Title: Birth Days: Stories of Women Who Turned Difficult Beginnings into Glorious Lives
Author: Carol Massey
Print Length: 157 pages
Publisher: Pure Heart Publishing
Publication Date: November 2019
Reviewed By: Yecheilyah Ysrayl
Birth Days is just what its subtitle says, “the stories of women who turned difficult beginnings into glorious lives.” The author introduces us to several fictional women who endure heartbreaking struggles with birth and parenting. Dr. Francine Young gives her baby up for adoption, Lulu didn’t know she was pregnant until two months before giving birth, Margaret messed around with Jackson Jones (and he was not her husband), and Lulu’s grandson became the President of Howard University in 2027.
We are witnesses to the trials these women endured, the men they loved and the people who assisted them in their journeys. (Like Aunt Sis who acted as a Midwife and caregiver for Mary and Connie). Readers will be eager to see what happens next as each woman tackles her beast. We can consider the stories historical as many of them take place as far back as the thirty’s and forty’s and I enjoyed the pieces of history sprinkled throughout as it pertained to the differences of the lives of African Americans in the North as compared to the South. (Though, I wish the author had placed more emphasis on how racist the North was too. To her credit, there was mention of the racial subtleties of the North, but I still got the feeling that for the characters it represented the land of milk and honey.)
My favorite story is the first one, Two Sisters, with Connie and Mary, Aunt Sis and Aunt Ailene. I could see the mother’s grief at having such a difficult pregnancy and the fear that gripped the family at having lost a baby before, and their anxiousness over whether Mary would live. I felt the father’s heartache at building the baby coffin out of the fear she would die like the others. (And when the father renovated the house later in the story and came home with Clara it had a Color Purple feel to it). I was eager to see what would happen to the sisters in the long run. The author did a good job of keeping me wanting to read on. (I enjoyed Dr. Francine’s story too.)
I believe this book to be a five-star read. It’s not a long book and the stories of the women and their struggles with maternity fit well within today’s society where women, their efforts and lives are at the forefront. However, because of a few errors, I cannot rate this book the five stars I think some minor adjustments could help it become. Too much telling, no chapter headings and too many exclamation marks are among my concerns that impede the flow of the reading and, as a result, contribute to my final rating.
After retiring from a 30+ year career in health and educational administration, Carol Massey had time to reflect on the people, places and events that influenced and inspired her. She wanted to pay homage to some of the women who guided, nurtured and supported her journey from childhood through college, career and life as a single mother of an African American male child. Carol, a California native, now lives in suburban Atlanta with her rescue pup, Ms. Frances.
I did not intend on writing about this today but then…
I saw the Harriet movie.
Yep. I went to see it.
I know many are protesting the film, but I don’t jump on bandwagons. I wanted to see it for myself to develop my own opinion. I also knew I wanted to write about it.
There are some truths (such as her being referred to as Moses). Unfortunately, there are more inaccuracies than truth. The movie is Hollywoodish and leaves a lot out. This is a problem because there’s so much information out in 2019 that if Hollywood wanted to, it could tell this story with 100% fact. (I heard in an interview; the script was written 20 years ago). If you are planning to see it, here are some things you may want to know:
Harriet Tubman never had a friend named Marie Buchanon.
There was never a Black Bounty Hunter named Bigger Long after Harriet Tubman. The same is true of the Brodesses son. They did have a son (Jonathan) but little is known about him. His role in the movie is made up.
While “Bigger Long,” is a fictional character, it shouldn’t be overlooked that Black trackers existed and were active during slavery. I think it is important that as we are striving for Historical Accuracy we don’t miss that. We cannot be so “Pro-Black” that we forget that a lot of our own people sold us out (and continue to sell us out).
While Bigger Long may not have been a real person in Harriet’s life, there were black slave catchers. Sometimes your biggest enemy is your own brother. It is just that in Harriet’s case, this wasn’t the case.
