"Telling a young girl she can’t wear what she wants because it’s not appropriate encourages the idea that men’s reactions should dictate society’s norms, and that all women are meta-Eves, tempting and ensnaring men with our sultry-eyed gaze. My parents’ culture is steeped in patriarchy, in the philosophy of the one-step machismo machine, where there is just one kind of man, and two kinds of women: the angel and the whore. These limited ideas of masculinity breed men who want ownership of women."
"The daily routine of most adults is so heavy and artificial that we are closed off to much of the world. We have to do this in order to get our work done. I think one purpose of art is to get us out of those routines. When we hear music or poetry or stories, the world opens up again."
"The price one pays for pursuing any profession or calling is an intimate knowledge of its ugly side."
"Sometimes in black communities we forget that black girls are girls, not little women. My friend then shared with me her own story of being sexually abused and ending up pregnant and in need of an abortion at age 12 because her family members irresponsibly left her with a male family friend. The first time a 12-year-old black girl ever told me she had been raped, I, too, was 12 and she was a friend. The second time, I was a 22-year-old teacher, and the 12-year-old was my student.
I realize now, having heard a version of this story, yet again, that as gut-wrenching as these stories are, among black girls they are not uncommon; they are not even remarkable. So many of the highly educated black women you see went to hell and back before reaching the age of 18. Education has become our drug of choice.
[…]For black girls, educational achievement is not always the best indicator of a stable, happy home life. For me, education offered a goal and reward structure that was predictable and that I could control, simply by doing what was asked of me. In the midst of so many things I could not control, school was attractive. I imagine that for many black girls the narrative is similar."