What does it mean to be young, Black, female, intelligent, gifted with second sight, on your way to a Ph.D. and in love for the first time? The Journey presents us with exactly this young woman. The pivotal question becomes is she sane and he deceitful, or has she lost her mind? The answer is both.
Not an easy, cohesive ride, the narrative thread of an African American female mystic falling deeply in love with a white psychiatrist is complicated by a gently suggested history of abuse, graduate school, and the subtle racism of still largely white academia. The Journey strokes the American psyche from within a very personal story of love and vision: she is in love; he is not, but he leads her on a merry dance, never quite revealing what emotion lies behind his warm brown eyes.
The first section, “Trouble,” introduces the reader to a narrative of family violence that makes one wonder: is this woman gifted with second sight, or has her family driven her crazy? “Marcus Welby, M.D.” gives us the earliest perpetrators, and the section focuses in, story by story, until we are left with sympathy for the brothers who abuse as well as the little sister who suffers.
From the high point of sympathy, we move into “Roadstops, Peoplestops”; there we find the little sister, now a compulsive eating, food addicted young woman, fighting her addiction with one hand and all-white Orange County, California, racism with the other. Empowered by the friendship of a white girl who loves her, the young woman moves into surviving and reconciling the memories of familial hell as she emerges from a recovery house for the food-obsessed.
Stronger than she imagined and ready for a “geographic,” our intrepid protagonist applies for and enrolls herself in first one graduate program and then another, finding faculty she can trust in neither. “Second Sight” introduces us to these dubious instructors who sometimes support, sometimes betray; they are precursors to the man who will test her sanity and beguile her heart.
The academic environment is not without lovers, and though no one takes her to bed, “On The Way to Love” gives us comfort, solace and heartbreak in the form of a half-Black Korean, a Palestinian born in Lebanon, a Chilean who fled the coup, and the drop-dead gorgeous psychiatrist who will prove her final unraveling. He is, and remains, an enigma that we come closer and closer to without ever truly understanding. “Him,” the final section of the collection, reveals the heart of this enigma and the upheaval he causes within our young woman’s life and psyche.
The resolution, of course, necessitates parting, and the seer grapples with a vision she cannot tease out the meaning of; if he was not in love, why the melting eyes and dancing irises whenever she entered the room? The cost of trying to figure him out has been great: multiple visits to the psych ward; prescriptions proliferating like diamonds. No permanent reconciliation possible, she stakes her claim on a distant coast, bewildered but aware that she escaped with her most important possessions: her mind and her gift. Whether or not to believe in the gift has been what the dance was really all about, and the choice she makes, including leaving him behind, strengthens and empowers her, allowing her to see with all of her eyes clearly, and for the first time.
Niama Leslie Williams, Ph.D.
Genre: Memoir Company
Name: Blowing Up Barriers Enterprises
Niama Leslie Williams, Ph.D., a June 2006 Leeway Foundation Art & Social Change Grant recipient, and a 2006 participant in a Sable/Arvon residential course in the U.K., possesses degrees in literature, comparative literature and fiction. She hosts “Poetry & Prose & Anything Goes with Dr. Ni” on BlogTalkRadio.com and has 9 titles available for sale on her website. See
What does it mean to be young, Black, female, intelligent, gifted with second sight, on your way to a Ph.D. and in love for the first time? What do you imagine this situation would feel like?
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