7 Powerful Books By Women That Deal With Death And Grieving


“Writing is how I attempt to repair myself, stitching back former selves, sentences.”

The Fraenkel Gallery recently closed an exhibit by French visual artist Sophie Calle called My mother, my cat, my father, in that order,” a title that glibly sums up a sequence of deaths in her given and made families. Within the exhibit the artist threads connections to her mother by pulling from her diary. Calle writes:

On December 27, 1986, my mother wrote in 

Her diary: ‘My mother died today.’

On March 15, 2006, in turn, I wrote in mine:

‘My mother died today.’

No one will say this about me.

The end.

Just like that intergenerational trauma is collapsed into six sentences whose single repeated phrase echoes the famous opening line of Albert Camus’s L'Étranger: “Aujourd'hui, maman est morte,” spoken by a son who has just learned of his mother’s passing. To this day translators still debate the proper translation of Camus’s sentence. They try to puzzle out meaning from its inflection and syntax in futile attempts to bridge the chasm of meaning that gets lost in the translation of language and thought. A conclusion to that decades-old debate seems unlikely, chiefly because grief has a certain ineffability; it remains both elusive and pervasive within the human experience. 

It is often said grief has seven stages: shock, denial, anger, bargaining, guilt, depression, acceptance. But anyone who has ever lost someone, who has experienced a presence becoming an absence, will tell you that these stages are not emotional silos but rather constantly overlapping layers. On this reading list, a collection of very talented women writers attempt to piece together their thoughts about the way death bisected their lives into the moments their loved ones were alive, and the moment they weren’t. Their accounts of reckoning with loss share similarities, like the always-painful confrontation of their own mortality, and the messiness of their recovery timelines, which are dotted with attempts to move through grief which is a fog of time and of feeling.

Photo courtesy of Semiotext(e).

Book of Mutter by Kate Zambreno 
The cover of this book is a photograph of sculptor Louise Bourgeois’s "Cell," an installation where a replica of the artist’s childhood home is enclosed in a wire cage with a guillotine hovering overhead. For Zambreno this image represents the book’s primary objective, severing past from present. Book of Mutter is a project 13 years in the making. The subject is Zambreno’s mother whose death from cancer left her daughter wracked with guilt and grief. 

As a writer, Zambreno is hard to pin down, she’s as quick to cite Beckett and Barthes as she is to relay a story about her mother’s gardening journal and the minutiae of suburbia. Her writing, like the act of remembering, is at once collected and feverish, dream-like. It’s free narrative structure is modeled after Bourgeois’s "Cell" project and the ancient Greek method of loci, a technique to enhance one’s memory recall that involves imagining memory as a large house whose rooms we rummage through. Zambreno’s methodical scrapbooking of her memories results in an autobiographical text that elegantly unites the structures of the prose poem and the memoir. Time is fluid. We witness her childhood but are also present in the moment when the very words we are reading are typed. On any given page trenchant critical observations sit next to sentence fragments that end in em dashes which feel like self-conscious hesitation marks, doors to rooms in her mind she isn’t ready to open. “Writing,” Zambreno explains, “is how I attempt to repair myself, stitching back former selves, sentences.” Book of Mutter is an intimate introduction to those selves and a sharp and moving inspection of grief.

Screenshot via Youtube

While the song should serve as a reminder to your exes

Just a day after dropping new single "Nunya," featuring Dom Kennedy, Kehlani has released the winter-wonderland visuals to go along with. The singer, NYLON November cover star, and mother-to-be rocks some of the best winter 'fits I've seen in a while, including a glorious puffer jacket that could double as a down comforter that I absolutely need in my life right now.

Kehlani is clearly living her best life up in some snow-filled forest hideaway, vibing on the beach at sunset and sipping on something bubbly as she coolly reminds nosy exes that who she's with is "nunya business." There's not much of a story line (unlike her recent "Nights Like This" video); the main takeaway is that Kehlani is busy dancing through a forest, missing no one and chilling amongst people who are clearly not the subjects of the song.

Kehlani is only two short months away from bringing baby Adeya into the world, who she thanked for helping her get through the video process. "Shot that 7 months pregnant in da snow..." Kehlani wrote on Twitter, adding, "thank u baby for da motivation, mommy was FROZE."

Even from the womb, Adeya has been hustling hard alongside her momma. Twitter user @ODtheMC pointed out that this is already her second music video appearance, and she's not even been born.

Get some mulled wine ready and escape into Kehlani's winter getaway, below. Stay tuned for her forthcoming mixtape, While We Wait, out on February 22.

Kehlani - Nunya (feat. Dom Kennedy) [Official Music Video]



Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images.

As in Black Panther Political Party leader

It's been a running joke that the Black parents/grandparents of millennials were really confused about all of the Black Panther hoopla ahead of its 2018 release. Many of them were anticipating a movie about members of the Black Panther Political Party and didn't know who the hell T'Challa was. Well, those people are about to have their moment, and we're about to have another one.

Variety is reporting that Fred Hampton, the Black Panther leader at the center of the upcoming biopic Jesus Was My Homeboy, could be played by none other than Daniel Kaluuya. Apparently, he is in negotiations for the role. And he's not the only Black Panther alum in the mix. The Warner Bros. project is being produced by Black Panther director, Ryan Coogler. The same article reports that the forever swoon-worthy Lakeith Stanfield—who appeared with Kaluuya in Jordan Peele's Get Out—is also in negotiations, to play William O'Neal, an FBI informant who infiltrated the Black Panther Party.

Coogler and Charles King are putting together a dream cast to tell a difficult story. Hampton was killed by the Chicago Police Department, while his pregnant girlfriend lay next to him, thanks in part to information they received from O'Neal. Whenever it's out, I strongly recommend having Black Panther queued up as a palate cleanser.