What is rebellious joy? Who gets to practice joy? Who can afford to express it? What is the distinction between rebellious joy and the capitalist co-opted self-care movement? How can rebellious joy be a tool for decolonization? We hope this rebellious joy resource guide might serve as a starting point to answering these questions. Additionally, we hope these resources will continue and extend the rebellious joy conversation catalyzed by our Rebellious Joy Issue contributors.
To create this guide, we asked Seventh Wave staff, residents, contributors, and community what it means to be rebelliously joyful, what rebellious joy means to them, and what books, artwork, movies, and more they recommend as starting points for learning about rebellious joy within a creative context. This guide is a curation of our community’s responses, selected and annotated by our poetry managing editor, Emilie Menzel.
The resources within approach rebellious joy from various angles, including: claiming community connection, fighting grind culture, embracing physical pleasure, sustaining activism, imagining the future in the face of oppression, fighting for the right to beauty, and claiming the right to take up space. These resources are active and social context conscientious.
Here are our community gathered suggestions for learning about rebellious joy, organized by genre.
Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements, edited by adrienne maree brown and Walidah Imarisha
What is more rebelliously joyful than daring to imagine a future, particularly when the present is so keen on denying you and your community that right? Octavia’s Brood is a collection of speculative fiction short stories that explores the role of science fiction in envisioning and catalyzing social change. Through the fantastical, these stories ask us to consider the reach of possibility for change in our communities, how purposeful imagining can propel social progress.
Luster, Raven Leilani
Recommended by April Yee (Issue 13 Contributor)
Luster follows the story of Edie, a twenty-something navigating the art, joy, anger, and hungering of living in Bushwick as a Black woman. Luster is a sharp, darkly witty, sensorially rich and sensual novel that asks us to consider “how do we even know what we want? How do we know we’re ready to take it?” (quote source)
Beloved, Toni Morrison
Recommended by Teri Vela (TSW Contributing Editor)
Toni Morrison’s entire rich portfolio could easily be used as an example of rebellious joy writing. In particular, Morrison’s novels are remarkable for this subject in their ability to examine and honor grief beside joy, their understanding of grief and joy’s intertwined relationship. In Beloved, a formerly enslaved mother considers the limits of rebellious joy through her relationship with the ghost of her child.
Grief Is the Thing with Feathers, by Max Porter
Recommended by Swastika Jajoo (Issue 13 Editorial Resident)
The bird in the rebirth myth is classically the phoenix, but in Grief Is the Thing With Feathers, think crow. This novella of vignettes begins with the sadness of a lost loved one—a father’s wife and two sons’ mother. At first the grief is consuming, but with time, fable, and fantasy, the family finds reimagination and comfort in a strange avian character.
There There, Tommy Orange
Recommended by Rashaan Meneses (Issue 11 Bainbridge Resident)
Sometimes, rebellious joy is a defiance to continue, to take up space, to exist. Interweaving essays and fiction, There There tells the story of “twelve characters from Native communities: all traveling to the Big Oakland Powwow, all connected to one another in ways they may not yet realize.” This novel records in piercing honestly the physical and psychological effects of the United States’ systemic erasure of Native land, homes, families, and traditions. These interwoven perspectives build a defiant record of “a complex and painful history, with an inheritance of beauty and spirituality, with communion and sacrifice and heroism.” (quotes source)
A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki
Recommended by Alysia Gonzales (Issue 13 Editorial Resident)
A Tale for the Time Being tells the intertwined, time-turbulent stories of Nao (a teenager in Tokyo who has decided to end her life), Nao’s great grandmother (a 100+ year old Buddhist nun), and Ruth (a Japanese-American novelist in British Columbia). Through humor, time play, and metafiction, Ozeki’s novel explores understandings of home, identity, and family.
Salvage the Bones, Jesmyn Ward
Salvage the Bones tells the story of a family twelve days before Hurricane Katrina. As readers, we see the family’s experiences with the backdrop of the impending, history shaking storm, and yet Jesmyn Ward is able to render the small daily life joys and pains of the family powerful, important, rebelliously present and urgent. A family navigates sibling fights, love troubles, mothers, teen pregnancy, boyhood, and storms with equal tenderness. Ward’s novels are lyrical fiction at its finest, her characters so emotionally seen they could walk off the page.