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October 30, 2017

Book Notes - Nikki Giovanni "A Good Cry"

A Good Cry

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Lauren Groff, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Nikki Giovanni's A Good Cry is wise and original collection from one of America's finest poets.

The Chicago Tribune wrote of the book:

"Giovanni is a master poet, her language punctuating and specific. With simple phrases, she describes scenes in ways that excavate their complexity.

But unlike others of her craft, Giovanni’s writing makes the reader want to dig deep inside and find a flow and a memory to match the ones she describes. She is a constant teacher."

In her own words, here is Nikki Giovanni's Book Notes music playlist for her poetry collection A Good Cry:

I am the first person in my family to be born in a it’s easy to see how much I was teased. Yet there were things like Grandmother’s silver spoons or snuggling under MamaDear’ Cornelia Watson’s (who was the first born free child of slave parents) quilt until it literally fell apart that let me know I, too, was a part of the family. I wear a ring that was given to me by a nun whom I dearly loved. I’ve had it since I was graduated from the 8th Grade. I think about how all life forms evolve and how important it is to remember that we, too, will keep changing. One day we will be discovered by another life form. I can only hope they will feel the love of the love. That’s what my Heritage is.

A Good Cry is, in most ways, sentimental. The song I most love and would open with is Nat "King" Cole singing "For Sentimental Reasons." When I first fell in love with both Cole and the song I was too young to know what love meant. I used to babysit the Harris boys when my parents and Dr. Harris and his wife would go nightclubbing. I was, by the way, too young to babysit but I am not, was not, friendly so I think my parents had to do something with me. My sister was always friendly so she was probably spending the night with friends of hers or something and I was taken to the Harris home. I remember fried chicken and a great record collection. That was in the days of vinyl. I would sit and play records. Nat "King" Cole enchanted me and I would play For Sentimental Reasons over and over again. I would wake up in my own bed embraced by a lovely song. I still have that song after all these years. Maybe I love it because it offered comfort. When we open A Good Cry we read "Heritage (for Walter Leonard)" who was my president at Fisk University. He and Betty, his wife, were very special to me. It always seemed that we don't understand that those who pass do not die but transition into another form. We know when we put seeds in the Earth they grow and become some other form that helps us continue. It seems to me people who transition are put into the ground and become jewels that help us become something wonderful, too.

I absolutely love "Didn't I Blow Your Mind" by The Delphonics. I have no idea why but I was always in love and it was never working out. Nothing mean just something that needed something else. When I started to think about letting what had been lost starting with my Mom and coming all the way to the present there was this recognition of a need for Didn't I Blow Your Mind. The Delphonics and that great voice of the lead singer provided.

And, of course, "Save Your Love For Me." Randy Crawford was not exactly blues but not exactly jazz either but really a great voice that says "I recognize there is something out there that will complete me." The reason my Grandmother saved stale bread was to make bread pudding. Soak that bread in milk with a smidgen of bourbon and we're on our way to a treat. "Save Your Love" offered the same wonderful surprise. Save something that properly spiced will become something very special.

My Mother's favorite song was "Time After Time." It closes the book out because this book mostly started because I have had to recognize crying is a skill and losing Mommy was very very sad. I could only think "Time After Time" what she means to me and how much I miss her.

Nikki Giovanni and A Good Cry links:

the author's website
the author's Wikipedia entry

Chicago Tribune review
Washington Post review

The Grio interview with the author
Salon interview with the author
Shondaland interview with the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

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Book Notes (2015 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2012 - 2014) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

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