Authors in Conversation | The Names of All the Flowers: Melissa Valentine in conversation with Sadie Barnette
Join us for two of Oakland’s best as award-winning writer Melissa Valentine and artist Sadie Barnette discuss the beautiful new memoir The Names of All the Flowers, the recipient of the Louise Meriwether First Book Prize.
The Names of All the Flowers connects one tragic death to a collective grief for all Black people who die too young. A lyrical recounting of a life lost, Melissa Valentine’s debut memoir is an intimate portrait of a family fractured by the school-to-prison pipeline and an enduring love letter to an adored older brother. Read an excerpt of the book here.
Melissa Valentine is a writer from Oakland whose work explores race, grief, and healing from trauma. Her nonfiction has appeared in Guernica, Jezebel, and Apogee, among others. She holds an MFA in creative writing from MIlls College and a BA from Sarah Lawrence College. She lives in Brooklyn.
Melissa and her older brother Junior grow up running around the disparate neighborhoods of 1990s Oakland, two of six children to a white Quaker father and a Black Southern mother. But as Junior approaches adolescence, a bullying incident and a violent attack in school leave him searching for power and a sense of self in all the wrong places; he develops a hard front and falls into drug dealing. Right before Junior’s twentieth birthday, the family is torn apart when he is murdered as a result of gang violence.
Sadie Barnette’s photography, drawing, objects and installations embody collective and familial histories. Grounded in acts of celebration and resistance, her work is also tethered to the other-worldly, offering glittering speculative spaces. Unconfined to a particular medium, her modular practice holds the poetics and politics of city space, adornment, and “the living room.” Recent projects include the reclamation of a 500-page FBI surveillance file amassed on her father during his time with the Black Panther Party and her interactive reimagining of his bar — San Francisco’s first Black-owned gay bar.
Born and raised in Oakland, California, she earned her BFA from CalArts and her MFA from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has been exhibited throughout the United States and internationally and is in the permanent collections of museums such as LACMA, the California African American Museum, Brooklyn Museum, the Guggenheim, and The Studio Museum in Harlem — where she was also Artist-in-Residence. She is represented by Charlie James Gallery in Los Angeles.
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