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“Traveling Without Moving: Essays from a Black Woman Trying to Survive in America” By Taiyon J. Coleman

A Book Review


One step forward, two steps back.

That’s how it goes: every time you think you’re getting a little ahead, something – or someone – yanks you back. You see a little light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s a train. It feels like you can’t win, but what’re you gonna do? You can’t quit. As in the new book “Traveling Without Moving” by Taiyon J. Coleman, you just have to keep going.

Like most Black children born after Martin Luther King was assassinated, Taiyon Coleman was “expected to be the fulfillment of... generations of struggle…” She hoped, at age eight, that being a writer would do it (“I just knew that I had a lot... to write”) but it didn’t work out: she ran out of patience and candy after her first try. Living on the South Side of Chicago, the second oldest of five with a single mother, Coleman understood then that writing would be a struggle but she never let go of that dream. 

When she was a child, during the school year, Coleman cared for her younger siblings and helped keep house for her mother, who barely held things together and died too young. Every summertime, Coleman and her eldest sister were sent to stay with grandparents in Illinois, near St. Louis; it was hot there but she could run and play with cousins and others she “was kin to.” Those annual trips, she says, became a sort of ancestor-fuel map for her growth. Her mother added to the many inroads, especially once Coleman understood her mother’s hard life and sacrifices.

When it came time to choose a graduate program, Coleman visited a college in Alabama and saw Confederate flags everywhere, which went on the map, too. So did the racism she endured in college in Minnesota again and again, the unfortunate miscarriage due to more racism, being the only Black family on the block in their Minnesota neighborhood, and being told that her use of Black vernacular would keep her from being published...

That last one. You almost want to say, “HA!” now, don’t you? And you will, for more reasons than one, while reading “Traveling Without Moving.”

Because here’s the thing: author Taiyon J. Coleman is funny, taking readers from her grandma’s living room and Coleman’s feisty, foul-mouthed eight-year-old self; to being a teacher, writer, and mother of three; with laughing at Rush Limbaugh in between. And yet, the humor is only icing on the cake: the better parts of this collection of autobiographical essays are the knife-sharp comments and observations of life as a professional Black American when White America won’t give up the 1930s. This is told with proudly-embraced irony and sarcasm, which turns out to both coat the anger a little and to delight readers, even its most seething moments. 

You’ll also particularly enjoy Coleman’s style: it’s conversational with plenty of asides, like talking with a friend – but it’s also pay-attention serious and you’ll like that, too. “Traveling Without Moving” is a quick and forward read.



Terri Schlichenmeyer is the Peacemaker bookworm. She resides in LaCrosse, Wisconsin.