Passage That Changed Me: Anna-Maria Poku on Bolu Balalola’s Love in Colour (Opens in a new window)
Love in Colour is the reason I embrace love loudly
In July 2019, I started a bookstagram. It was a completely spontaneous (though perhaps my best ever) decision. The first books I reviewed were ‘The Smart Money Woman’, ‘Becoming’, and then a string of literary and contemporary fiction. There is such a thing as being spellbound by a book. It is a feeling I discovered early in life. Having whole weeks, months even, where you’re living on the very edge of reason, when all you can think about is how a book dropped a laugh in your lap or made you slightly unbalanced in the way that only a book can. It is because I know that feeling that I know what it is to love a good book. That I always have and likely always will. Memoirs, short story collections, fiction, whatever. But I love romance too. In fact, I’d say I love romance *more*. It is only romance that has seen me read until the dead of the night, curled up in a blanket, weeping with only my phone or Kindle screen to thank for light. But did my bookstagram in its early days reflect that? No. Did the way I spoke about and interacted with love reflect that? No. You couldn’t even say my love for love was my best kept secret because I barely acknowledged it. I would read or watch something about love, deeply enjoy it and simply move on as if the surface of my soul had not just been scratched. If I did touch on it, it would be perfunctorily. I wouldn’t allow myself to fully embrace the joy because I was wary of it. I thought loving love would make me seem incapable and unintelligent. Shallow, if you will. I was society’s darling – a product of its subtle scorn for romantics. It bled into my romantic life, too. I was an unhealthy mix of disdain and fear; scepticism personified. Then I read Bolu Babalola’s ‘Love in Colour’ and all I have to say is that now, my twitter screen name is ‘hopeful romantic’. You would think the passage that changed me would be in one of the stories in the book but no, it’s in the introduction and it reads:
“Love is tender, tentative, brutal and bold. It’s messy and magic! It can be the most frightening thing in the world, purely because it feels like safety, and that safety is reliant on total trust in another, with whom we share our hearts, expose ourselves and allow ourselves to be seen for exactly who we are. But when we allow ourselves to trust like this, there is a freedom that we can attain – a glory. This book is about being seen in all your iterations, in every dynamic, brightly and in colour. It’s about the joy and hope that accompanies the celebration of that phenomenon.” Bolu Babalola, Love in Colour
‘Love in Colour’ is my favourite book - perhaps only rivalled by Bolu’s new book ‘Honey and Spice’ (safe to say she *gets* me). Never have I been more grateful for Twitter’s unrelenting grip on my life, because that’s where it found me. At a time when I was living a lonely, dull life, letting romance pass me by and leaning into inauthenticity in a way that nobody should. "I rest safely in the knowledge that I allow myself to be seen clearly by my loved ones and they love me just so" When I read it, I felt seen, “in all my iterations, in every dynamic, brightly and in colour.” It was affirming in a way that I hadn’t ever experienced. This passage screamed warmth and hope and light. It made me want to taste that freedom, to touch love's glory. To believe in it and embrace it and I did. I have. Pursuing a trust like this, a love like this, it is not easy. It is hard, intentional and sometimes painful work but it is so worth it. Because of this love, this freedom, I have known romance and been held in tenderness – chocolate cake ‘just because’, annotated books that remind them of me and sister-friends who are my rock; the kind that people write about and pray for. My life overflows with depth and joy, even on the hard days, because I rest safely in the knowledge that I allow myself to be seen clearly by my loved ones and they love me just so. I can love and be loved, in spite of it all. "If there is one thing love is, it is insipidity's antithesis" I know now that if there is one thing love is, it is insipidity's antithesis. There is nothing in this world that has flavour like it. It is sharp and soft and sweet all at the same time and being able to experience it in its fullness and feel its plenty is a blessing. Now, I believe in its transformative power; in decade long affairs and whirlwinds, too. I read and watch romance and sink wholly and fully into it. I love love loudly. I see life in technicolour: everything is magenta and hot pink and I love it. I dream and feel with intensity, but I am sturdy in a way I never have been because while love is freeing, it is also grounding. I am a better lover, writer, daughter, sister, friend. There is no delusion or shallowness here, only glorious hope. I revisit this passage whenever I need a reminder of love’s goodness and while I maybe, probably, would have leaned into love without it, I like to think serendipity worked her charm and made it find me when it did. I’m pretty sure I’m right.