Death Valley: A Brief Review and Reflections

Before I start I have to disclose that I am a day away from traveling home to attend my grandfather’s funeral, so my nerves are raw and exposed and my feelings are all over the place. Then again, perhaps this is why reading I’Nasah C.’s Death Valley: Or, How to Not Kill Yourself in Less Than Ten Days gave me more than a gentle slap in the face this morning. This brief 26-page zine packs so much in such a short work.

death valley 2

I explained in a previous post that I was looking forward to this work because I wanted to get more into zines when I noticed more black women were using them to talk about their lives uncensored and unfiltered. Also, I trust I’Nasah as a writer after following her on Twitter and Tumblr these past few months. I got nothing less than the truth with Death Valley. It fills me up when I see black women and girls telling their stories because to me it means they have gotten a sense of their own self-worth. They have finally come to a place that says “my life, my experience and my story matters.”

This is what I love about I’Nasah’s work. I have to admire any black woman who puts her life in the public sphere and says take me as I am. This is my life and I have a right to speak about it. For black women, this declaration is always an act of resistance because we live in a world that prefers to push us into the background and forget that we have full lives with pleasure and pain. We live in a world in which others want to take that pleasure for themselves but ignore the pain that comes with our existence.

I knew the zine dealt with a particularly dark moment in I’Nasah’s life after asking her what the zine was about a few weeks before it was released. What frightens me is how much I can relate to something to intensely personal to someone else.

“Maybe… love really is for white girls????”
“Maybe… love really is for white girls????”
“Maybe… love really is for white girls????”

That line punched me in the face so hard I got a nosebleed. (Okay, not really, but it still hurts like hell.) It not only hurts because I understand it and learned it years ago but also because I’m seeing this from someone barely ten years younger than I am. I still live in a world where black girls grow up to be black women who have to question whether or not we are worth loving. We still have to ask ourselves if we deserve one of the most basic and rawest expressions of humanity. It hurts because at some point I hoped that the black girls and women coming after me would never have to feel this way again.

But yet we do. It’s all here in Death Valley. Incidentally, therein lies the still lingering hope for me, recognizing the illness and getting at the causes rather than treating the symptoms. We grow up with the shame and stigma of believing there is something wrong with us rather than the world created before we got here. This is why I’m glad I’Nasah’s work exists. Putting her work out here is nothing short of an act of defiance, rebellion and badassness. She makes you recognize her “13th Amendment blues” and reckon with it.

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