On the Brilliance of Martha Southgate’s “The Taste of Salt”.


First of all. What is fabulous about the book is that it centers the life of a Black woman- scholarship kid-Stanford educated-Oceanographer from Cleveland. #blackgirlsarefromthefuture.

Then it moves on to her biological family which is her mom, her baby brother and her dad.

The themes that are present in the novel are forgiveness, Black women and marriage, alcoholism and letting go of family when you feel they will take you down with them.

In fact, given the extent of alcoholism within Black communities (notice the ies) it’s a wonder that MORE Black fiction doesn’t mention alcoholism. But perhaps that is akin to airing dirty laundry, and you and I both know that Black peoples respectability politics are as old as the US and as endurable as Capitalism.

Because I do research on Black women’s sexuality, lately I am drawn to the passages where Black women talk about being sexual. Where women talk about the politics of marriage because I am so tired of people speak for us or TO us about us.

There are two ways that this happens in The Taste of Salt (TTOS).

First, Josie, named after Josephine Baker, marries a man, a White man who she gets along with. Then another man comes along a few years later and she rethinks her marriage.

Second, Josie’s mom puts Josie’s dad out because she can’t take his alcoholism anymore. She Loves him, but she can’t do it. She decides to do what many of us do, go back to school, get our shit together and find a way to make a life that we feel is satisfactory. She is never really the same after.

Josie’s dad enters recovery and but for one slip up he manages to remain clean and sober. However, Josie can’t bring herself to forgive him. Now, I know in my heart, that until she forgave him she was not going to be able to Love anyone else in a vulnerable way because Love and Anger can’t live in the same heart. It just can’t.

I identified with this relationship in many ways because my father struggled with addiction for nearly 15 years. Trust that shit is not for the faint of heart. He is doing fine now, but rehab and all that, it changes you, even when you are watching a family member go through it. In fact I have spent many a Thanksgiving in 12 step meetings with him. Holiday’s are hard for most people, and even more difficult for folks recovering from addictions because there is so much pain around this time of the year.

Oh, and another thing. I love the fact that Josie feels free in the water. The one thing I can’t stand about Black women and how we are judged and invested in our hair is that it prevents us from exercise and even experiencing pleasure for fear that it will ruin our hair. Don’t get me wrong, I understand WHY we invest in it, long flowing hair is considered to be supreme in mainstream media. But that shit has an impact on us. </rant>.

I have given away enough of the book, so I won’t give away it’s ending, which is both beautiful and heartbreaking.

Pick up The Taste of Salt. You will read it in a day, or two, MAX!