Monday, November 9, 2020

Rojé Augustin's "Out of No Way" - #Poetry #Review #MadamCJWalker

I only learned of Madam C.J. Walker when I read about the Netflix series, Self Made, which starred the incomparable Octavia Spencer as the lady herself (it's on my list of many shows to watch). So, I was very interested to read Ms. Augustin's book of poetry surrounding this successful and influential historical figure. As she said in her afterword, "Why hadn't her story been told in schools..." I thought the same. 

Madame C.J. Walker (left) and her daughter, A’Lelia Walker

She explores Walker, and the mother-daughter relationship of Walker and her daughter, A'Lelia, in various poetic forms. The poetry makes for an interesting exploration of this relationship, but also goes further, exploring a black woman who, as successful and wealthy as she was, still did not have the rights and protections afforded by the Constitution. Learning of her humble beginnings as a maid and laundress (back breaking work) and later having to travel to expand her business, keeping her away from her daughter for long periods. This against a backdrop of lynchings and the Jim Crow era. Also, hearing the horrific story of the lynching of Mary Turner. The images in my head upon reading that will be burned in my memory forever. 
The whites must hate themselves so savagely
To act with such barbarity.

Amid the Black Lives Matter movement, there have been lists recommending books to read to explore racism, prejudice, discrimination, and inequity. I suggest adding this book to those lists. For sure, add it to yours. This is my recommendation...and with that, I leave you with my favorite poem from the book. 

Fear is the Devil We Must Transcend

Fear is the devil we must transcend.
Transcend is what Madam Walker taught. 
May our deeds point bravely to that end.

Those ravaged by fear can not ascend.
The heights of self that can't be bought.
Fear is the devil we must transcend.

To not transcend is the truth to bend.
Transcend by truth is what she taught.
May our deeds point bravely to that end.

And what is truth but a selfless friend?
A selfless friend that is never fraught.
Fear is the devil we must transcend.

The noble thing is to transcend.
What fearful ones so cruelly raught.
May our deeds point bravely to that end.

Be brave, said Madam, and thus transcend!
Let all our demons come to naught.
Fear is the devil we must transcend.
May all our deeds point to that end! 

About the book
Author, producer, and emerging poet Rojé Augustin has written a groundbreaking debut collection of dramatic poems about hair care entrepreneur Madam C.J. Walker and her daughter, A'Lelia. Rojé's singular and accomplished work is presented through the intimate lens of the mother-daughter relationship via different poetic forms — from lyric to haiku, blackout to narrative. (One poem takes its inspiration from Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven.) Written in tribute to Walker, Out of No Way deftly and beautifully explores themes of race, motherhood, sacrifice, beauty, and the meaning of success in Jim Crow America.

Born Sarah Breedlove to former Louisiana slaves in 1867, Madam C.J. Walker was orphaned at seven, married at 14, became a mother at 17, and was widowed at 20. After the death of her first husband, Sarah moved to St. Louis with her daughter where she earned $1.50 a day as a washerwoman. When her hair started falling out she developed a remedy and sold her formula across the country. In the process, she became the wealthiest Negro woman in America. 

About the Poet
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. Rojé continues to work as a producer while also writing in her spare time. She currently lives in Sydney with her husband and two daughters.

Never miss a post!

* indicates required

1 comment:

Thank you for visiting and taking the time to comment. It means so much.

I apologize for word verification, but as soon as I changed the settings from only users with Google accounts, I started receiving a ton of spam comments...within one hour of changing the settings. The bots are on high alert apparently.

  1. Thank you for being on this tour. It is an important book, and I, too, have Self Made on my watch list.

- See more at:
- See more at: