The New Book Exploring the Vulnerability of Queer Black Relationships

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Kevin Morosky
Courtesy of Kevin Morosky

The self-published project by filmmaker Kevin Morosky comprises a series of intimate vignettes of love, lust, and lessons

Over the past few years, queer cinema has blown up – think: Call Me By Your Name, Carol, Boy Erased – bringing to life previously untold stories and giving LGBTQ+ people the long overdue on-screen representation they deserve. Sadly, queer Black storytelling is trailing behind, with a limited pool of books thus even fewer films, with the exception of groundbreaking movies such as Moonlight or Rafiki

Hoping to bring his own story to the genre is filmmaker Kevin Morosky, the mastermind behind Notes, an intimate retelling of his experience of heartbreak told through short, poetic vignettes. “For queer Black boys, that storytelling just doesn’t exist, we have all of these other stories and we just have to adapt them,” Morosky shares on what motivated him to explore writing for the project. “I knew this story needed to be out in the world because the representation for us just doesn’t exist, so I did it.”

Remove race, gender and sexuality from the equation and it’s a warmly familiar story of modern dating, the stops, starts, and lessons learned along the way told through memories in a style Morosky describes as “cut and paste prose” – like old notes stashed away in your iPhone. “He fits perfectly in the nooks and crannies I create whilst I sleep,” and “We smile while kissing,” from earlier entries quickly evolve into, ‘“hate you more than your smile / I hate you more than our song,” as the tale unfolds. It could be you, or I, but the book’s foreword – written by Rachel Ayeh-Datey – firmly places Notes in a lane that hasn’t previously been explored. As she says: “Being Black, queer, and in love is my most natural state.”

For Morosky, bringing vulnerability to his story was paramount – a way of subverting the aggressive Black male stereotype that often surrounds queer men of colour. “If we are allowed to exist and be seen through a romantic lens, it’s such a small space,” he muses. “Masculinity means so many things and is different for a Black straight man, white gay man, or Black trans man so we need our own space to discuss and dismantle this structure and that’s what I hope Notes does. It can’t do it by itself, but it will at least start conversations.”

Beyond the words on the page, the filmmaker wanted the book’s aesthetic to reflect the nuances he sees in masculinity. Printed on pink pages, the gradient shifts from darker hues to light and back again, following the emotional ups and downs of the story. Perhaps the only time you’re encouraged to judge a book by its cover, the tome’s ombré brown tone is designed to mimic the author’s skin tone, a celebration of himself and others who look like him. “You can see yourself in the cover of the book. I wanted everybody who is Black or brown to see remnants of themself or somebody in their family,” he says. 

For creatives from marginalised groups, representing their community often underpins their work, and for Morosky, it became even more important after the publisher he was in conversation with said the concept would work better for a second book, rather than a debut. Disappointed but not defeated, he took things into his own hands, self-publishing the project with a single aim. “I know that we need to have this conversation and I’m specifically talking to other Black and brown queer people with Notes,” he shares. “I’m making a dedication to queer Black art. I don’t need to sell a million of these things, it just needs to exist. If one person who shares a lived experience with me reads it and it sparks something else, then maybe that can inspire them to spark something in another person and so on.”

Ultimately, the filmmaker hopes that the stories he inspires will help shift the narrative away from the violence that often surrounds Black storytelling and bring to the forefront more work that is for us and by us. “I can’t stand to watch or read another thing that is just about our trauma, I don’t think our trauma is entertainment and I don’t find it funny,” he concludes. “All I want to see is joy, it doesn’t even have to be queer Black joy, but Black joy in general.”

Notes by Kevin Morosky is out now.