There is no historical record for a Black Bounty Hunter after Harriet Tubman. The movie, it seemed to me, had a lot of ‘women vs. men’ undertones to it. Not only was Bigger Long the sole antagonist against Harriet (even more so than the Brodesses son), he was also the one responsible for the death of one of the Black women in the film in the most diabolical, sinister, and brutal way.
The William Still character (based on a real historical figure he was a Black abolitionist based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, businessman, writer, and conductor on the Underground Railroad) was over-the-top with his reactions to Harriet’s return from the missions. Holding his hand to his chest, spinning Harriet around, and at one point he even falls out of a chair. Some people laughed but I didn’t find it funny. It looks like bufoonery.
The imaginative Marie, however, shows Harriet how to shoot a gun and helps her in her cause. Harriet was a warrior but I am certain the surrounding men weren’t that simple-minded and faithless.
The Black men in this movie seemed weak to me. I worry this was intentional.
Tubman didn’t change her name when she reached freedom. She changed it before then, around the time of her marriage, possibly to honor her mother.
Three of Tubman’s sisters were sold, not just one.
Two of Tubman’s brothers, Ben and Harry, accompanied her (1) they went with her initially, at the onset of her escape not later as depicted in the film (2) after a notice was published in the Cambridge Democrat offering a reward for her return Harry and Ben had second thoughts and returned to the plantation so she made the voyage alone.
Tubman had spells, dream-states, and visions (I believe she was deeply spiritual, her spells were my inspiration for Nora’s spells in Renaissance), but she also endured seizures, severe headaches, and narcoleptic episodes for the rest of her life from the hit to the head.
This next point wasn’t in the movie but since we are talking about Harriet Tubman I think it’s important to mention.
The Fake Quote:
Yea, you know the one. I have said it. You have said it. We have all repeated it. It’s a good quote. Powerful one too and I wish I could say it belonged to Harriet but with every source I checked there’s no documented, historical proof that Harriet Tubman ever said:
“I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.”
According to Africacheck.org, there are a few possible origins of the quote’s attribution to Harriet:
The confusion began when feminist writer Robin Morgan updated her 1970 essay “Goodbye to All That” during the 2008 US Democratic Party’s primary presidential candidate race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Morgan supported Clinton, and in the essay challenged other women who did not. She wrote: “Let a statement by the magnificent Harriet Tubman stand as reply. When asked how she managed to save hundreds of enslaved African Americans via the Underground Railroad during the Civil War, she replied bitterly, ‘I could have saved thousands – if only I’d been able to convince them they were slaves.’” The implication was that women who didn’t support Clinton were similarly enslaved, and didn’t know it.
One expert was Milton Sernett, professor emeritus of history and African American studies at Maxwell School. “My impression is that this is a late 20th century quote from a fictionalised account of Tubman’s life,” Sernett told history blogger Ralph Luker, who first queried the quote.
More than this, at meetings in 1858 and 1859 Tubman repeatedly said she had personally rescued 50 to 60 people from slavery. So she would never have said she “freed a thousand slaves”.
A quote that has historical proof, and that has been proven to come from her that you can use:
“I was the conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can’t say — I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger.”
– Harriet Tubman at a suffrage convention, NY, 1896.
A few more things not addressed in the movie:
Tubman’s time as a Union spy (touched on a little at the end of the film), nurse, and cook, her 1869 marriage to Nelson Davis—a soldier, some 20 years her junior—and the couple’s 1874 adoption of a baby girl named Gertie, her work as a suffragist, neurosurgery undertaken to address her decades-old brain injury, financial hardship later in life, and the opening of the Harriet Tubman Home for the Elderly in 1908.
The movie wasn’t a total fail for me because there are some things I liked that are worth mentioning.
I loved the show of Harriet’s spirituality, which I do not equate to anything Christian. Her reliance on her faith, praying and praising during difficult times and raising her palms to the sky to pray (this is how we did it…our hands weren’t clapped together they were open and raised into the air) was a beautiful show of faith and her belief that the Almighty was central in guiding her in her journey’s.
As I’ve said, I don’t jump on bandwagons. I have my own opinion.
