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Bigger Than Bravery: Black Resilience and Reclamation in a Time of Pandemic
edited by Valerie Boyd, featuring Tayari Jones, Kiese Laymon, Imani Perry, Deesha Philyaw, Jason Reynolds & Alice Walker


Born of a desire to bring together the voices of those most harshly affected by the intersecting pandemics of Covid-19 and systemic racism, Bigger Than Bravery explores comfort and compromise, challenge and resilience, throughout the Great Pause that became the Great Call. Award-winning author and scholar of the Black archive Valerie Boyd curates this anthology of original essays and poems, alongside some of the most influential nonfiction published on the subject, inviting readers into a conversation of restorative joy and enduring wisdom.  

Bigger Than Bravery captures what Boyd calls the “first draft of history,” with poems serving as deep breaths between narrative essays to form a loose chronology of this unprecedented time. Karen Good Marable cranks “Whip My Hair” from the car windows during quarantine joyrides with her daughter. Deesha Philyaw ponders loneliness as she sorts Zoom meetings into those that require a bra and those that don’t. Writing in the moment though not of it, Pearl Cleage reflects on what has and hasn’t changed since the AIDS epidemic. Jason Reynolds harnesses heat and flavor to carry on his father’s legacy.   

Sorrow and outrage have their say, but the stories in these pages are bright with family, music, food, and home, teaching us how to nourish ourselves and our communities. Looking ahead as much as it looks back, Bigger Than Bravery offers a window into a hopeful, complex present, establishing an essential record of how Black people in America insist on joy as an act of resistance. 


Valerie Boyd was an American writer and academic. She was best known for her biography of Zora Neale Hurston entitled Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston. She was an associate professor and the Charlayne Hunter-Gault Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia, where she taught narrative nonfiction writing, as well as arts and literary journalism.


“Eloquent and riveting, Boyd’s collection delivers not only, as she promises in her introduction, ‘a long exhalation, a silent prayer, a solace and a comfort’ but also, in the words of Imani Perry, a celebration of Blackness as ‘an immense and defiant joy.’ This one’s not to be missed.” -- Publishers Weekly, starred review, Big Indie Books of Fall 2022

“A map of ancestral knowledge, revelatory insight, and feelings laid bare . . . These pages share poems of hope, narratives of loss, anger, fear, loneliness, togetherness, death, and most potently, life, to paint a portrait . . . resonant to all.” -- Library Journal, Editors’ Pick

Valerie Boyd’s Bigger Than Bravery isn’t just an anthology; it is a survival guide.” -- Courtney B. Vance, Tony and Emmy-winning actor

[P]  Lookout Books  /  November 15, 2022

 1.0" H x 8.4" L x 5.5" W (0.71 lbs) 256 pages