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Naomi Scales
From Pain to Love Our Journey Outside the Rainbow
One girl's love for her mother is on full display as she provides care for her mother during an illness. Another girl lives a secret life conflicted with holding on to her faith and the guise of who she was expected to be. Both are born in the 1960s and lived lives filled with confusion, laughter, chaos, and love
“Our childhood is probably a shock to some of you and yet to others a milder version of your own life,” Scales notes in this engaging joint memoir that traces the lives of two dear friends (and eventual lovers and life partners) who have fought for love on their own terms in adult life after scarifying childhoods. “We had to fight for our innocence and our physical safety. In doing so we learned to hide our pain.” The women’s wrenching, ultimately uplifting story involves hiding pain right up into their adult years, when a love like theirs still sometimes is “demonized.” Their story, told in the authors’ intertwined voices and frankly facing trauma and loss, centers on resilience and learning to trust one’s own truth.

Scales’s childhood in Chicago’s Harold Ickes Projects takes up the bulk of the book’s first quarter, the narrative contrasting with shorter reminiscences from Jordan about her picket-fence, financially stable upbringing in Arkansas. Despite differences in their circumstances–while Scales faced city violence, including a stabbing, Jordan was a cheerleader with a boyfriend’s promise ring–both women endured attacks from bullies and sexual abuse, often from predators with power over them. “I did not tell my mom because I wanted to see her happy,” Jordan notes, heartrendingly, when discussing the demands she endured from her mother’s boyfriend. Befriending each other in college changed everything; though both understood that their bond was powered by something more than friendship, a conventional marriage, cross-country moves, and the expectations of society slowed the inevitable.

The authors’ journey toward love and acceptance is movingly told, with an emphasis on accepting and confronting challenges, such as entering counseling when things get tough. The prose is conversational, with epigrammatic wit, bursts of straight-talk wisdom, and surges of emotion, though readers of contemporary memoir might miss conventional scenecraft and pacing. This compelling dual love story is a vital contribution to the literature of what American life is actually like.

Takeaway: An arresting dual memoir and women’s love story about resilience and honoring one’s truth.

Great for fans of: E. Patrick Johnson’s Black. Queer. Southern. Women., Saeed Jones’s How We Fight for Ourselves.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: B+
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: B+
Marketing copy: A