The Preciousness of Now

Photo by Luke Littlefield on Unsplash

“Our passports are basically useless right now.”

I looked at my husband, “what do you mean?”

He passed me his phone with a world map pulled up next to an article. The article detailed that because of the extreme of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US, most countries are not allowing citizens from America into its lands. While we were not planning a trip out of the country, this made me think about the preciousness of now, of gratitude, and how quickly moments become memories.

How often do we stop to enjoy the minutes in front of us, before rushing on to the next something?

Fun Fact: I take a lot of pictures on vacation, but I rarely post them to social media when they were taken. Sometimes, I may not post photos at all on that day.

I started this practice after realizing how much I was missing with my head down. My husband would say stuff like, “did you see that deer?” No. I didn’t. I was uploading photos to Facebook.

Alicante, Spain. ©2020. Yecheilyah Ysrayl

I kept taking lots of pictures and sharing them, but not before enjoying the moment in front of me first. It has made all the difference. I can still taste the sweetness of the oranges we picked from the orange trees in Spain and smell the delicate fragrance of the lemons we picked from the lemon trees. And I can still remember the moment my husband snapped this picture, capturing forever a time I am not sure will ever return.

I do not know if the world is going back to what we considered normal, and I am not sure when we will travel again. But, I know that I will keep taking pictures and capturing moments because today is here; living and waiting to be filled. This second. This minute. This single hour. This unprecedented time. This precious right now that will undoubtedly become history. How does it feel to live history? Will we remember? What will we make of these moments before they become memories? What will we do with all these precious hours in front of us before they are gone?

Will There Be a Fire Next Time?

“I am very worried about the state of the civilization which produced that photograph of the white cop standing on that Negro woman’s neck in Birmingham in 1963.”

– Lorraine Hansberry


Fifty years from now, when you do not see protests on the news,

sixty years from now, when George Floyd’s blood has dried up,

and Ahmaud Arbery is nothing more than a Google search,

when you no longer see your brothers and sisters marching and protesting in the streets for justice,

forty years from now, when there are no more hashtags

on which to hang your consciousness

and no Instagram to snapshot the revolution

when “black,” is no longer “trending”

will there be a fire next time?

 

When the news goes back to its regularly scheduled program

and the American flag is still soaked with the blood of the saints

their memory etched into the concrete we walk on

who will walk on?

When the history books forget to mention Breonna Taylor’s name, will we?

Did you know there were five little girls injured during the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963?

Did you know that the fifth little girl, Sarah Collins Rudolph, lived?

twenty years from now, whose legacy lives?

Who will Emmett Till Trayvon Martin’s memory?

When America’s anger sizzles into complacency

will there be a fire next time?


“History is not the past. It is the present. We carry our history with us. We are our history.” – James Baldwin

Blog Book Review Registry: OPEN

Hello good people!

My book review registry is back open. I am ready to read and support the best Indie Books around. Please take the time to read through my blog book review policy below. This same policy can also be found on its own page here.

Many times authors ask for a review from book bloggers without checking to see if they have a system in place first. This negligence to be thorough and get to know the blogger almost always leads to a resounding silence. This is a hard “No,” from the reviewer so please, understand my policy before you request a review.

What is a Book Review?

A book review is a form of literary criticism in which a book is analyzed based on content, style, and merit. A book review may be a primary source, opinion piece, summary review, or scholarly review. A book review’s length may vary from a single paragraph to a substantial essay but can also be as short as a single sentence. Book reviews help encourage readers to purchase a book, acts as social proof, helps with an author’s Amazon ranking, and increases the book’s visibility.

About Yecheilyah’s Reviews

I have reviewed over thirty books (thirty-six to be exact) by over thirty different authors spanning five years. My authors include both new and Best Selling writers from all over the world. The PBS Blog has been on Reedsy’s Best Book Review Blogs since 2017 and still holds a spot in 2020 as one of it’s vetted catalog of active book blogs and thoughtful, quality, book reviews. My reviews are honest and thorough without giving away spoilers.

