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Reviewed by Kimberlee J Benart for Readers' Favorite
Don't Mind Being Black: American Poetry Book is a compilation of written works and photographs by sculptor, painter, and poet Jake Webster and poet, performer, writer, and publisher Zorina Frey. The collection is divided into two parts; one for each author. Both parts begin with a letter from the poet to the reader. The title of the collection came from a phone call between the two artists in which Webster observed that Frey didn’t mind being black. “It takes a certain amount of boldness,” Frey explains, “to embrace who you are.”
In the first part, Webster accompanies thirty poems with photographs of sculptures, paintings, and himself, explaining that the poems are complementary to paintings he completed over several years. The topics vary from light-hearted to contemporary issues of life and death. Webster calls his readers away from gun violence, drugs, and hate to love and hope. “Don’t dig here,” he writes, “unless you seek the truth.” In the second part, Frey offers twenty-nine works of poetry and short narratives sprinkled with pictures taken during her first commute in Miami traffic. Her topics dig deep into daily struggles. Some are expressed in a rhythmical beat and raw language. “Harsh words often reflect a harsh reality," she writes, "and I refuse to pop a few pills to make me see differently. I am conscious of an inner strength within me.”
The poetry itself is presented on the page in almost a sculptural way, using font styles and shadowing to give dimension. I found one style particularly difficult to read. That said, as I struggled to make out the letters and the words, I was reminded of the struggles we face every day across America to understand each other better. This is a collection which offers much in helping to bridge the gap, whether that’s between artists and non-artists, or between black Americans and their fellow citizens of other colors.