All the Women in My Family Sing is an anthology documenting the lessons and experiences of women of color at the dawn of the twenty-first century. These brief, trenchant essays offer glimpses into the hard-fought struggle to exercise one’s autonomy, creativity and dignity. Whether regarding the workplace, the current restrictions on immigration into the U.S., the trauma of ill health, or the sadness of divorce, these essays capture the aspirations of women of color to live as full citizens of the world. In a time when rights are being taken away from people, these women stand in the power of inclusion, the right to self-identify, social justice and equality.
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Advance Praise for All the Women in My Family Sing
These brilliant and moving essays show the astonishing, brave and passionate lives of women of color as they fight for autonomy, equality and love. – Isabel Allende, author
A song of freedom: that’s what you hear as you read All the Women in My Family Sing, an anthology of essays by women of color. Sometimes the songs are heavy with loss, or staccato with righteous anger, or lilting with love. From Samina Ali’s tale of re-building her life after medical incompetence left her both a new mother and disabled to Camille Hayes’ story of challenging racial constructs over the years, we see women who fight passionately and gracefully for autonomy and self-definition. Some of them are new voices, others literary or socio-political lions like Marian Wright Edelman. But in all these fierce and anthemic pieces we see the true face of womanhood, in all its colors. – Farai Chideya, author of books including The Color of Our Future and The Episodic Career
These perfectly chosen, Woman Words are a healing gift from new sistahs, now my family, for whom I will fight, with whom I will stand and because of whom, I will build. – Alfre Woodard, Actor, Activist
In this beautifully composed chorus of sixty-nine voices, Deborah Santana has given us a fascinating and compelling anthology of essays by women of color. Each of these brief, poignant pieces illuminates one woman’s negotiation between her aspirations and the forces that would constrict her dreams. The contributors write prophetically of their struggles and triumphs in the early years of the twenty-first century, challenging the reader with their revelations. All the Women in My Family Sing is essential reading. – Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor, Harvard University
Santana has compiled a truly beautiful array of voices here, with hope being the common note they all hit and sustain. This is an accessible, teachable and cherishable collection.” — Dave Eggers, author of The Circle and founder of ScholarMatch and Voice of Witness
Some Of The Faces Behind All the Women in My Family Sing
Natalie Baszile, whose best-selling novel Queen Sugar was adapted for Oprah’s TV channel by award-winning director Ava Duvernay, writes of returning to Louisiana to research Queen Sugar and finding the “painful truths” her father experienced in the “belly of segregation.”
Kelly Woolfolk, an attorney who acted in Spike Lee’s School Daze before working in the legal department of Virgin Records and as counsel for a television production company, writes about her identity growing up with “good” hair, “piss-colored,” and criticized for “talking white.” She now sees her son’s experience in Oakland in a private school through the cloud of oppression that killed Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice.
Blaire Topash-Caldwell, a PhD student in the Department of Anthropology at the University of New Mexico, writes about reclaiming Indigenous space after the historic criminalization of Indigenous religions, the theft of Indian children, and other systemic forms of violence that have alienated Indigenous communities from healthy sociality.
Marian Wright Edelman, famed founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund as well as a lawyer and advocate for disadvantaged Americans, writes about her role models Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth, whom she wears on medallions around her neck. Her other role models, Ella Baker and Jo Ann Robinson, remind us “of a great heritage of strength, courage, faith, and belief in the equality of women and people of every color.”
Lalita Tademy, New York Times bestselling author of three historical novels, writes of being the first in her family to graduate from college and eventually becoming the VP and General Manager of Sun Microsystems. Leaving corporate life after 20 years to write a novel based on her Louisiana family, she was rejected 13 times before finding a publisher for Cane River, Oprah’s summer Book Pick in 2001, which was translated into 11 languages and was San Francisco’s One City, One Book in 2007.
Michelle “Mush” Lee is a poet and educator, recipient of the New York Hip Hop Theater Festival’s Future Aesthetic Grant and Compasspoint’s Next Generation Leaders of Color Fellowship. She teaches in universities across the country and is on the Board of 826 Valencia, and is a Senior Teaching Artist at Youth Speaks. Her poem, “Stay,” is a meditation on birthing and fighting to stay put when everything in you says run.
Mila Jam believes she has made the world a better place by not masquerading, instead choosing to live in her truth loving the boy people thought she was and the woman she is. An award-winning New York City nightlife recording artist and entertainer as well as CEO of the artist collective THEJAMFAM, Mila also toured in the hit Broadway musical RENT.