“It’s not just because she reviewed my novelette, All Good Stories, and gave it 5 stars, I’m writing about her because she gives great (and helpful) reviews. In a market, so full, it’s hard to choose what to read, isn’t it? We really need reviews these days that go beyond the minimalistic, “I liked it,” to know what we’re investing our money in. Because money doesn’t grow on trees. Neither do books anymore, for that matter.” – Linda G. Hill, author, All Good Stories.

How to Apply for a Review

1). Email me the link to your book on Amazon.

Put Blog Book Review Request in the header and do not send anything  but the link to the book. I don’t need the title or description. Just the link.

If the book is not published, send me the title, description, and book cover if you have it. Email this to yecheilyah@yecheilyahysrayl.com. This is only if the books is not published.

2). Wait for approval

I will email you back and let you know if I would like to move forward and review your book. Please allow 2-3 business days before hearing back from me.

3). Upon approval pay the readers fee* through the main author website.

If I choose to review the book there is a small reader’s fee. Pay the fee through my site at this link.

*If your book is not approved for a review you will not have to pay the fee as I will not be reading/reviewing the book.

*The reader’s fee does not guarantee a positive review, nor is it payment for an Amazon review, which is against Amazon’s terms of service.

4). Gift me a copy of your book.

If your book is published:

  • Gift it through amazon to yecheilyah@yecheilyahysrayl.com.

For published books I am no longer accepting PDF documents. You must gift me the book.

You may send an epub or mobi file directly to my kindle email address at yecheilyahysrayl@kindle.com. PDF documents are acceptable if the book is not published.

If the book is in Kindle Unlimited you won’t have to gift it. I have a KU account and I can grab it for free.

  • You may ship me a paperback / hard copy but let me know this in our email correspondence.

Pro. This option will allow me to post a picture of the book on Social Media! (If I reviewed your book as an ebook and loved it, you can always send me a paperback if you want me to go the extra mile and post a pic to sm!)

Con. This option is a longer turnaround time on the review since I have to wait for it in the mail, read it, and then review it. I do not recommend this option if you are in a hurry for feedback.

Honest Reviews:

I take the “honesty” part of the honest review seriously. If you’re looking for someone to sugar coat feedback of your book, I am not the reviewer for you. I invest much time and attention to the books I review. I do not skim through your writing, skip large text, or copy and paste the book blurb from Amazon. I take my time to read.

As a professional book reviewer and Indie Author, I consider it my responsibility to promote the best, so I am not cutting corners this year. If your book is full of typos and errors, you lessen the chances of being approved for a review. Excellence is a priority.

If your book is approved, I rate on the scale of 3-5 only on this blog. If your review falls below a 3-star rating, I will email you the report and my thoughts — only scores of 3-5 qualify for a published feature and spotlight on this blog.

Rating System

Only ratings of  3 – 5 are published on this blog.

Rating meanings vary between reviewers but here are mine.

  • Plot Movement / Strength
  • Entertainment Factor
  • Characterization
  • Authenticity / Believable
  • Thought Provoking

*Poetry ratings will differ from other books:

  • Presentation
  • Thought Provoking
  • Creativity / Authenticity

Five StarsAmazing, Outstanding

This book was hard to put down and is highly recommended. It was well-written, wasn’t preachy, included fully developed characters who were relatable and realistic, masterful use of language, an engaging plot, and a satisfying ending.

Four Stars – Very Good

This book is delightful and well worth the read. Great story with only minor weaknesses that may include aspects of plot/dialogue/character development.

Three Stars – Nice

This book was lovely. The writing and storytelling are sound, but several aspects could be improved. The author may have too many editing/typo errors, too much telling, or I couldn’t get into the story as much as I’d hoped, but it was enjoyable.

In the event you receive a one or two-star personal review from me:

Two Stars – Not Recommended

This book did not fully capture the reader’s attention or interest. Admirable attempt but needs more attention to plot/dialogue/editing/formatting/character development.

