This is a celebratory milestone for us at Urban Ivy. Love, You is our first book and we are thankful to you for creating space for it in your home and in your world.
Our team has worked on Love, You for the past two years and we find ourselves publishing this book at a pivotal time in history, when communities across America are advocating for racial and social justice for black people and people of color. We are encouraged by this progress and the impact that it’s having in every corner of the world. We are inspired by the conversations that we see taking place that have never been had before.
Love, You was created with readers of all races and ethnicities in mind,
and we have been intentional from the start to portray black women and women of color as our muse, to represent the artistic interpretation of the narratives and poems throughout the book. We believe there is no better time than now to highlight the importance and beauty of portraying people of color in important and diverse narratives—for our own consumption and for others to acknowledge and celebrate us in all creative forms of art and storytelling.
I have always admired how books and art have a unique way of urging us toward new destinations,
in hopes that later we might travel to new territories and conversations in real life. Our vision is that Love, You will be one of the many catalysts for exploration for you—to find connection in someone who may or may not look like you. To find the beauty in them that also resides within you. To find resonance in their retold experiences, albeit worlds apart and thousands of miles away. We hope that these narratives, poems, and images will present you with a new way of seeing the world and yourself within it.
Always love, Always forward,
Dear Wanderer: Thin Air
After hiking up Khao I Dang Mountain,
we stand at the top of a crescent hill,
shaded by the coolness of the mountain’s
shadow. Canopied trees and lush greenery
rise toward a sunset sky.
The fields of palms, coconuts,
and bananas fruit on vines with grapes.
Cantaloupes sprout into many wildernesses
I imagine myself one of the evergreen oaks
or yellow jubilee, a red-flesh twin—
different from the usual green melons.
Golden rinds like halos or protective crowns
against sprites and dwarfs living inside hollowed trees.
A crimson sweet taste, my thoughts of departure search
among tall wheat grass and follow watery sounds
as the earth speaks through us.
In the mirror, I see a collection of bits—the good parts I love, the ones I want to change. A stranger can take a picture of me, and with the shift of light, I can be a glowing angel. If I step into the shadows, I can be a moody goddess. Who I am can change depending on who looks at me, but I am always here. I see myself one way. You see me another. I am always here.
Loving My Artist Self
by Hang Ngo
“Hang, from how you express yourself, it seems like you really value being free, so why are your illustrations so neat and controlled? Maybe you should try watercolor painting—it’s looser and it’s harder to control, but it’s just beautiful.” I took my narrative illustration professor’s critique to heart and agreed to push myself out of my comfort zone of markers and colored pencils.
This was Day 34 of my Radical Sabbatical. The month before this, I left my full-time clinical psychologist job to embark on this (self-financed) Radical Sabbatical to pursue other versions of me, because we all have “multiple selves” (can you tell I read a lot of self-help books?). The self I’ve been exploring is my Artist Self and it’s been harder than I ever thought it would be.
I have known that I wanted to be an artist since I was five. When I declared this intention to my mom, though, she quickly shot the idea down. After all, she and Dad didn’t make so many sacrifices coming to the United States after the Vietnam War for their four children to become artists. That was not their idea of the American Dream.
My family is ethnically Chinese from Vietnam. My parents, older siblings, and I were born there, and we left Vietnam when I was 8 months old, to live in a refugee camp in the Philippines for another 8 months, before showing up at my aunt’s doorstep in the Boston area. We grew up low-income so I learned to worry about money from a young age.
What if I’m not compensated for what I do with my time? Who am I if I’m not defined by my career? Am I still a valuable person if I’m not productive in a society that values productivity so much?
I don’t know how to tell you I love you without it being dipped in cheese.
Clichés about how far you have come, adages about what you have overcome to get here and prophecies of how much farther you are going to go.
The process of learning to love you of course, requires acceptance of flaws and effort to right true wrongs within you, and I’ll admit (as you know) that I do every so often falter in feeling that love due to some blip of cringe, shame, or disappointment that at least for an evening, sits like a rock in our stomach that can only be digested after a full night’s sleep.
Most of the time, you are exactly who you always have been, and I love her.
All I can say is keep doing the things you do and know that I am always here. Now go have yourself some cheese.
Waltham, Massachusetts, USA