Meet Upile Chisala, she like the shirt she wears (pictured above), completely embodies the black sans apology motto.
Since her book Soft Magic was published last year it has gained a place in the hearts of many women and young girls. Upile has a soft demeanor and is soft-spoken; yet bold, you can catch that in her book too. As a graduate of New Mexico University and author of Soft Magic, we believe her words spill all the lemonade before Beyonce’s lemonade.
Quick Upile facts
Education: She is a graduate of New Mexico University, with a degree in Sociology.
Fashion Style: Stylish and chic, and in her own words: “At the moment I am on a minimalist journey. I wear a lot of grey, black and beige. I like simple comfy clothes that leave me at the border of over and under dressed”.
About Soft Magic: Upile’s book of poems is about women of color and women everywhere, published in the USA in 2015.
Book Texture and Color: The way a book is packaged tells a lot about the content, Upile’s book in your hands feels rough yet soft; the tone an earthy brown with a hint of black spelling out the title. Plain to look at but powerful, as such, I was unsure what to expect, as melanin comes in various shades, curves and layers so does Soft Magic. If books could be dresses it would hug me so tight with the words soft magic as the belt and it would be tighter every time I acknowledge the words in it.
Reading Time: Plan on 30 minutes if you are a fast reader if slower to read up to 2 hours or a whole day if writing in it as a journal. This is the book that can go everywhere you go.
A look inside
“Tell her there are goddesses in her bones
And tales of triumph in her skin
And that blackness
is not a sin”
A whisper to every woman’s soul
“I am a country you shouldn’t go near.
I am at war with myself.”
The first time
“A thousand poems have been dancing in my chest
Since the first time we
Chisala ends her book on this final note: “Dear sisters in melanin, we need each other.”
When I purchased the book for reading pleasure Chisala took the extra care to include a hand written note to me. In her note to me she tells me to write in the book using it as a journal, she assures me the collection of poems in it are as much mine as much as they are hers.
I sent some questions via email to Chisala nine days ago to get the inside scoop on the inspiration for her book, her childhood memories from Malawi, and what role sociology plays in writing a book to her “dear sisters.”
Tell us about yourself and your life growing up in Malawi and how it has affected how you live today, no holds barred here.
My name is Upile Chisala. I am a Malawian storyteller. I am the last of five children. I grew up in the beautifully green Zomba. My childhood was lovely. I remember constantly being outside getting into some trouble with my brother. But when he was busy with his friends I would play with my paper dolls or write. I loved talking to myself and I think my love for fiction encouraged this; I was always reading. I could be several characters all on my own, it was magical. I developed a sort of shyness and social anxiety. Yes, I had friends and was pretty popular in school but for me it felt like an act. I was so awkward and so concerned about fitting in; I doubt I was ever completely myself. Nowadays, I am learning little by little how to rid myself of that shyness, that constant fear of people and what they think of me.
Why Soft Magic?
It’s actually soft magic. The lowercase name expresses the subtly I was trying to get across. The subtle magic that we encounter every day, be it a smile from a stranger that can change our entire mood for the better or one gently coming to terms with a truth. In one poem in this collection I talk about food from home and truth be told every time I read that poem and imagine the Malawian meals I’m missing I cry, soft magic.
We think this is a lemonade before Beyonce’s Lemonade album, do you?
Now there, I wouldn’t want to blaspheme. I adore Beyonce and Warsan Shire and every bit of Lemonade moves me. That album is a masterpiece and for me it epitomizes what collaboration between women of color in the arts could look like. Lemonade is a beast of its own, Soft Magic is a beast of its own.
Who is this book for? I saw myself in it, but I wanted to ask you who it was for, aside from the obvious.
When I started writing, I was doing it for myself. Poetry was my version of journaling. When I started sharing, I realized that people could relate and that really touched me. This book is for anyone who needs it.
If you can encourage someone who does not know where they fit in today, what would you say to them?
Blending in is fading out. I think it is important to be as honest as you can with yourself and to try not force anything. You will find your niche, your place, and your purpose. Note that people love to dictate how other people live; We’re a nosey bunch and we have an opinion about everything.
There is a page in your book, please explain what you mean, with “Home is my mother’s voice.”
I’ve realized that in moving houses, moving cities, moving countries, moving from one stage of life to the next the only thing that has not felt transitory is my mother’s love. To me, she is home.
Tell me something about Malawian women.
I was raised by and around generous Malawian women. Malawi is known as the warm heart of Africa and I can attest to that.
How does Sociology play a part in the way your writing is reaching people?
Sociology is the study of society. I am drawn to telling stories from the most marginalized people in society. There’s a lot of interlocking between my writing and what I’ve learned from sociology.
We just have to ask you – you always seem to be sporting a scarf in most of the pictures or videos of you, on your social media, so we would love to know – How do you tie your scarf?
To be quite honest, my head wrap is a hassle. It takes roughly 20 minutes for me to get a style that I like. I’m no expert. I wing it till I find something I feel is decent and not too tight.
So I say, dear sisters in melanin pick up a copy, of Soft Magic it’s not only an empowering read it’s a fun one too, this is a summer must read for 2016. You will thank us later. Soft Magic talks to love lost, of inheritance from grandmothers, and of our beauty. It speaks to a mother’s love, and a father’s pain. It begs for us to be as women, and it begs us to say, as women, we need each other.
Checkout more about fashion, lifestyle, and must reads on my blog Tea for Two and a Crowd