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  • Los Angeles, please join us on Sunday, August 25th from 3-5 PM as we discuss My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite. In this short novel, we'll follow sisters Korede and Ayoola, who have their routine down. Big sister constantly comes to the rescue of little sister and cleans up her messes, literally. Pick up a copy from your local library, your favorite neighborhood bookstore, or online and we hope to see you there! Happy reading!
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  • For the past week I'm sure a lot of us have been processing what a world without Toni Morrison looks and feels like, and I'm sure a lot of us are still trying to figure that out. But that process is so much easier when you can do it with a community of people who love her as much as you do. Thank you to everyone who was able to join us this past Sunday to reflect on what Toni Morrison means to us all. Thank you to @thefreeblackwomenslibrary_la for leading the charge and inviting #MyLitBox to join in the celebration of her life. Thank you to the @reparations.club for opening their doors and creating a space where we were allowed to feel. Thank you to @shondabuchanan and @bridgettebianca for sharing photos. And most of all, thank you to everyone who filled that room. I hope the memories and experiences shared in that room comfort you. ❤
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  • As excited as we are to hold space tomorrow evening for Toni Morrison here in Los Angeles,  we wanted to do the same here online. Use the comments below to share your favorite books, passages, quotes, and memories of Ms. Morrison. The celebration of her life and legacy continues!
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  • Los Angeles, please join @thefreeblackwomenslibrary_la & My Lit Box as we come together to celebrate the incomparable Toni Morrison, this Sunday, August 11th from 5-7 PM at @reparations.club. A screening of the BBC documentary "Toni Morrison Remembers" will begin at 5 PM and will be followed by a community-driven discussion of Morrison's life and legacy. We'd love to see you there! RSVP using the link in our bio ❤
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  • What can we say about Toni Morrison that hasn't already been said? She was a gifted writer who centered the experiences of Black women and men and she did so unapologetically and she passed that unapologetic spirit on to all of us. Whether we write or not she gave us permission to be seen, be heard, to tell our own stories in our own voices and for that reason alone we should all be grateful. Rest well, Ms. Morrison. ❤
  • ⬅️SWIPE➡️ And just like that it's August and we have three new books for you to choose from!
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*Original My Lit Box*
By now I’m sure a lot of us have realized that sometimes it’s better to stand out than to fit in, but what happens when that desire to fit in or belong is too strong to ignore? In next month’s adult fiction selection, we’ll see how someone grapples with this from their childhood into adulthood.
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*Black Women are Lit*
In this collection of short stories, the author allows us to witness the relationships between estranged lovers, fathers and daughters, heroes and those in need of saving and these stories will take us from the States to the Caribbean and back again.
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*YA is Lit*
In our YA selection, we meet a cast of characters with pasts they’d rather put behind them, but they all find that you can' always outrun your past, entirely.

If you’re curious about any if these titles,be the first to find out by subscribing today!
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  • Happy pub day, @kalishaonline! If the cover art doesn't stop you dead in your treks, the synopsis will. "On a cold December evening, Autumn Spencer’s twin sister, Summer, walks to the roof of their shared Harlem brownstone and is never seen again. The door to the roof is locked, and the snow holds only one set of footprints. Faced with authorities indifferent to another missing Black woman, Autumn must pursue the search for her sister all on her own." Is Speaking of Summer on your TBR list?
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#bookphotography #books #bookshelf #bookstagram #bookstore #bookworm #currentlyreading #diversity #igreads #instabook #nowreading #read #reading #tbr #tbrlist #writersofcolor #blog #blogger #bookblog #subscriptionbox #wellreadblackgirl #wrbg #speakingofsummer
  • #LiteraryLA join us Sunday, Juy 28th from 3-5 PM at @findyourhilltop for an afternoon of community and conversation as we discuss Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala. "Speak No Evil explores what it means to be different in a fundamentally conformist society and how that difference plays out in our inner and outer struggles. It is a novel about the power of words and self-identification, about who gets to speak and who has the power to speak for other people." If you have a book loving friend in the Los Angeles area, tag them below so they don't miss out. RSVP using the link in our bio and we'll see you there!
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#bookphotography #books #bookshelf #bookstagram #bookstore #bookworm #currentlyreading #diversity #igreads #instabook #nowreading #read #reading #tbr #tbrlist #writersofcolor #blog #blogger #bookblog #subscriptionbox #bookclub #losangeles #la
  • Where is the time going? Here were are, six months down in the year, and we've had the pleasure of sharing these six books with you so far! Which have been your faves?
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#bookphotography #books #bookshelf #bookstagram #bookstore #bookworm #currentlyreading #diversity #igreads #instabook #nowreading #read #reading #tbr #tbrlist #writersofcolor #blog #blogger #bookblog #subscriptionbox #wellreadblackgirl #wrbg
  • ***GIVEAWAY CLOSED*** Happy Sunday!!! Let's host a giveaway, shall we? We have 5 copies of Beauty of the Moment by Tanaz Bhathena (@bhathenatanaz) and one of them could be yours! To enter all you have to do is (1) Follow @mylitbox (2) like this post and (3) tag a book loving friend below. That's it! Winners must reside in the US and entries will be accepted through Wednesday (7/3) and the winners will be announced Thursday (7/4). Good luck!
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  • Our final June #MyLitBox is our Black Women are Lit! Box featuring Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Denn (@ndennisbenn). In this novel, we witness a mother grapple with tough decisions as she makes a choice between her first love and her daughter, leaving her daughter to grapple with some tough decisions of her own. We wanted the items in this month's box to serve as validation that everyone deserves the right to exist as their full selves and all that entails. .
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#bookphotography #books #bookshelf #bookstagram #bookstore #bookworm #currentlyreading #diversity #igreads #instabook #nowreading #read #reading #tbr #tbrlist #writersofcolor #blog #blogger #bookblog #subscriptionbox #wellreadblackgirl #wrbg

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The Power of Story

January 8, 2018

When Abraham Lincoln met Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, he reportedly said, “So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war.”[1] Stories have power. Stories liberate. In these dark political times, stories are our best hope of remaining connected despite the forces that would tear us apart.

