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From a fierce and humorous new voice comes a relevant, insightful, and riveting collection of personal essays on the richness and resilience of black girl culture—for readers of Samantha Irby, Roxane Gay, Morgan Jerkins, and Lindy West.  Shayla Lawson is major. You don’t know who she is. Yet. But that’s okay. She is on a mission to move black girls like herself from best su From a fierce and humorous new voice comes a relevant, insightful, and riveting collection of personal essays on the richness and resilience of black girl culture—for readers of Samantha Irby, Roxane Gay, Morgan Jerkins, and Lindy West.  Shayla Lawson is major. You don’t know who she is. Yet. But that’s okay. She is on a mission to move black girls like herself from best supporting actress to a starring role in the major narrative. Whether she’s taking on workplace microaggressions or upending racist stereotypes about her home state of Kentucky, she looks for the side of the story that isn’t always told, the places where the voices of black girls haven’t been heard. The essays in This is Major ask questions like: Why are black women invisible to AI? What is “black girl magic”? Or: Am I one viral tweet away from becoming Twitter famous? And: How much magic does it take to land a Tinder date? With a unique mix of personal stories, pop culture observations, and insights into politics and history, Lawson sheds light on these questions, as well as the many ways black women and girls have influenced mainstream culture—from their style, to their language, and even their art—and how “major” they really are. Timely, enlightening, and wickedly sharp, This Is Major places black women at the center—no longer silenced, no longer the minority. 


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From a fierce and humorous new voice comes a relevant, insightful, and riveting collection of personal essays on the richness and resilience of black girl culture—for readers of Samantha Irby, Roxane Gay, Morgan Jerkins, and Lindy West.  Shayla Lawson is major. You don’t know who she is. Yet. But that’s okay. She is on a mission to move black girls like herself from best su From a fierce and humorous new voice comes a relevant, insightful, and riveting collection of personal essays on the richness and resilience of black girl culture—for readers of Samantha Irby, Roxane Gay, Morgan Jerkins, and Lindy West.  Shayla Lawson is major. You don’t know who she is. Yet. But that’s okay. She is on a mission to move black girls like herself from best supporting actress to a starring role in the major narrative. Whether she’s taking on workplace microaggressions or upending racist stereotypes about her home state of Kentucky, she looks for the side of the story that isn’t always told, the places where the voices of black girls haven’t been heard. The essays in This is Major ask questions like: Why are black women invisible to AI? What is “black girl magic”? Or: Am I one viral tweet away from becoming Twitter famous? And: How much magic does it take to land a Tinder date? With a unique mix of personal stories, pop culture observations, and insights into politics and history, Lawson sheds light on these questions, as well as the many ways black women and girls have influenced mainstream culture—from their style, to their language, and even their art—and how “major” they really are. Timely, enlightening, and wickedly sharp, This Is Major places black women at the center—no longer silenced, no longer the minority. 

30 review for This Is Major: Notes on Diana Ross, Dark Girls, and Being Dope

  1. 5 out of 5

    Joe Valdez

    As research for a novel I'm writing, I'm not only reading detective fiction but branching out to read women or Black, Hispanic and Asian writers for looks at how they see, or don't see, themselves reflected in culture. Next up is my introduction to Shayla Lawson. This Is Major: Notes on Diana Ross, Dark Girls, and Being Dope caught my eye on Goodreads. I curate a good title almost as much as I do a book cover. Reading this book I felt like I was dating someone who's eighteen years younger than m As research for a novel I'm writing, I'm not only reading detective fiction but branching out to read women or Black, Hispanic and Asian writers for looks at how they see, or don't see, themselves reflected in culture. Next up is my introduction to Shayla Lawson. This Is Major: Notes on Diana Ross, Dark Girls, and Being Dope caught my eye on Goodreads. I curate a good title almost as much as I do a book cover. Reading this book I felt like I was dating someone who's eighteen years younger than me. That might not be everyone's ideal and certainly isn't my preference. I was often lost here but also learned a lot and enjoyed my time with a talented writer. My favorite essays were easily those in which Lawson recounts or dramatizes her experiences as the only black employee at the advertising agency, or the only black person on her Tinder date. These are great stories with antagonists, obstacles and perhaps lessons learned, certainly for me as a reader. My least favorite essays were dedicated to celebrities, playwright Ntozake Shange and musical artist SZA in particular. Having never heard of either and unable to see their play or listen to their music in the essay, I was as lost as I would be if someone from Gen Z were trying to describe a DJ or an app that came out two minutes ago to me. When I was able to relate to what Lawson was interested in exploring, her writing took off for me. -- From Tammy From HR: Becky has not had the time to come up with any ideas. She has been too busy. You say you understand this, this project being a less-important part of her workflow (it's not) than the obviously rigorous schedule she's been maintaining (she hasn't). She grunts, knowing you have seen her empty Google Calendar. She blurts a half-assed idea off the top of her head. You think, that's a stupid idea, and agree it's a great idea, directing her toward the list of reasonably executable advertising campaigns you spent most of the night working up, looking for the thought most similar to hers. She says if you'd been in creative longer, you would know why your idea wouldn't work. That may be so. You ask her if the two of you can keep cracking at hers. You tighten up your smile face and pull out a new piece of blank paper, diving in to her piece of an idea with a preschool teacher's enthusiasm. You know you sound pedantic, but past Beckys have made it clear to you that Beckys like to be spoken to this way. It reminds them of The Help. You have spoken to Beckys other ways in offices and it was always resulted in You made Becky feel like she knows less than you do with her associate's degree and your graduate school education and her previous service customer service job at Macy's and your more senior position in this company and so you bob up and down on the pink carousel horse of Becky's preferred communication style, holding close to its spiral pole. -- From No, My First Name Ain't Whoopi: I've spent enough time living around European and Americans to know that white people, especially white men, tend to think that by pointing out black women in public, they're doing us a favor. Aside from Whoopi, I have been called Florence Griffith Joyner, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, and Macy Gray. I have been called Janelle Monáe, Erykah Badu, Serena Williams, Kelly Rowland, and Gabrielle Union. I have been called "that black woman from Mr. Robot." I have been called a number of black women who look nothing like me or each other. And yet, a few weeks after my Realtor "Whoopi Goldberg" encounter, I was at the Red Bull Crashed Ice Valkenburg games and could identify my husband in a crowd of tall, twenty-something white men, from the back. How do I do it? With a little effort and self awareness, it is quite easy to recognize anybody. The reason why so many white men misidentify me is because they consider black women generic. One dark blob of a face. -- From "Black Lives Matter" Yard Signs Matter: Despite my having grown up in the south, Portland is the most racist place I have ever lived. This is because being anti-racist isn't about using politically correct buzzwords and giving lip-service to sensitive conservation topics. Being anti-racist is about constructing a landscape that is safe for dark people to inhabit. It is not about white people trying to prove they are "woke" by putting up yard signs. That is not even what "woke" means. "Woke" is a territory of open-eyed, unsuperficial, cultural awareness white people are nowhere close to occupying; they are not even in the neighborhood. But being anti-racist in this dangerous era is something they can do, by going out of their way to make non-white people feel safe. -- From Diana Ross Is Major: But casting a thirty-three-year-old in the role of Dorothy was not a foregone conclusion. At fifteen, Stephanie Mills was receiving stellar reviews in the Broadway musical and a lot of people couldn't see how a thirty-something like Ms. Ross could compete with the young ingenue for the role. One of those skeptics was Berry Gordy Jr., the head of Motown, whom Diana Ross had worked with ever since she was a teenager, the man who helped make her a star. Up until then, Gordy had been one of Ms. Ross' biggest advocates; Diana Ross, Gordy's muse. A few years before The Wiz, the two had had huge success on the big screen with her Oscar-nominated film debut as Billie Holiday in the 1972 biopic Lady Sings the Blues. But Gordy did not see Diana Ross as Dorothy, he thought she was too old. What Gordy didn't understand is that Diana Ross is from the future. Diana Ross couldn't have predicted this, but her portrayal of Dorothy as a single adult who can't seem to move out of her family's house is a pretty accurate forecast of black girl millennials. We've grown up in an era where the space between 18-35 has looked less like adulthood and much more like an extended adolescence. Many of us, like Diana/Dorothy, have had to move back home into our childhood bedrooms, as we take inventory of our college degrees, career goals, and the constantly rising cost of living, while we try to figure stuff out. When I watch The Wiz now, I see a twenty-something school teacher living with her aunt and uncle and understand this Dorothy so much better. She is much more relevant to use than any other Dorothy could be. Lawson seems to emphasize her own evolution and observations she's made about being a black woman along the way, both from self-analysis and her analysis of art that impacted her. I couldn't readily follow her references or share her interest in a topic like Black Twitter, but the writing took me out of my suburban white television culture raised background and made me see how it would feel to be made invisible by that culture.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Aimee

