A New Yorker Book of the Year and a New York Times Notable Book of the Year
Finalist for the National Book Award for Nonfiction 2023
Winner of the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction 2023
A singular achievement, Christina Sharpe’s Ordinary Notes explores, with immense care, profound questions about loss, pain and beauty; private memory and public monument; art; complexity; and the shapes of Black life that emerge in the wake. In a series of 248 brief and urgent notes that cumulatively gather meaning, artifacts from the past – both public ones and the poignantly personal – are skilfully interwoven with present-day realities and possible futures, intricately constructing an immersive portrait of everyday Black existence.
At the heart of Ordinary Notes is the indelible presence of the author’s mother, Ida Wright Sharpe. ‘I learned to see in my mother’s house,’ writes Sharpe. ‘I learned how not to see in my mother’s house . . . My mother gifted me a love of beauty, a love of words.’ Using these gifts and other ways of seeing, a chorus of voices and experiences is summoned to the page. Sharpe practices an aesthetic of ‘beauty as a method’, collects entries from a community of thinkers toward a ‘Dictionary of Untranslatable Blackness’, and rigorously examines sites of memory and memorial. And in the process, she forges a brilliant new literary form, as multivalent as the ways of Black being it traces.
‘Both formally daring and manages to be profoundly courageous in the tradition of Dionne Brand and Margo Jefferson.’ Guy Gunaratne, Guardian
‘An exquisitely original celebration of American Blackness.’ starred review, Kirkus
‘A truly unique, artful, and thought-provoking account of both the history of what it means to be Black and what is required of us today. An immense collection of necessary notes on Black existence.’ Dipo Faloyin, author of Africa Is Not A Country
‘What incredible generosity of deep listening, what presence on the page.’ Victoria Adukwei Bulley, author of Quiet
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