How can we use stories not only to entertain but as a tool of resistance and change?

This Is Our Brain On Stories

For thousands of years, humans have told stories. We sat around the campfire in the primordial forest and taught our children the valor of heroes, the evil of villains, and the path of the righteous—all through story. Since time out of mind, our lives have revolved around stories. Why? It turns out that our brains are uniquely wired for story.

Dr. Paul Zak is a neuroscientist who found that when the brain is exposed to story, the body releases oxytocin—what some call “the love hormone.” Oxytocin plays a significant role in social bonding and increases our sense of empathy, morality, and altruism. In a groundbreaking experiment, Dr. Zak exposed test subjects to commercials and movie shorts with a strong narrative on such “hot-button” issues as terrorism, gun control, and racism.[2] The increased oxytocin levels in Dr. Zak’s test subjects motivated them to take positive action. In this case, they donated money to charities that dealt with those issues though they were never asked to do so. Dr. Zak concluded, “These findings suggest that emotionally engaging narratives inspire post-narrative actions.”

In short, stories have a biological impact, and they motivate us to take action.

Story as Medicine

I am both a storyteller and a collector of stories. My earliest memories are of sitting around the fire in my grandmother’s courtyard in St. Marc, Haiti, listening and learning from her stories. In countries like Haiti where stories are alive in the fabric of the culture, they represent a living legacy and teach us how to navigate a difficult world.

A few years ago, I stumbled on a German folktale that served a similar purpose. The Enchanted Quill goes something like this:

There once was a young woman mired in difficulty. She worked for a prince and princess who did not appreciate her, and she was menaced by a huntsman, a caretaker, and a servant with a strange neck that was twisted from constantly watching doves.

The maiden sought help from her fiancé, a prince disguised as a crow. “Pull out one of my feathers,” said Crow, “and if you use it to write down a wish, the wish will come true.” The young woman did as she was told.

The next time the huntsman tried to enter her bedroom for reasons that could not be good, she wrote: “Let him spend all night taking his boots off and putting them back on.” When the caretaker tried his luck, she wrote, “Let him spend all night opening and closing the door.” And when the servant dared his turn, she wrote, “Let him spend all night opening and closing the door to the dovecote.”

And this is exactly what happened.

But her thwarted suitors were angry and they crafted three whips to beat her. When the maiden learned of this, she grabbed her crow feather and wrote: “Let them whip each other with those devilish switches!” The huntsman, the caretaker and the servant turned those whips on each other. When the mean prince and princess tried to intervene, they received more lashes than anyone else.

The crow arrived, and now he had turned into a prince. He rode with the lovely maiden to his magnificent castle.

The path out of harm’s way is laid out in The Enchanted Quill story: Write it down, and turn that negative energy back on itself. This small bit of advice from across eons of time works, at least according to modern science. Researchers at Stanford University wanted to support first-generation and underrepresented minority students who typically achieve less academically than their peers.[3] This achievement gap, according to researchers, “can be attributed, in part, to negative stereotypes that may trouble such students about how members of their groups have historically been less successful in college than others.”[4]

These students stand in the shoes of the menaced maiden. While she had to confront the Huntsman, the caretaker, and the servant with the strange neck, the college students had to battle self-doubt, and negative stereotypes from peers and even their professors. Their demons came in the form of questions: “Why am I feeling lonely? Why was I criticized? Why am I struggling?”[5] What saved the maiden, it turns out, could also save the students.

The entering college students got to read vivid stories from upperclassmen who were also first-generation or from underrepresented minority groups. These stories told of going into battle—of the problems the upperclassman once faced, and how they overcame them. The entering college students then wrote their own stories about the challenges they anticipated facing in this new and sometimes hostile environment. They reminded themselves these challenges were not insurmountable. They could succeed. And they did. This simple exercise closed the achievement gap between the students from disadvantaged or minority backgrounds and their peers by 31 to 40 percent.

Making Stories Work For Us

I spent the first week after the 2016 election curled in bed watching Madam Secretary. It was inconceivable that a man who bragged of grabbing women by their genitals—and had the nerve to label others rapists—was now President of the United States.  Numbing out seemed my best option, and then I stumbled on Toni Morrisson’s words:

“This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.”

Once more, the Huntsman, the caretaker, and the crooked-necked servant were beating down the doors of our sanctuary. They were up to no good, and only a story could save us now. I started writing a novel about a courageous lawyer fighting against injustice because I am a lawyer who desperately wanted to be brave and fight against injustice.

In the past, I might have told myself that stories are a waste of time at such a crucial moment. We need a good lawsuit (and an impeachment trial). There is truth in this, but we also need stories. It is stories that trigger our “love hormone” and keep us connected to one another. In stories, we can lay out our heart’s desire and defeat the demons at our door.

Marjorie Florestal is a lawyer and novelist. Her most recent novel, When Death Comes For You, is a legal thriller exploring the 1990s Haitian refugee crisis. It was acquired by Kindle Press, an Amazon Publishing company, and will be published in Spring 2018. You can find more of Marjorie’s writing on her personal blog.

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