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Far Away from Close to Home: Essays

Far Away from Close to Home: Essays

by Vanessa Baden Kelly
Far Away from Close to Home: Essays

Far Away from Close to Home: Essays

by Vanessa Baden Kelly


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New & Noteworthy: The New York Times “Vivid and relatable. The writing is like Vanessa herself; funny, charming and brave.” —Mindy Kaling Through a series of extraordinary, incisive, often-humorous essays, Emmy Award-winning actor Vanessa Baden Kelly examines what the idea of “home” means to a Black millennial woman. How important is race to the idea of community? What are the consequences of gentrification on the life of a young Black woman? What aspects of a community help—or hurt—a family with a young child? In these profound, intimate essays, Baden has found a space where she can work out thoughts and feelings she feels unsafe saying out loud. As she processes the initial ideas more fully, her essays evolve from personal stories to fully-realized communiques of a generation of Black women who are finding a new sense of both belonging and ostracism in private, work, and public life. A single ride on a Los Angeles public bus that begins with the overwhelming odor of a man sleeping across one of the seats travels through a range of ideas and choices: “choosing” to sit in the back of the bus; the interconnectedness of living in a majority-Black community in the Crenshaw district; the segregation and gentrification of Los Angeles; the challenges of raising a child in a modern urban environment. Underlying the theme of each essay are questions of how a Black millennial woman can find “home” anywhere when confronted with its invasion by police, men, and society’s expectations.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781953103024
Publisher: Three Rooms Press
Publication date: 05/04/2021
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x (d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Vanessa Baden Kelly is an Emmy winning actress, Emmy nominated writer, and producer. She began her career as a child, starring on Nickelodeon’s Gullah Gullah Island and Kenan and Kel. After departing entertainment, she began organizing in college, co-founding the Student Coalition for Justice (later the base for the Dream Defenders) and continued working in the field. To date, she has led campaigns for The Trayvon Martin Foundation, Community Coalition South LA, and various political campaigns including Obama for America ‘08 and the Ndoum Presidential Campaign in Accra, Ghana. Additionally, she is an Ambassador for the RuJohn Foundation. Upon her return to Hollywood, Vanessa has become a successful television writer and producer, writing for shows such as TNT’s Animal Kingdom and Mindy Kaling’s HBO Max series Sex Lives of College Girls. Vanessa originated the role of Journee as writer/star of the Issa Rae digital series Giants, where she is 4 times Emmy nominated and one time Emmy winning for Best Actress in a Digital Drama. Vanessa is mother to a human son, Ryder, and a dog son named Dude.

Read an Excerpt

The smell is the first thing that hit me. It wasn’t the smell of exhaust or rubber or whatever other material is used on a Los Angeles city bus. It was distinct. A stench we somehow all know but cannot identify how we know it. Like blood or death. The smell was human. Unbathed. Urinated. Downtrodden. Somewhere on that bus, a human person reeked of both living and slowly dying. Not the long-day-of-work smell. Or the just-leaving-the-gym smell. But the stench of days on a street. No running water. Perhaps no water to drink. I had grown accustomed to this smell from walking east on Sunset Boulevard. Past the Walk of Fame on Vine Street. Past the huge billboards and building long advertisements for multi-million-dollar films and too expensive coffee. Past $5,000 a month condos and cafes with pet parking. Past all of that. But not too far past. Just a few blocks east, to the corner of Gower where the same stench that was on that bus fills the air, thick, in the same way a nose is assaulted by more pleasant odors in a city: bacon wrapped hot dogs or new air fresheners in an Uber. This was the smell of a person looking for a home.

It didn’t take me long to find the source. Instinctively, I walked all the way to the back of the bus to sit down. I could hear my childhood teachers scolding me in my head: “We fought too long and too hard for any Black person to choose the back of the bus.” I heard their arguments and I respected their position, but the convenience of not being bumped every time someone had to get off the bus gave me reason to believe that, instead, my ancestors had fought for my choice to sit where I wanted, and today I was choosing the back. I sauntered through the bus, nodding at the bus driver, quietly hoping for an easy, no-human-interaction ride into Hollywood. My ride to work, which was normally thirty to forty minutes, would now take over an hour on public transportation. I would have to creep through neighborhoods and side streets that I would love to live in but could not afford, as gentrification prices of middle-class Los Angeles communities of color rose higher and higher. Of course, without gentrification, I would have hated to live there, and that was a reality I struggled with daily. I would also be crossing through neighborhoods not yet gentrified but well on their way. Ones that I would be happy to be in the back for, to avoid the seemingly unsavory (whatever that meant), the people who could tell I don’t normally take the bus, the people Los Angeles allows you to forget about in your tiny enclave of security.

excerpted from the essay "Stop” (c) Copyright Vanessa Baden Kelly, from Far Away from Close to Home

Table of Contents

Table of Contents:
1. Stop
2. Sybrina, Gina, and Me
3. Bloodline of a Name
4. Unreliable Narrator
5. Miracle of Black Love
6. Joggers
7. Texts with Chaz

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