Project Bookshelf: Solstice Black

A row of books sit on an oak bookshelf with a crystal in front of them.

The house I grew up in could be considered a library, as, legally, one must only have 500 books to be so named. But, more than legality, this house feels like a library, with many handmade bookshelves draped over the family wall under a vaulted ceiling and other shelves filling the dining room, the office, the living room. Everyone has their own bookshelves in their room, yet still the occasional pile pervades every surface. Daydreaming is encouraged, fanciful thinking embraced. I suppose it comes as no surprise, then, that I grew into an artist and writer, such daydreams fueling my work and public libraries becoming my beloved safe space.

Textbooks sit on a red bookshelf.

I’ve always consumed novels at a gobbling pace the moment they hook my attention. I must have read at least half the fiction in both this house and my section of the library, and still greet my favorites like old friends. But it wasn’t until the pandemic put a temporary end to my Village Books and library visits that I began to expand my taste through poetry, feminist essays, anthropology, and more.

A row of books sit on an oak bookshelf with a small vase of flowers.

When I began college around the beginning of the pandemic, I was introduced to the true expanse of literature, and it lit a fire in me to explore. I’d read poetry before, as the daughter of an English major. But when I began college, I saw the possibilities of the genre and it changed everything. I went head-over-heels for Joy Harjo, Chen Chen, Jane Wong, and so many others. I started looking into feminist essays for assignments and was met with Virginia Woolf, Alice Walker, and Judith Butler. I broadened what types of fiction I read and by whom, and found poetry on women, on bodies, on society, on complicated ways of living. I learned I was bisexual after reading a queer novel. And it was these works that forever altered the way I see myself and the world I live in, and the way I see poetry and the people who write it.

Books sit on a black bookshelf with two colorful rocks in front of them.

So I feel that, in a very immediate way, books built me up. For me, they widened the scope of what was possible in myself and in the world. Of course, having some intense effect on me wasn’t a requirement for my favorite books. Many of my favorites remain fantasy adventure novels, and those, too, live in pride of place on my shelves or make a comforting presence by my bedside, such as my childhood favorites and signed copies of Tamora Pierce books, the books that inspired my childhood adventures. Others don’t live on my bookshelf but remain favorites nonetheless, such as the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, and The Beautiful by RenĂ©e Ahdieh. The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan, while perhaps not a favorite, also takes pride of place. Perhaps a requirement as an artist, I also have a collection of art and other instructional books, many living near my paints. My bookshelf itself has become an art piece, showcasing art, crystals, family photos, and treasures I’ve collected.

Thus, I feel that this art piece of a bookshelf has come to partially represent who I am. Occasionally chaotic and confusing, colorful, holding rocks in every pocket, perhaps fanciful, and full of deep ideas and poetry.

A young white woman with octagon-shaped glasses and very short bleached hair stands in the foreground. They wear a lacy top and a button up sweater with a blue collar. Greenery is in the background.

Solstice Black (she/they) is a queer poet and novelist living in the Pacific Northwest. They are currently undertaking a bachelor’s degree in creative writing. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Chautauqua, A Forest of Words, and The Fantastic Other, among others. They hope to pursue an MFA in creative writing and a BFA in visual art in the next few years. Her cat is both her greatest joy and torment.

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