Project Bookshelf: Brooke Shannon

I used to have a bookshelf in my childhood room. It surprisingly didn’t occupy as many books as one may think. It was basically a storage unit, collecting all of my childlike desires: Webkinz, magazine cut-outs, my Nintendo DS game cases, etc. But, when it came to books, I always went to the basement. That was where my mother’s 20ish-year-old book collection was held. I used to hide in the makeshift library for hours, reading words I eventually understood. I liked the secrecy and the privacy. Just me and “my” books.

After my first semester of college, I moved to the basement, my love for poetry well-developed. I was pretty intentional in organizing a space that reflected who I was, which obviously had to involve books. So, among the five closet shelves I have, I used one to hold my ever-expanding book collection.

Left section of my book collection
Right section of my book collection

Yes, my book collection is color-coded… it keeps me sane. A lot of books are tied to my degree: White Space Is Not Your Enemy (a textbook about visual design and function), Sin and Syntax (a resource for prose writing), etc. I could’ve sold these books, but I’ve copied my mother’s literary habits and developed deep connections to the books that are part of my undergrad journey.

My book collection is heavy with Black literature. I’ve always been moved by the honest ways my community writes about us. The first piece of Black literature I owned was Alice Walker’s Banned. This small compilation of Walker’s short stories and novel excerpts explore what others found threatening and controversial in her work. Walker’s rejection of readers’ attempted censorship was riveting to me. The words of James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, and Jewelle Gomez attract that same experience.

“Coffee table” books

Some of my books have played key parts in my healing. Whether it be Rupi Kaur’s poems of self-love and celebratory messages of all women in homebody, or Cleo Wade’s deeply personable guide for life in Heart Talk, confessional poetry is remedial to me. It’s in the tellings of others’ stories that I feel understood and valued. While society inhabits racial and gendered exclusivity, the poetic pages of these books, and more, give way to a recognition I don’t experience in public spaces. *P.S. The plant is absolutely artificial because I can’t care for one to save my life.*

But, I’ll always return to my mother’s book collection. Afterall, these books are the origin of my love for reading and writing. These books helped craft the intricacies of who I was, who I am, and who I will be. As my mother did for me, I hope to one day gift my collection of accumulated knowledge, meaningful experiences, and acquired lessons to my own children. They, too, would have the opportunity to find themselves within the aged pages.

Brooke Shannon is a published poet, speaker, and aspiring author. She attends Grand Valley State University for a Writing major and minor in African/African American Studies and Psychology. Her work has appeared in Display Magazine (Issue 111), In the Limelight with Clarissa (Fall 2021), and the 4th edition of Joining the Conversation. 


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