The Quotes of Calling My Name
by Liara Tamani
At its heart, CALLING MY NAME is a story about a young girl named Taja finding herself and claiming her power. Each section of the novel is introduced with a quote from a literary giant symbolically seeing Taja through this journey. There are eight beautifully illustrated quote pages in total and include the words of: Zadie Smith, Gwendolyn Brooks, Zora Neale Hurston, Sandra Cisneros, Virginia Woolf, Maya Angelou, Audre Lorde, and Toni Morrison.
These are all writers I admire, writers who’ve inspired me, writers who’ve helped me hone my own power, who’ve helped paved my way.
She was sure of it, now that she was awake.
For she was awake. This was awakeness.
—Gwendolyn Brooks, Maud Martha
Don’t sleep on Maud Martha! It’s an amazing book. I didn’t discover this novel until I was in grad school, but it was love at first read.
She felt an answer seeking her,
but where? When? How?
—Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God
I know y’all have had that feeling before when the answer is right there, so close, but you still can’t find it. The book deals with Janie, the main character, finding herself and her power—the same journey Taja takes in CALLING MY NAME.
But the truth has a strange way of following you,
of coming up to you and making you
listen to what it has to say.
—Sandra Cisneros, “One Holy Night”
Can’t run from the truth. You better tell them, Sandra! The House on Mango Street is one of my all-time favorite books and I’ve literally loved my copy to pieces—torn paper cover, now completely detached from its spine.
No need to hurry.
No need to sparkle.
No need to be anybody but oneself.
—Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own
So much truth in this quote. I love Virginia Woolf’s writing and her ability to draw you completely into the world, into the moment, she creates. Very few writers I’ve read do this as well as her.
Love is like a virus.
It can happen to anybody at any time.
—Maya Angelou, The Heart of a Woman
Maya Angelou had allllll the wisdom. She was and still is such an inspiration. I keep a quote and portrait of her on my wall at home just so I can feel close her. And she was in the tall girls’ club, like me! She was 6 feet, to be exact.
The greatest lie ever told about love
is that it sets you free.
—Zadie Smith, On Beauty
First of all, can I just say, Zadie ain’t never lied. Love does not set you free. On the contrary, I think it binds you. Secondly, I have the biggest writer crush on Zadie Smith. I love her brilliance…her style…her grace… everything about her.
hold me in your muscular
flowering arms, protect me from
throwing any part of myself away.
—Audre Lorde, A Burst of Light
I love this reminder to hold onto ourselves. As a black lesbian, living in the 60s and 70s, Audre Lorde certainly didn’t fit. But she held onto herself tight. She was fearless and used her poetry and prose as an instrument of change. I am grateful for her fierce activism and how she inspired women to raise their voices.
Freeing yourself was one thing;
claiming ownership of that freed self was another.
—Toni Morrison, Beloved
I love this quote and Beloved, and if there’s one book I can point to for waking up the writer inside of me, it’s Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. I read it in high school, and from then on, was hooked on beautiful language. Reading that book also brought back a memory I’d buried. It was Christmas and I woke up and ran to the living room to open my first present: a black doll. I started crying. I wanted a white, blonde haired, blue-eyed doll. Sad, right? I carried the shame of that morning with me all the way until I read The Bluest Eye. Until I realized why I wanted the white doll. Until I realized the world was telling me the white doll was better. Until I realized it wasn’t my fault that I’d learned to hate my blackness at such a young age. That’s the power of books, y’all. It released me from my shame. It set me free.
In CALLING MY NAME, all of these quotes are placed at transitional points in Taja’s life and help reveal some kind of truth she takes away from that part of her journey. And it’s my hope that readers can just as easily take these words of wisdom away with them on their own journeys.
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This summer, I went around the house gathering all the books by authors I quote or mention in Calling My Name, and here they are. The words in these books made me fall in love with reading over and over again. Calling My Name will be out in the world in one week, and the possibility of my words making someone fall in love with reading fills me with so much joy.✨💕✨ Shout out to @wellreadblackgirl for the dope bag.
About Liara Tamani
About Calling My Name
A striking, luminous, and literary exploration of family, spirituality, and self.
This unforgettable novel tells a universal coming-of-age story about Taja Brown, a young African American girl growing up in Houston, Texas, and deftly and beautifully explores the universal struggles of growing up, battling family expectations, discovering a sense of self, and finding a unique voice and purpose.
Told in fifty-three short, episodic, moving, and iridescent chapters, CALLING MY NAME follows Taja on her journey from middle school to high school. Literary and noteworthy, this is a beauty of a novel that deftly captures the multifaceted struggle of finding where you belong and why you matter.
Up next: Behind the Cover Design