    This book was not written for me. This is a statement of fact, not a criticism. I think it's important that we read books not meant for us - books that were written with someone else in mind. This Is Major is a series of essays by Shayla Lawson, where she details her own experiences and opinions on feminism, race and racism. One essay examines the term "black girl magic" and how it can be used both negatively and positively. The history and horrific racism that eventually led to the creation of t This book was not written for me. This is a statement of fact, not a criticism. I think it's important that we read books not meant for us - books that were written with someone else in mind. This Is Major is a series of essays by Shayla Lawson, where she details her own experiences and opinions on feminism, race and racism. One essay examines the term "black girl magic" and how it can be used both negatively and positively. The history and horrific racism that eventually led to the creation of the "photo that broke the internet" is incredibly interesting - and incredibly heartbreaking and infuriating. You know the photo (it involved champagne). I did so much Googling throughout the course of this book so I could see a picture that Lawson was referencing, or hear a song that she mentioned. (Yes, I looked up Freaky Friday on YouTube, and yes, I wish I could get those few minutes of my life back.) Highly recommend This Is Major to any reader looking to diversify their reading and broaden their worldview. Thank you Harper Perennial for sending me an ARC of this book!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Alana Benjamin

    "Let there be an end to silence as goodness. Let there be loud dark girls. Let those girls hold giddiness to their bellies until it becomes a thunder roar. Let their sound be our holy book. Let there be no end to their stickiness. Let us cling to them. May there disrupt and destroy us. (And God said, Let there be light.") Let our dark girls be delight." - Let Her Be Laughter (239) This book is a meditation on being a Black girl in the world, specifically a dark skin older millennial Black girl dr "Let there be an end to silence as goodness. Let there be loud dark girls. Let those girls hold giddiness to their bellies until it becomes a thunder roar. Let their sound be our holy book. Let there be no end to their stickiness. Let us cling to them. May there disrupt and destroy us. (And God said, Let there be light.") Let our dark girls be delight." - Let Her Be Laughter (239) This book is a meditation on being a Black girl in the world, specifically a dark skin older millennial Black girl driven by curiosity and being underestimated by society. Through the honesty of the prose, I felt very seen and affirmed by the author's articulation of her world view. The author uses her own lived experiences as well as deconstructs the work of prominent Black women artists to illustrate the highlights and nadirs of Black girl life. I was very much moved by the sharp observations, the lyrical prose, and the humor. The phrase "Becky with the Massive Inferiority Complex" should be trademarked and echoed to the heavens and beyond for its accuracy. The book is a strong 4.75. Some essays were better than others. I really enjoyed the informative Black Girl Hipster, Let Her Be Laughter, and Diana Ross is major. My only criticism is that I felt that some essays were a little bit too long and the essence was lost along the way. Overall, this is a must-read if you want a deeper understanding of the complicity of Black girlhood and womanhood.

