Reviewed by Daphnee McMaster
In the essay collection All the Women in My Family Sing: Women Write the World: Essays on Equality, Justice, and Freedom, editor Deborah Santana compiles work from an ensemble of invigorating women. She gives each of them a platform to share their heartwarming, painful, and joyous occasions with readers. Conceptually brilliant, the essays chosen for this collection do not necessarily push an agenda, but instead, they showcase a day in the life of seen and unseen women.
Santana is an author, activist, and business manager committed to social justice and freedom for women and girls. She founded a non-profit called Do A Little, which serves women and girls in the areas of health, education, and happiness. In trying to navigate why she is the glue that bonds this work, an excerpt from her website best states:
Ms. Santana collaborates with organizations that work to prevent and heal relationship and sexual violence, improve the lives of America’s abused and neglected children, and a worldwide community of artists and allies who work for empowerment, opportunity, and visibility for women artists.
This collection more than showcases her power to communicate social justice efforts through literature, but also tells the stories we so desperately are drawn to in order to better understand human emotion and build empathy.
Santana separates each essay into several major categories, each with their own sub-categorical breakdowns. There is a demand for vast organization in this collection due in large part to the intersectional nature of many of the stories. As one navigates through the essays, it is easy to note that a major point of intrigue to this work is not only its notable writers such as America Ferrera, Marian Wright Edelman, Mila Jam and many others, but also that it tells the stories of women of all ages, races, and gender identities. Prevalent themes such as cultural identity, immigration, career choices, beauty standards, and the plethora of societal parts that impact women every day are front and center in this work. Although these themes can sometimes feel overdone in today’s society, each essay shines in its focus on the monotony of each author’s experience as well as its openness to share both spectrums of political ideology.
The overall purpose of this book feels like a moment to gather insightful women to speak truth to power through lived, learned, and overheard experiences. And although the book is dense, it feels quick which may be in part to its lack of moral berating. It reminds everyone that we are each human and navigating our way through complex issues. The text is lyrical, polished, naive, and uncut.
Overall, this book is a well-organized homage to the way women connect with one another. These stories are authentically humanizing. Author Belva Davis states the solid bedrock idea of this text when she penned her essay titled “What It Takes: A Letter to My Granddaughter.” She states, “I’m counting on that spirit to keep you curious, to keep you testing yourself and using your knowledge to make the world a better place.” Reading these essays never feels like an attack or call to action, but rather a mutual understanding of how we seek forgiveness, make choices that grow us, and learn to share the world.