When I received Adjua Styles new book The Ethereal Hike in the mail, I cracked it open with a mix of excitement and a tiny bit of apprehension. I knew the book would be about her life, family ties, and trying to come out on the other side of all things that can challenge you in life, especially — loss. And as a child of two west indian families, I’ve been working through all of the challenges of having a parent die in the midst of some challenging family dynamics that made everything even harder to take.
I was nervous about what feelings the book might bring up for me. But I plunged in. Well. I got less than 2 chapters in before I abruptly closed the book, placed it on my shelf and walked away from it. It felt like one of those sequences in cartoons where you’re the only one nude, giving a speech in front of a bunch of clothed people. It felt like I was reading something all too familiar, and I felt kinda seen, and kinda naked.
The next day I made some tea and cracked the book again. This time I took deep breaths whenever a chapter felt familiar or heavy. I laughed at the humorous moments. I made it through the book in one evening!
I felt like it was a lot to take in, but a very important read about the life and times of a caribbean, woman, growing up in new york city, making her way with less guidance than she would have liked and less of the motherly connection than she would have wanted with her own parent.
Later she was experiencing the joy of parenthood, the challenges of how to be the parent you want to be, while learning who your children might need you to be, and who you are to yourself–even as life requires your small parts of your identity to grow and change over time.
I think this book is a great read for EVERYONE but also: If you are like me and have Jamaican, Panamanian, Antiguan (or other Caribbean / island roots), OR you grew up in NYC during the 80 Blocks From Tiffanys / Bronx is Burning period in the city’s history, or you have experienced difficult familial relationships, strained parental relationships, challenges in Co-Parenting, challenges over people exhibiting antiblackness against you, mental + physical health challenges, grief, self esteem issues, or even if you just happen to learn well from mistakes of others — get this book.
The next day I went to the nail salon — which is part of me trying to focus on self care & Joy As Resistance. I didn’t have a plan for my nail design so I sat down and chatted with the two Latina women who were going to do them. I said how about pre-valentines nails? Give me the colors of those godawful candyhearts we used to eat.
As we collaborated to create a fun look, I thought about the music I played on #tidal that day asked them to make these nails a love letter to black women’s pop musical joy. I asked for names like: Rihanna (a caribbean struggle-to-joy story in it’s own right), Meg the Stallion (a tall girl’s delight with all the wily lyricism & sexual agency that goes with it), Lizzo (who reminds me of a gorgeous cousin of mine in all her bold confidence), and Normani (who faced down antiblack racism in her group, and has come back with a bang as a solo artist).
Finally the nails were finished. I wriggled my fingers looking at them, and thought about the book I read the night before. And how, like the pop stars on my nails, (& like so many of us women), the author of that book #AdjuaStyles, had gone through a LOT as a black woman, and still kept her head high. From the antiblackness I’ve seen ppl throw at her, to the remaking of her self with different career talents. to surviving loss.
She may not be a pop star, but she was just as much on my mind in that moment. I mentioned the book to the #nailtechs. Do you think I should add her name or is that weird. “Omg how inspiring. ADD HER NAME,” they said. And I’ve been enjoying these pre- Vday, #blackgirlmagic nails for days now. ❤️
TO PURCHASE Adjua’s book visit barnes and noble here or http://www.adjuastyles.com.