Assistant Professor of Sociology Courtney Patterson-Faye felt that her recent contribution to a new book celebrating Black families might have been just what she needed to read when she was growing up.
Karida L. Brown, a professor of sociology at Emory University assembled — with her husband, artist and illustrator Charly Palmer — “The New Brownies’ Book: A Love Letter to Black Families,” released on Oct. 10 by Chronicle Books. The book was recently selected by Oprah Daily as part of its holiday gift books list.
Patterson-Faye contributed a moving essay called “For Breanna and Other Children Who Love to Laugh With the Adults in their Lives,” a piece inspired by her goddaughter/first cousin Breanna, with whom she is very close.
The idea for Brown and Palmer’s book came from the first magazine created especially for Black children, called “The Brownies’ Book” and published in 1920. W.E.B. DuBois, prominent sociologist and co-founder of the NAACP, founded the magazine, which was intended“to make colored children realize that being ‘colored’ is a normal, beautiful thing,” according to a recent New York Times story. The new book is a tribute anthology of work by contemporary artists and writers alongside pieces from the original magazine.
“I was overjoyed to be included in their number … there are just so many wonderful, beautiful Black minds (included in the book),” said Patterson-Faye, whose research and teaching interests include Black feminist thought, race, class and gender, Fat Studies, and fashion studies.
Breanna, now 20, has faced some health problems since birth, Patterson-Faye said. Despite what could be challenging times, her family dealt with the adversity with grace and a strong dose of humor. They loved to take digs at each other, teasing and laughing “with abundance,” she said. When the time came to start writing, Patterson-Faye recalled the women of her family and the good times they shared.
“I wrote the story for her to see that even though we have hardships and adversities, and they just keep coming, we have each other to get through that. You alone have enough inside you … you have all of this to offer the world, and who you are is more than enough,” Patterson-Faye said.
She began her career as a high school math teacher, and she felt writing the piece was a way to get back to her roots as an educator. “I get to give back and remind little Black girls who grew up like me that we have the tools that we need,” she said. “What would’ve happened if we had something like this to remind us that we are loved, that we are enough, that we are beautiful, that we are smart and that we are funny and that we reserve the right to be messy, complicated and sad and angry.”
She concluded her essay by offering Breanna, who attended the book launch event with her in October, a few words of encouragement and advice—stay close to the people who love and protect you because that is where you will find wisdom and knowledge.
“I also fully understand that our exchanges go both ways; we must pay attention when you speak. If we become hardheaded, just remind us that we were once children, too. Remind us that you are the future and show just how impeccable and hilarious you are. All of you teach us so much and we don’t know where we would be without you. We—and our laughter—are each other’s blessings,” she wrote.