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 Madam 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.



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.

Some of the books featured here were given to me free of charge by authors, publishers, and agents. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.


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