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welcome to on the LEAUX, a digital space for those striving to live authentically, even while struggling mentally.

Jenifer MF’n Lewis is My Auntie (In My Head): On Audiobooks & The Mother of Black Hollywood

Jenifer MF’n Lewis is My Auntie (In My Head): On Audiobooks & The Mother of Black Hollywood

i love to read. i think that, at times when your mind has run away and you’re waiting for it to come back, getting lost in a story can be therapeutic. while i was in graduate school, i completely stopped reading for enjoyment; if you’ve ever been in graduate school, you know why. articles on articles on articles. blegh. even after moving back home, it was hard to begin again what had been so effortless in years past: reading as a pastime. we’re not even going to discuss how many books i didn’t read during my first year of teaching. yes, i teach high school english. and yes, i’m high-key ashamed of the previous two sentences. smh.

 no one asked for your judgy eyes, Oprah.

no one asked for your judgy eyes, Oprah.

BUT, it is never too late to begin again, so last year, i challenged myself to read 50 books in 12 months. i ended up reading 33, and i was proud of myself, being that we’re not even going to discuss the number of books i had [not] read in the 12 months prior. this year, i’m challenging myself to 50 again, and i am halfway there with a deadline of june 30th.

audiobooks have had a large role in my increased reading. i have an hour and a half commute to and from work every day, and if you’ve ever had to drive on the backroads of southeast arkansas, you understand how tedious exhilarating *ahem* that drive can be to make just once, much less ten times a week. i initially began listening to audiobooks because my mother had downloaded a few for my daughter to listen to before bed. G began requesting that i play the audiobooks before bed, as well (i have listened to all 27 books in the Junie B. Jones series and the musical i-couldn’t-tell-you-how-many times. and i may or may not have [and still] enjoyed them. remember that this is a no-judgment zone, please and thanks). then, i started downloading audiobooks more tailored toward my age group and reading level, beginning with The Hunger Games, and i haven’t looked back since.

one of my most recent reads was The Mother of Black Hollywood: A Memoir by Jenifer MF’n Lewis. i was led to download this particular title after seeing this video on Facebook. i eventually plan on purchasing a hard copy of the book, as well, but i felt the need to her Jenifer’s words in her own voice. Auntie Jen accompanied me on my drive to and from H-Town for my line sister’s 30th birthday celebration. i laughed, came close to tears, and said “yaaaassssss” more times than i can count as Jenifer recounted her experience with bipolar disorder before and after her diagnosis. a particular standout:

I didn’t have a name for what my condition was until I was thirty-three-years-old. We’re each works-in-progress for as long as we live, and I was no different. When you’re in emotional distress, your life can feel like you’re spiraling up or down at any given moment. If these ups and downs are extreme and chronic, they do damage to your mind, body, and soul, and your relationships with other people, including those who care about you most. Recovery and healing require patience, something that is difficult for many people, and certainly was difficult for someone like me. But, I learned to submit to patience because it was either go step-by-step or die. Having patience means knowing that it is never too late to get well.
— Lewis 2017
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the profanity-laced narration of Jenifer’s journey towards being The Mother of Black Hollywood not only entertained me, but it also reinforced my belief that stories are meant to be shared. although she is an international celebrity and i am but an humble high school teacher, we share a common experience. that alone is powerful, but additionally, i found such encouragement and comfort in her words. they reminded me that i am not alone, and as i benefited from her story, so may others benefit from mine.

to anyone living with or loving someone with mental illness in general - and bipolar disorder in particular - i highly recommend The Mother of Black Hollywood. those living with will find Auntie Jen immensely relatable, and those loving someone with will get a glimpse into what goes on in the mind of their loved one. and anyone who listens (if you’re unbothered by the frequent dropping of F-bombs; just warning you in advance) will be both entertained and enlightened. and honestly, i kind of feel like if you don’t listen to/read it, Jenifer MF’n Lewis is gonna come in your house like:

just saying.

i hope to share more of my reads in the future, especially as they relate to mental health and wellness. i use the Audiobooks.com app on my phone for my listening (and i get no financial compensation for sharing this, although perhaps i should look into that…). take a look at my reads from 2016-2017 and this year’s book challenge below, and holla at me with your book recs.

❤️ lauren dee.

2016-2017

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2017-2018

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always forward; forward, always | on 2018’s word of the year: perseverance

always forward; forward, always | on 2018’s word of the year: perseverance

Speeeeeech: Sharing My Story

Speeeeeech: Sharing My Story