Books are typically perceived as an escape. For those of us who love them, we reach for books to get away for a bit. To lose ourselves in a reality entirely not our own. But what we often forget when cracking open these books, is that while we are escaping our reality, we’re stepping into someone else’s. At least that’s the case with Stuck by Yelita Ali. Ali has quite literally spilled her very soul onto the pages of this book of essays. And for that, the world is a far better place. Ali is that fun girl you meet at orientation freshman year who convinces you to skip the dorm program the RA’s are putting on and finds a dope senior party to go to at a house off campus. She’s the friend that makes university worth it. And while all bad choices and tinder dates don’t necessarily get left behind when we leave our early 20's, they are the experiences that define our early twenties.
A theme expertly threaded through this book was the sense of ‘self’. In each story, whatever shit life was throwing at Ali, she shot back with an impressive amount of tenacity. And yet, she explicitly expresses a total lack of inner confidence. Ali exposes the duplicitous nature of what it means to create. To truly get naked with the reader and bare it all. With every good review or book sale, there’s an online troll looking for trouble. So, like any good artist, she questions everything, especially herself; her identity, her sexuality, her blackness, her relationships. And while the book is a short sixty-three pages, she gives the reader a lifetime.
Ali takes the reader by the hand and guides them through a coming of age story we don’t hear very often. Small town black girl moves to London to study film and along the way she learns what it means to be an artist, how to navigate the intricacies of repressed sexuality, and causally meets the Pu$$y Riot girls…. No big deal. Ali’s writing grows in a way that’s hard to explain. As her stories mature, so does her style. A subtle linguistic awakening pushes the reader from good writing to great writing. From good story telling, to great story telling. So that by the end of the book, the reader is jolted out of her world and dropped back into the reality they were trying to escape from in the first place; but with a lingering sense of youth and mischief.