Thursday, February 6, 2020

Checkout How Inspiring Author Mary Taylor Overcame Jim Crow And Is Debuting A Provocative Collection of Short Stories

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Nationwide -- Octogenarian, Mary Jestina Taylor announces the release of her debut collection of short stories, Book of Letters. It is a literary archive of historical, sociological, psychological, and cultural data mined from the lives of early to mid-twentieth century Americans of African descent.

It, in the tradition of Richard Wright's Black Boy, Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye, Maya Angelou's I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings or Jacob Lawrence's The Migration Series, offers a captivating glimpse into the early twentieth century rural southern United States. Mary Jestina Taylor, an eye witness and active participant in the Great Migration, shares her evolving perspective of American history, culture, and life in the twentieth century.

Book of Letters evolved as a result of Taylor's status as an elder. She desires to share her wisdom and life experiences with the next generation whom she believes "can empower themselves by understanding the roots of their history and culture."

Article On Mary Jestina Taylor's new book Book of Letters Continues After Sponsor's Message Below...

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Article On Mary Jestina Taylor's New Book "Book of Letters" Continues Below...

In the fashion of a griotte, Taylor is informative, instructive, entertaining, and sometimes mesmerizing in her storytelling. She was a conscious observer of her life and times since she was a small child, and Book of Letters is her contribution to the historical record.

Author of Fish Tales and Mischief Makers, Nettie P. Jones says Mary Jestina Taylor's debut collection offers "Humor, simplicity, grace, and wisdom that is executed with delicate precision, weaving profound insights into the human predicament." Community elder and author of the American classic Daddy Was a Number Runner, Louise Meriwether calls the stories "Little gems" reminiscent of "the superb stories by Grace Paley."

Taylor is currently embarking on a multi-city book tour.

The book is available for purchase on Amazon

For more details about the author, visit

Checkout Kamau Austin's Exclusive Interview With Jim Crow Survivor And Success Author Mary Jestina Taylor

Kamau: Can you tell us a little about your background and life growing up in Florida?

Answer Ms. Mary Jestina Taylor:
I grew up during the Jim Crow era in a small community in Hallandale Florida. I am the fourteenth of fifteen children. I came to New York after I graduated from high school in 1955.

At that time, many African Americans were migrating from the south. I have two daughters who were born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. I earned a Master’s of Science degree in Guidance and Counseling. I retired from Medgar Evers College, City University of New York after working there for twenty-nine years. 

Kamau: Who were some of the most important people who inspired you to excel in life and move to New York City?

Answer Ms. Mary Jestina Taylor: 
The person who inspired me to excel and move to New York was a neighbor, Mrs. Sylvia Cox. She was born and raised in New York, but moved to Florida after she got married.     

Kamau: Can you tell us about some of the challenges you've had in life and how did you overcome them? 

Answer Ms. Mary Jestina Taylor: 

Some of my challenges were:

Confidence - When I was very young, I did not have enough confidence, but something within me always said “Try anyway.” Fortunately, I was introduced to motivational and Self Help literature in the late 1960s.

I took the information seriously, practiced what I was learning, and slowly became a confident person.

Financial Resources - Before I left Florida, I knew how to type and sew. I utilized my sewing skills to make drapes, slipcovers, and clothing for extra money. Also, I sold Avon and Vivian Woodard products. I took a course in Make-up artistry and held shows making up women to convince them to purchase Vivian Woodard make-up.

I could not use my 60 plus words per minute typing skills for quite some time because it was hard for a Black person to be hired as a secretary when I first came to New York. At interviews, I was told, “We will call you.”

Being A Single Mom - I was a single mother raising two daughters without support. I searched for babysitters who would take good care of my children. When they were three years old, I enrolled them into a daycare center. After school, they stayed with a sitter until I came from work.

Kamau: You've seen a lot of progress in your life time.  What are some of the most positive social changes you've seen in your life time in reference to Black people?