  4. 5 out of 5

    chantel nouseforaname

    This book was a love letter to the dopeness of black women and girls. I didn’t really know what to expect when I picked up this book — I wasn’t sure if it was going to be highbrow and educational, if it was gonna get real and gully with me. I didn’t have any preconceived ideas about what I thought this book would be and I’m glad that I didn’t because it gave me a little bit of everything. Shayla Lawson is a phenomenal writer. She made me think, laugh and nod my head in agreement with all the poi This book was a love letter to the dopeness of black women and girls. I didn’t really know what to expect when I picked up this book — I wasn’t sure if it was going to be highbrow and educational, if it was gonna get real and gully with me. I didn’t have any preconceived ideas about what I thought this book would be and I’m glad that I didn’t because it gave me a little bit of everything. Shayla Lawson is a phenomenal writer. She made me think, laugh and nod my head in agreement with all the points she made. Shayla illustrated how black women create and shape pop culture and style and the ways in which many factions try to diminish our influence in a variety of ways. She also captured how so many try to give the credit of the things black women created away to folks who are trying to co-opt the culture. I have much more to say on this book. Come back again for an updated review.

  5. 5 out of 5

    BookOfCinz

    This book is for the little girl who deserves a story in which a girl like her isn’t concerned with being whipped or singing hymns or taking the moral high ground, because she is actually free. In Shayla Lawson's collection she addresses a lot issues black women face in their daily interaction. If you read Thick by Cottom you will definitely enjoy this collection. I loved seeing how Lawson's mind works and I was blown away by how she was able to put into words some things that happen to me o This book is for the little girl who deserves a story in which a girl like her isn’t concerned with being whipped or singing hymns or taking the moral high ground, because she is actually free. In Shayla Lawson's collection she addresses a lot issues black women face in their daily interaction. If you read Thick by Cottom you will definitely enjoy this collection. I loved seeing how Lawson's mind works and I was blown away by how she was able to put into words some things that happen to me on a daily basis. Being told to smile, microaggression, misogyny, outright racism, colourism to even buying twitter followers... Lawson addresses it all in the realest way. Thoroughly enjoyed this collection and I look forward to reading more from her.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Chrissy's Books

    A huge thanks to Harper Collins Publishers for providing me with an ARC. This is Major comes out on June 30th, 2020. This was a great read. Especially being a black girl myself, it was amazing reading about how damn dope they really are. Shayla Lawson’s memoir, was a very raw and true telling of the experiences that she goes through and the standards of which most black women experience throughout their lives. I really liked the different essays within the book and some of the titles were just aw A huge thanks to Harper Collins Publishers for providing me with an ARC. This is Major comes out on June 30th, 2020. This was a great read. Especially being a black girl myself, it was amazing reading about how damn dope they really are. Shayla Lawson’s memoir, was a very raw and true telling of the experiences that she goes through and the standards of which most black women experience throughout their lives. I really liked the different essays within the book and some of the titles were just awesome! In each essay she explores that particular subject matter and mixes in her own personal experiences throughout her own life, mixing in historical figures, and the many influential black women who have inspired her, as well as many other black girls throughout the course of history. For example, in the essays titled, ‘Black Girl Magic’, she explores what that term means, it's origins, stereotypes, and the many women that have influenced her, and also sharing in depth stories from her life. I could definitely relate to the ‘No, My First Name Ain’t Whoopi’ essay. Why in the world do almost all dark girls get compared to Whoopi Goldberg?! Do you know how many times people have said the same about me? That essay hit the nail on the head. I honestly enjoyed a lot of the essays on this. Some spoke to me more than others did, but all in all, I loved them. Some of my favorites essays were, ‘Black Girl Hipster’, ‘Black Lives Matter’, 'Tammy from HR’, ‘Diana Ross is Major’, and her last one that lists amazing black women throughout our history titled, ‘& Just in Case You Forgot Who I Am. I Am’. A few of her essays definitely sounded like poems to me, given that Shayla Lawson is a poet, they were immensely riveting to read. Check out my full review of this dope book below on: Chrissy's Books full written review: https://www.chrissysbooks.com/post/th... Chrissy's Books YouTube review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iipmU...

  7. 4 out of 5

    Nnenna

    Thank you to the publisher for giving me a free copy of this book! All opinions are my own. “As kids, we learn we are lesser people only to spend the rest of our lives unlearning it.” “At some point, all black people in conversation with white culture are asked to perform their blackness so it is easier for white people to categorize them.” “We stay in our boxes because we are told to stay in our boxes, because we are told we are not enough outside them.” I really enjoyed this collection of essays a Thank you to the publisher for giving me a free copy of this book! All opinions are my own. “As kids, we learn we are lesser people only to spend the rest of our lives unlearning it.” “At some point, all black people in conversation with white culture are asked to perform their blackness so it is easier for white people to categorize them.” “We stay in our boxes because we are told to stay in our boxes, because we are told we are not enough outside them.” I really enjoyed this collection of essays about being a dark-skinned Black girl, and then Black woman in America. Lawson writes about the difficulty of growing up in spaces where you are not expected to succeed. She also writes about the unworthiness that many young Black girls feel and how we are taught not to feel pain. We are taught to confine ourselves, or grouped into certain stereotypes, but Black women cannot be contained and we still find ways to rise. Lawson is clearly very intelligent and a poet as well. This makes sense to me as her writing is excellent and I liked the way that she played around with the structure of some of these essays. I connected with the introduction immediately when she brought up American Girl dolls (oh how badly I wanted one as a kid!). Aside from the introduction, my favorite essays were “For Colored Girls,” “Names for ‘Black’ and What Year It Was,” “‘Black Lives Matter’ Yard Signs Matter,” “Let Her Be Laughter,” and “Diana Ross is Major.” I felt seen while I was reading this collection and I also felt for the author and the experiences that she’s had to go through.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Amanda Beverly

    I have been so gobsmacked and awed by this collection of essays and I can not recommend this book enough! Shayla grew up here in my town and has published this phenomenal book with Harper Perennial in order to use the story of her life to bring attention to the constant erasure of black girls and women’s contributions to the Arts, fashion, music, theatre, and so many other creative fields for years and centuries. By the time I got the halfway point of this book, I was pretty much ignoring people I have been so gobsmacked and awed by this collection of essays and I can not recommend this book enough! Shayla grew up here in my town and has published this phenomenal book with Harper Perennial in order to use the story of her life to bring attention to the constant erasure of black girls and women’s contributions to the Arts, fashion, music, theatre, and so many other creative fields for years and centuries. By the time I got the halfway point of this book, I was pretty much ignoring people because I couldn’t put it down! Shayla’s story is important as well as all the countless stories of black women who came before her that she shares in this book. I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Denver Public Library

