Mama Used to Say – a British Soul Playlist

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have seen me occasionally post links to my morning Get Ready With Me songs. The songs are usually tunes from my youth that lift my spirits as I start my workday, but I am also a woman of a certain age who sometimes feels a disconnect and a tiny bit of auntie-ish disdain for modern music.

I was an inveterate Anglophile as a teen/twenty-something, and I’m also fascinated by Black people who make homes in places like the UK or Canada, where the Black experience is vastly different from my own Black American one. The other day I tweeted that I wanted a playlist of nothing but 90s British soul music and so I present the fruits of that labour. You’ll notice that the list isn’t limited to the 90s, nor is it limited to soul music/R&B. Some of the best Black1 music to come out of the British Isles wasn’t made by Black people.

Because I’m the Internet’s Auntie, and because I sometimes have a secret desire to show that I’m still cool enough to listen to new music, there are a fair number of newer British artists on this list. I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as I did. Lists are available on Apple Music and Spotify because I can think of nothing better to do with my disposable income than to have subscriptions to two music services.


  1. Not all of the artists on this list are Black people, but they are all performing styles of music that are associated with Black cultures. I acknowledge that this is some messy-ass shorthand, but :shrug emoji: 

The Most Beautiful Part of Your Body Is Where It’s Headed

The week is over, I have a four day weekend, and it’s unseasonably chilly in Vancouver. The roller coaster that was this week was full of peaks, valleys, and loop-de-loops, but at this particular moment, it feels good. Onward.

Here are a few things I shared this week:

  1. Going Home With Ocean Vuong – an Atlantic profile on a young Vietnamese-American poet and novelist. The excerpt from his poem “Someday I’ll Love Ocean Vuong” stopped me in my tracks. It’s also the where the title of this blog post came from.

  2. VALA 2020 Keynote Speakers – I’m pleased to announce that I’m one of six keynote speakers at the VALA – Libraries, Technology and the Future Conference that will take place in Melbourne, Australia in February 2020.

  3. Anthony Ramos (Hamilton, She’s Gotta Have It) shared the official lyric video of Cry Today, Smile Tomorrow, the (incredibly moving) song he performed during season two of She’s Gotta Have It.

  4. ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom details Lynda(.com)’s Privacy Problem. LinkedIn now requires library users to create a LinkedIn profile to use the LyndaLibrary technology resources, which appears to be a violation of the Library Bill of Rights.

  5. Apple’s Memoji Makeup Tutorial, featuring Patrick Starr and Desi Perkins. Initially, I hated this video, but the more I watch it, the cuter I think it is. I especially love that they worked in Patrick’s head wrap.

  6. If Austin Kleon says having a messy studio can make you a better artist, then I must be the best artist alive.

  7. If you follow me on Twitter1, you saw as I opined about career precarity in Gen X librarians, talked about how I managed to improve my credit score over the last 5 years and went on and on about how Phil Collins’ ubiquity in the 80s gave us some of the most memorable pop and rock music of all time.


  1. My account is currently locked, but I review new follower requests carefully at least once a week. 

Is This Thing On?

It’s been almost two years since I’ve written anything in this space, but thanks to a tweet from my friend Jen Hanen (and okay, also some words from Neil Gaiman) I thought I’d give this another try. I attempted a newsletter but for whatever reason it never stuck. I don’t like the idea of writing on a set schedule, especially if I’m not being paid for it. I suppose I don’t think the flexing of my own spongy intellectual muscles is enough of a reason to keep up a writing habit, which if you want to get all deep about it, is a sign of my mental health and feelings of self-worth in general.

keep it inside - acrylic on paper, copyright 2019
keep it inside – acrylic on paper, copyright 2019

deep exhale


Yesterday on my way home from work, I passed an apartment building where someone had soaped a message onto their window. “This is a lonely place without friends,” the message read and it would have stopped me in my tracks had I not been in traffic. It made me wonder how much pain a person had to be in to go to such lengths to write this message on their window, in reverse no less, so that other people would see it. Vancouver can be a very lonely and isolating place, and yet I’m still here, still trying to reach out, still trying to make friends. I’m making more of an effort to see people than I have in the past, and that feels good. It’s almost like I’m rounding a corner or something.


Here are a few things I’ve read/listened to lately and enjoyed:

That “Skinny” Dress In Your Closet, or Hopeful Hoarding

red dress with black beltIf you’ve never gained, then lost (then regained) weight, this metaphor may be meaningless to you. If you have gone through that experience, you’re probably familiar with holding on to an item of clothing that no longer fits, but you hold on to it because “It might fit again someday if I go on a diet/eat healthier/work out more.”

That’s what this blog has become.

I’ve been blogging across several different domains, across multiple platforms in some form or fashion since 1993. There are people who follow me on Twitter who weren’t even alive when I wrote my first blog post. And to spare you my middle-aged reflections about how things were so different back in the early days of blogging, I’ll simply say that my attention span, willingness to write, elevated professional profile, and fear of writing something that might run afoul of work supervisors doesn’t really make it seem worthwhile anymore. Still, I held on to this domain and to my web hosting the way I held on to that skinny dress at the back of my closet. It’s probably crumpled on the floor, buried under a mountain of other stuff by now, but I know it’s there, and it nags at me.

I think the time has come to throw this dress away.

Langston Hughes: The Black Man Speaks

I swear to the Lord
I still can’t see
Why Democracy means
Everybody but me.

“The Black Man Speaks” from Jim Crow’s Last Stand (Worldcat)

To say I’ve been feeling this acutely over the last few weeks is an understatement. I honestly think I’ve felt this way almost as long as I’ve been alive, but the feelings grow sharper the longer I live in Vancouver.

Today is Langston Hughes’ birthday. Hughes has long been one of my favourite poets/cultural critics, though I feel like he’s fallen out of favour a little over the last 20 years or so. Though he is better known as a poet, his essay “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain” has been a source of inspiration for me, more so when I was a young African American Studies scholar who was trying to balance claiming my place in the Black community with my feminist leanings and my queer identity.

If you find yourself in a despairing place, read a little Langston Hughes today.

After the Love Has Gone

I’m Cecily, I’m a librarian, and I’ve come to hate reading.

That’s not exactly true — my (barely) managed depression and (increased) anxiety have robbed me of the ability to process anything more than tweets, Facebook posts from the Hobonichi group, and texts from loved ones. Losing myself in novels and non-fiction is where I found comfort for so many years, but now it only adds to my already out-of-control anxiety and self-doubt.

I’ve found other pursuits in the meantime, like drawing and writing in my journal, but I miss the immersive experience of floating within a well-crafted story. Has this ever happened to you? What did you do to get back to reading?