In between longer reads, I often pick brief Audible Originals or other short audiobooks. This group of three #ownvoices reads are about women whose lives illustrate the realities of being black and brown in a difficult world.

Proof of Love by Chisa Hutchinson

Constance Daily is the married mother of a grown daughter. She’s Black, as is her husband. And as the story opens, she heads to the hospital. Her husband’s been in an accident. 

The whole activity of this short one-woman play takes place in his hospital room. And yet, Hutchinson covers plenty of ground. From the aspects of being a Black, upwardly mobile woman to mothering a daughter who thinks you’ve sold out. What happens when spouses are from different family backgrounds. And the complexity of being Black in the 21st century.

But at the heart of the story is the relationship between husband and wife. And what she didn’t know until the accident. Constance learns about her husband’s life because his phone remains with him despite the accident. And it pings continually with text messages.

This is an affecting story. It’s concise and well-told, covering highlights and lowlights of a long relationship. 

the way she spoke by Isaac Gomez

This emotional nonfiction piece is based in Juarez, Mexico, where thousands of women face the prospect of murder. Gomez asks a friend to introduce him to various families of these missing, presumed murdered women. And in this short audio, we meet them too. 

The mothers, sisters, and best friends grieving their loss. They explain circumstances and tell us about their loved ones. A city with violence at epidemic levels produces raw and heart wrenching content. This may be brief, but be prepared for intensity as you listen to this.

Passing by Nella Larsen

This tale of two women, set in the years of the Harlem Renaissance was originally published in 1929. It’s a novella about the choices we make, and in that time not everyone chose to embrace their Black community.

Irene and Clare both grew up on the South Side of Chicago. While Irene isn’t particularly dark skinned, she’s not nearly as light as Clare. And Clare’s family situation is more volatile, leading her parents to early deaths. So, she goes to live with some great-aunts in another part of the city. 

Quite some years later, Irene has married a Black man, a physician. Together with their sons, they move to Harlem, embracing the culture and community. On a visit to Chicago Irene runs into Clare and finds out she’s passing for white and married to a racist man. Although the visit is brief, Irene returns home unsettled by the encounter.

And some months later, she hears from Clare, who’s now in New York City with her husband and daughter. Irene is forced to confront her feelings, plus figure out if and how Clare fits in her life.

This is told entirely from Irene’s point of view, and much of it as internal dialogue. She’s a jumble of emotion, and rightly so. The presence of Clare in her life upends her carefully formulated structure and beliefs. It’s the classic case of a stable person, comfortable in their life, being confronted by another person’s wild card behaviors and emotions. Setting the conflict in a time when white people in New York went way uptown to appreciate the burgeoning Black culture, makes it more interesting. The consequences of each woman’s choices weigh heavily on them both, as well as the people around them.

Passing pairs well with Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison or The Autobiography of Malcolm X, since both include the Harlem Renaissance.