everyman by M Shelly Conner
In my very first signed, N.A. blog post, I wrote that “I have found books to be an incredibly candid mirror upon which to self reflect.” This still rings true, but perhaps in a different sense than I originally intended. The book that catalysed my now voracious reading habit, and hence is the seed that sprouted this blog, was Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi (read my lit musing of it here). Now that was a book in which I truly felt reflected! The commonalities between myself and the protagonist really blew me away. However, as I’ve continued on this bibliophilic journey, I’ve found books can also be a mirror in a “pot calling the kettle black” kind of way: We’re both black – many times we’re even both Black – but we’re definitely different shapes, we have different backgrounds and different experiences, yet it seems there’s something to this shared color and shared fire under our asses that can lead us down a pathway of connection and insight.
I’m aware that this may come off vague, and maybe even like a metaphor gone too far, but I’ll elaborate. Reading everyman by M Shelly Conner was like following a secret pathway I never knew existed, convincing myself I was lost, then ending up at my own front door, home. Everyman’s protagonist Eve is a woman on a mission to discover herself. An orphan and a product of the Great Migration, Eve feels lost, and hopes retracing her family tree will also give some shape to her own identity.
Eve and I have very different stories and very different histories. As a Black person in the United States whose ancestors do not trace back to the western portion of the Atlantic slave trade, I often find myself pushing against the confines of a perceived monolithic Black America. I sometimes feel as if variations of this erroneous perception follow me around, even as I’ve left the US to live in other parts of the Americas. Furthermore, I am well aware that my disdain for being mischaracterized as “the wrong kind of Black” has nothing to do with these other cultures, and everything to do with what I perceive as a deficit in my own Igbo-ness.
All of this to say, I don’t read a book like everyman, about a character like Eve, expecting anything other than a great story; but, everyman gave me so much more! I see so many parts of myself in Eve; we share a visceral and intimate sense of a great unknown and an insatiable impulse to search and find. I found myself buoyed and comforted by everyman‘s numerous depictions of influential and integral Black women who assisted Eve on her journey of self-discovery; and, I recognized in them so many of those who have and continue to help me on my own journey. I often marvel at the African diaspora for its multitude of iterations around the world, but this time around, I was awed by the ties that bind.
p.s. I would also like to recognize all of the extraordinary Black women characters in everyman whom I left unnamed, Eve is definitely a product of her invaluable community and heredity. If you’d like to read more stories about real-life extraordinary Black women, take a look at my 3-part series for The Conflicted Womanist entitled An Ode to Black Women who Resist: Revolution, Activism, & Rest.