cover image Ordinary Notes

Ordinary Notes

Christina Sharpe. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $35 (392p) ISBN 978-0-374-60448-6

Sharpe (In the Wake), a Black studies professor at York University, Toronto, lays bare the brutality of anti-Black racism through 248 brief “notes” on history, art, and her personal life in this poignant and genre-defying triumph. Recounting a visit to the Whitney Plantation in Louisiana, Sharpe contends that its decision to feature statues only of enslaved children instead of adults suggests that the curators thought generating empathy for the enslaved children “was an easier task than seeing all Black people, everywhere/anywhere, as human.” Her wide-ranging analysis is penetrating, as when she links a journalist’s comments calling a neo-Nazi a “good father,” Francis Galton’s dubious honorific as the “father” of eugenics, and the remarks of a sheriff who said the 2021 Atlanta mass shooter who targeted Asian women had “a really bad day,” arguing that white supremacists are “extended the grammar of the human” often denied to people of color. Throughout, Sharpe returns to the supportive influence of her mother, who encouraged her “to build a life that was nourishing and Black” and instituted a family tradition of reciting excerpts from Black authors over tea, making Sharpe feel “accomplished and loved.” The fragmentary dispatches are rich with suggestion and insight, generating meaning through juxtaposition and benefiting from Sharpe’s pointed prose. Moving and profound, this is not to be missed. Photos. (Apr.)