What We’re Reading at Lydia’s House: Eloquent Rage

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I’m Mary Ellen Mitchell. I’m the co-director of Lydia’s House, a shelter for homeless families, a mom of 3 young kids and a Cincinnati native. The many balls I juggle dictate that my reading list is short each year, and if you’re in this camp with me, I want to say that this book is worth the cut.  I want to give my strongest endorsement to “Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers her Superpower.” After finishing this book in February of this year I sent the author, Brittney Cooper, a fan girl style email that said “This is the truest thing I’ve ever read.” And even after I’ve come down from my post reading high, I stand by that statement.

At Lydia’s House, where I work, we seek to be a feminist anti-racist organization. We also see the reality of racism in our city play out in such a raw way because we answer devastating phone calls from women, most of them young black mothers, who are living in cars or storage units with their children. We hear defeated voices on the other side of the line, and constantly intersect with child protective services and the many other agencies that steer the course and dominate the time and choices of the families we offer shelter to.

Into this storm came a glimmer of light when, during Lent, our staff discovered and read together this most recent work of feminist academic Brittney Cooper. Out of our collective rage about the election of 2016, confusion about gun ownership trumping the safety of our children and families, and continual rethinking of why women of limited economic prospects embrace mothering came this succinct treatise that addressed it all and tied it together as only a brilliant social analyst can. To be clear, this isn’t a book about poverty—this is a book about one woman’s rage over structural injustice and how that injustice is keeping us all down. We’ve all felt rage in the last 12 months or so—what Brittney Cooper does is put that rage to work.

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Clearly some specifics about my life led me to seek out this book but I want to reiterate, you need to read this!  I think you should read Eloquent Rage because, while many of us may be clear on who and what we’re against in this troubling political time, we may be less clear about who we’re for. Brittney Cooper argues we need to be for Black Women. She outlines the specifics of oppression against black women and balances it shrewdly with the unique skills, adaptations and gifts of “black girl magic.” She intertwines recent history and the long history of race relations of America; she deftly balances competing forms of oppression; she shares raw personal experience and backs it up with demographic data. This is all done in such an artful way that it makes really difficult topics like white privilege and women turning on other women amazingly easy to digest. I literally couldn’t put it down. I told my co-worker “It’s like mental pop rocks.” You’ll feel smarter when you finish this book.  But you won’t be let off the hook.

If you’re ready to get real about black feminism, violence, white power, and intersectionality then this is a must read. I’d love to talk more about it when you’re done!