This month brings a very special book birthday—Vanessa Baden Kelly’s FAR AWAY FROM CLOSE TO HOME is out May 4th! The compelling essay collection has been recently featured in the New York Times, as well as on California Live and ABC Portland. Check out those interviews, and an excerpt of the book below in which the author discusses life as a Black mother
When [my son] was still an infant and we would rock him to sleep, he would pinch the soft skin of our necks. Two little tan fingers the size of twigs with razor sharp fingernails would tear you up. You wouldn’t dare move. There was nothing scarier than the thought of impeding him actually going to sleep. I would quietly yelp as I watched his big brown eyes, ones my husband would call “little puddles of wonderful,” grow lower and lower. I would wonder how I could love something so much that my heart would want to jump out of my chest, how I could love something so much I would allow them to draw blood for their comfort. We would laugh about it later. Look at it in fond remembrance, even. In the moment, it was beautiful agony.
In those moments it was impossible to not think of the mothers who had lost their children. What it felt like to look at their sons, the same way I was looking at mine, in their caskets. When your children are so young you look at their faces and wonder how they will mature. You wonder what they will be like. Who they will marry. How it will be to watch them explore the world the same way you did. I would often think, “When they were feeding their son, they didn’t know what was coming.” I’d hug mine a little tighter. Cry for him. And I’d cry for those mothers.I thought of Gina often. I thought more often of Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin’s mother. The thought wasn’t random. Six years after Martin Lee Anderson’s death, after my gradua-tions and cross-country moves, Trayvon Martin was killed in Sanford by a man who used Stand Your Ground as a defense for profiling a Black teen. The world was on fire. Trayvon’s name became iconic. He was 17.