One Star – Poor

This book has significant issues with text that outweigh any enjoyment by the reader. Poorly written, preachy, unprofessional editing/layout/printing; needs considerable revision to deserve the reader’s time.

My Favorite Genres to Read/Review:

  • Black History
  • Fiction (Literary/Historical/General)
  • Memoirs
  • Self-Help
  • Motivational / Inspirational
  • Poetry

Pro Tip: It is best that you try to send reviewers books they are  most interested in reading!

Genres I Don’t Review

I do not currently review the following genres. It is not intended to be discriminatory in any way. Thank you for understanding:

• LGBT Fiction / Literature
• Erotica*

*Romance is okay, but not strict erotica.

IMPORTANT:

a. I do not accept unsolicited requests for reviews. Do not email me a digital copy of your book if we have not already corresponded through email using the steps mentioned above.

b. Agreement on my part to read a book does not imply blanket authorization to send me other works of yours (including books in a series.) You must follow these steps for each book you want to be reviewed.

c. Turnaround time for receipt of the review depends on the length of the book. Naturally, shorter texts are read and reviewed quicker than longer books.


#BookReview “I am Soul” by the Incomparable Yecheilyah Ysrayl

BOOK REVIEW “I AM SOUL” BY THE INCOMPARABLE YECHEILYAH YSRAYL #RRBC #RWISA

Forrest takes a Journey!

Book Review “I am Soul” by the imcomparable Yecheilyah Ysrayl #RRBC #RWISA

FOREMOST, It has been a long time my friends but I hope you all have remained safe and healthy. This is a crazy time we are living in right now. I have fallen behind in reviewing some incredible books and collections due my work life as a Social Worker and Inpatient Program Manager. I wish to thank everyone who has reached out to me or sent warm wishes during this health scare that is surrounding us all. I do apologize if my silence has worried anyone or caused them concern.

My first review is a beautiful poetry and prose anthology by the beautiful Yecheilyah Ysrayl. I happened upon her through the wonder Rave Reviews Book Club #RRBC and #RWISA.

Before I go into my review, please read more about Yecheilyah Ysrayl and her collection “I am Soul”

View original post 740 more words

So She Sang Poetry


Poetry was the cry of a caged bird
Inside, imprisoned by walls, she built herself
Her chest heavy with questions she did not have the guts to ask
felt her voice was too secret
her mission too silent
her purpose too underground railroad
and ain’t nobody wanna be free.
So she sang poetry
and the walls melted like liquid honey.
It was startling how her voice vibrated the air
and she saw her skeletons, ugly and raw
a graveyard of insecurities locked inside the cages of her mind
She was not dead, but something else was
she saw the struggles of her voice
the agony of a quiet storm in a world full of noise
Her mind was a Civil War, and she wasn’t sure who would win,
the enslaved or the free
So she sang poetry
and the shackles melted like liquid honey.
There was strength in her lungs
she could not tame the lyric
there was no trapping the gift
no caging the courage
no binding the song.
There was freedom in her fingers
and a revolution in her pen.
Paper was a bloodbath of truth
and writing a sanctuary
Fear didn’t live here,
only wings that lifted her above the ground
a canvas of silver linings across the sky
a colorful reminder that her struggles were stepping stones
to freedom
that her flaws were flawless
and her mistakes, miracles in disguise
these were her confessions
a resurrection written in ink.

Poetry was the cry of a caged bird
who learned to sing poetry
until the bars melted away
like liquid honey.

People Will Never Forget How You Made them Feel

If there is one thing I have learned in both my personal and professional life (to include blogging) is that change is inevitable. One day you will look up and the people who were rooting for you, in the beginning, are not rooting for you any longer. As I’ve said on this blog once before, you can look up and see an entirely new group of supporters/readers.

Just as quickly as COVID-19 has swept over the world, people will pack up their support and leave you dumbfounded. What happened? What changed? Am I no longer interesting? Is the content no longer quality?

