Jewel Guy explores what honesty and healing can create for Black women with her exceptional book of challenging prompts and curious questions.
- How did you come up with the idea for this book?
The idea actually came from my previous book, Dear Black Men. The first year and half of my marriage were pretty challenging for me. I was the quiet observer while my husband was a great communicator. We often bumped heads with our communication styles (or the lack thereof) and with our behaviors, so we began having tough conversations. Conversations that many people in my community do not have or just don’t know where to begin. Though the conversations were hard, my husband Desmond Guy created safe space for me by listening to my concerns and acknowledging my triggers. And because he did that for me, I would often ask myself, “Am I doing the same thing for him? Am I reciprocating the same amount of grace, patience, and kindness?” I was trying, but I knew I could do better.
I made a cognitive decision to ask him open-ended questions out of curiosity so that I could learn more about him and show him empathy. This approach was so impactful that I began asking other Black men in community similar questions. I wanted to know that some of the things my husband had experienced and was experiencing with me wasn’t just an “us” thing. I found so much synergy in their collective experiences that I made another decision. I decided to have public conversations through Facebook with Black men from all around the world. I decided to affirm, to ask questions (without giving any advice), and to apologize almost every day for about 8 months. In June 2019, I published the most popular posts, so that Black men around the world could have access to it.
While introducing Dear Black Men to the world, I got a lot of requests from Black women for their own book. Some wanted to use it as a companion book and others simply wanted their own acknowledgement and atonement. I’ll admit in the beginning, I wasn’t focused on writing another book. It was a serious feat for me to get Dear Black Men out. It took a lot of personal, self-reflective work, and I wasn’t exactly ready to add another layer of self-reflection. But the call for it kept getting louder. There were so many instances on the news that showed Black women being the targets of violence and disrespect that something inside of me knew that it was time to honor Black women. My husband agreed to write the apologies to Black women. I crafted the question prompts, affirmations, and supporting open-ended questions, and the rest is history.
2. Why was this book important for you to make?
This book was important for me to make because a book like it didn’t exist. Black women are divine. We are the innovators of many things. We are cultivators and nurturers of life AND we receive the least acknowledgment, respect, and appreciation. We are tired of being strong for all those around us and not being supported. We need carefully curated spaces that allow us to just BE; whatever that looks like for each of us individually. Dear Black Women is my offering to Black women and to myself. A tool that can help us to cultivate safe space for ourselves and to hear our unfiltered voices loud and clear. Maybe even for the first time.
3. What do you feel is the most compelling question or prompt in this book?
“Dear Black Women, when was the last time you accepted yourself for who you are?” I didn’t realize how compelling it was until I answered this question in my own copy of the book. It brings up so many questions such as, “Who am I anyway? What defines who I am? What does acceptance look like? What am I holding against myself? What have I come to believe about myself?” You’ll definitely need an additional notebook as you’re working through this book.
4. The name of this book is Dear Black Women. Is it only meant for that audience or do you think those who are not Black and/or women can and should read it?
This book is first and foremost a love letter to Black women. It is important to me that Black women know and feel that they are seen, heard, and understood without judgment. Where can Black women actually find safe space within society to just BE? I’ll wait. Each part of this book was intentionally crafted to resonate with Black women and their experiences.
With that said, anyone who is open to listening to understand, to learn empathy, to have impactful conversations filled with acknowledgement, accountability, self-awareness, and self-reflection is welcome to dive into this book. This isn’t a book that you just read through; you work through it.
5. What is your personal experience with self-publishing or publishing in general?
Blurb has been my go-to source for self-publishing. I was introduced to Blurb when I was photographing weddings. Once I was ready to publish my last two books, Blurb made it such a seamless process for me to keep all of the rights to my work, print copies on demand, and distribute my books through a global network. Couldn’t really ask for more than that!
6. Which tools or software did you use to create your book and why?
I formatted my book using Canva. I use Canva for all of my design needs. It was really easy for me to format my book. I also used BookWright to upload my formatted pages and cover design directly to Blurb. It is such a seamless process.
7. What have been the reactions to this book?
I think the first reaction to this book is “Whoa.” I don’t think people expect to get so deep in such a small book. It challenges them to do their work as well as uncover things in themselves that they didn’t realize were there. People are grateful for this book. Many people tell us how necessary this book is and how they would like to see it in various programming throughout our community. Therapists are using this book in group sessions and for themselves with the questions as a guide for open conversations.
8. What do you hope this book to instill?
Self-awareness, self-reflection, and unapologetic self-love.
9. How have you marketed your book since publishing it?
We do a lot of “guerrilla marketing.” We always wear branded apparel which sparks lots of conversations. We have advertisements on our vehicle that we use daily. We do a lot of in-person vending at events throughout Maryland and DC and will be expanding to more cities in 2022. We have partnered with Black-owned bookstores to carry Dear Black Women and utilized social media ads.
10. What’s next for you? Any other book ideas in the works?
There are always new book ideas on the horizon! There are at least two more that I am actively working on. My goal right now is to continue to spread the word about Dear Black Women and Dear Black Men. I would like it to be a premiere resource for therapists, mental health counselors, churches, HBCUs, prison programs, and more. We’re looking to be an integral part of the healing of Black families.
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