First and foremost, Jamal Jordan is a fantastic storyteller. You’ve likely seen his name around: He’s written for Vice, NBC News, and most recently, The New York Times, where his essay “Queer Love in Color” began. The book, which was just released, continues the Queer Love in Color journey, as Jordan documents 40 queer couples and families. The book includes photos and essays about each couple, illustrating their story as vividly as we’ve ever seen before.
Queer Love in Color
Jordan and I had the chance to speak about his book and five others. The books Jordan selected all reflect young, marginalized people trying to find themselves among and against difficult backgrounds. Jordan told me that this is why he turns to books: “The purpose that books have for me is self-discovery. Making this book, going through the pandemic, I’ve reverted to that childlike need in books, as a very basic way of seeing myself.” In fact, he said, “I made this book because I want to see this piece of work exist. If I’m feeling down, I sit down and read about my favorite couples, again and again.”
Real Life by Brandon Taylor is a “nice angsty book about a young man getting his PHD. It’s misty and heartbreaking watching this gay black kid finding meaning and himself.” Most of all, Jordan says, he “wishes [he] had the words to describe [Taylor’s] writing in the way his writing should be described. It’s the kind of book that made me think..Maybe I should leave fiction writing to the experts.”
“What better way to get out of the pandemic reading than to read Severance?” If you haven’t heard of the book yet, it essentially tracks a woman through New York City during a pandemic, very similar to the one we just went through. Jordan says, “I immediately connected with the main character, following another young person through something similar happening in the world. I bought it at the beginning of the pandemic and I knew what I was getting myself into, but, like maybe you should wait a bit.”
“The Terrible by Yrsa Daley-Ward is my next book,” Jordan says. “I thought she was a little known writer, and then I found out she was a writer for Beyonce’s movie Black Is King.” He says he “read this right around the time when [he] was working on [his] book,” and that it was so emotional, “it jolted [him] back into words and writing.” “It's an autobiography in her journey in pulling herself out of a really bad rut—the terrible, these swirling emotions could be her downfall. I am really into angsty shit about people destroying themselves.”
“The Americans by Robert Frank is considered by many to be the most seminal, post-distanced works of photography for America post-World War II.” At first, Jordan says, “there were a lot of white people reading it, getting this distanced, unromantic idea of Black America. All of the images are straightforward, unromantic— Frank almost looked at America like it was a zoo.” One of his favorite parts is that “Places in America like LA or NY that are super-photographed almost look like a scientific experiment through Frank’s lens.”
How We Fight for Our Lives
“I’m really fascinated by Saeed Jones’ professional story working for Buzzfeed, and then leaving and making this piece of work. The book details his story of dealing with all of these things falling apart as all of his family is falling apart. He writes so beautifully.” I’m a slow reader, especially for someone who writes books, but I absolutely blew through this.”
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