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)