- Nina Kennedy
This is Why I Wrote the Book
While I was studying at Juilliard, I was hungry for biographies on successful musicians and composers. Unfortunately, while pursuing my master's degree, I did not read one biography about a woman. In my spare time I would read the diaries of Anaïs Nin, the Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein, the Letters between Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West, or the enhanced autobiographies by Maya Angelou, but these books were not needed for my research during the pursuit of my degree. To make matters worse, I did not find one biography written on the life of an African American woman. I knew that an autobiography existed on contralto Marian Anderson's life called My Lord, What a Morning, and I have just found a copy online as I write this.
Just last year I found a biography on the life of Clara Schumann (née Wieck). I wish I could have read this biography while I was a student. Clara Schumann's experiences as a daughter of an overbearing patriarch, the wife of a composer, and the mother of eight children spoke more to me than the countless biographies I read on white male musicians and composers.
This is exactly why I chose to write and publish my own memoir. I wanted little black girls to be able to read about a black woman, this black woman, who had to face sexism in a male-dominated field, and discrimination as an African American, and to see that - in spite of the obstacles - it is possible to be successful. I also wanted them to read that it is possible to live a full life without being stuck under a man's thumb.
After watching the funeral for George Floyd, it was such a pleasure to see on the PBS NewsHour a conversation about under-representation of African Americans in the press. Two black journalists were removed from coverage of recent protests because of a Tweet posted by one of them. Calls have been made to reinstate the journalists. This was exactly the issue that I was explaining to the white male editors at Wikipedia when it came to their standards around "notoriety." Dorothy Tucker, president of the National Association of Black Journalists, explained how African Americans need to be sitting at the table when decisions are being made on which stories to cover. An all-white editorial staff cannot be objective as to what is "news-worthy" and what is not. The executive editor for the Los Angeles Times also participated in the discussion. Let's hope that this new memoir written by an African American woman will be considered "news-worthy" enough to receive coverage in major newspapers.
Here is the clip from the PBS NewsHour:
Practicing for Love: A Memoir can be purchased at infemnity.com/shop.