Ordinary Notes

Finalist, National Book Awards 2023 for Nonfiction

ISBN 9780374604486
Farrar, Straus and Giroux / Macmillan Publishers
Author photo of Christina Sharpe. (Photo credit: Christina Sharpe)
Christina Sharpe

Christina Sharpe is the author of In the Wake: On Blackness and Being and Monstrous Intimacies: Making Post-Slavery Subjects. She is currently Canada Research Chair in Black Studies in the Humanities at York University in Toronto. More about this author >

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From the publisher:

A singular achievement, Ordinary Notes explores profound questions about loss and the shapes of Black life that emerge in the wake. In a series of 248 notes that gather meaning as we read them, Christina Sharpe skillfully 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. The themes and tones that echo through these pages, sometimes about language, beauty, memory; sometimes about history, art, photography, and literature—always attend, with exquisite care, to the ordinary-extraordinary dimensions of Black life.

At the heart of Ordinary Notes is the indelible presence of the author’s mother, Ida Wright Sharpe. “I learned to see in my mother’s house,” writes Sharpe. “I learned how not to see in my mother’s house… My mother gifted me a love of beauty, a love of words.” Using these gifts and other ways of seeing, Sharpe steadily summons a chorus of voices and experiences to the page. She practices an aesthetic of “beauty as a method,” collects entries from a community of thinkers toward a “Dictionary of Untranslatable Blackness,” and rigorously examines sites of memory and memorial. And in the process, she forges a brilliant new literary form, as multivalent as the ways of Black being it traces.

Judges Citation

A beautifully constructed, formally inventive volume of image and text that moves seamlessly between memoir, cultural criticism, and historical reflection. Christina Sharpe brings together memories of her mother, a fierce advocate who encouraged her love of books and Black culture, with a searing indictment of how anti-Black violence is represented in mass media as well as in community. With a critical focus on exhibition, Sharpe has delivered both a strong contribution to museum studies and a piece of art in itself.


Christina Sharpe at the 2023 National Book Awards Finalist Reading