In a series of 248 notes that gather meaning as we read them, Christina Sharpe weaves artifacts from the past—public ones alongside others that are poignantly personal—with present realities and possible futures, intricately constructing an immersive portrait of everyday Black existence.
Her new book offers a multiplicity of notes as a rejoinder, assembling memories and observations, artifacts and artworks, tracing the persistence of racism and brutality while also exploring the varieties of Black life ... Merciful interruptions, attentive kindnesses, moments of regard: In Sharpe’s book, intimacy and tenderness provide something that resembles hope, though perhaps a more accurate word would be respite ... Ordinary Notes makes full use of its form, finding in fragmentation a way to propose and to elaborate, eddying back and forth between cruelty and care, sorrow and joy. A narrative would have presumed an arc, and an arc would have presumed a kind of grand progress that is antithetical to Sharpe’s worldview ... Her critique is so radical that it’s only logical for there to be a decidedly apolitical quality to the responses she eventually offers. She finds a measure of solace and recognition in books, in friendship, in poetry, in art.
Radical, profound ... Each section reads as a standalone essay, each one in conversation with the others ... Notes is not a memoir proper. Sharpe does present terrible scenes of subjection from her childhood and professional life, but her self-portrait is oblique, even opaque ... Section by section, Sharpe’s overlapping personal and critical writing becomes more liquid and intense. Her prose simmers, drawing language and narrative into a potent reduction: possibility.
Sharpe engages with multimedia to explore these topics and muses on photography, meaningful books, quotations, and observations from trips to museums and memorials. She integrates heartfelt personal anecdotes; stories about her family members, particularly her mother and grandmother; and lessons that she has learned from her relatives about seeing beauty in its many dimensions.