Admirable Artists, Reflective Reviews, Wonderful Writing

Review: “Shackled Freedom”

I was asked by Rick Lite from Stress Free Book Marketing if I’d like to review this book. I relish books from outside my experience because that’s how I learn about the world from other people’s vantage points, those from other walks of life … and as I’m not a Black man from Southern America, this book definitely comes from outside my direct experience. I hope you enjoy my review!

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A celebration of contemporary southern Black American culture: fierce, joyful, resilient.

Shackled Freedom: Black Living in the Modern American South hold its clues within its oxymoronic title. Dasan Ahanu’s collection of poems reveals the complexities of contemporary southern Black American culture, celebrated within the restraints of a wider White-dominated society.

Ahanu’s nuanced writing is accomplished: allusions and metaphors masterfully interweave the background of hideous oppression with the dreams and aspirations that every individual has a right to have. Consistently, one image is used to represent both simultaneously: ‘He’s heard them say, “It’s ok to let that water flow” / but he knows bout black boys and rivers.’

There is no mincing of words: the mistreatment of people of colour features alongside the irrepressible resilience that grew out of such tragic history. Trees symbolise cultural roots which provide strength in identity, as well as referencing the ‘strange fruit hanging from / the tree of knowledge’.

Ahanu’s poems are complemented by Gemynii’s arresting, hand-drawn­ cover of a Black person in chains, the determination in the eyes and the fierceness in the stance emphasising the courage and the fight of the downtrodden in an unequal society: this contradiction and uneasy coexistence is universal, recognisable within any country that has an underclass based on race or ethnicity. Additional art or design throughout the book would have embellished this subtext.

Ahanu’s prominent message asserts that being born with dark skin is no reason for shame or subservience. The rich and unique customs of southern Blacks is lovingly and acutely portrayed in sharp detail; the audience is invited in, to witness its joy and beauty. This volume of poetry adds authentic voice and perspective to a still-marginalised community; it ensures that the undeserving violence associated with the civil rights atrocities in America is not the only way Black culture will be viewed and remembered.

Shackled Freedom: Black Living in the Modern American South is a compelling read, and an education for people living outside a community of colour.

Find out more about the impressive Dasan Ahanu and his wide range of work on his website.

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