It’s happy hour on a Saturday. Cija Jefferson and I order fried chicken sandwiches and pile into a booth at a neighborhood bar in Baltimore. My one year old is diving under the table and over the seat in constant motion. Luckily it’s only us and the bartender so she avoids getting trampled.
We’ve come here to discuss writing and being a writer and her book, Sonic Memories. She is a generous conversationalist, always turning the talk back to ask about me and my writing. When I tell her I just want to get honest with my words, she nods furiously.
That’s because Jefferson’s collection of essays is exactly that, a raw and honest account of selected stories from her life. As she takes the reader from childhood to present day, her ability to create scenes and dialog that feel real have me forgetting these were not memories from my own life. Each essay is relatable on such a basic, human level. She is able to tap into those emotions that form our collective experience effortlessly.
I was particularly haunted by a chapter in her book about leaving her life behind on the East coast for greener pastures in California. This particular story really captured her experience of living in the moment, of enjoying life despite not knowing what lie ahead, and not really caring what lie behind. It brought me back to that glow of youth and less responsibilities. Cija captures this rare, fleeting feeling beautifully in this story.
Another theme Cija handles well is the experience of being an outsider. She writes about attending all white schools and reflects on her identity as it crosses worlds and boundaries as she comes of age. It was refreshing to read a unique perspective on life’s ordinary episodes.
What I like most about Sonic Memories is the overall tone. This writer never says these are things that happened to me and they are really sad, or happy, or embarrassing. No, she just tells her stories. The reader gets the sense that this is just life, and it’s no big deal and also the only deal at the same time. It’s a heartbreaking, inspiring, and joyful read.
Support independent publishing. Pick up a copy of Sonic Memories by Cija Jefferson here.
This review was unsolicited by the author. We just liked her book.
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