, I met and had the pleasure to work with the author. Around that time, I read and enjoyed her fictional title Soul Kiss, the time spent in her office chatting with her about her other creative talents (including art), and benefited from the feedback she provided on my own fiction writing. While I purchased the book Black Girl in Paris during that time, I never had an opportunity to read it. I do, however, remember Mrs. Youngblood’s talks about that amazing book cover, how she selected it, and that she owns the actual painting.
A few months ago, buzz began about the film production for Black Girl in Paris, but it wasn’t until Youngblood released an email about the project that I actually heard the big news. You can find more on the film at Shadow and Act, one of my favorite film blogs. Here’s more on the book:
Black Girl in Paris wends its way around the mythology or Paris as a city that has called out to African-American artists. Like James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, and Josephine Baker before her, Youngblood’s heroine leaves her home, in the American South, nurturing a dream of finding artistic emancipation in the City of Light. She experiments freely, inhabiting different incarnations – artist’s model, poet’s helper, au pair, teacher, thief, and lover – to keep body and soul together, to stay afloat, heal the wounds of her broken heart, discover her sexual self, and, finally, to wrestle her dreams of becoming a writer into reality.
Book Excerpt: James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, Gabriel Garcia Márquez and Milan Kundera all had lived in Paris as if it had been part of their training for greatness. When artists and writers spoke of Paris in their memoirs and letters home it was with reverence. Those who have been and those who still dream mention the quality of the light, the taste of the wine, the joie de vivre, the pleasures of the senses, a kind of freedom to be anonymous and also new. I wanted that kind of life even though I was a woman and did not yet think of myself as a writer. I was a mapmaker.
I remember the long, narrow room, the low slanted ceiling, the bare whitewashed walls, the spotted, musty brown carpet. To my left a cracked porcelain sink with a spigot that ran only cold water. On its ledge a new bar of soap, a blue ragged-edged washcloth shaped like a pocket, and a green hand towel. A round window at the foot of the bed looked out onto the quai St-Michel, a street that runs along the Seine, a river flowing like strong coffee through the body of Paris. The quai was lined with book stalls and painters with their easels and wooden plates of wet fall colors. (Read more . . .)
I hate to admit that I own so many books that I have yet to read. But I do plan to place Black Girl and Paris back at the top of my list, even if I have to purchase it again for my ereader.
Happy reading, y’all.