From a Black, Francophone Swiss Woman’s Perspective
From soul-searching to soul-healing
In May 2016, I launched #Afrolitt’, a platform that uses literature from sub-Saharan Africa and its diaspora as a learning tool. Since then several Black female bloggers and journalists, most of them based in Switzerland where I live and work, have asked me how I settled on the idea, and why the platform focuses on literature. One of my answers to them has been the following: Black literature was my therapy, when I hit rock-bottom during a desperate period of soul searching some years ago. Their questions have continuously inspired me and have led me to think more deeply about the process I went through, and what Black literature truly means to me. A few months ago, I felt I had to find a term that would tie it all together. It came to me in a very interesting way.
During a life-coaching session with one of the most talented professionals in the field (shout out to #NjilaCoaching), I was asked to think of an accessible source of energy that I could always reach for. The first idea that came to me was a kind of music and sound that I dubbed #TheraSoul: a blend of jazz, soul, poetry and hip-hop that would soothe and recalibrate my “inner self”. The term is a blend of the words “therapy” and “soulful music”, two factors that are inextricable from my understanding of the energy that helped me to heal. In the process of reflecting on what that type of music did to me, it struck me that I felt the same way about Black literature.
Black literature as a therapeutic resource for the Mind and Soul
My journey with Black literature as a therapy and self-help resource started with #LéonoraMiano. I’ve often discussed how the literary work of this Black French author hit home for me, from the aforementioned moment where it helped heal my soul through to the present. I easily relate to the characters she depicts in her novels, the topics she tackles in her non-fiction, but also to the music she inserts into her writing. To me, Miano is an artist who found the right combination of sounds and words to make storytelling an experience of the mind and soul. As I continue along my journey, my inspirations have come to include other authors such as #OctaviaButler, #NnediOkorafor, #ZadieSmith and #BenOkri, to name just a few.
In the genre of non-fiction, #bellhooks is another Black author who has had an amazing impact on my feminism, my activism and the way I regard power relations between genders. Her ideas and analysis on radical love, healing, Black masculinity and patriarchy make me wish her literary works would be accessible (and compulsory) readings for every being on this earth. In fact, reading hooks made me believe that some of us already have the tools to lead us to a true revolution based on inclusivity and (self-)respect.
Though the genres of authors cited above may differ, they all fall under the same banner that I call
#Lit[h]eraSoul: literary works that function as therapeutic resources, created by Black female or male authors, and that work on the mind and soul.
In this iteration, the term is a portmanteau of the words “literature”, “therapy” and “soul.” A #Lit[h]eraSoul work possesses some, if not all of the following characteristics:
- It suits your multiple realities, names them, reflects them and therefore validates them. This is important especially when you feel isolated, or feel as though nobody understands you or your (inner) struggles and interrogations. In finding and reading the right book, you know at least that its author reflected on these same issues, meaning s/he is aware they exist.
- Once purchased or made accessible, this resource is always consultable and there for you. Friends, family and your community may love you and care about you. But they also may be absent, misunderstand you or lack the emotional labor resources for you at the exact moment you require them. Books are valuable commodities in that regard.
- The process of reading and reflecting on the topics and characters, and on occasion relating to them on a personal level, is soul healing and therefore therapeutic. You enter your own internal journey, open your inner doors and cure whatever needs to be cured. At times, you may feel angry, sad or excited, as therapy always implies. But as a result, you start working toward your own liberation.
- The book works not only on your soul, but on your mind too. It incites you to reflect on yourself and society. It might unnerve you for a while before enabling you to become more conscious.
- Works of science fiction, fantasy or magical realism help you imagine other possibilities and futures. You reckon that (y)our present situation is the result of paths taken for multiple reasons. But there were, are and could be others. Reading about them or imagining them is the first step to accomplishing the required action to reach the reality you seek.
The literary works that “qualify” as #Lit[h]eraSoul are indeed subjective and depend on who you are, your experiences, the challenges you’re facing and the books you come upon. I’ve shared a few authors with you, and have much more to say about which particular works might fit the bill. This is just the beginning, so #staytuned for another post in which I will name my top titles and write some short reviews!
This is my first blog post and I am super grateful to #VanessaOkoth-Obbo for her precious and insightful editing and advice, as well as for her commitment and support throughout the process. Another amazing woman who has been an inspiration to me is blogger #SebenniNiTaama for keeping it real and giving us the tools to reach our Higher Selves. Girls, thank you so much for the energy and the positive vibes! Special thanks also goes to webmaster #ADuPasquier for his professional counselling on blogging.
 When I refere to the mind, I basically mean the intellect. What I call soul is that inside being made of emotions, sensitivity and your own life story.