A Review of Journal Of A Black Queer Nurse by Britney Daniels
Britney Daniels’ Journal of A Black Queer Nurse, forthcoming from Common Notions in May 2023, promises to deliver, and it does. Daniels is a conversational, likable writer from start to finish, but the stories she tells are far from easy to read. Told in a series of quick, bite-size vignettes, each micro narrative is the story of one experience that Daniels has had while living as a black, visibly queer, tattooed travel nurse, working all over the country at different hospitals. Daniels carefully reports on instances of painful discrimination she has faced at the hands of doctors, other nurses, and patients, smoothly pulling together a lifetime of facing racism into one powerful narrative. “Nursing is the number one most trusted profession,” says Daniels, which is why these narratives are so important. How can we advance as a society if this is how we treat our most selfless and trusted healthcare workers? How can we eliminate bias if it is so deeply entrenched into the ways we work and live?
Each vignette is processed down to its core elements, like journal entries; Daniels makes mention of the actual journals she kept while working during this time period, which is where the material for this book came from. Daniels has efficiently streamlined her writing, and these chapters tell many different stories, like memories, in little, distilled moments. From the hospital in Texas where they are so short-staffed that Daniels is made to work twelve-hour shifts without a break, to the intoxicated and belligerent patients in Southern California who yell racial slurs at her, Daniels’ is consistently engaging, but also thoughtful. She constantly asks, Would this have happened to me if I was not a Black woman? and often, the answer is no. This question animates the whole book, and as we learn more about her experiences, we see how the entire health system is peppered with inequity.
In certain moments, the book is hard to read—the insults and injustice that Daniels is made to face over her career seem unfair, cruel, and at times, nonsensical. The ugly face of racism is clearly defined, and Daniels is professional throughout all of it, stopping to educate people when appropriate, and consistently advocating for herself and other marginalized groups. The day-to-day work of a nurse is grueling, and Daniels never falters. But at other times, the book seems to repeat itself. At the end, Daniels does not present solutions. This is simply record keeping, and she states plainly in her final chapter: “This is not a book for nurses. This is a book for everyone. This is a book for us.” The universality of her story cannot be ignored, but from her jumble of narratives, there leaves something to be desired—although she asks for a kinder world, and certainly deserves one after all the hardship she has endured and preserved, the thread of the book occasionally feels repetitive, like a snake eating its own tail. “This is just the beginning of our journey,” she says. And it is. There is so much more work to do, and these journals are record-keeping, as well as an outcry—an incredibly important function. Her bravery and candor cannot be overlooked, even if she occasionally repeats herself..
Like Daniels, I want a kinder world. And like Daniels, I believe that education is the key to justice. Some of the most inspiring parts of this written history are when Daniels is simply just trying to become a nurse: navigating toxic relationships, working through the education system, working as a tech and firefighter, and fighting to do what she does best, which is help people through the worst day of their lives. Time and time again, and without pretense, Daniels proves herself not as a saint or a martyr, but a timeless example of what it means to be a compassionate human being—something you would expect (and hope) to see more of in the healthcare profession. Daniels does all of this, and more, and by sharing these stories, she is showing her readers that there is a way out. It’s a person-by-person project. Hopefully, as her book touches more people, the systematic forces that have worked against her begin to unravel, and we find that kinder world. It’s there, but we might have to build it ourselves.
Britney Daniels, RN, MSN is a Black queer travel nurse and social advocate who has worked in hospital emergency rooms all over the US. Daniels holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in nursing with a concentration in nursing leadership. She is currently working on her Doctorate of Nursing Practice degree. Britney lives in Chicago with her wife, Saria, and their two dogs, Batman and Momo. This is her first book.
Journal of A Black Queer Nurse is available now from Common Notions.
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