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Isabel read from Island Beneath the Sea at the Museum of the African Diaspora (MOAD) a couple nights ago. She had the audience at “hello.” I have been to many readings but this one was different. For one thing, the crowd was small—not because of a low turnout, but because the space was small. Small and stunning and PACKED; the event was standing room only.

MOAD is truly a magical place. The audience was a mixture of people from every corner of the earth, from India to Cuba, Africa to Chile. And that audience is exactly why you have to visit MOAD. At one point, Isabel explained that one of her fears when Island Beneath the Sea was published was that people would ask her—and perhaps critics would question—how could a woman of Latin descent write about the African slave experience? As it turns out, that particular fear was unwarranted, since it only came up one time. Isabel told the story of that moment after the MOAD reading. At one of the tour dates in New York, at a Barnes and Nobel, a black man stood up and asked, «What makes you think you can write about the black slave experience?» Isabel said to him: «Because I am human and that gives me the right. We are all the same—you and I are the same.» Afterwards the man asked her to sign his book and he hugged her. And that was it! That was the only time the issue surfaced.

Well, that VERY reason—that we are all the same—is why you have to visit the Museum of African Diaspora. It is a gem of a museum. The exhibits will take your breath away; the photographs, in particular, are indelible and will stay with you.

What a night! Here is a link to an audio reading in two parts and some photos of Isabel after signing books for so many beautiful people. You could feel the love in the room—it was luminous.

P.S. Here is an overview of a couple of MOAD’s exhibits:

On View through January 21, 2013: 

Desert Jewels: North African Jewelry and Photography from the Xavier Guerrand-Hermès Collection. A rare and stunning collection of ninety-four spectacular pieces of North African jewelry and twenty-eight historic late 19th- and early 20th-century photographs collected over thirty years by Xavier Guerrand-Hermès of the renowned Paris-based fashion empire and presented for the first time in northern California as part of MoAD’s new Collector’s exhibition series of important local, national and international collections. Organized by the Museum for African Art in New York, the exhibition previously toured to the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution and to the Fowler Museum.   

Tuareg and Anima:  Photographs of GRACE by Elisabeth Sunday. An exhibition featuring monumental photographs from the Tuareg Portfolio and the Anima Sequence by Bay Area photographer Elisabeth Sunday, who for over twenty-six years has been inspired by African peoples, cultures and traditions.  Using a unique reflection mirror technique she captures the grace, mystery and beauty of contemporary African women.  

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