Written by Joe Armstrong, Content Specialist, Marketing, Downtown Main Library
The Cincinnati & Hamilton County Public Library’s fifth annual African American Read-In continues this Saturday, Feb. 12 at the Corryville Branch Library, opens a new window with author of Cries from the Dark Side of the Moon, opens a new window, Lauren White.
Ahead of the event, Lauren talked about sharing the experiences of Black women, writing poetry as an interactive medium, and other topics.
What was the writing process for Cries from the Dark Side of the Moon?
Lauren White: When I first started "Cries from the Dark Side of the Moon", I wanted to write letters, specifically to Black women. I had been writing some different poems that highlighted different Black women’s experiences but as I was writing I realized I didn't have any solutions, just situations. Through that, I really wanted to express what it is like through conversation.
Why did you choose to write a collection of poems rather than a novel or another form of writing?
Lauren White: Poetry has a certain way of touching the soul. I’ve always been on the performance side of art and a lot of those pieces are spoken word pieces that I have performed. I wanted to group them all together and in doing so it allows the story to tell itself.
For example, there’s six sections in the "Cries from the Dark Side of the Moon", including "Yourself", and it talks about your own identity and what it looks like to grow and build within that. Adding poetry instead of writing a novel allowed it to have that extra piece of creativity within it and give people the opportunity to see themselves in each poetic piece.
Cries from the Dark Side of the Moon has been well-received by readers. Why do you think so many readers connect with the book and have been sharing their own experiences after reading it?
Lauren White: I think it has a lot to do with timing. When "Cries from the Dark Side of the Moon" was just released we were waking up to a lot of the racial injustices that were happening across the county and highlighting those stories and experiences. In this work it shows the connection within racial injustice and how important it is to write the narrative, especially when it comes to Black women. I feel like we're often placed in different stereotypes and spaces of where we’re "supposed to be" especially through the lens of the media.
"Cries from the Dark Side of the Moon" also allowed me to be transparent with readers and share my experiences and the experiences of others, but it challenges each reader. My hope is that each reader takes a moment to reflect on their impact. My favorite section of the book is the last section presenting a journaling experience, where the reader thinks "what is my sphere of influence and how can I make change and connection within my community?"
Every day I'm in awe of how many people have connected with "Cries from the Dark Side of the Moon" and I’m excited to see where it goes from here!
Cries from the Dark Side of the Moon ends with an interactive element for readers to complete. Did you intend to include this when first writing the book?
Lauren White: Not originally! When I began writing and laying the book out, it was focused on letters. Through realizing I didn’t have solutions, just shared experiences, stories, and all of these disparities that I wanted to highlight, I wanted to focus on the charge of it all. Oftentimes, people think that they’re too small to make a difference, that their voice isn’t loud enough, or no one really cares about their opinion. I wanted to highlight that you do have the opportunity and the power to be that voice and to create a difference even if it’s simply starting with your friends or your community.
As I began pulling all of those pieces together that was really something I wanted to highlight. For me, worksheets and workshops have helped develop that vision and that’s where I wanted to make it fun and interactive.
Can you share the impact of mentorship for yourself and why writers should seek mentors?
Lauren White: Mentorship is everything. I wouldn’t be in the space that I am today without the mentors and the community that I’ve had. It’s so important to have someone that can advocate for you and push you to that next level. And it’s so important to remember that as you go into that next space, [ask yourself] how are you lifting as you climb and creating success for others?
"Cries from the Dark Side of the Moon" started with a mentor who said “I think you have a book in you!” She challenged me and sparked that thought that I could pull these pieces together and create something.
What advice would you share with aspiring authors?
Lauren White: Allow yourself the opportunity to write. With social media, a global pandemic, and all these other things, we need to allow ourselves time and space to write. Trust yourself and your words. Many times, people in your life will tell you, “that’s not good enough.” You need to be confident within yourself to know how you want to share your own story. Connect with other authors, find mentors and learn from their experiences, and go for it!
How has the Library influenced your life?
Lauren White: Both of my parents made a point to take me to the Library once a week when I was growing up. The Library has allowed me the opportunity to be connected. Not only to get books, but to play checkers and to have time to get together and spark our imaginations.
Who are authors that inspire you?
Lauren White: Luvvie Ajayi Jones, opens a new window is an author that speaks truth to power and isn’t afraid to tell you like it is and what it is. Rupi Kaur, opens a new window is a poet who is authentic, true, and provides a space for connection.
I’ve always had a connection with Langston Hughes, opens a new window. His work highlights the Black experience and allows you to see it with clear imagery.
What are you looking forward to at the Library’s African American Read-In event?
Lauren White: I’m really excited to connect people with "Cries from the Dark Side of the Moon". We’ll discuss the book’s six categories and highlight that last topic, ‘Your Impact.’ I’m excited to talk through how people are continuing to make an impact and what their visions and goals are for the future.
What are you working on now?
Lauren White: I’m working to kick off a blog experience highlighting my own stories and those of awesome people within Cincinnati.
Attend In-Person African American Read-In Events
Hear from local Black authors every weekend in February at CHPL. Featured authors will read from their works and share their experiences as authors. Each event will also include activities and books available for purchase from each author.
- Feb. 12 at the Corryville Branch, opens a new window—Lauren White, author of Cries from the Dark Side of the Moon.
- Feb. 19 at the Groesbeck Branch, opens a new window—Debbie Rigaud, author of Simone Breaks All the Rules.
- Feb. 26 at the Deer Park Branch, opens a new window—Chad and Charles Richardson, authors of Family Reunion, Mario Jackson, author of Nya the Great, and Alek Teague, author of The Magic Inside.
Check out our online events calendar, opens a new window for more Black History Month events at the Library.