More of Life's Spices: Seasoned Sistahs Keepin' it Real
edited by Vicki L. Ward

Nubian Images Publishing, 2013. ISBN 978-0-975-51627-0.
Reviewed by Marva McClean
Posted on 12/03/2013

Anthologies/Collections; Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Food/Cooking/Kitchen; Nonfiction: Life Lessons

What gives life meaning, imbuing our journey with a sense of purpose? In answer to this essential question, the creative writings in the book, More of Life's Spices: Seasoned Sistahs Keepin' it Real speak eloquently of the uniqueness of the feminine and the call to creativity that is the heritage of all women, regardless of background, location or race. As Lillian Comas-Diaz writes in the foreword, "These are women who keep it real and are rooted in the celebration of life." This creativity of women is honored in the metaphor of the sub-title, Seasoned Sistahs Keepin' it Real, with its nod to the African American vernacular and the reference to spices that invigorate our foods with flavor. The selections all make the assertion that it is through the power of sisterhood that women build a community of practice based on creativity and the will to prevail regardless of the hurdles on the life path. In this practice, women work to offer support, comfort, advice, courage, and criticism along a continuum which leads them to the realization of their own wisdom. These experiences become the spices that flavor their life and their relationships.

Organized in seven sections—Self Esteem, Family Dynamics, Relationships & Intimacy, Surviving Obstacles, Life's Mix of Spices, Aging & Life lessons, Death & Living with Loss—the book attempts to take the reader full circle around the circuitous pathway that is life. It blends the positive with the negative to assert the notion that sistahs, mujers , and women of color are able to face life's challenges by invoking the creative as the source to liberate themselves and in so doing, liberate others.

"To write is to discover who I am," states Rochelle Robinson in the first essay, "Healing the Sacred Feminine: Writing as Revolution." This assertion sets the stage for the forty-seven entries of autobiographical essays, poems and meditations that center on the notion that writing has the power to heal the wounds of the soul as well as to celebrate wondrous discoveries about the human spirit. For example, the short reflection, "Circles of Life," offers a tongue-in-cheek commentary of the circle of life with a play on the circles or wrinkles a woman develops naturally along the journey. With a sassy, hand-on-hip no-nonsense vibe, the author unapologetically conveys the message, I have earned these circles, as well as the right to claim my identity.

This concept of journeying towards acceptance is explored in all the entries through the multiple perspectives of women whose experiences range from surviving cancer and sexual abuse, losing a brother to cancer, yearning for the love of a mother too soon departed to the celebration of rites of passage, gaining political consciousness, and the thrill of sexual intimacy between a seasoned sistah and her much younger lover.

As the reader peers into the intimate, tender moments presented in the selections, one is drawn to the sense of resilience, the indomitable will to transcend trauma and grasp the beauty of life, even when it hangs in fragile strands on the periphery. This is poignantly conveyed in the selection, "Life Changes Even When we Resist," where the main character, just two days out of the hospital after being treated for heart trouble, prepares a grand Thanksgiving feast in defiance of her children and grandchildren who want her to relax. Reflecting on past Thanksgiving dinners where she reigned as matriarch, she defies the changes wrought by life: "She wanted life to be as it was, her kids enjoying a Thanksgiving meal, prepared in her kitchen, made by her hands, from the heart."

It is fitting that the book ends with an array of multicultural recipes in the section, "The Well-Seasoned Pot," a tribute to the book's assertion of the central role food plays in building and expressing sisterhood. We're left to ponder the notion that as food nourishes our bodies, it also works as a salve for the weary soul, pulling friends and family together into that unending circle that is life well lived: a sistah circle that is a rich and awesome place for women to gather and acquire tools for navigating life. For truly, this is the spice of life!

Editor/author Vicki Ward has conducted empowerment workshops at St. Mary's College of California, UC Berkeley Women of Color Conferences, and others. The previous anthology, Life's Spices from Seasoned Sistahs, received the ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year, The Bronze Award from the Independent Publishers Association, and Best Anthology from the Los Angeles Black Book Expo.

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