Answer Ms. Mary Jestina Taylor: 
Some of the most positive social changes are:
  1. President Obama (a Black man) became President of the United States.
  2. Open Enrollment in the City University of New York gave more Black people an opportunity to attend.
  3. Black Professionals obtained positions in higher education and fortune five hundred companies.
  4. Integration in the schools
  5. The opportunity to live in neighborhoods previously unavailable to Black people
  6. Sitting where I desire in the public transportation system
  7. The increase of Black writers being published. Today, there are hundreds of successful Black writers. A few decades ago, there were only a few
  8. Changes in the image of Black people
  9. Jobs are available to Black People such as being the president of American Express and other major corporations.
The changes are endless.

Kamau: In your opinion are there any downsides to the social changes you've seen in our communities during your life time?

Answer Ms. Mary Jestina Taylor: 
The downsides to social changes are:
  1. We lost the sense of community in many ways.
  2. Many HBCUs were abandoned. Some believed they were not as good as other colleges. As a result, many good Black colleges were closed.
  3. Many Black people do not understand the sense of self, community, and motivation obtained from Black institutions. Few Black colleges can compete with the financial aid offered at other institutions. Therefore, many Black students attend white institutions for the scholarships and other resources available.
  4. In White colleges Black people are the outsiders.
  5. Many Black people do not know their history because of the educational systems. Too many parents are not teaching their children our history.
Kamau:  Where did you find the fortitude, strength, and resources to strive to move to NYC and overtime build up your skill sets and go on to higher education while raising your family?

Answer Ms. Mary Jestina Taylor: 
I was a dreamer who had strong desires. My fortitude and strength came from within.

As a child, the old people used to say, “That one is going to do something with herself.” Although, I was not as confident as I should have been, I didn’t let that stop me.

I believed if given a chance I could accomplish what I wanted. Also, I knew a higher education would afford me the opportunity to make a better living and live comfortably. 

I did not have resources to move to New York, but I took a chance and did it anyway. I worked in factories.

I was a salesgirl in a clothing store, and I worked as an assistant in a furniture store.  After a number of years, I enrolled in a course that taught office procedures and Shorthand to increase my skills.

I was hired as a secretary in the Department of Social Services for the City of New York. Three years later, I transferred to Medgar Evers College of the City University of New York.

I started as a Secretary to the Dean of Planning. A year later, I enrolled in college. Many instructors encouraged me to attend college. They would say, “If I could do it, you can.” Five years after I finished my Bachelor’s degree, I decided to obtain a Master’s Degree.
Kamau: What are some of the most important lessons or take-aways that you want others to get from reading your book "Book of Letters."

Answer Ms. Mary Jestina Taylor: 
Lessons to take-away from Book of Letters:
  • Perseverance
  • All things are possible
  • Do not let obstacles stop you
  • We all have choices, so think before making decisions
  • Set short and long term goals for yourself
  • Always stay focused on your goals, and do not discuss your goals with negative people
  • Be aware of jealousy
Kamau:  Can you give us some quick tips on being successful and staying healthy and viable into one's 80s?

Answer Ms. Mary Jestina Taylor: 

Tips on being successful:
  1. Must have a certain amount of seclusion to think and get to know yourself
  2. Must stay motivated by taking in positive ideas
  3. Limit the time spent watching TV
  4. We have the power within us to create what we want
  5. Never give up
  6. Complete what you start

To stay healthy at an older age:

  • Meditate at least 20 minutes each day
  • Exercise at least six days each week
  • Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Do not eat junk food
  • Do not eat after 7:00 p.m.
  • Drink at least 4 to 8 glasses of water every day
  • Take 20 minute baths as often as possible
  • Keep the mind active by reading. Also, keep up with what is going on in the world.
  • Find a hobby that you really enjoy

Kamau:  What do you like to do for fun?

Answer Ms. Mary Jestina Taylor:

Attending concerts
Going to the theatre to see plays
Visiting museums
Sewing quilts

Kamau: What is the best way to pick up a copy of your books?

Answer Ms. Mary Jestina Taylor:
You can purchase Book of Letters from or if you send an email to, you can purchase an autographed copy of the book.

Mary Taylor is currently embarking on a multi-city book tour.

The book is available for purchase on Amazon

For more details about the author, visit

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Posted by community events coordinator, Nzinga Lonstein Austin, is a prolific blogger who writes on the entertainment industry and issues for people with developmental and physical challenges.

She is presently in high school looking to have a career in video, film, and media. You can see more of her entertainment writing on Lonstein Movies.

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