Jordannah Elizabeth is an established writer, activist, and musician from Baltimore and has been a featured columnist with TERSE. since 2016. EIC M. Perle Tahat talked with her about the future of her column and also got a bonus reading list out of it. Check it out for yourself.
M. Perle Tahat: You’re a voracious reader and have blessed us with several reading lists throughout the course of your column. A difficult task, albeit one I will ask you to do–as I’m sure you could sense the lead up, is listing your favorite books from your repertoire. Would you mind telling readers your top 10?
Jordanah Elizabeth: Sure. My own library is pretty diverse. I actually have 15 favorites. My library isn’t that large, maybe about 150-200 books, give or take. The order is not “favorite to least favorite” or vice versa. Some of these books have already been published in reading lists I’ve already compiled, but they are true loves of my personal library:
- When and Where I Enter by Pauline Giddens
- The Rosy Crucifixion by Henry Miller
- The Secret Teachings of All Ages by Manly P. Hall
- Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
- Once by Alice Walker
- Anarchy and the Sex Question by Emma Goldman
- Masculinity Studies & Feminist Theory: New Directions edited by Judith Kegan Gardiner
- Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Front Lines edited by Alexis Pauline Gumbs, China Martens and Mai’a Williams
- This is How We Survive: Revolutionary Mothering, War, and Exiles in the 21st Century by Mai’a Williams (published January 1, 2019)
- Hunger by Roxane Gay
- Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human by Harold Bloom
- Sound Figures by Theodor W. Adorno
- Death Kit by Susan Sontag
- The New New Journalism: Conversations with America’s Best Nonfiction Writers on Their Craft by Robert S. Boynton
- Writing in Society by Raymond Williams
M. Perle Tahat: What a holistic list. Your readings always vary widely and I learn a lot from what you share. On Publik/Private you present writerly encouragement and advice, introspection on topics you are passionate about, and generally allow us access to your intellectual and creative space. One of the reasons I admire you so much is your rounding of so many different spheres of life. You are also a traveling musician and local activist. What drives you to all of these pursuits? When did you start walking this path?
Jordannah Elizabeth: I’ve slowed down on touring and playing music for the last couple of years. It put a real toll on my body and I’ve taken time off to focus on my health and writing. But without the experience of being a long time, touring musician, I wouldn’t been a well rounded music writer. I can connect with musicians as a writer because I’ve lived the life and went through their daily struggles for a decade before I started writing full time.
I studied music history and classical vocals from age 16-21 and was always in choirs and chorus from grade school to high school. I don’t think I’ve ever shared this publicly but I played violin in school from age 5 or 6 to age 11.
As a singer/songwriter, I got my first guitar at 13 and played my first show around 17 or 18. I just took all I learned from school and from the music my family loved and made a name for myself as a musician just by sheer drive… of wanting to eat and have a roof over my head. I also learned about promotions, booking and public relations, so I was able to promote myself pretty well. With all this said, writing and history have always been my main passion.
M. Perle Tahat: The bibliography of your writing career is a long one. If you had to direct readers to the favorite articles you’ve written so far: what would they be?
The Intersectionality of Believability
Sevens: Alice Coltrane – Transfiguration (Live, 1976)
Michelle Coltrane Is Glad Her Mother Alice’s Devotional Music Is Finally Getting Its Due
Dear Men of the Music Industry: You Can Do Better
The slow ascent of hip-hop and Black designers in the world of high fashion
M. Perle Tahat: In the past you’ve given us writings on esoteric topics, invaluable reading lists, and observations on social theory. What can readers expect from your column on TERSE. in the future?
Jordannah Elizabeth: My column, “Braving the Days“ at TERSE. allowed me some freedom to write about anything that was swirling in my subconscious in connection to my interaction with the outside world. I just plan to continue to do that. Sometimes, when you’re really thoughtful (meaning you think and observe a lot), it’s best not to overwhelm people close to you with your thoughts by always verbalizing them. Many times, people want to help or resolve a problem or give advice, which is a kind and natural thing to want to do for people you care about. But having a place express myself freely without fear of criticism, being misunderstood or worrying others is nice. I’m learning as I get older, saying less is more. Writing more…well, for now, it’s something that gives me some solace.