My Soul on Paper is a deeply moving book of poetry that deals with issues confronting the lives of black teens and adults today. While it depicts discrimination, depression, hopelessness and despair, it also talks about restoration, healing through a rebirth in the Lord, and — what’s more important — an affirmation of one’s own powerful inner being.
Early in the book Sheree explains the frustration of trying to break the "glass" barrier into mainstream America’s job market as a young black woman: "My head is forever bumping the glass ceiling / I’m too dark for the white man’s world. ("Forbidden Fruit" — Sheree)
On the other hand, her brother Jermaine has difficulty landing even a menial job.
I’m still waiting for that job to call
I wonder if the telephone will ever ring
I’m 21 years old
Anxiously waiting for a job at Burger King. ("I Blame the Hood" – Jermaine)
Both speak of their desire to break the chains of ghetto poverty. They want to give of themselves, to become somebody, but do they really have the chance?
Where there are no happy times (the ghetto)
And people feel like they have nothing to lose
And the only way to become famous
Is to end up on the news ("I Live in the Ghetto" – Jermaine)
A way out of poverty
To live not rich, but comfortably
Will I ever be able to fulfill my dream?
Is there no way our for me? ("A Way Out" – Sheree)
Sheree’s "Living Obituary" expresses deep feelings of alienation and hurt pressed upon her from her past.
So many people floated in and out of my life
Using my heart as a storage of some kind
I’m left with wounds that have yet to heal
And emotionally, I’m left behind.
Equally powerful is Jermaine’s "Your Son." Here we see an impressionable young male who feels alienated from a father who obviously loves him, but has difficulty expressing it.
We never fit the description
Of what the ideal father and son should be
You never showed me how much you care
Or even told me that you loved me.
Several of the poems in My Soul on Paper speak about "losin’ it," wherein Jermaine and Sheree are overcome by depression and self-doubt, wondering if and how they will survive. At times there appears to be a genuine death wish rather than a desire to fight the uphill battle against ghetto life, poverty, and yes, color prejudice, which still exists but is often deeply hidden behind rejecting but smiling faces.
They say we live in a free country
Then why does it feel like hell?
Why do more than 70% of black men
End up in a jail cell? ("The Struggle" — Jermaine)
Pain interrupts the most sacred moments
He’s so jealous of my joy
That he fills my head with disillusions
And flaunts my loneliness like a toy. ("My Best Friend" — Sheree)
The frustration of knowing you are as good as, or better than, the next person, and yet you cannot get ahead becomes overwhelming. Through poetry and belief in God that there will be a brighter day, Sheree and Jermaine have found themselves. Their God and their church offer a deep inner sense of hope that no one can steal. They — will — survive!
Now I’m no Martin Luther King
Surely no Malcom X
But I am Jermaine Jackson
And I’m in next. ("The Struggle" – Jermaine)
Lord, I thank You for a giving spirit
The benefits I’ve begun to reap
I thank You for teaching me to put My Soul on Paper
When my family and friends didn’t believe in me. ("My Soul on Paper" — Sheree)
Some of their poetry sings of love as something overwhelming, a giving that will last forever.
I’ve always believed in unconditional love
But didn’t think I would ever live to see
A praise and worshipper of God
Who saved enough love for me ("He Loves Me" — Sheree)
I promise to hold you in the good days
And I’ll be there to rock you through the storm
I know your heart has experienced cold
But I can keep you warm ("I Promise" — Jermaine)
Sheree’s last poem would encourage all to write out their painful feelings. I think sister and brother would agree that in a written form, troublesome feelings can be dealt with instead of moldering inside until they’re taken to the grave.
I would recommend My Soul on Paper to anyone who likes good poetry. It is easy to read and hard to put down.
Unlike so much of modern prose-poetry that is an oblique stream of consciousness, to Jermaine and Sheree’s merit, My Soul on Paper is more like traditional poetry. It is written with stanzas, complete sentences and rhyming lines which add to the uniqueness and beauty of the thoughts expressed. I look forward to their next promised project.