So, should you see the film? That is up to you. I will caution that if you plan to bring your children, print this post out (or another fact sheet you’ve vetted) and use it as a reference so they can properly discern the facts in the movie from the fiction.
I have been MIA on social media lately and I’ll return to my regular blogging soon. In the meantime, the Even Salt Looks Like Sugar is available now in audiobook. If you are a first time audible user this book is free with the 30 day trial.
Texas, I’ll be at the Trill Healing and Wellness Space in Stafford TX (about 40min from Houston) on November 30th for a signing and book reading of Keep Yourself Full. If you are in the area, I would love to have your support. This is our chance to meet/catch up. Don’t have this book? No worries! Grab your copy now from my website by clicking on the link in my bio. See you soon. Special thanks to Trill Monday Night Markets, Enlightened Souls, and B Infused Natural Detox Waters and more.
My name is Michael Williams, or as I’m called in this wonderful world of the interwebs, Cerealsensei. I was born in Austin, Texas but I spent a large portion of my life in Baltimore, Maryland where I was raised.
What does Cerealsensei mean?
The name Cerealsensei represents two parts of my personality. I have a slight obsession with cereal, I would consider myself a cereal connoisseur of sorts. If it was possible to eat cereal for every meal and not have your sugar levels spike through the roof I would do it but unfortunately life isn’t fair.
Haha. Okay Cereal Connoisseur, what’s your favorite?
The greatest cereal of all time is Waffle Crisp, without question. Sadly I believe it was discontinued last year so if you didn’t have it after all these years then you missed out on greatness. So by technicality I guess Cinnamon Toast Crunch is now sitting on the throne.
Lol. Cinnamon Toast Crunch is the bomb if I must say so myself. Let’s get back to the meaning of your name…
The Sensei part comes from me being the oldest in my group of friends. I watched a lot of martial arts films growing up. Normally the Sensei was an older an teacher who was always the voice of reason and tried to keep everyone in line. In a way that’s kind of how I am in my group of friends, the resident old head who’s just trying to keep order. So i just kind of combined the two and Cerealsensei was born. Also, since my real name is so common I had to add in a nickname so you could find me easily in a google search.
Got it. What do you love about yourself?
A few years ago I might not have even been able to answer this question. But I’ve come to love the weird quirks and off beat humor of my personality. I know I’m different, and I don’t say that to be pretentious or “artsy” but it’s true. I’ve become fully aware that I march awkwardly to the beat of my own drum and I get lost among the crowd. But it’s what makes me who I am and I wouldn’t change it even if I could.
That’s beautiful. What’s the most difficult thing about being a writer? The Most Exciting thing?
The most exciting thing? The most difficult thing……I absolutely with all of my being despise editing. I dread it every time I have to do it, but it’s the most important part of the writing process in my opinion so it’s unavoidable. But it stresses my soul every single time. The most exciting thing would have to be that moment when you realize those crazy ideas you had in your head can actually become something tangible. That moment when you’ve got the words down on the paper in the exact way you wanted to and you can honestly be proud that you were able to flush that concept out into something readable. Ironically this happens a lot when you’re……editing, go figure.
What kind of music do you like?
Man, I could go on all day about this. Aside from writing music is a huge passion of mine. Now days I mostly listen to a lot of indie hip hop, Oddisee is probably my favorite rapper if I had to list one. But I appreciate all genre’s of music, they all bring something special to the table. Depending on my mood I’ll throw on some soul or R&B, then switch it up to some rock, something ambient or orchestral, I also love instrumental beat tapes which are great to listen to if you’re writing. One of the best things about the internet was it exposed me to so much music that I didn’t know existed, I spend a good amount of time doing what I call digital crate digging just trying to find new things to listen to.
When did you publish your first book? What was that like?
I published my first book on November 12, 2018. When I finally put it out it was an awesome feeling, a lot of weight fell of my shoulders on that day. To be honest, when I put it out I wasn’t so much worried about people loving it or hating it. Obviously, I hope they like it. But putting out that first book was for me to prove that I could start this process and see it through until the very end. This was an idea that started about five years ago, so it was awesome to finally be able to release it and check that goal off of my bucket list. Now it’s about repeating that process over again, and not having it take five years to do.
