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Natasha Marin’s Black Imagination (McSweeney’s, 2020) is a dynamic collection of Black voices. The book works like an incantation of origin, healing, and imagination. Born from a series of conceptual art exhibitions, the perspectives gathered in the book are nowhere near monochromatic. Each insists on their own variance and challenges every reader to witness for themselves that Black Lives (and Imaginations) Matter. Part oral history, part poetry, all imagination, Marin gathers thirty-six essential voices in this collection. To chronicle Black joy is a revolutionary act, and Marin is leading the resistance.

This week, Black Imagination is on sale at our store. An excerpt is below.

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Dress up for no reason.

Trace your eyes with liner.

Talk to your therapist about your fear of thriving.

Roll a perfect sphere of Play-Doh out during your session.
Roll away your own fingerprints with your palms flat.
Roll sticky into a dull concentric shine.

Afterwards, drive through the rain.

Listen to public radio mouth the words: Total Destruction.

Make it home, alive.

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“I don’t need to heal myself because I’m not wounded.”
—Nell Painter (Oakland, CA)

Seattle, WA, USA

Therapy. 10/10 Highly recommend. I pay a woman to listen to me vent about the evils of the world. It’s a bi-monthly orgasmic release of patriarchy, racism, sexism, and othering into the ether as I reclaim my oneness. As I free myself of other people’s problems—I eat cake. I protect my source. I travel. I talk with my love. I pamper myself with manicures, pedicures, acupuncture, and spa dates. I forgive myself and move on.

Seattle, WA, USA

First, I listen. This is hard when my feelings are screaming, when my body, my heart, the pieces of me are aching. Sometimes it’s easier to talk, to pray, to complain, to beg, to demand. I do these things too. But then I listen and I follow. There is a guiding star that talks to me. I don’t know her name or even her language. Mostly she is a dream walker of pictures, sounds, and feelings, and I awake knowing what is mine to do.

Is she ancestor or unborn child, guardian angel, spirit guide, or inter-dimensional healing practitioner—I don’t know. I just know that when I listen and I follow directions, healing happens. Some-times there is a ceremony involved. Candles or water, writing letters or burning pictures. The release of song or tears.

At these times I feel most acutely the loss of my cultural traditions. We the children of the unchosen diaspora—the progeny of the stolen, the kidnapped, the shackled, the tortured, the enslaved—are in many ways still lost. Lost to our heart language, lost to our indigenous practices. We pray to white Jesus, god of colonizers, and wonder why our prayers aren’t answered. With no disrespect to Jesus, to Buddha, to Allah, to any of the gods who come ‘round here, but we are the daughters not of Jacob and Abraham, but of Oshun. So long estranged, I can only listen and guess, make do with plastic cowry shells and white fabric, pray in English and hope that there is something beyond my colonized words, that some part of me is still me enough to be heard and healed anyway.

Seattle, WA, USA

I heal myself through my tears, through my sacred prayers with the Divine, through laughter with loves, through whispers from waves, through stories of trees, through moonlight kisses, through child’s play, and through the countless ways I’ve come to recognize my brilliance.

Seattle, WA, USA

I heal myself with words. I also hurt myself with words.
It’s in the combination of words that I find hurt and healing.
There are days I allow broken glass hands to cut me.
There are days I allow clumsy, selfish, unfocused elitists in this bed.
I heal myself with poems
Words from the mouths of violins
Of fingertips
Of untouched nape.
From the words of composers
That somehow know me
That have lived lives I have yet to know
But will
That live among the stars I still worship
I invite poems to join me in my room
Provide me something more than this
Enough time to pass for my skin to find my wounds
And cover
Them back up.

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Buy the book at our store