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Christina Sharpe (CA)

Ordinary Notes

Ordinary Notes

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Title
WINNER OF THE 2023 HILARY WESTON WRITERS' TRUST PRIZE FOR NONFICTION • FINALIST FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD 

A dazzlingly inventive, deeply moving, intellectually bracing exploration of pain and beauty, private memory and public monument, art and complexity in contemporary Black life.


“I wanted to write about silences and terror and acts that hover over generations, over centuries. I began by writing about my mother and grandmother.” —from “Note 18” in Ordinary Notes

A singular achievement, Ordinary Notes explores with immense care profound questions about loss, and the shapes of Black life that emerge in the wake. In a series of 248 brief and urgent notes that gather meaning as we read them, Christina Sharpe skillfully weaves artifacts from the past—public ones alongside others that are poignantly personal—with present-day realities and possible futures, intricately constructing an immersive portrait of everyday Black existence. Through the striking images and words in these pages, themes and tones echo: sometimes about life, art, language, beauty, memory; sometimes about history, photography, and literature—but always attending, with exquisite care, to the ordinary-extraordinary dimensions of Black life. 

At the heart of Ordinary Notes is the indelible presence of the author’s mother, Ida Wright Sharpe. “I learned to see in my mother’s house,” writes Sharpe. “I learned how not to see in my mother’s house . . . My mother gifted me a love of beauty, a love of words.” Using these and other gifts and ways of seeing, Sharpe steadily summons a chorus of voices and experiences to become present on the page. She articulates and follows an aesthetic of "beauty as a method,” collects entries from a community of thinkers towards a “Dictionary of Untranslatable Blackness,” and rigorously examines sites of memory and memorial. And in the process, she forges a new literary form, as multivalent as the ways of Black being it traces.

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Knopf Canada

Bio

CHRISTINA SHARPE is a writer, Professor, and Canada Research Chair in Black Studies in the Humanities at York University in Toronto. She is also a Senior Research Associate at the Centre for the Study of Race, Gender & Class (RGC), at the University of Johannesburg and a Matakyev Research Fellow at the Center for Imagination in the Borderlands at the Arizona State University. She is the author of: In the Wake: On Blackness and Being (Duke University Press, 2016)—named by the Guardian and The Walrus as one of the best books of 2016 and a nonfiction finalist for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award—and Monstrous Intimacies: Making Post-Slavery Subjects (Duke University Press, 2010).

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