What genre do you write in, why?
I’m terrible with categorizing but for now I guess you could say comedic fiction, aimed generally at a younger audience. I wanted my first book to be something that anyone could pick up and relate to in some way. I don’t want to talk over anyone’s head, I’m not trying to make some crazy and profound statement with my writing. I just want you to be able to pick it up and have a good time, writing fiction allows me to do that.
You definitely achieved that. From the cover and blurb, the Oddball Chronicles looks like a fun read!
My future projects which will also include scripts I’m working on will be much darker though. I don’t want to get pegged into any box. I’m a scatter brain and that influences how I write. I”ll never stick to just one genre. The Oddball Chronicles will stand as it’s own thing, but everything afterward most likely won’t resemble it at all.
What was your childhood dream?
My first childhood dream was to become a chef. Ha, boy did I fail that dream miserably. But to my credit, I’ve gotten better around the kitchen. Having health issues made me learn how to cook so I wouldn’t eat out so much. I’m not the best cook by any stretch of the imagination but I can make some pretty decent salmon.
Love Salmon. Let’s talk about writing a bit more. What do you hate most about writing advice? What do you love?
This is a tough question. I think what I love is also what I hate. And that would be that there’s really no set playbook on how any of this works. You and I could both read the same writing advice and for you it might cause a light-bulb moment but my fuse will just blow out all together. It’s very cliché, but you really do have to find what works best for you.
I agree. What do you think of the world we live in?
It’s crazy, it’s out of control, some days I’m waiting for it to end. Whether it be Jesus coming back to take the wheel or an asteroid just wiping us all out. Everyday I see at least one news story or viral video that just makes me shake my head. But on the flip-side, the world still has it’s beautiful parts. There are still good people out here who are trying to do the right thing and push us forward. If nothing else, I love the creative boom that’s happening with content in terms of film, music and all of the other creative outlets. Underneath all of the madness there are some extremely talented people out here putting out great art and that’s what inspires me and keeps me going. I want to add my name to that conversation.
Why is writing important to you?
It’s the best way I know how to communicate. If I didn’t have it all of these wild ideas in my head wouldn’t leave, writing helps me give them a home so they don’t bother me for too long. Writing is a release for me and gives me a sense of accomplishment every time I do it. If I wasn’t writing I’d hate to think of where I’d be or what I’d be doing. Life wouldn’t be much fun without it.
Thank you Michael for spending this time with us. We enjoyed you!
My name is Michael Williams and I’m an independent author and podcaster currently living in Edgewood, Maryland. When I’m not writing stories or scripts you can find me obsessing over Mixed Martial Arts, playing video games and/or attempting to finish an anime (I have commitment issues). On November 12th, 2018 I released volume one of my short story series entitled The Oddball Chronicles. I wanted to write something that captured the growing pains of every day life and put my little off beat brand of humor on it. Hopefully if someone else reads it they’ll find it halfway entertaining, or possibly even learn something.
*I was gifted a copy of this book from the author*
The Cursed Queen is part of Ocaya’s Mystical Tales series, a fantasy, mystery novel full of adventure and magic. The story takes place on a hidden Island called Ophen and the world is reminiscent of Bright; the movie starring Will Smith, where humans, orcs, elves, and fairies co-exist. In this book, there are short people called Hervecs, big, colorful skinned people called Broncords, animal people called Naiths, and magical people called Elves.
Yuna Queenertia has just awakened from a coma and does not understand who she is or where she is. She lives with a woman named Marianna Waterglow, who calls herself Granny, a woman named Anna and her daughter Samantha, who everyone calls Sam. Sam is hilarious and I enjoyed how the author has developed her character. (I admit I liked her better than Yuna. She just seemed more real to me, like a real little girl.) I enjoyed the tension surrounding Yuna’s confusion about who she is and why she is not allowed out of her room. The anticipation makes you want to keep reading. We soon discover that Yuna has silver hair and that because of this hair she is cursed. The people throw stones at her and treat her badly. As the book progresses, we follow Yuna, Sam, and their family on a journey of self-discovery as Yuna searches for her memories. We are taken back to her childhood for some backstory, introduced to more interesting characters with interesting abilities and discover many twists as secrets are revealed.