It’s easy to blame ourselves. It’s our blog, our book, our product. And while we are conscious enough to know that sometimes our circle will decrease in size, we must remind ourselves that while the support might decrease in size that doesn’t mean it doesn’t increase in quality. A lack of interest sometimes has nothing to do with us. Although it may feel like it, it’s not personal.

But as I’ve said, we are human with feelings and thoughts and emotions. We cannot help but wonder. These are the times where we will need to pick up our faith, hold on to those gifts and hold our heads higher than we’ve ever held it before. I can’t tell you why some people leave, why they unsubscribe from your life or what you did to influence this decision. What I can echo are the words from one of our favorite poets and one of my favorite quotes:

“People will forget what you did, people will forget what you said, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

These are such powerful words to me because it’s a two-edged sword. Whether you make people feel inspired and empowered or whether you make them feel discouraged and disheartened, people will remember it.

People will leave when they’ve served the purpose in your life it meant them to serve and some of them will even forget what you’ve done. What they won’t forget is the impact you’ve had on their life, the imprint you left there and how you made them feel.

Entrepreneurship, authorship specifically, is hard and I know that in this climate “hard” doesn’t seem like a strong enough word to describe what it’s like to endure this, but I hope this message and Angelou’s words were not only encouraging for you today but that they help you persist in the troublesome areas.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned was understanding the state of my mental health is much more important than my career because my level of self-worth and self-love is what will drive the work.

A text I received from Ms. Edwards (pictured) inspired this post; how good it felt to know someone was thinking about me. So whether it’s a text, phone call, email or DM, it doesn’t take much to be kind. Since we are all in the same boat right now, with the time you have, be sure to reach out to someone who has made an impression on you and show them you appreciate them.

Let us remember that support is a verb.

The Stella Trilogy: The Research (Book One)

Cane River Creole National Park – Oakland Plantation, Natchitoches, Louisiana, November, 2016.

Since the meat of book one focuses on what life was like for a little girl, and then a young woman, growing up in slavery, the bulk of my research had to do with reading slave narratives and studying enslavement through the eyes of women and children.

Between Slavery and Freedom centers on Stella’s enslavement on The Saddler Plantation in Louisiana. As I introduce us to the first Stella, she is a six-year-old girl enslaved with her mother, Deborah. At this age, she is not aware that she is living property, which was typical for some enslaved children in their early years. She plays with the other children, including the slave owners’ daughter, but she does not yet understand the value of her flesh, that she could be bought, sold, traded, transferred, deeded, and gifted. Stella describes the plantation as a “big family.” She loves running through the dirt and the way it feels on her toes. She talks of childish things like eating sweet cakes, playing with Miss Carla, and trying to convince Mama, she touched the sun.

“One time, I made it where I touched the sun. It wasn’t even hot either. It didn’t feel like nothing but air. I told Mama the sun was tricking us. 

“And how it do that?”

“Cause Mama. I touched it, and it ain’t burn my finger none. It feels hot, but it ain’t really.”

– Stella, Between Slavery and Freedom

Historically, enslaved children who had a “childhood” in this way realized their status gradually. Their awakened consciousness may have been signified by seeing a family member sold for the first time or being sold themselves. The research points to ten as the age where the enslaved child knew and understood that he or she was property, except in the circumstances, as I have mentioned. As soon as they were old enough, the enslaved child’s life changed, and they realized that their lives as enslaved differed greatly from the lives of the white children they once played with as small children.

Slave-owners raised southern white youth as enslavers in training. Sometimes slave-owners gifted their children an enslaved person as a pet (sometimes it was the same child they played with). Literature also played a role in the training of southern youth to not only accept slavery as a regular part of society but to prepare them to own slaves of their own. Examples of such books is The Child’s Book on Slavery; or Slavery Made Plain. In a chapter called The Duty of Learning about Slavery, it states:

“if slavery is good, we ought to help it forward…”

In a chapter called Does Color Make Slavery, it states:

“Moses and all his people, I have said, were slaves in Egypt, but they were not colored people.” 

This explanation was to try to explain to the children that slavery wasn’t based on skin color, and it is a lie. Egypt is in Africa. Moses and his people were “people of color.”