Want Chyi has an MFA in fiction from Arizona State University and was the International Fiction Editor of Hayden’s Ferry Review. She claims that the first time she went to a punk concert as a sophomore in high school, she was finally able to forget that she was not Asian enough, did not fit in, and was too small and too novel to be real to the mostly white town of Carmel, Indiana.
Rhonda Turpin’s home is Cleveland, Ohio, but she has been in prison since 2004, serving a 15-year sentence for a white collar, non-violent offense. Murderers serve smaller sentences. Her essay, Prison Parenting, explains the increase of the female prison population of over 300 percent in the last decade. She wrote her first book at Alderson West Virginia Prison Camp, and was mentored by Martha Stewart as she served time in the same facility.
Jennifer De Leon writes about her Guatemalan mother’s approach to education as if it is a religion in their household. De Leon is an author, editor, speaker, consultant, and creative writing instructor at Emerson College and the GrubStreet creative writing center. She is the editor of Wise Latinas: Writers on Higher Education and much more.
Samina Ali suffered a seizure and hundreds of strokes as she gave birth to her son, Isham, and writes here of the two and a half years it took to recover. Ali is an American author, activist and serving curator of Muslima: Muslim Women’s Art and Voices, a global, virtual exhibition. She is also the co-founder of the American Muslim feminist organization Daughters of the Hajar. Her debut novel, Madras on Rainy Days, was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award.
Porochista Khakpour is an Iranian American novelist, essayist and writer. Her work has been nominated for several Pushcart Prizes. She was most recently the recipient of a 2012 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship in Creative Writing (Prose). Her debut novel Sons and Other Flammable Objects was a New York Times “Editor’s Choice,” Chicago Tribune “Fall’s Best,” and 2007 California Book Award winner. Her second novel, The Last Illusion, was a Kirkus Best Book of 2014, a BuzzFeed Best Fiction Book of 2014, an NPR Best Book of 2014, and one of Buzzfeed’s 28 Best Books By Women in 2014.
Nikki Abramson’s first book, I Choose Hope-Overcoming Challenges with Faith and Positivity is an inspirational memorial about the challenges she has overcome as a Korean adoptee and someone living with rare medical challenges and disabilities. Her second book, Hope for Today, is a coffee table book of inspirational quotes that she hopes will inspire someone in times of need. Abramson is also a contributor to several anthologies including Women of a Certain Age: Answer Seven Questions About Life, Love, and Loss, Surviving Brain Injury: Stories of Strength and Inspiration, and Stories from the Social Side: Advice from Marketing Professionals to Marketing Professionals. She is also an actor, educator, and speaker. She holds both a Masters and BA degree in elementary and K12 education.
Deborah L. Plummer, PhD is the editor of the Handbook of Diversity Management and a psychologist, university professor, and Vice Chancellor for Diversity of Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Reading the Beany Malone series of books when she was 11 years old showed her a very different lifestyle than her beloved inner city of Cleveland, Ohio. The 1966 race riots were a “real time history lesson” for Deborah and her friends.
Kira Lynne Allen, Maroula Blades, Meera Bowman-Johnson, Charmaine Branch, Randi Bryant-Agenbroad, Meilan Carter-Gilkey, La Rhonda Crosby-Johnson, Belva Davis, Denise Diaab, Tara Dorabji, Ugochi Egonu, America Ferrera, Yessenia Funes, V.V. Ganeshananthan, KE Garland, Wanda Greene, Menen Hailu, Camille Hayes, Nira A. Hyman, Grace Jang, Jordan Johnson, Lisa A. Jones, Soniah Kamal, Musimbi Kanyoro, Nari Kirk, Veronica Kugler, Jamie Leon Lin-Yu, Nashormeh Lindo, Miriam Louie, Charina Lumley, Shyla Machanda, Sara Marchant, Deborah McDuffie, Kristin Leavy Miller, Fabiana Monteiro, Roshila Nair, Robtel Neajai Pailey, Marti Paschal, Piroozeh Petigara, Eliana Ramage, Sridevi Ramanathan, Maria Ramos-Chertok, Rita Roberts-Turner, Favianna Rodriguez, Terezita Romo, Shizue Seigel, Janine Shiota, Ethel Smith, Matilda Smith, Emma Talbott, Nuris Terrero, Tammy Thea, Mercy Tullis-Bukhari, Hope Wabuke, Vicki Ward, and Dera Williams.
Editor Deborah Santana is an author, documentary film producer and activist for peace and social justice. She holds a Master of Arts in Philosophy and Religion with a Concentration in Women’s Spirituality. Her memoir, Space Between the Stars, was published in 2005. Her essays have been anthologized in Life Moments for Women, Nothing But the Truth So Help Me God, Chokecherries Anthology, and Tutu As I Know Him. Her book of poetry is titled Silence Always Answers.