    Shayla Lawson is old enough to still be inspired by Diana Ross and Nina Simone, and young enough to consider the influence of Simone Biles and Jay-Z. This collection of essays, from the poetess and Amherst College professor, recounts Lawson's experience of growing up Black, at first in a polite but white Midwestern city, moving then into an upper-middle-class neighborhood in Kentucky, to crisscrossing the country (indeed the world, it seems!), and how her perception (and acceptance) of herself c Shayla Lawson is old enough to still be inspired by Diana Ross and Nina Simone, and young enough to consider the influence of Simone Biles and Jay-Z. This collection of essays, from the poetess and Amherst College professor, recounts Lawson's experience of growing up Black, at first in a polite but white Midwestern city, moving then into an upper-middle-class neighborhood in Kentucky, to crisscrossing the country (indeed the world, it seems!), and how her perception (and acceptance) of herself continued to morph and adjust to each environment. The essays are a unique mix of personal stories, pop culture observations, and insights into politics and history, and shed fascinating light on the many ways Black women and girls have influenced mainstream culture—from their style, to their language, and even their art—and how that mainstream culture has ultimately shortchanged them. Of special note are her observations on multiracial dating, the glory of Diana Ross at the iconic Central Park concert in the pouring rain, and a consideration of her own consumerism. Listen to the audio format to hear Lawson read her own essays, the way she heard them in her own head!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Shayla Lawson

    I can tell you from experience this book is the product of a deep and profound love, for Black women, the world, and the not-too-distant future. Thanks for reading it!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    Stellar group of essays. Favorite two: Black Girl Hipster and “Black Lives Matter” Yard Signs Matter

  12. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    I loved this timely book of powerful essays. I loved Lawson’s voice. Within just the first chapter, she touched on many deep subjects, suicide, abortion, molestation, racism, and more. She packed so much into each chapter. Her writing is raw and brilliant. She covered history, politics, pop culture, relationships and so many other thought-provoking subjects. Although I haven’t read her poetry, you can see the poetic lilt, the unique flow of certain essays, the skillful writing. Everyone needs to I loved this timely book of powerful essays. I loved Lawson’s voice. Within just the first chapter, she touched on many deep subjects, suicide, abortion, molestation, racism, and more. She packed so much into each chapter. Her writing is raw and brilliant. She covered history, politics, pop culture, relationships and so many other thought-provoking subjects. Although I haven’t read her poetry, you can see the poetic lilt, the unique flow of certain essays, the skillful writing. Everyone needs to read this sharp, humorous, insightful book. I received an advanced copy in exchange for my review.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Katie Bruell

    I enjoyed this a lot. Some of the essays were straightforward, others were more like poems (which makes sense, because Lawson is a poet). She's obviously extremely smart. I appreciate being let into her thoughts and life. It always feels like a gift when an author is completely honest about what it's like to be them. I enjoyed this a lot. Some of the essays were straightforward, others were more like poems (which makes sense, because Lawson is a poet). She's obviously extremely smart. I appreciate being let into her thoughts and life. It always feels like a gift when an author is completely honest about what it's like to be them.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kim Villines Martin

    First, thank you to GoodReads and Harper Perennial for the giveaway galley. Second, I will state that I was somewhat uncomfortable applying a star rating to this work as I am not a member of the BIPOC community. It felt like "who was I to judge?" Ultimately I did rate the book in the hopes that it helps with promotion, which is the intended purpose of giveaways. Given the timely subject matter, I am puzzled over why this work has not been featured more prominently. I have not seen it on anyone's First, thank you to GoodReads and Harper Perennial for the giveaway galley. Second, I will state that I was somewhat uncomfortable applying a star rating to this work as I am not a member of the BIPOC community. It felt like "who was I to judge?" Ultimately I did rate the book in the hopes that it helps with promotion, which is the intended purpose of giveaways. Given the timely subject matter, I am puzzled over why this work has not been featured more prominently. I have not seen it on anyone's list of Anti-Racist titles nor seen much promotion, except the two emails from Powell's Bookstore announcing an author event. If I were to review this essay collection in 2 words, I would say heartbreaking and hopeful. Heartbreaking because my childhood longing for an American Girl doll would not have been complicated by the same feelings which the author as a 9 yr old grappled with. Particularly harrowing are the experiences detailed in the essay "Tammy from HR" as I had never stopped to contemplate how something as simple as the music played daily at work may impact a BIPOC coworker, although she presents much worse within that essay. I cannot leave out mention of the lost history of Vanport and the author's experience in Portland, Oregon. The most impactful horror for me was within "Black Girl Magic," particularly the details of Saartjie Baartman but also underlying thought that Black women must appear superhuman, and not just accepted for who they are. Lastly, I want to mention that this was my introduction to the acronym THOT, something so deeply problematic as it goes beyond sexual behavior to condemn someone based on race and class as well. How deeply hurtful. I find hope in the number of prominent role models mentioned throughout This Is Major- far to many to mention them all in my amateur review. Diana Ross and Nina Simone both have dedicated essays towards the end of the book, but many more are featured throughout. My favorite essay was "Let Her Be Laughter" which mentions Zora Neale Hurston and Toni Morrison. I can't find quite the right words to say why it is my favorite... I was going to say that it captures the complexity of a black woman but how would I know, not being one? And, also, the entire work does that. I think it is my favorite because, to me, it seems to be the clearest call saying that it is powerful to be a Black woman and that there is room for ALL that it entails, even if it is disruptive or provocative. And that the danger in disruption and provocation is something to celebrate and nurture.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Cindy H.