In a chapter called What is a Slave, the author compares the enslaved to a horse, saying:

“Perhaps your father has a horse. That is his property. He has a right to make the horse work, only he should treat him kindly and give him good food. If the horse is his, nobody has a right to tell him he must not use the horse so. And then, if he thinks it best, he has a right to sell the horse to somebody else. Nobody has a right to forbid him. He need not go and ask even the horse, if he may have him plow the garden, or draw the wagon, for the horse would not understand him, and could not speak to him, and will never grow so old or so wise, that he can understand our words, and talk himself.”

Source: https://archive.org/details/ASPC0001969600/page/n5/mode/2up

Speaking of literature, another part of writing book one was reading many slave narratives, including Frederick Douglass An American Slave, and Up from Slavery. Other books included When I Was a Slave: Memoirs from the Slave Narrative CollectionBullwhip Days: The Slaves Remember, and Remembering Slavery: African Americans Talk About Their Personal Experiences of Slavery and Emancipation.

Cane River Creole National Historical Park

Cane River Creole National Park – Oakland Plantation, Natchitoches, Louisiana, November, 2016.

“Some people have to take the cotton and pick out the seeds, and others have to spin and weave. They don’t do nothing but spins and weaves. Some people even had to turn the weaves into threads.”

– Stella, Between Slavery and Freedom

More profound than this is my visit to a former slave plantation at The Cane River Creole National Historical Park in Natchitoches, Louisiana.

You might ask yourself why anyone would want to visit such a place. I was writing about people living on a slave plantation and what better way to get inside their heads than to visit one.

Originally called Bermuda, the founder of Oakland was Jean Pierre Emmanuel Prud’ Homme, who began farming the land in 1785 and received a Spanish land grant in 1789. The land’s first cash crops were tobacco, indigo, and cotton. The Prud’ Hommes were the first family west of the Mississippi River to farm cotton on a large scale.

Cane River Creole National Park – Oakland Plantation, Natchitoches, Louisiana, November, 2016. Slave Quarter turned home of Sharecroppers

“Down in the quarters, every family had a one- or two-room log cabin. Mostly one room though. We had mattresses filled with corn shucks. Sometimes the men build chairs at night. We didn’t know much about having anything, though. There were a lot of cabins for the slaves, but they weren’t fitting for nobody to live in. We just had to put up with them.”

– Stella, Between Slavery and Freedom

After the Civil War, sharecropper and tenant farmers continued to live on the land until the 1970s, and slave quarters became homes to sharecroppers later. The people worked twelve hours a day, six days a week. Seeing this with my own eyes put it into perspective how the south had reconstructed slavery by returning land to former slave owners and putting former slaves back into the fields under another name. Slave codes designed to control the enslaved became black codes intended to control freedmen, and cotton pickers became sharecroppers.

Martha Ann, an enslaved Laundress, worked in this wash house in the 1850s. In the 1940s, her descendant, Martha Helaire, earned $4 an hour working here as a Laundress. All we have to do is walk a few steps to the washer and dryer.

I blogged about this visit years ago. Get the full picture and see more pics by revisiting that post here.

Living on 40 Acres of Land

Finally, part of my preparation for book one also included where I was living at the time I started writing these books.

At the time I released the first book in this trilogy, my husband and I lived in an old house owned by our elderly cousin on 40-acres of land. Over the years, we planted a garden on the property, built a chicken coop and raised chickens, owned several dogs, goats, and even a horse. My grandmother-in-law also recounted stories of when she and some cousins picked cotton on this land.

The elderly cousin and her father built the house we rented many years ago. It was an old house and an old land. It was easy for my overactive imagination to envision what it would be like if we were not renting this house from our cousin; if we were not free to live life on our own terms; if this was not the 2000s, but the 1800s, and if we were not free but enslaved. I walked the property, breathed the air, and looked up at the trees. I had dreams of black people hanging from those trees and visions of people trying to escape.

We lived on that land for five years, eventually moving away in 2015, and I had a completed manuscript.


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