Content Tagged ‘Bigger than Bravery’

Oxtail Feast with Contributors to Bigger Than Bravery

“Oxtail is one of those dishes where there’s really no right or wrong way to season it (although Jamaicans and Southerners might try to convince you otherwise), so the only thing I can tell you is that when someone makes it for you, or when you make it, and when you share it or eat it alone, it should make you feel like someone gathered the strength of their hands to make something for you that says love.”  

—Destiny O. Birdsong, from “Build Back a Body


Destiny O. Birdsong’s essay “Build Back a Body” and Shay Youngblood’s “Feasting on Bread and Dry Bones” both feature oxtail—a staple of Southern U.S. comfort food. One of our favorite threads in
Bigger Than Bravery: Black Resilience and Reclamation in a Time of Pandemic is the that way food enriches our lives and evokes memories. Birdsong prepares oxtail while exploring memories and the challenges of managing an autoimmune disease during a pandemic. Similarly, Shay Youngblood relies on cooking as a way to cope, while observing food insecurity in her community. These essays led us to ask: what exactly is oxtail, and how is it served? 

Oxtail is the tail of a cow, “a part of the animal that, traditionally, no one wanted,” as Birdsong reminds us in her essay. Once considered the animal’s scraps, oxtail is now a delicacy that sells for more than seven dollars per pound. 

Popular in Caribbean communities, particularly Jamaica, oxtail is often braised and served over rice with a rich, juicy sauce, or it may be cooked in a stew with butter beans. To find oxtail, just head to your local international market. 

Birdsong hints about seasoning oxtail, writing, “At home, I rub thyme, allspice, and paprika into each disc of meat, still stiff with cold and now gritty with salt.” 

In “Feasting on Bread and Dry Bones,” Youngblood suggests creating a stew. “When I craved meat, I made oxtail stew with thyme and a good red wine for gravy that I sopped up with a thick slice of bread.” 

photographs of Destiny O. Birdsong’s oxtail stew. Used with permission.

“Many of my recipes are a combination of googling three to four recipes, intuition, taste and what I have on hand,” Youngblood responded when asked to share her recipe. “The oxtail recipe I made up as I went along. I remember, and I tell myself a story when I make comfort foods.” 

Inspired by Youngblood’s approach, we suggest starting with the recipes below. But there’s really no wrong way to do it! Just tell yourself a story as you go.

From the New York Times 

From New Orleans native Kenneth Temple, author of the cookbook Southern Creole 

From Tiffany of Foodie Not a Chef, which showcases Afro-Caribbean recipes 

From AJ and Mirlene of Savory Thoughts, which highlights traditional Haitian recipes 

For more food memories and tips on cooking oxtail, read Destiny O. Birdsong’s “Build Back a Body” and Shay Youngblood’s “Feasting on Bread and Dry Bones” in Bigger Than Bravery. If you’re not much of a cook, don’t worry; these essays have all the rich details you’ll need to taste oxtail, simply by reading.

Find Destiny O. Birdsong’s and Shay Youngblood’s essays in Bigger Than Bravery: Black Resilience and Reclamation in a Time of Pandemic.


Thanks to Lookout staffers Jenna Johnson and Wyatt Leong for compiling this article.

Bigger Than Bravery Contributors’ Favorite Bookstores

In celebration of Black History Month, we asked contributors to Bigger Than Bravery: Black Resilience and Reclamation in a Time of Pandemic to recommend their favorite Black-owned bookstores. Shopping at an indie store means investing in intentional programming, including readings and discussion groups, and fostering community spaces. Read on to learn how you can support the missions of these stores, as well as the larger literary ecosystem. And don’t forget to show them some love by plucking your copy of Bigger Than Bravery—and our contributors’ books—from their shelves!

Rofhiwa Book Café
recommended by Alexis Pauline Gumbs and Jasmin Pittman Morell

Durham, NC





Open just shy of two years, Rofhiwa Book Café in Durham is a thoughtfully designed space, combining stellar, locally sourced coffee with a carefully curated selection of books by Black writers. Rofhiwa’s founder, Boitumelo Makhubele, and curator, Naledi Yaziyo, say that they “value books as repositories for collective knowledge.”

But their gorgeous indoor space houses more than books and coffee; it’s a gathering place for community, from book launches to readings to art exhibits. Rofhiwa’s impact on its community can’t be overstated. In a commentary for Cardinal & Pine, Yaziyo wrote, “In the year that Rofhiwa Book Café has been in operation in East Durham, it has been my singular mission to expose Black children to books about Black children in other places and other parts of the world.”

Bonus! For a limited time, Lookout is partnering with Rofhiwa to offer readers a free “Black Resilience, Black Reclamation” enamel pin when you purchase Bigger Than Bravery from them—while supplies last.

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Behind the Scenes: Promoting Bigger Than Bravery

With Bigger Than Bravery: Black Resilience and Reclamation in a Time of Pandemic hurdling toward its November 15, 2022 pub date, the Lookout team has been working behind the scenes on creative promotions. It’s bittersweet to reach this milestone without Bigger Than Bravery’s editor, Valerie Boyd, here to help us usher her final book into reviewers’ and early readers’ hands, but we’re infusing every galley that leaves our offices with her incomparable spirit.

For Lookout, promotional kits are meant not only to generate excitement but to contextualize and enlarge the conversation around our books. They include, of course, early reading copies and details about the book, but we always add extras to remind recipients how deeply we invest in each project we acquire. Over the past two semesters, publishing students in UNCW’s MFA and BFA programs have worked with book practicum instructor and publisher Emily Smith, as well as editor KaToya Ellis Fleming, to curate Bigger Than Bravery promotions with all the dedication and care that Valerie Boyd brought to her curation of the anthology itself.

The Commemorative Pin

As we grieved and processed Valerie Boyd’s unexpected passing, we thought about items that might meaningfully honor her legacy. We wanted this commemorative piece of the kit to be solemn yet bold, representative of Valerie and her work on Bigger Than Bravery, as well as her life’s work as a mentor and friend to so many writers and editors of color. The enamel pin calls to mind memorial pins often worn to remember a loved one. Borrowing from the book’s subtitle, we selected the phrase “Black Resilience. Black Reclamation.” When finished pins arrived, we placed all two hundred of them by hand on a custom card-stock backing. Each is anchored by two small black hearts.


Letterpress Broadside

Lookout staffer and letterpress artist Ollie Loorz designed and typeset an excerpt from Valerie Boyd’s introduction to Bigger Than Bravery:

“I offer you a glimpse into your own bravery, your own greatness, your own transcendent freedom.”

Emily Smith’s book publishing practicum then took a field trip to Port City Letterpress here in Wilmington, where Ollie gave us a demonstration and let us each take a turn at the wheel of the studio’s Chandler & Price platen press. What a beautiful day, watching Valerie Boyd’s words kiss the paper again and again—in that bold magenta ink!

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