    This collection was pretty good. Some essays were really excellent but a few fell flat for me. Shayla Lawson is a gifted writer/ poet, very current and has a strong voice and presence. Her last essay was 🔥🔥🔥I’m glad I picked this up on the Audible sale. But don’t let the bright happy cover fool you...there’s a lot of darkness in these essays. A good listen to dip in and out of🎧

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kacie

    If you like well-written essay collections, may I recommend This is Major: Notes on Diana Ross, Dark Girls, and Being Dope by Shayla Lawson? These essays are cultural commentary with a bit of memoir thrown in. Lawson is a Black woman in her 30s and grew up around the US -- Minnesota, Kentucky, and her adult years in Portland, OR and New York City. She spent some of her adult years in Europe. She grew up in communities where she didn't know or often see other Black people -- when she spotted a Bla If you like well-written essay collections, may I recommend This is Major: Notes on Diana Ross, Dark Girls, and Being Dope by Shayla Lawson? These essays are cultural commentary with a bit of memoir thrown in. Lawson is a Black woman in her 30s and grew up around the US -- Minnesota, Kentucky, and her adult years in Portland, OR and New York City. She spent some of her adult years in Europe. She grew up in communities where she didn't know or often see other Black people -- when she spotted a Black girl in Target when she was around 6, she was elated. In the introduction, she writes, "At the time, I was becoming a white supremacist. To be clear, I wasn't out defending statues of Robert E. Lee with tiki torches, but when we associate 'white supremacy' only with extremism we miss the point. My defense was neither intentional nor malicious. White supremacy, the belief in white migration and white ideologies -- and the very existence of 'whiteness' -- as the benchmark for greatness is the majority narrative, and it was all I knew. Even if I didn't understand this as a child, I bought stock in the idea that what made America 'America®" was all things white. It is in our history books. It is in our media. It was the primary message of the American Girl® franchise." Her essays discuss things like performing in an all-black theater production, Twitter, microaggressions at work and from HR, Black Lives Matter yard signs, dating, Diana Ross. Some topics are distinctly pop cultural; others are a broader cultural commentary. In her essay on teaching To Kill a Mockingbird to some middle school students in Portland -- (she got push back and complaints! "Shayla, we didn't hire you to teach To Kill a Mockingbird as a book about 'race.' 'But it is,' I said. .... it is? A book about race. As an educator myself, I strongly disagree. If To Kill a Mockingbird is not a book about race, what is the story?" ... "We've migrated into a time in which it is more important for people to feel not-racist than it is for them to act not-racist." Typically, I like books in this genre as audio books, and I bet this would be a great listen. However, I am glad I had a physical copy because I highlighted throughout. Thanks to Harper Perennial for mailing me a finished copy to review.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Alexia

    This is Major was everything I could have wanted anymore. This is a book that should be on everyone's radar as it's a love letter to black women with history and personal experiences that everyone can learn from. If any of those quotes sounded interesting to you, then this is the book for you. Shayla effortlessly blends pop culture and history with her life. • This is also a book you want to take your time with. I read it in three days but could easily see myself picking it back up to read an essa This is Major was everything I could have wanted anymore. This is a book that should be on everyone's radar as it's a love letter to black women with history and personal experiences that everyone can learn from. If any of those quotes sounded interesting to you, then this is the book for you. Shayla effortlessly blends pop culture and history with her life. • This is also a book you want to take your time with. I read it in three days but could easily see myself picking it back up to read an essay again. It's best to soak in her words and research the references to figures, movies, music you haven't heard of or don't know much about. During my favorite essay, Love Songs for Thots, I played the entire SZA album as Lawson mentioned the different songs. I've never really listened to Diana Ross or Nina Simone, so in those essays I spent time actually listening to the lyrics and reading about their life to better understand Lawson's discussion of their lives and how major they are for black girls everywhere. • As a light skinned Black woman who is constantly mistaken for being biracial, I know the privileges I have in certain spaces. It takes almost nothing to acknowledge your privileges which can allow you to understand how you can better champion and support dark girls. • I could say so much more about this book but thank you Harper Perennial for the free copy and Shayla Lawson for writing this amazing book.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Donna Hines

    Remember the old adage," Walk a mile in my shoes?" This reminds me of that with plenty of references related to the hardships and triumphs of the black culture but also on a more deeply personal and reflective opinion of one such black woman via this author. While I cannot put myself in her shoes I do know that I'm not jumping for joy as a bankrupt white educated non middle class woman with three kids in extreme poverty trying to secure employment for the past 10 years and being told to dummy it d Remember the old adage," Walk a mile in my shoes?" This reminds me of that with plenty of references related to the hardships and triumphs of the black culture but also on a more deeply personal and reflective opinion of one such black woman via this author. While I cannot put myself in her shoes I do know that I'm not jumping for joy as a bankrupt white educated non middle class woman with three kids in extreme poverty trying to secure employment for the past 10 years and being told to dummy it down to please the masses (those being the white upper class white men) who run most businesses in my community. With this noted the problem is the latter and unfortunately this effects not just one segregation of individuals or communities but the entire nation as we see being played out today. Racial segregation is most certainly real and terribly unjust and sadly racism, racial profiling, bigotry, and more is also a huge component to the overall problem as a whole. However, we need to come together, we need to stand united, we need to understand that sometimes we have more in common than not. This is my point and takeaway is that often you feel alone based on certain characteristics -with the color of one's skin-being among them-yet you are not the only individual suffering daily however, I will note it's a different set of circumstances but pain is pain and suffering is suffering. In today's world the top 1% are the only ones making it work and sadly the rest of us are walking on eggshells searching for that spark of hope, that light at the end of the tunnel, the ray of sunshine in which we are lifted up and not turned down. For me this book seemed to be brought together in pieces with the first half as spoken in the author's view as good but the latter half with the extra commentary as thrown together as filler. I too will note I hope for that light, that ray of sun, that vision that we are all created equal, we are all from one race-the human race- as we must help and support one another. Thank you to Bibliotheca for this digital e-read as without it this review wouldn't be made possible.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    What can I say? This book is major! It’s fun, insightful and beautifully poetic. It’s not only about Shayla Lawson, it’s about the experience of many black girls and women, heterosexual or not, cisgender or queer. It’s about her journey unlearning white supremacy. You might think that a black woman white supremacist is impossible. It depends how you define white supremacy. As a young girl, Shayla was definitely a white supremacist and she explains why: “When we associate “white supremacy” only wi What can I say? This book is major! It’s fun, insightful and beautifully poetic. It’s not only about Shayla Lawson, it’s about the experience of many black girls and women, heterosexual or not, cisgender or queer. It’s about her journey unlearning white supremacy. You might think that a black woman white supremacist is impossible. It depends how you define white supremacy. As a young girl, Shayla was definitely a white supremacist and she explains why: “When we associate “white supremacy” only with extremism we miss the point. […] White supremacy, the belief in white migration and white ideologies-and the very existence of “whiteness”-as the benchmark for greatness is the majority narrative, and it was all I knew. Even if I didn’t understand it as a child, I bought stock in the idea that what made America “America®️” was all things white. It is in our history books. It is in our media.” Until recently the standard was white (preferably male), cisgender, non-queer and not atypical. The “rest” was considered explicitly or implicitly inferior. The consequence of this “maleducation” for black kids, for girls, for queers, for atypicals? “As kids we learn we are lesser people only to spend the rest of our lives unlearning it.” Fortunately, things have been changing, slowly but inexorably-or so I hope. I do a lot of work with disadvantaged, challenged and atypical kids. There’s nothing more important than teaching them to love themselves. As Shayla says: “Love yourself. Please.” The reason others like you have survived and thrived is so that you can do exactly this.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Misse Jones

