Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

Killers of the Flower Moon is a strange read. I walked into it hoping to learn about a time and incident in history I knew nothing about. I hoped to learn about the Osage Nation, the people, their culture. And to some extent, I did. I met Mollie Burkhart and her family early in the book’s pages. David Grann mentioned other Osage individuals who had were killed during the Reign of Terror. Somewhere along the line, however, it felt as if we were leaving the Osage Nation, its members and its culture, behind. A little less than half of this book is about the birth of the FBI and its investigation into the Osage murders. Mollie Burkhart, her family, and other members of the Osage Nation take a backseat to Tom White, his familial background and his fearless pursuit of what Grann believes is only one perpetrator of the Osage murders. Yet, we discover at the end that while there

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He don’t know how hard it is to be black. He can’t even imagine somethin’ harder than what he doin’. I could tell him but he wouldn’t believe it.

~ From Little Scarlet, Walter Mosley

Every once in a while I lay down my armor for a moment and wonder what peace would look like. Sometimes it’s a glancing thought. Other times it’s an extended conversation with a friend. It’s hard, when you finally realize what this world is, to step back and visualize what the world could be. But you try.

The problem is simple: there’s no desire for understanding. Every human has their own struggles, their own pain, their own stories. It takes an open, patient human being to hear of another’s pain, listen and believe it.

Sara Bareilles’ Armor

Let it begin, let Adam in
Step one: original sin
Underneath the leaves, Adam found Eve
Both of them found something sweet under the apple tree
Then it was over, roads divide
Step two: learning how to lie
Let me ask a question to present day
How the hell did Eve end up with all the damn blame?
All the damn blame

Black women are different. Indian women are different. Hispanic women are different. Native American women are different. Palestinian women are different. Muslim women are different. Biracial women are different. The armor is different. The source is complicated. The mode of survival twisted and more confusing with each cultural intrusion.

The morning air still smelled of smoke. Wood ash mainly but there was also the acrid stench of burnt plastic and paint. And even though I knew it couldn’t be true, I thought I caught a whiff of putrid flesh from under the rubble across the street. The hardware store and Bernard’s Stationery Store were both completely gutted. The Gonzalez Market had been looted but only a part of its roof had been scorched. The corner building, however, Lucky Dime Liquors, had been burned to the ground. Manny Massman was down in the rubble with his two sons, kicking the metal fixtures. At one point the middle-aged store owner lowered his head and cried. His sons put their hands on his shoulders.

~ From Little Scarlet, Walter Mosley

I’m free but I’m focused, I’m green but I’m wise
I’m hard but I’m friendly, baby
I’m sad but I’m laughing, I’m brave but I’m chicken shit
I’m sick but I’m pretty baby
And what it all boils down to
Is that no one’s really got it figured out just yet
I’ve got one hand in my pocket
And the other one is playing the piano
~ Alanis Morissette, “Hand in My Pocket”

I worry, I weigh three times my body
I worry, I throw my fear around
But this morning
There’s a calm I can’t explain
The rock candy’s melted, only diamonds now remain

By the time I recognize this moment
This moment will be gone
But I will bend the light pretending
That it somehow lingered on

~ John Mayer, “Clarity”

Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo”

Like a relic pulled up from the bottom of the ocean floor, Barracoon speaks to us of survival and persistence. It recalls the disremembered and gives and account for the unaccounted. Barracoon is an experience. It is brief introductions from Zora Neale Hurston followed by pages of dialogue from a former slave who remembers what it means to be African. He tells of the time before his capture, his 5 years and 6 months in slavery, and the whirlwind that was life as a free man. It is mostly uninterrupted, somewhat sporadic storytelling written in a language laden with a severed culture and unmatched resilience. But it’s really only a glimpse. While Oluale Kossola tells of his village being raided in detail, there are notable holes in other parts of his story. At times it feels like racing through decades of a life, just trying to hang on. There’s no real detailed discussion of life in slavery, just brief mentions

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In night time we cry, we say we born and raised to be free people and now we slave. We doan know why we be bring ‘way from our country to work lak dis. It strange to us. Everybody lookee at us strange. We want to talk wid de udder colored folkses but dey doan know whut we say. Some makee de fun at us.

~ From Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo” by Zora Neale Hurston