Hey Everyone! So for a while, I had been thinking about this, especially with how much reading I had been doing this year. I’d been thinking about how Kids of Color, especially Black and Brown ones (being that I am Black), truly deserve safe spaces and healthy relationships, in both the real world and in literature. It’s actually something that I’ve talked about along with the topic of representation (something I can really figuratively & literally hop onto a soapbox for prolonged periods of time about) but just not on it’s own here. I’ve actually been working off and on on this for a while but now feels like the right time post.
When the topic of relationships comes up, often times thoughts land first on romantic relationships. While I certainly plan to address that, there are even more important relationships, IMO, such as parental/familial and friendships that should be in the forefront of thought when it comes to this topic. There are times when I think about how much familial relationships & friendships shape us throughout our lives. You all may notice a trend in my posts where I talk about about how the friendships in books mean so much to me and I believe thats because of how my teen friendships played such a large part in what I learned about the world. I’ll get to more about this too in a bit.
A while back, I wrote a post about two books that triggered me because of the parental relationships that the MCs had. I spoke about Hurricane Summer by Asha Bromfield because of the relationship she had with her father and Bad Witch Burning by Jessica Lewis because of hers with her mother. I’m not going to talk much about it in this post because you can read that one for yourself here. Kids, ideally, should be able to feel safe in their relationships with their parents, however, so many of us know that that ideal is not reality. Books like HS and BWB show how adults fail teens & make it tough to navigate other sorts of relationships in not being able to establish & maintain a healthy relationship with them. Knowledge of generational trauma (especially in the Black & Brown community), which families pass on but could also work to end, is not uncommon. The need to bring an end to it has to start somewhere, which really should be a charge that my generation & the one before us should be taking up. Thankfully, with therapy becoming readily accessible and the stigma slowly (though that needs to be be sped up double time) being removed, we are able to start breaking down these traumas. In the post I mentioned early, I talk about my therapist (my BLACK Lady therapist, FYI) and a big reason I do it is to break the chains of this trauma. Through the work we do on ourselves, we can create more safe spaces and healthier bonds with kids inside and outside of our families (blood and chosen).
Another really important type of relationship is friendships, as I mentioned earlier, they mean a lot to me. I remember growing up, leaning fairly heavily on my best friend because of our similar backgrounds and traumas (we were not trauma bonded, which is another subject for another day). It helped to be seen by someone my age, to be able to vent about the things that hurt, the insecurities but also the wins and dreams I had. When one isn’t able to run to the adults in their lives, friends are who tends to be next in line. When we’re lucky (like I blessedly was), we are able to find safe space within those friendships, whether or not we air out grievances/hurts.
However, we don’t often think of when friendships turn from safe spaces to co-dependent and/or toxic (which, I’ve also been both). As I was reading the E-ARC of Nothing Burns As Bright As You by Ashley Woodfolk, it approached the varying levels to female friendships that we often don’t look at; the Beauty of being present for someone else, the messiness of love & intimate feelings, the toxicity that happens when it becomes one-sided & co-dependency takes hold. With the main characters being two Black Girls, we also see how the relationship is further complicated by the real world intricacies of racism & sexism and how it can serve as a connector. We are also able to see how difficult it can be to untangle ourselves from friendships that no longer serve us and that there was nothing wrong with having difficulty with that, especially when said friendship(s) has been a long standing one.
Thinking about and being in romantic relationships are difficult as adults so navigating them as a teen isn’t any easier. No matter how “mature” a teen is/some teens are (as people *insert pregnant pause here* tend to see Black & Brown kids to the detriment of their adolescence, but I digress), there is so much nuisance to being in them, especially when it comes to noticing the signs of a problematic partner. I thought so much about this reading books like American Betiya by Anuradha D. Rajurkar, Turning by Joy L. Smith, The Summer Between Bitter And Sweet by Jen Ferguson and Confessions Of An Alleged Good Girl by Joya Goffney where I think problematic was an understatement. Unfortunately, advice of what to do about problematic/abusive/domineering partners still doesn’t seem to be offered to teens, which is another failing of this world. Teens may or may not experience this now but it would still be helpful knowledge for the future and/or to help others who find themselves in those cycles. Not only should we be building up teens to know their worth but also how deserving they are to be treated well. Thankfully, we do have books that show opposite sides of the spectrum of healthy and unhealthy relationships, such as the ones I mentioned (and there is also some comic relief within their pages so you don’t have to worry about feeling heavy while reading).
When we think of safe spaces, this could be an actual place but even more importantly, this could be the people that surround us. Growing up, I don’t recall learning what a safe space was, how important it is to find them or how to create them. Sure, a lot of us are taught to seek out people who are “like us”, whether it has to do with skin color, religion or identity in terms of gender expression and/or sexuality but that’s all the guidance I can really recall. The tools in order to acknowledge how a person or a place is a safe space aren’t always given. Once upon a time, I used to believe that school was a safe space when home wasn’t but as I got older (and as I read as well as set foot in various educational settings), I saw how all schools were not created equal in that respect. Reading books like The Lesbiana’s Guide To Catholic School by Sonora Reyes (out 5/17/22), Ophelia After All by Racquel Marie, You Truly Assumed by Laila Sabreen and Hollow Fires by Samira Ahmed reminded me of the importance of having a safe space/refuge… Whether or not that refuge is school, a center, home, a group of people, it is important that they are accessible when needed (these books demonstrate that well, even when those safe spaces are compromised in some way).
I know I said a lot and that this is all pretty heavy so I also want to give you a short list of books that recently gave me the warm & fuzzies when I read them (because who doesn’t want books that give them all the feels?!):
- Cafe Con Lychee by Emery Lee
- Once Upon A K-Prom by Kat Cho (out 5/17/22)
- Nate Plus One by Kevin van Whyte
- My Sister’s Big Fat Indian Wedding by Sajni Patel
- Flirting With Fate by J.C. Cuerves
- Love, Decoded by Jennifer Yen
I know I gave y’all a lot to sit with so I’m going to end this post here! What say you all about this topic? Is this something you feel strongly about too? Let me know here or on social media on Instagram @bookishgirlmagic, Twitter @bookishgrlmagic and Clubhouse @bookishgrlmagic where you can find me mostly in book centered clubs/rooms (primarily on Tuesdays and Fridays). Also please subscribe to this blog if you haven’t already because it makes me feel like I’ve read a great book that authentically how to navigate relationships and create/be a part of safe spaces!
And before you go for real for real, I just wanted to point out that this is my 99th post, which deeply excites me! I’m still debating on what to do for the 100th but I just want to say thank you for sticking with me on this epic literary journey I have found myself on. Words can not express how much I appreciate each and every one of you. Okay, before I get all weepy, I’mma let you go! Until the next post, I’m sending y’all bookish love & wishing you happy reading!