Letter from the Publisher: Grieving While Black

Posted by – March 08, 2021
Categories: General Health & Healing New Release Society & Politics Spirituality & Religion Letter from the Publisher

It’s not often that I read from one of our books aloud across the living room.

But there I was, so inspired by Breeshia Wade’s Grieving While Black that I asked my partner, Anna, if she’d be open to an impromptu evening reading. 

“It is just so good,” I told her.

I had read portions of the original book proposal and seen proofs of the book before it went to the printer, but this was the first time I was holding the finished book in my hands. The favorite part of my job is when the two office copies of a book come in: To recall all the discussions and meetings and collaborations involved in bringing a book to life and then to behold the final sacred object. What an honor and privilege to play a part in shepherding an author’s words and vision into the world.

In Grieving While Black’s case, I was so eager to see Breeshia’s book in print that I had driven across town to our office for the sole purpose of retrieving one. (Full disclosure: these copies are not supposed to leave the office, but I took one anyway.) Now, back at home, I didn’t go linear and instead opened the book to whatever page presented itself and read aloud the first passage my eyes fell upon:  

“White people who are invested in racial justice must come to terms with their relationship with grief. If one looks at the root of anti-Blackness, what it has done and what it aims to do, how does one not feel burdened by tears of generations? How does one not touch the very heart of grief? And if one has had such an honest, unveiled encounter with loss, how can one fundamentally remain unchanged? I’ve witnessed many white allies and activists who quickly became overwhelmed, bogged down, discouraged, and exhausted; they are experiencing a fragment of disempowerment in a system that caters to them. For the first time, they are touching the weight of the grief that Black people carry on a day-to-day basis.”

My voice shook with the truth and relevance of this.

“Read more please,” Anna invited.

“The first death that white parents are likely to talk to their children about is a family pet’s or an elderly grandparent’s. The first death Black parents talk to their children about is their children’s own.” 

This was strong medicine, I knew, medicine that I needed to absorb even more fully than reading portions of it aloud would allow. And so I packed the book in my bag for the solo retreat I was taking the following day. 

Sitting in the sun next to my dog beside the small cabin I nestled in for the next four days, I pulled out Grieving While Black to read, starting, this time, with the first sentence. Before long the book was dog-eared and underlined, office copy and all. 

“At its core, anti-Blackness relies upon neither our consent nor our awareness to extract participation,” Breeshia writes on page one.

And then, later: “Privilege is power without responsibility.” 

And: “Experiencing power is not about being empowered. It is not about feeling on top of the world. It is about being of the world.” 

I could not stop. I sat there reading from lunch until dinner, taking a break only for tea. It was enough: the sun, the dog, the mountains, and this landmark book, one that was landmark to me not because I had anything to do with it but because what it said broke me open.

Tags: Breeshia Wade

About the Author

Tim came to NAB in 2013 and is honored to serve as publisher. Born in New York City, McKee grew up in Los Angeles and received a BA from Princeton University and an MA in journalism from the University of Missouri. He has worked in the nonprofit sector for his entire career, including serving as the long-time managing editor of The Sun magazine, the grants director for a social-justice foundation in San Francisco, and as a writer for several community-based organizations in California. He has also taught college-level writing and journalism. His book No More Strangers Now: Young Voices from a New South Africa (Dorling Kindersley) was an Honor Book for the Jane Addams Book Award and a Los Angeles Times bestseller. He is happiest when bringing necessary stories to the page.