I do wish there was more that tied in with Yuna’s hair though. A lot is revealed but I felt that it became more about the Wraiths (a terrorist group in the magical realm), than it was about Yuna’s discovery. I would have liked for the story to dig deeper into the history behind people with silver hair more than it did. But, this is just book one so who knows what Ocaya’s got up his sleeves! I think it’s fascinating to depict someone with this hair as someone who is cursed because normally gray and silver hair is indicative of someone with wisdom.
I can see this book as a movie and would recommend it to young adults. I just feel like children would love it. Yuna’s History and Tradition teacher, for instance, is a Hervec with a long mustache that reaches to the floor, a long robe and glasses. I think this would be funny to see on the screen. Then there’s the funny little fairy Yuna and Sam meets in search for Anna. I can’t tell you much else without spoiling the book, but there’s a youthful, fun, innocence about this book that I love. Although the anticipation of Yuna discovering her memories wrecked my nerves (lol), this was a fun, adventurous read.
Carlo Ocaya was born and raised from the island called Saipan (No, not Spain, Saipan). Staying within his hometown for the first 19 years, he decided to join the Marine Corps and was sent to the U.S. mainland in California.
During his time in the military, Carlo began writing his first few drafts of the Mystical Tales series. He got the idea of his first book by the thought of his home. The setting of the island was meant to contain similar features as his homeland with the people and settings slightly altered. His adventure towards the states is what has created and developed his future ideas on books.
He went to school overnight in order to study the basics of writing and further his knowledge on grammar and literature. It wasn’t until the next few years that he gained the confidence to publish the book.
Independent and thriving, Carlo uses his knowledge from software engineering class to further develop his website into what it is now. He continues to further his education by learning the tricks and trade at San Diego Mesa College.
Now residing in Santa Ana, California, he stays with his brother and goes to school full time. Carlo hopes to partake in future book events and display his writing, skills, and books to others.
His first book, Mystical Tales: The Cursed Queen, will be featured within LA Times Festival of Books and San Francisco Bay Area Book Festival.
Just a quick note to invite you to join me at Georgia State University for the second Atlanta African American Book Festival this summer. Last year was amazing and I connected with a lot of new authors. I’ve come to truly enjoy live events. It gives me a chance to discuss this blog with authors face to face, take photos I can look back on for years and network with professionals face to face. So, if you are in the area around this time, I’d love to meet you. The event takes place on Saturday, July 20th, from 10:00-5a at GSU and is free and open to the public. For instant updates on things like this, be sure you are following me on Instagram.
Whenever I travel, I always get the same question, “where can I find your books?” So, here’s a breakdown of where you can find me. For clarity, I write Poetry and Black Historical Fiction so my books are either poetic/inspirational or historical.
1. Always check my website first. Everything is there in one place. Just visit me atyecheilyahysrayl.com. Go to the bookstore page for print books only and the Amazon Author Central page for digital + print books. Go to services to learn about the services I offer and visit the events page for updates on any new events I have coming up.
2. After you have already checked my website, you can also find me on Webuyblack.com. Simply click on the link in my bio or go to > webuyblack.com/yecheilyahysrayl
3. you can also find me on Amazon. Follow this Amazon Author Central link and it will take you to my page where you can see all the books I have available on Amazon. (some of my books are only available on my website. be sure to check there first).
3. If you are in ATL, remember that I need your support at the stores. You can find I am Soul and Renaissance at Nubian books (IG handle – @nubian_bookstore), I am Soul at Medu (IG handle – @medubookstoreatl), Even Salt Looks Like Sugar and The Road to Freedom at Tall Tales Books (IG handle – @talltalesbooks). Be sure to stop in for a physical, signed copy and help me stay on the shelves. Not in ATL? Follow the first three steps.