7 Reads We Recommend:Black History Month by Laurel Dowswell & Emily Ramser

“Where Is Our Black Avant-Garde?” by Zinzi Clemmons in Literary Hub 

Clemmons’ piece is an intriguing explanation of the types of literature that are personally captivating, including a brief history of how she came to think about experimental literature and the avant-garde within the context of race and culture. She also asks some pertinent questions. For example: “Why are Black artists, along with other racial minorities, usually excluded from the avant-garde?” Clemmons then provides a long list of recommended reads, including ones from colleagues, ranging from Claudia Rankine to Toni Morrison, Nathanial Mackey, and much more. My nightstand is about to get a lot more crowded. ~Laurel Dowswell, Features Editor

“Judy” by Anastacia Tolbert in Blackberry Magazine 

I love how Tolbert plays with space and formatting. The repetition within the poem builds this strictness that you as the reader feel the speakers are trying to escape from, this prison from which they are trying to bend the bars and destroy. Her language and use of it are simply divine. I cannot wait to read more work from her. ~Emily Ramser, Editorial Assistant


To Be Asked for a Kiss by Jericho Brown in Poetry Foundation 

LD.Jericho.NatashaI’ve admired and loved Jericho Brown’s work ever since I saw him read his poetry years ago at the Decatur Book Festival in a program along with Natasha Trethewey, two-term Poet Laureate of the United States. Brown takes on the Langston Hughes poem “Suicide Note” with a combination of confrontation and emotional depth that just makes my jaw drop. He speaks of the “immortality of poetry” and its impact upon him personally, that is, in its purest form, life itself. ~Laurel Dowswell, Features Editor

Photo: Jericho Brown, Laurel, Natasha Trethewey


“The Personal is Confessional” by Metta Sama in North American Review 

Metta Sama’s work has a soft flow to it. It goes in and out like the sea washing up on the beach, each sentence intriguing you more than the last. Then, towards the middle of the piece there is a moment where the flow changes. Her use of periods to divide up sentences into fragments containing only subjects results in a choppiness that stops you as you read, forcing you to truly stop and consider what you are reading. It forces you to absorb the images, not just bypass them. You see them before and consider the life of a pregnant woman, and you can’t stop considering upon completing the piece, even after you have read it again and again. ~Emily Ramser, Editorial Assistant

“The Places We Aren’t Meant To Go” by Tishon Woolcock in Union Station

Woolcock’s poetry is stark. It has the kind of language that hits you in the chest and knocks the air right out of you. You can feel the ash in your hands and the cobwebs hanging from the entry way brushing against any sliver of bare skin. The piece hangs in the corner of your brain, making it hard to breathe whenever it sneaks back to the forefront of your thoughts. ~Emily Ramser, Editorial Assistant


“Blue Lights” by Jorja Smith on SoundCloud 

So, yes, this is not a “read,” but it is amazing. I came across it on Twitter when I was researching work to include in this post, and I had to include it in my recommendations. Smith is definitely an effective storyteller and the song is beautifully produced and obviously connecting with a lot of people with over 263,000 plays in 15 days. The refrain, “If you’ve done nothing wrong, blue lights should just pass you by,” is the core theme of the song. She has an emotional quality in her voice that conveys the mood, and the song’s message, straight to your heart. ~Laurel Dowswell, Features Editor


“Toni Tipton-Martin on Two Classic Cookbooks of the Black American Experience” by Toni Tipton-Martin in Eater 

With an introduction by Meghan McCarren, this piece contains two excerpts from Tipton-Martin’s book, The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks, giving us a glimpse of the plethora of work that represents a large base of American cuisine. Her reviews of the two cookbooks are replete with historical references, delicious descriptions, and full of love for a culinary legacy that has been frequently overlooked, and even, “outright appropriated by white cooks,” as described by McCarren in the intro. The two books, A Good Heart and a Light Hand, and Vibration Cooking, or The Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl, have two distinctly different styles, and Tipton-Martin’s writing is entertaining, thoughtful, and yes, makes me hungry for more.  ~Laurel Dowswell, Features Editor


laurel dowswell
Laurel Dowswell, Features Editor
Laurel Dowswell is the Features Editor at Change Seven. Her short story “I Am theEggman” was nominated for the 2016 Pushcart Prize. She was a copy editor for an independent feminist newspaper in Santa Fe, NM, after being raised and educated in Florida. She lives and writes in Georgia, just outside of Atlanta with her son. She is currently working on a novel filled with oil paintings, family drama, and the spectrum of sexuality. Follow her on twitter @laurels_idea.



emily ramser
Emily Ramser, Editorial Assistant
Emily Ramser is an undergraduate studying English, Creative Writing, and Religion at Salem College in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Arts in English and Creative Writing, and is expected to graduate in May of 2017. Some of her inspirations include Thornton Wilder, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Bhanu Kapil, Andrea Gibson, Gabriel Gudding, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Gail Simone, and Alfred Lord Tennyson. Check out her black out poetry collection I Forgot How to Write When They Diagnosed Me. You can find more of her work at her blog.

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