    Shayla Lawson’s, This Is Major: Notes on Diana Ross, Dark Girls, and Being Dope is an ode to Black Girls and Black Women and a celebration of our accomplishments in all facets of life. It exclaims that not only have we arrived but that WE ARE HERE, we have been here and our influence is visible and widespread. In essence, This Is Major exemplifies Black joy and urges readers to join the party. Lawson weaves together historical evidence, mainstream cultural observations, and personal anecdotes in Shayla Lawson’s, This Is Major: Notes on Diana Ross, Dark Girls, and Being Dope is an ode to Black Girls and Black Women and a celebration of our accomplishments in all facets of life. It exclaims that not only have we arrived but that WE ARE HERE, we have been here and our influence is visible and widespread. In essence, This Is Major exemplifies Black joy and urges readers to join the party. Lawson weaves together historical evidence, mainstream cultural observations, and personal anecdotes in essays that will make you laugh out loud, raise your fist in solidarity, and FEEL. Her ability to open herself and share her experiences is what makes this book authentically enjoyable. I think for me, her stories surrounding her upbringing in midwestern Kentucky were the hardest hitting, having spent my own teenaged years somewhat similarly in Indiana. A transplant from the west coast. In “For Colored Girls,” she summarizes very well this clash of internal identity issues with unrealistic societal expectations: For all of us, learning to survive as a Black woman felt larger than everything we were trying to become. We weren’t treated right. We didn’t always feel good. We didn’t always love ourselves. We felt tangled in our skin tones and costume sizes as if caught in the coil of our hair. ✊🏾✊🏾✊🏾

  21. 5 out of 5

    Maureen

    Bold truths and eye-opening logic from Shayla Lawson. Her essays are remarkable. I learned a lot from this book. Black women should be in the starring roles breaking that glass ceiling or the CEO of a company. This book is about empowerment, making your voice heard and going places you have never gone before. Strength is the best way to describe this book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Chadsey

    Another winner for sure. Different styles of essays about growing up as a black girl, working as a black woman, living as a black human. The right mix of humour and sharp realism, and.. it starts with an American Girl story so 👍🏼

  23. 4 out of 5

    Holly

    Wow. Powerful and moving. Lawson's writing gave me chills at times. I finish with lots to continue thinking about. Wow. Powerful and moving. Lawson's writing gave me chills at times. I finish with lots to continue thinking about.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ainsley

    I devoured this the way I did “Bad Feminist” and “Thick,” always wanting more of Shayla’s perspective on the pursuit of love, the multi-faceted experience of black girl-ness, and the way celebrity touchstones intersect with racial politics to mean so much more than we realize at first. Particular highlights are “Black Girl Magic,” “Love Songs for Thots,” and “Diana Ross Is Major.” I highly recommend 💜

  25. 5 out of 5

    Glenda Nelms

    Raw, insightful and descriptive. Spotlighting on how Black Women changed Culture and the World

