Reflections on The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin (1942-2018)


Remember cassette tapes? Better yet cassette singles in cardboard sleeves with artist portraits and logos? How about slightly pricier cassette maxi-singles in plastic cases and cardstock inserts?

From ages 10 through 14, my parents gave me a weekly allowance. Every other Friday, I’d spend a good chunk at music stores: Coconuts, Sam Goody, Musicland. When the movie Sister Act 2 starring Whoopi Goldberg and Lauryn Hill debuted, it was THE thing for my 6th-grade classmates. Our teacher would let us jam out to the soundtrack during our weekly Art period. There was always a couple of kids living to belt out Lauryn Hill and Tanya Blount’s version of “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” and a couple of boys gave us all the giggles while attempting Ryan Toby’s high note on “Oh Happy Day.” Aside from digging the movie and soundtrack on first runs, I could not let much time pass before getting my hands on a certain cassette single: Aretha Franklin’s cover of C+C Music Factory’s “A Deeper Love.”

The cover design was clean – deep red background with artist and title in white serif. The portrait of the Queen – Aretha, in a black leather jacket, white T-shirt, shiny obsidian curls with that ‘90s volume, glowing sable skin and red lips. As common with maxi singles, there were 5 remixes and I was easily enamored with two. Renowned vocal powerhouse Lisa Fischer accompanied the Queen on this solid house track. Twelve-year-old me could barely relate to the “hard work, no handouts” lyrics but there is an enduring soulfulness and humanity in verses like this:

Now, it ain’t easy
But I don’t need no help
I got a strong will to survive
I’ve got a deeper love
Deeper love
Deeper love inside
And I call it…Pride

There were many late nights of me attempting to quietly mimic her diva runs and ad libs in spite of being a fair distance from my parents’ bedroom. Catching myself getting too much volume a time or two, an unbeatable feeling washed over me in the hand-waving, diaphragm-vibrating throes of it all. Once, my dad told me “You sounded good last night!” That’s what Aretha’s songs do – her spirited, soulful delivery makes you believe in yourself and sing along unapologetically.

Long live the Queen.


The Way Out Is Through

One midsummer night in 2016, I sat down to my daily work of writing an attempt at memoir. In a moment of inspiration, I began writing a piece on different kinds of love (eros, philia, etc.). In the afterglow of 3 pages of flow, I felt the familiar sense of release that often hit me, the self-satisfaction of being able to pen down feelings long stuck and unnamed. As much as I wanted to “set it and forget it” as I would do for chapters at a time, this one would not let up on me.

What a difference a year made.

People change. Feelings change. Motivations and purposes change. Hearts move out of alignment. A spotlight shines in the self’s crawlspace on those beliefs and events mildewed and dusty.  When I woke from a long bout of malaise and periods of breathing in resentments, there was the realization that those words would have been better served if they applied to me and all the ways I show myself love. There was the realization that I’m much too old for acting like a petulant child when I don’t get my way. There was the realization that stonewalling or walking away in heat of a moment is unacceptable, that not asking for what I want always yields nothing, that silences are as good as acceptances that can lead to bitterness if unchecked. There was the realization that I may be on borrowed time with no more chances for oopsies and do-overs regarding matters of the heart, mine or anyone else’s.




Amaranth and Update on Ghosts of Us


“I’ll bury myself
Once more,
Ardent green, lush and fertile…”
– Amaranth from #ghostsofus #comingsoon #poetry #poems #prose #shortstory #shanghai

If you’ve been following my Twitter and Instagram, you’ve probably seen my posts of poetry and prose. These pieces are from my forthcoming Ghosts of Us. Follow me and watch this space for me details on the release date.

Reflections on March, Hopes for April

Apologies for the delay. Student essays and journals have shifted in various piles from the left of my desk to the right. Research papers on Greek gods and goddesses have nestled into a hutch on the left side along with create-your-own-magic-shop posters. Qing Ming Jie (Tomb-sweeping day) is nearly upon us. Suffice it to say that this April, I look forward to celebrating one more revolution around the sun, polishing my next diamond and doing some tomb sweeping of my own.

As the cherry blossoms of April bloom, it’s a perfect time to reflect on my March. My Blackest week in Shanghai kicked off with a dear friend’s birthday party at the swanky new Atelier, a stellar John Legend concert in the middle of things and the Shanghai Black Panther premiere party (replete with a tailor-made Ankara dress). Countless moments of Black excellence. Countless numbers of beautiful Black expats from the Diaspora. My heart runneth over!

