This world will make you circus,
freak show, tightrope walker,
contort your name from Saarrjie
to “Sara Bartman,”
Hottentot Venus – stage performer.
Look how they abracadabra the
royal exploitations of your form.
– from “Circus Acts: No More Black Girl Magic”
Identity is seared into you long before birth. It is pushed and plotted on and branded, but never quite how it should be. Identity is never quite the way anyone expects. It is flawed because of from whence we came. Identity becomes ghost, stuck in our throats, blocking our voice, but when it is ready, it will launch lives, move mountains, build backgrounds, and act as memory for those ghosts who could not scream.
Khalisa Rae’s debut collection, Ghost in a Black Girl’s Throat (Red Hen Press) is an open letter – at times apology – to those who have not looked back, those who have not taken heed from those who came before, to those have yet to bring screams to surface. This is a rally cry for self-hood. For respect. For dreams once had that can be had again. This is written to give voice to the timid, a path to the promise of never again escaping the you who you always thought you could be.
While some look to the past as a guide to prepare us for the future, Rae gives us that future and reminds us why it matters. This is not a dinner time read. This is not a bedtime story. This is biblical. This is hope that your ghosts will reach for your hand and show you the way to scream.