Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Out of No Way

Out of no way is an old African American expression that means to thrive in spite of impossible odds.  This expression fits perfectly as the title for this book by producer, author, and poet Rojé Augustin, Out of No Way: Madam C.J. Walker &  A' Lelia Walker, A Poetic Drama.  Published in 2020, this debut poetry collection uses poetic verse to tell the story of Madam C.J. Walker (1867-1919).  Born Sarah Breedlove, the first free-born child of former Louisiana slaves, she achieves great success in spite of a humble and difficult beginning. Sarah was orphaned at 7, married at 14, became a mother at 17, and became a widow at 20.  She went from earning pennies as a laundress and maid to becoming a very wealthy hair care entrepreneur, activist, and philanthropist. 

Personal struggles with hair loss led Sarah to develop a hair care product for herself and other black women, which was the start of her lucrative career in business.  With the help of her daughter, A' Lelia, and third husband, Charles J. Walker, the Madam C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company became a very successful business.  Madam C.J. Walker trained thousands of women to become independent sales agents for her beauty products.  Equipped with drive and tremendous resilience, Madam Walker became the first self-made female millionaire in America, and one of the first African American millionaires in America.  It's remarkable that she achieved this feat during one of the most racially violent periods in American history, during the Jim Crow era.  Based on biographies and archival materials, this book tells her story, using dramatic verse.  It's a unique collection of poems in different poetic forms, including narrative and lyrical poems, haiku, and blackout poetry, which depict an extraordinary story of entrepreneurial success, and the extraordinary love between a mother and daughter.

                                         
                        Sarah, Mother       A' Lelia, Daughter                    

 
I have long been interested in biographies and stories of success, stories that illustrate our ability to improve our lot in life. When I read them, I want to learn about the character traits that aid success, and to be inspired. This collection of poems had that effect on me.  Although Out of No Way is serious and delves deeply into themes such as racism and hate, it's also uplifting at times.  It depicts the rags-to-riches story of Madame C.J. Walker through dramatic, varied verse,  presented as an exciting, absorbing story, and features A' Lelia's perspective as well. I relished the illustrations and advertisements of her hair and skin products in the book. As a woman, I'm interested in these products (recently, I've rediscovered henna for the hair, which I first used when I was in high school). I greatly enjoyed reading this book.

Because poetry is especially wonderful to listen to, here are links to some of the poems in Out of No Way, performed by poet Rojé Augustin on YouTube.  I could use many adjectives to describe these poems.  But these beautiful, touching, heart-wrenching poems speak for themselves.

 

AUTHOR BIO:

Rojé Augustin is a native New Yorker who grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.  Her first novel, The Unraveling of Bebe Jones, on which her drama series pitch BEAU REVE is based, won the 2013 National Indie Excellence Award in African American fiction. She wrote the novel while living in London and Sydney as a stay-at-home-mom.  She established Breaknight Films shortly after her move to Sydney in 2009 to develop and produce projects across a range of formats, including television, web, and audio. Her first Sydney based project was a podcast and visual web series called The Right Space, which explores the relationship between creatives and their workspace.  In 2013 Rojé's script, The Weekly: Women Who Shaped a Nation, was selected for the Australian Writer's Guild Pathways Program.  In 2020 Rojé published a debut poetry collection titled, Out of No Way: Madam C.J.Walker and A' Leila Walker, A Poetic Drama, which tells the story of Madam Walker's phenomenal life. Rojé continues to work as a producer while also writing in her spare time. She is an Australian citizen who currently lives in Sydney with her Aussie husband and two daughters.

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Special thanks to Serena from Poetic Book Tours for inviting me to participate in this tour.  I'd never heard of Madam C.J. Walker before joining this wonderful tour.  Poet Rojé Augustin brought her to life for me. Now, I want to learn as much as I can about Madam Walker's life and legacy.  She made a way out of no way, and then used her wealth and influence to help and empower others.  I'd love to visit Madam Walker's grand home, Villa Lewaro, in Irvington, NY, a National Historic Landmark that was purchased in 2018 by the New Voices Foundation, which helps women of color achieve their entrepreneurial dreams.  This book affected me deeply.  For more reviews of  Out of No Way and other features, please stop by Poetic Book Tours.

 Thank you for reading! Your comments are welcomed, as always.

18 comments:

  1. Using poetic verse to tell this story is unique and risky both, but a risk that seems to have paid off very well. I enjoyed your review of this unusual story.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is a unique way to depict a historical figure! Thank you for your visit and comment, Harvee.

      Delete
  2. This is a fantastic review of this poignant and important collection of dramatic verse. Thank you for being on the blog tour.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you again for inviting me to participate in this terrific tour!

      Delete
  3. Love your review! It makes me want to read the book!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope you do read it. Thanks for stopping by, Vicki!

      Delete
  4. Beautiful review Susan, this sounds like an important topic, more now than ever perhaps. Thank you for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, it is important and timely. Thank you for your comment, Diane!

      Delete
  5. This sounds like a fabulous book. I, too, love success stories.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thanks for sharing this. A while back I was given a review copy of a bio of her which I will now read

    ReplyDelete
  7. Great post.

    Long stories told in verse are so interesting. I must delve into more of them. Maybe I will give this a try.

    I agree that stories that f those who have achieved success despite adversity are valuable. Sarah’s story sounds both interesting and inspiring.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Brian Joseph,
      Sarah's story is remarkable. I never learned about her in my history classes, which is truly disturbing. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

      Delete
  8. Thank you for this inspiring review! I love biographies! Madam C.J. Walker and her daughter were pioneers!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Eriko, they were true American pioneers. I hope you and others will listen to some of these poems. Netflix made a mini series based on Madam Walker's life, Self Made, starring Octavia Spencer, that I hope to watch soon. Thanks very much for stopping by!

      Delete
  9. This sounds wonderful - and exactly what I need to read right now. I'm fascinated with Madame CJ Walker. Great review!!

    ReplyDelete

Your comments make this site lively! Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. I value each one, and will respond to questions.

If you're entering a giveaway, please leave your e-mail address (or a link that leads to it).

BLOG ARCHIVE

Blog header by Held Design









Some of the books featured here were given
to me free of charge by authors, publishers, and
agents.