  26. 5 out of 5

    Natalie Park

    4.5 stars

  27. 4 out of 5

    Ari

    IQ "This book is for the little girl who deserves a story in which a girl like her isn’t concerned with being whipped or singing hymns or taking the moral high ground, because she is actually free. She can sleep. She can linger over a couplet as long as she wants. Her hands are soft. And she may scab when she rides her bike, but most of her scars are on the inside. And she has a lifetime to stitch them back. She has all the time in the world to sit in the sun and sip the sweet tea someone else m IQ "This book is for the little girl who deserves a story in which a girl like her isn’t concerned with being whipped or singing hymns or taking the moral high ground, because she is actually free. She can sleep. She can linger over a couplet as long as she wants. Her hands are soft. And she may scab when she rides her bike, but most of her scars are on the inside. And she has a lifetime to stitch them back. She has all the time in the world to sit in the sun and sip the sweet tea someone else made for." (xxx, 'Introduction') I'm sorry to say that this essay collection was not an outstanding read for me. I love essay collections and this one received praise from some writers I hold in high esteem so the bar is high but for some reason it didn't clear the bar and it's hard to put my finger on exactly why. It's fine, more than fine, it's good! But it didn't bowl me over, or make me laugh out loud or force me to pause and digest some info for a few minutes. I want others to read it because I think this is a book that deserves more readers, more varied opinions, more reviews but I have to say that while the writing was excellent this was not a book that captivated me. I think because I'm someone who lives on Black Twitter and is an avid essay reader none of Lawson's essays shook me because the material (aside from the personal anecdotes!) all seemed like something I'd read elsewhere (especially the dangers of the phrase/slogan 'Black Girl Magic', the brilliance of Diana Ross). That being said there are plenty of enjoyable or emotional moments, witty one liners and symphonic writing throughout the collection. Some of my favorite essays that did strike a pang and emotionally resonate: 'Tammy from HR', 'For Colored Girls', 'Black Lives Matter' Yard Signs Matter' and '& Just in Case You Forget Who I Am, I Am", these were all essays where I as a young Black woman who grew up in white spaces felt especially seen. 'Black Lives Matter' Yard Signs Matter' is about gentrification, both white gentrifiers and Black. As I've noted before in a few other reviews, I appreciate this more nuanced look at displacement and gentrification. And also the emphasis on how to be a god neighbor, "When I finally leave Portland, I am tired of being an outsider. I move back to New York-to Brooklyn [...] I am still gentrifying, this is not something I can look past, but I build connections. I patronize its local black-owned businesses, which include wine shops and gluten-free bakeries. And juice bars. I stop and talk to the locals, many of whom still own their townhomes, while I walk my dog. They never ask me what I'm doing here; there is not a single Black Lives Matter sign to be seen (Why would we need to be reminded it matters that we exist?) I rent. Hopefully, not for long. I have grown enough to understand I can be bigger than the space I occupy. I can be a good neighbor. I take stock in this. I take root" (143, "'Black Lives Matter' Yard Signs Matter"). Passages like that also make it even more obvious that Lawson is a skilled poet, the prose goes from storytelling to a lyrical meditation. I found her 'Love Songs for Thots' essay hilariously timely because she mentions Brandy who ha recently resurfaced in my imagination because of her recent Verzuz battle with Monica. I kept thinking back to that essay while watching the Verzuz battle (and reading the Tweets about said battle) and analyzing Brandy's behavior throughout. "It couldn't have been easy to sell Moesha, a show headlined by a dark-skinned teenage girl in a middle-class family to network television. Up until Brandy, nobody in the nineties could have told you your adolescence would include Brandy as Cinderella, tiara done up in a crown of box braids. Impossible. The fact that you never noticed was another part of her acumen. You should have seen how hard she fought. You should have looked up to her and seen grace. Why didn't you?" ('Love Songs for Thots', 191). The essay itself is not meant to be funny, it's a heartbreaking essay about trying to find love as a Black woman, with many nods to SZA's album Ctrl as well as the ways Black women's sexuality is policed. And every Black woman in the workplace has a "Tammy from HR" story, I found myself both cackling and grimacing at the accuracy and painful memories it dredged up. THIS IS MAJOR is an ode to the coolness and resilience of Black people, specifically Black women and our creativity, our swagger. At times heartbreaking, other times uplifting, always raw Lawson seamlessly blends history, literature, pop culture and sociology with the personal. There are essays about self-esteem and self-worth, appropriation, gentrification, interracial and intraracial dating, Black (digital) creativity, Black glamour and white supremacy in all its insidious forms (the workplace, dating, education). Quite frankly I'm rating this four stars instead of three because this book should get more attention, it's not a favorite of mine but there are gorgeous lines and tough truths in every essay that I can applaud. We need more books like Lawson's that remind the patriarchal and racist world that Black women are not invisible and deserve to be treated better. Other favorite lines: "As capitalism adjusted to the new creative market, the hipsters began to use the tools of their upbringing to repurpose creative culture. But this progressiveness is mostly facade. As Audre Lorde said in Sister Outsider, 'the master's tools will never dismantle the master's house.' We associate hipsters with things like gentrification and economic appropriation because they have figured a way to use their creativity to reinforce white privilege. They may spend time occupying marginalized neighborhoods, but they don't intend to stay in a deprived state. Hipsters do not intend to remain disenfranchised. They are capitalizing on deprivation as a performance." (115, "Black Girl Hipster") "Despite my having grown up in the south, Portland is the most racist place I have ever lived. This is because being anti-racist isn't about using politically correct buzzwords and giving lip-service to sensitive conservation topics. Being anti-racist is about constructing a landscape that is safe for dark people to inhabit. It is not about white people trying to prove they are "woke" by putting up yard signs. That is not even what "woke" means. "Woke" is a territory of open-eyed, unsuperficial, cultural awareness white people are nowhere close to occupying; they are not even in the neighborhood. But being anti-racist in this dangerous era is something they can do, by going out of their way to make non-white people feel safe." (142, "'Black Lives Matter" Yard Signs Matter') "When I finally leave Portland, I am tired of being an outsider. I move back to New York-to Brooklyn [...] I am still gentrifying, this is not something I can look past, but I build connections. I patronize its local black-owned businesses, which include wine shops and gluten-free bakeries. And juice bars. I stop and talk to the locals, many of whom still own their hownhomes, while I walk my dog. They never ask me what I'm doing here; there is not a single Black Lives Matter sign to be seen (Why would we need to be reminded it matters that we exist?) I rent. Hopefully, not for long. I have grown enough to understand I can be bigger than the space I occupy. I can be a good neighbor. I take stock in this. I take root." (143, "'Black Lives Matter' Yard Signs Matter") "Up until my father accepted the job, my West Coat parents had believed any good American could, with the right mix of upward mobility and selectiveness, avoid communities with a right-wing political majority, schools with high illiteracy rates, proudly displayed Confederate license plates, and a downtown city center where a charmingly renovated main street preserves the name of what it once was-one of the largest slave markets in the south before the Civil War." (xix, 'Introduction') "I know people, black girls in particular, who have managed to cut through the bullshit and used Tinder to meet their husbands and partners. But this isn't that story. This is the moment where I feel like no one is waiting for me, that no one will ever be 'right there' for me ever again." (224, "Cake is Canceled') "I am the Minnie Riperton of loving you. I am the Zora Neale Hurston of walking on red lights because the green ones were never for me. I am the Toni Morrison of noble. Peace." (282, "& Just in Case You Forget Who I Am, I Am")

