“Her writing proves her courage … One of the great voices of her generation.” –Ben Crump, Civil Rights Attorney
“A powerful collection.” –Publishers Weekly
Through a series of extraordinary, incisive, often-humorous and always profound essays, Vanessa Baden Kelly examines what “home” means to a Black millennial woman. What are the consequences of gentrification on the life of a young Black woman, and on her ability to raise a family? What does it mean to be part of a lineage, whether it be passed down by name or through the voices of generations of writers and thinkers? Baden’s essays evolve from personal stories to fully-realized communiques of a generation of Black women who are finding a new sense of both belonging and ostracism in private, work, and public life. In FAR AWAY FROM CLOSE TO HOME, Baden Kelly’s essays examine:
- The interconnectedness of living in a majority-Black community in South Central Los Angeles’ Crenshaw district;
- The overwhelming grief and fear of watching young Black boys be buried while raising your own son;
- The miracle of finding love for love’s sake and love for one’s self when inherited traumas have tried to rob that very idea from you;
- The murder of Ahmaud Arbery and how a seemingly simple action, such as going for a jog, affects a neighborhood community.
Throughout these essays, Baden Kelly deftly walks a tightrope, embracing her own challenges as she continues the search for a place a millennial Black woman can call “home.”
ISBN: 978-1-953103-02-4; $17; May 4, 2021; 240 pages; Three Rooms Press; Trade Paper Original
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High Praise for FAR AWAY FROM CLOSE TO HOME
“Vanessa’s stories are so vivid and relatable. Her writing is like Vanessa herself; funny, charming and brave.” —Mindy Kaling, actress, writer, producer, director
“Vanessa was a courageous young organizer. The keen insight and vulnerability of her writing proves her courage extends into her adult life and she will continue to be one of the great voices of her generation.” —Ben Crump, Civil Rights Attorney
“[A] searching debut . . . Full of heartfelt insight, this is a powerful collection.” —Publishers Weekly
“The essays ‘Unreliable Narrator’ and ‘Joggers’ should be used in every writing class and should be required reading for the nation” —The Fish Shelf
And check out these interviews of Vanessa Baden Kelly talking about FAR AWAY FROM CLOSE TO HOME and her acting career beginning as a child on Nickelodeon’s Gullah Gullah Island and, most recently winning an Emmy for her work on Issa Rae’s Giants series. She also provides insight on being a Black up-and-coming screenwriter in Hollywood, working on such shows as TNT’s Animal Kingdom and Mindy Kaling’s forthcoming HBO Max series The Sex Lives of College Girls.
An Excerpt from Far Away From Close to Home
The emergence of white girls jogging down Crenshaw was the first sign of trouble.
We had lived in Hyde Park, an area of South Los Angeles that bordered Inglewood, for about two years at that time. I was pregnant. We had every intention of staying in the area, raising our son there, and planting roots. But those damn joggers.
I remember the first time we saw one. Her white earbuds visible as the strawberry blonde ponytail swayed with every counted step, blissfully unaware of the number of Black and brown faces watching her from their driveways or windows or porches. Maybe she wasn’t blissfully unaware. Maybe she was hyper-aware, the headphones a purposeful distraction from what she felt were unwelcoming faces. Perhaps she feared what we all were thinking. Her running in the Crenshaw District would be considered dangerous to anyone who knew her, but maybe she was determined to not let fear of the unknown and preconceived notions of “neighborhoods like this” deter her. And good for her if that were the case. Of course, we are not allowed that same privilege.
From the essay “Joggers” in Far Away From Close to Home by Vanessa Baden Kelly
About Vanessa Baden Kelly
Vanessa Baden Kelly is an Emmy-winning actress, Emmy-nominated writer, and producer. She began her career as a child, starring on Nickelodeon’s Gullah Gullah Island and Kenan and Kel. After departing entertainment, she began organizing in college, co-founding the Student Coalition for Justice (later the base for the Dream Defenders) and continued working in the field. To date, she has led campaigns for The Trayvon Martin Foundation, Community Coalition South LA, and various political campaigns including Obama for America ’08 and the Ndoum Presidential Campaign in Accra, Ghana. Additionally, she is an Ambassador for the RuJohn Foundation. Upon her return to Hollywood, Vanessa has become a successful television writer and producer, writing for shows such as TNT’s Animal Kingdom and Mindy Kaling’s HBO Max series The Sex Lives of College Girls. Vanessa originated the role of Journee as writer/star of the Issa Rae digital series Giants, where she is four times Emmy-nominated and one time Emmy-winning for Best Actress in a Digital Drama. Vanessa is mother to a human son, Ryder, and a dog son named Dude.