Author and educator Lindsey Stewart had one very central idea when working on her book, The Politics of Black Joy. She wanted to speak out as a Black southerner to let the world know that there, too, is happiness in the Black community and much more on the minds of Black folks than turmoil.

Using Zora Neale Hurston‘s concept of Black southern joy as the vehicle, Stewart analyzes Black American life via Hurston’s essays, Beyoncé’s Lemonade and Black history makers like Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. Du Bois, Toni Morrison, Angela Davis, Saidiya Hartman, Imani Perry, Eddie Glaude and Audra Simpson.

Since the book’s release, Stewart said it’s been hard to gauge the reception, but she has gotten some nice emails from people who can relate to the subject matter.

“I think it’ll take some time for me to get a sense of how this book can shift conversations,” Stewart told Blavity. “I’m really hoping that we’ll start to think more critically about how Black life is represented, especially in the South, what kind of stories we’re telling about Black people in the South. And just more stories that give a more complex sense of who we are.”