Tuesday, March 16, 2010

You Can Judge This Book by Its Cover by Stephanie Rose Bird, Author of The Big Book of Soul

Soul is the essence of African American culture–the ingredient that makes it tick. In The Big Book of Soul: The Ultimate Guide to the African American Spirit, writer and herbalist Stephanie Rose Bird takes us on an amazing journey into the ancient traditions of mysticism, spirituality, and mythology that lie beneath this uniquely African American experience. Bird explores the healing, magic, and divination traditions of ancient African earth-based spirituality, and traces how these practices have evolved in contemporary African American culture. Along the way she offers recipes, rituals and resources that you can use to heal your life.

Many people have complimented the book cover for my new book, The Big Book of Soul: the Ultimate Guide to the African American Spirit: Legends & Lore, Music & Mysticism, Recipes & Rituals (Hampton Roads Publishers 2/5/2010). I must admit when I first saw the JPG it took my breath away.

I knew who the artist was right away. It was the African American artist from South Carolina, Jonathan Green. What I didn’t know until visiting his website at www.jonathangreenstudios.com is that we share an important mission. Green’s passion is creating and collecting cross-cultural art that exhibits the themes of work, love, belonging and spirituality. My writing is cross-cultural in nature, with a particular focus on the African diaspora (Africa, Americas, Caribbean and parts of Europe where Black people live). The Big Book of Soul is built around the theme of spirituality but also touches on the topics of love for family, belonging to community and family and features various occupations such as midwifery and farming.

Green is driven by the desire to give greater visibility, wider positive perceptions and recognition of the accomplishments of people of color. His work reflects our contributions to various areas including health, the environment and the arts. Green’s desire to bring greater visibility of our contributions in those specific areas is something that he and I share.

Overall, his lithograph on the cover, called “The Reception” is vibrant; pulsating with life and color. The people depicted are Black but they show a wide variety of skin tones, builds, personal tastes and personalities. It is a gathering of Black folks in all of our variety. Often, it is when we get together as a community or extended family, our strong sense of spirituality bubbles to the surface. We get in touch with soul through singing and dancing or through prayer. Also, you can evidence some of the old ways if you observe and talk to the elders present at such gatherings. You can clearly see in “The Reception” that there are folks represented from every age group. The backdrop of the scene is a lovely, old tree and newly planted crops. Similarly, the backdrop of The Big Book of Soul is populated with ancient spiritual wisdom, healing plants and medicinal trees—they form the foundation of the book. Moreover, gatherings such as receptions are opportunities for sharing our stories including mythology and folklore. The Big Book of Soul also incorporates mythology, folklore and storytelling. I can’t think of a more fitting book cover design for this book than Jonathan Green’s “The Reception.”

Stephanie Rose Bird, is the author of five books: The Big Book of Soul: the Ultimate Guide to the African American Spirit: Legends and Lore, Music and Mysticism and Recipes and Rituals, (2010, Hampton Road Publishers), A Healing Grove: African Tree Medicine, Remedies and Rituals ( 2009, Chicago Review Press), Light, Bright, Damn Near White: Biracial and Triracial Culture in America and Beyond (2009, Praeger Press) Sticks, Stones, Roots and Bones Hoodoo, Mojo and Conjuring with Herbs (June 2004, by Llewellyn Worldwide Publishers) and “Four Seasons of Mojo: An Herbal Guide to Natural Living (Llewellyn, 2006). Bird writes regularly for www.naturallycurly.com as resident herbalist. She has been a professional member of the Handcrafted Soap Maker’s Guild, for whom she wrote a column “Soap Worts: Useful Herbs for Soap Makers. Bird is a member of: the American Botanical Council’s Herb Research Foundation; the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy and the International Center for Traditional Childrearing. Her writing on herbalism, natural healing, complimentary therapies, herbal lore, goddesses, rituals and ceremonies are featured in “Sage Woman Magazine” “The Beltane Papers,” “International Journal of Aromatherapy,” “Aromatherapy Today,” “The Oracle,” “Herb Quarterly,” “Herb Companion,” “The Llewellyn Magical Almanac,” “The Llewellyn Herbal Almanac” “Enlightened Practice,” E-pregnancy and “Spell-a-Day” among others.

Stephanie Bird is a hereditary intuitive and healer specializing in positive energy work and spiritual cleansing using African plant wisdom. Her website is located at www.stephanierosebird.com and you can follow her on twitter at Twitter@stephanierosebi.com