Commentary: The Last Black Unicorn

The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish was the last book I finished in 2019. I am explicitly saying “finished” instead of “read” because I listened to the audio version of the book through (not getting anything for that promo). While listening to Ms. Haddish read her book, I had an epiphany.

There is no way I would have had the same experience with this book if I had read a paper or electronic version. Through listening to her voice read her words, I had an entirely different experience of the book. It occurred to me that when I read a book, no matter how great my imagination, my own voice is narrating the book. My own voice is white, straight, cis-gendered, and female. My own voice has my experiences and what I map from my life onto others, no matter how open I think I am being.

Thus, when I listened to The Last Black Unicorn, I actually heard Ms. Haddish’s story in her voice. Her narration emphasized what she felt was important and let other parts be informative, but not center stage. By listening to her narration, I didn’t try to fit her experience into my own world understanding, but instead I had the experience of someone telling me her own story and expecting me to take her at her word.

I am not sure why this was such a different experience this time. I have read (and listened to) books by people of color for a long time. In the past year, I have made more effort to do so. Yet, I didn’t realize until this particular book how voice plays a role in the reading experience. It may be that for me to get truly be open to the experience of learning from authors whose experience is very different from mine, I need to listen rather than see.

This, of course, means that I need to go back and *listen* to all the Beverly Jenkins I’ve read. HOORAY!

I do truly recommend listening to The Last Black Unicorn. Haddish’s style is clear, her voice is compelling, and the highs and lows of the book are epic. I am really glad that book closed the year for me. It gave me new insights and helped me to set a course for the year ahead.



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