If your culture tells you that you want to be a wife and mother, whether you know it or not, would you follow their directions or follow your heart? No Thanks: Black, Female, and Living in the Martyr-Free Zone is Keturah Kendrick’s story of defying conventions and expectations. We see her carving her own path, despite the advice she was given by others.
Kendrick always knew she didn’t want to follow the dictates of her Southern Black sisters or her church. The more she processed society’s expectations, the more she said, “No thanks.” In the chapter titled “The S Word,” Kendrick states, “I had forgotten how much people expected me to capitulate to this universal narrative: women are expected to be mothers. So, when, after answering the usual ‘Do you have children?’ in the negative, the woman asked me why, I responded bluntly, ‘Because I don’t want them.’”
What she wanted was the freedom to travel and explore. Those dreams came and she did it on her own as a proud single woman. Readers will applaud her for not having unwanted children into the world, marrying a man she didn’t love, or buying into the beliefs of church women who told her that being a mother was a woman’s role. Instead, she lived in the independent world she created for herself.
In eight detailed and well-crafted essays, Kendrick considers her convictions, the expectations of her church and the women in her life, and her desire to be the woman she was born to be. She begins by admitting in the prologue that she wrote the book she wanted to read 20 years earlier. With considerable thought and careful consideration of expectations, she rejects the choices available for a “proper Black woman”—whatever that phrase means—and chooses a life with far fewer restrictions.
I’ve never been Black. Oddly, though, I identify with the restrictions society put on her. They remind me of growing up in a white suburb in the sixties. We were taught there were certain things nice girls didn’t do, just as she was taught that her destiny was to be a wife and mother. Unlike Kendrick, I tried to conform; but when I got older, I realized I had to be myself, just as Kendrick did. We both know that we have to be ourselves because everyone else is taken.
I admire her confidence, her pride, and her writing skills. Although this book honors her experience as a Black woman, it is a story that all women should read. Independence is a valuable commodity and she has made the most of hers.