  28. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    I saw this in my alma mater's newsletter and was intrigued. There are some powerful essays in here but also a number that could have been improved. The intro and first chapter ("For Colored Girls") were very strong, really hooked me with their exploration of coming of age as a black girl in the U.S. "I Tried to be Twitter" famous was interesting (probably the most revealing of Lawson's inner personality) but rambled. "Tammy from HR" had meaty subject matter but could have used more self-reflecti I saw this in my alma mater's newsletter and was intrigued. There are some powerful essays in here but also a number that could have been improved. The intro and first chapter ("For Colored Girls") were very strong, really hooked me with their exploration of coming of age as a black girl in the U.S. "I Tried to be Twitter" famous was interesting (probably the most revealing of Lawson's inner personality) but rambled. "Tammy from HR" had meaty subject matter but could have used more self-reflection. "Black Girl Hipster" had way too many footnotes. "Black Girl Magic" and "Interracial Dating" dug into the mythology of the black woman and how that harms actual black women who really just want to live their lives and not have to embody a persona for others. This dissection of living with racism on a personal level was the biggest strength of the collection: it lets the reader understand a little the nagging toll of living in a world where you are always trying to live up to or break through someone's stereotype of you. But even on this level, we're never quite let in. I understand that this is meant to be a collection to uplift and empower, but I wish Lawson had explored her own insecurities and faults more deeply. She mentions depression and moments of dating insecurity, but she never portrays herself as the one in the wrong or laughs at herself or shows us moments of growth. Still, I'm glad I know now how awesome Diana Ross was. Quotations: I don't know what the white equivalent of watching Roots with your mom would be, but I sometimes fantasized about what the white families in my neighborhood were doing during those hours. Eating lamb. Playing Boggle. I imagine a traumatic movie scene in a white child's upbringing would be something like watching the Nazis carry away Liesl in an alternate ending of The Sound of Music. Not even close y'all. (p. 107) You've been told by single people it's time you got back on the horse (the horse?), or the wagon (the wagon???), but it's a scary-ass world out there and you're not sure you're comfortable with a situation involving your genitals that uses agriculture as a metaphor. (p. 208) OkCupid's report "Race and Attraction, 2009-2014" shows black women and Asian men on the lowest-ranking scale for QuickMatch scores. . . . In this abysmal landscape, OkCupid's report concludes with this advice to undateables: "One interesting thing about OkCupid's interface is that we allow people to select more than one race, so you can actually look at people who've combined 'white' with another racism description. Adding 'whiteness' always helps your rating! In fact, it goes a long way towards undoing any bias against you." (p. 225)

  29. 5 out of 5

    Libriamo3116

    Thank you Harper Perennial for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣ This Is Major is all about author Shayla Lawson's personal experiences, observations, and insights as a Black woman living in a White-dominant America. Her thoughts and emotions spill onto the page in a mix of wry humor, meaningful reflection, and honest anger. There is discussion of Black women who are role models, contributions made by Black women to society, and the unfair expe Thank you Harper Perennial for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣ This Is Major is all about author Shayla Lawson's personal experiences, observations, and insights as a Black woman living in a White-dominant America. Her thoughts and emotions spill onto the page in a mix of wry humor, meaningful reflection, and honest anger. There is discussion of Black women who are role models, contributions made by Black women to society, and the unfair expectations placed on them from all directions as they try to navigate the world, while the world tries to navigate around them. Unafraid of speaking her mind, Lawson gets raw and real about everything from sexual abuse, to depression, to modern dating, to deconstructing Disney movies, all told in a variety of writing styles from beginning to end.⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ I was struck in the first few pages with how this book was going to be exceptional, simply because Lawson brings raw emotion to her observations and writes as if you, the reader, are inside her mind as she's telling you how she feels and what she thinks. In the most compelling bits, it's easy to get lost in the narrative she's describing and nod your head as she points out this hypocrisy or this other funny moment. This book is clearly written for Black women and girls, as the author herself states, yet I found myself enjoying it and appreciating her experiences. Some parts of this book are hard on the heart, but I think that's the point, that Lawson is telling you why she's been hurt, why that's not right, and why girls like her deserve more appreciation and recognition in a society that often borrows from Black girls but does its best to simultaneously bury the people behind the ideas. Lawson presents a majorly imperfect world as the one she lives in, and pours out her heart to us, which is exactly why I find her story to be interesting, compelling, and stimulating. What more can I ask from a book than that?⁣⁣⁣

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ahtiya (BookinItWithAhtiya)

    🌟4.5🌟 THIS IS MAJOR is definitely one of the best non-fiction books I have read in a long while. This is a collection of essays that truly fed my soul and spoke to the little Black girl inside my heart. Lawson touches on so much in this collection, including: Black girlhood friendships and the importance of them; the difficulties and intricacies of intraracial dating that Black (darker skinned) women find themselves dealing with; the annoying and messy navigating of being a Black woman in a pred 🌟4.5🌟 THIS IS MAJOR is definitely one of the best non-fiction books I have read in a long while. This is a collection of essays that truly fed my soul and spoke to the little Black girl inside my heart. Lawson touches on so much in this collection, including: Black girlhood friendships and the importance of them; the difficulties and intricacies of intraracial dating that Black (darker skinned) women find themselves dealing with; the annoying and messy navigating of being a Black woman in a predominantly White work environment and what that eventually does to your resolve; and so much more. I found myself underlining and highlighting and annotating so much. Some of my favorite pieces in this collection include: ‘For Colored Girls,’ ‘Love Songs for Thots,’ and ‘& Just In Case You Forgot Who I Am, I Am.’ ✨ There were definitely moments that infuriated me and made me feel sad, but this is not at all a depressing, joyless, or hopeless books. It is quite the contrary: Lawson shows, even with those essays and recollections that broke my heart, the persistent joy and complexities of Black girlhood and womanhood. We are more than our traumas and our heartbreaks; we are our experiences. There is so much in this collection that I definitely want to read it again within the next year. ✨ Lawson’s writing style and form in this book are bold and experimental explorations of how to convey stories, experiences, and journeys in a multitude of ways successfully. Quite a bit of this book is told in the second person, which I usually shy away from, but I think that’s just because I haven’t come into contact with an author who has done it well, where it doesn’t feel so jarring. With THIS IS MAJOR, however, at some point I stopped realizing that Lawson was using the second person in some places. That’s how expertly she wields this usually jarring writing choice.

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