In the spirit of Springtime renewal, may you shed the dregs and spring forth! May the bright sun increase your own light. May your grass stay green and growing. May your blossoms ever bloom!

The “Rihanna of Poetry” on Frank Ocean and Enjambment

Chicago Review of Books

Shayla Lawson’s newest book is I Think I’m Ready to See Frank Ocean, published by Saturnalia Books this month. As she says below, the book is “a companion to Frank Ocean’s musical catalog,” though I love it with very little knowledge of Frank Ocean’s music. The most I know is from her Salon review of Frank Ocean’s Endless. But all I need are the poems. A recent MacDowell and Yaddo fellow, Lawson is one of the most exciting poets working today, launching bold, multi-medium approaches to her books (she paired PANTONE with a perfume she created with Age of Earth Collective, and is releasing an EP with the Oceanographers for I Think I’m Ready to See Frank Ocean). Her poetry has appeared in Tin House, Guernica, The Offing, and many other journals. She’s currently working with Ross Gay on The Tenderness Project.

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Seeking Reviewers for Confessions of a Walk Away Wife!

I am giving away copies to book bloggers in exchange for a book review! Simply email me at with the subject “Seeking Reviewers” and a link to your book review blog. I will send you a free Kindle eBook copy of Confessions of a Walk Away Wife. This offer is limited to the first 10 responding bloggers. For more details on the book, visit the link above.


2018: Let’s GO!!!

A wise old friend used to tell me “If you keep doing what you’ve been done, you’re gonna keep gettin’ what you been gettin’.” At some point in 2017, my expansion ceased. At once, I could no longer easily access my desired feeling. It is a truth that you cannot be abundant and expanding if you feel tense and closed.

I had a post-Epiphany epiphany yesterday. While deep in meditation and perched cross-legged atop the puffy white comforter on my bed, the sunlight intensified. The following exhalations were effortless, freeing. A light chuckle escaped my parted lips and a tear rolled down my cheek. That’s the lightness, that’s bliss. That’s the feeling that I hope and pray all of you can feel this year.

Onsra (Cut Us Open) Published in LoReLi!


Daniel and Kerryn from LoReLi, a Beijing zine showcasing new artists and creatives from China, visited DO ART Space on December 15. They set out to put together a new zine within 24 hours of their event. Needless to say, the event went swimmingly.

Artists, writers, and musicians from all over Shanghai went to work on pieces in the space. For hours on end, the art space exploded with sundry pens, coloured A4 paper, malty IPAs and subwoofer-rattling beats. It was an all-in-all spontaneous, punk-rock style art happening that I was glad to take part in. Keep tabs on my blog for more details on my forthcoming second book which includes “Onsra (Cut Us Open).”

For more on the LoReLi zine, look, read and listen at


Poke Bowls Done Right at Little Catch

Stopping in on a whim to satisfy a salmon and avocado craving, I recently sat down for lunch at Little Catch. I’d seen it from my Didi windows countless times and read several expat blog articles on it. It’s sandwiched on a row of other expat eateries like Brothers Kabab and Eli Falafel. It’s also just across the street from The Avocado Lady.

Billed as an “urban fishmonger and poke shop,” Little Catch offers a variety of fresh filets and cuts. The menu was filled with mouthwatering poke combos like Hawaiian Tuna, Wasabii Shrimp and Umeboshi Octopus with that sour plum zip. My choice for lunch: Sambal Salmon. For the price, the bowl was filled with sizable portions of buttery-smooth salmon, avocado, roasted cashews, tobiko roe and classic, piquant Sambal. The verdict: one of the best poke bowls I’ve had in Shanghai. Consider this a step above Wagas’ poke bowls for a comparable price. Pairing the mellow tartness and light pop of a Heike Mate made for a great lunch combo.

Little Catch makes it easy for you to get your Poke fix with locations in Former French Concession/Xuhui, Jing’an and Xintiandi. Note the Sherpa’s bike in the shot; the driver left out with a full pack from the shop so you know Little Catch is a hit!

Little Catch
247-6 Wulumuqi Middle Road

near Wuyuan Road 近五原路
Shanghai, China 上海