The above image speaks to only a fraction of the books I own—many, sadly, are tucked away in storage. If I didn’t have to share an apartment, I would gladly fill up the entire space with bookshelves. I have two desks in my primary room, and the one shown above mostly houses the books I am currently reading. I tend to rotate this section of my working desk every few months or so, just to have my eyes exposed to new covers, names, and titles.
Books are sacred to me. Whether they are on my working desk or shelved in any other area of the apartment, I look to them with great tenderness. As an adolescent, books were often platforms through which I found myself truly cultivating my inner intimacy, as well as my identity as an intimate participant in life. I would be on the subway reading Alice Walker. I would be in a library reading Richard Wright. I would be on a plane reading Kiese Laymon. Even to this very day, I seldom go anywhere without carrying a book in my bag. A silent companion. A friend that might be invisible to most, but one I can pull out when needed.
When shopping for books or literary pieces of any kind, I tend to lean into realistic fiction and nonfiction the most. As a personal essayist, I am extremely passionate about centering voice and exfoliating its power and potential. I am interested in speaking about voice as power, voice as radical tenderness, and voice as urgent social change. Whenever I pick something new to read, I focus on the voice that is being employed—what about the delivery of the story is resonating with me and how can that be connected back to voice?
I look for pieces written by folkx of color. Written by immigrants, by queer people, by single-parents, by folkx who are or have been incarcerated. I tend toward the voices of those erased, who are deemed unworthy of possessing or using a voice, who are negated and treated as invisible. Most of the books I own dissect and analyze sex, sexual identity, sexual orientation, gender, gender expression, gender identity, and race.
As I continue along in my book collecting career, I hope to continue to find pieces and people whose identities are out of the binary. I want to honor them and have their lived experiences and realities on my shelves. I also hope to continue writing and supporting the very difficult and heavy work of exploring and speaking about radical tenderness, hurt, forgiveness, and empathy.
Sabrina Sarro is a current social worker in the state of NY. They hold an LMSW from Columbia University and are currently pursuing an MFA from the City College of New York—CUNY. As a queer non-binary writer of color, they are most interested in investigating the intersectionalities of life and engaging in self-reflection and introspection. They are an alumnus of the LAMBDA Literary Emerging Voices for LGBTQIA* Writers Retreat, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Yale Writers’ Workshop, and many others. They have received scholarships from The Martha’s Vineyard Institute for Creative Writing and the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley.