By: Rashida Ashley
From the moment I sat down to speak with Jenelle Simpson, I instantly knew this woman was not only open hearted, but also an outspoken and brave black woman. Not only is she a first-time author, but she is a dedicated senior law clerk, paralegal, motivational speaker, and life coach in Toronto. Her book Commitment To a Deceitful Liar entails the trajectory of her life and how she has overcome unfavorable circumstances that have allowed her to heal and ultimately serve a higher purpose.
In her book, Simpson unpacks being raised in a West Indian household with its beliefs and myths. She fearlessly exposes her experiences with sexual abuse, rape, experiences surrounded by drugs and strippers and, various struggles within the black community, and her struggle to escape repeated generational cycles passed down. Simpson readily admits, “her truth is not always pretty.”
With a subtle fear of her old self worrying about what others thought, she now understands what her new self believes, “Only the raw truth speaks to people. The truths, you find through the growing and healing process, remembering, no one takes the same route to get to the same place.”
Your first book “Commitment To A Deceitful Liar” was recently released. Can you tell me a little about your book and why you wrote it?
When I was younger, my brother and I always used to write a lot. Anytime we were feeling down or depressed we would literally pick up a book and start writing words or would make up a song and start writing. I always say that even though I wanted to be in the legal field, I always knew that wasn’t my final destination. One day, I was on the road with my son, and I opened the computer – I tell everybody this story because it is the truth; I opened the computer to my Facebook account. My common law partner had sent a message to his cousin that he had a baby on the way from a girl in Jamaica, from when he went on vacation with my friend.
He was telling him to keep it a secret, and what I didn’t know wouldn’t hurt me. Even though in that moment I was angry, I had to ask myself why was I angry? How does this affect me? Then I realized that I promised myself I was going to break generational cycles when I moved out of my mother’s house, but we didn’t break anything. When he and I started dating, he had his own generational cycles that he brought into the relationship and dumped off on me. I also had my own that I dumped off on him and it became one toxic relationship. Although we talked about breaking cycles together, we weren’t breaking anything. I realized that I was reliving my mother’s story and he was reliving his own father’s story. We weren’t doing it the right way. That’s when the book came to me. Initially I wanted to write the book a long time ago, in stages of my life. I wanted it to be like a write along book; as I was going through it, I would be writing it. It didn’t turn out that way.
The illustration for your book is truly eye catching. What was the process for coming up with this design?
When I was doing this book, I said that I wanted a strong team behind me. I wanted people who understood the vision and connected with it, and the purpose. It can’t just be people who are saying, “Well, I’m just working with it because I’m getting paid or it’s a movement now.” No, no, no, you’ve got to connect with it. You’ve got to understand it. You’ve got to love it because if you don’t, then the whole purpose is gone. Right? So, when I was looking for somebody to make my book cover – let me tell you something, I connected with so many black people and I love my people. We are so powerful. I just wish we knew that ourselves, you know. So, I wanted a powerful black team – and I’m not a racist. I wanted black people to see that there’s a problem, and we can break that problem. We could fix it.
Many people reached out to me, ironically, they were black people, but most couldn’t follow through. One thing led to another and the lady who did my book cover initially followed me on Instagram and reached out to me. We then spoke on the phone for two hours and she broke down crying. She said, “I want to do your book cover. “Within a week, she gave the design to me. I couldn’t believe it. People outside our community will never understand what we went through; they’ll never understand what we face every day, but there’s people who try to.
You grew up in a West Indian household. Were there any traditional myths or beliefs that you had to part ways with as you began your journey of unlearning trauma? What was the hardest thing to let go of?
I grew up in a house where my mom always told me to be careful of people. Don’t trust people. Don’t eat from people. Don’t comb your hair and throw your hair on the ground. Throw it in the toilet. Or don’t share clothes with people because they will probably perform “obeah” on you [a kind of sorcery practiced especially in the Caribbean]. They’re trying to hurt you. Someone’s trying to harm you. That was hard because I don’t believe in those things. At the same time, there is a belief that if there’s a curse, then there is a cure. So, it was hard for me to build relationships with people because I always thought in my head they’re going to do something to me.
What was the biggest thing you desired to come out of you moving forward from toxic generational cycles and why?
I wanted to cause a shift. When I say shift, I mean to cause a complete shift in the generation, not just in the black community, but in other people. A time where people openly talk about things and teach each other how to break through generational cycles. You see the quotes; you see people talking about it, but how do we do it?
How has your idea of the words “lies,” “truth, “and “forgiveness” changed as you began the process of writing this book to seeing it published?
I’d say lying to your own self is effacing your own truth. For a good point in my life, I never said out loud that I was molested and raped. I was like, I can’t tell anybody that. That’s lying to myself to other people’s lies, if that makes sense. We hear in society that if somebody was molested or raped, they’re nasty. They caused it on themselves, and chances are they’re lying. Some parts of the stories don’t make sense. I took their lies, and I told those things to my own self. Don’t tell anybody because they’re gonna judge you, they’re gonna say you lied. I started to believe that concept on my own. I started to replay how I could’ve caused it on my own self. Did I look at someone a certain way? Did I dress a certain way? Did I say something that made him think that’s what I wanted? Then I had to be truthful to my own self. I had to erase those lies and then start being truthful and honest to myself about things that I went through in life and how I contributed to carrying certain things that I needed to break away from a long time ago.
Even with relationships. Allowing somebody to do things because I didn’t want to mess things up. I didn’t want to awaken things that didn’t need to be woken, but they needed to because I was not being healed by being quiet and watching them disrespect me, cheat and raise their hand. No. I had to be truthful with my own self and the things that I wanted. The things that I deserved and the things that I knew wasn’t normal.
What is the biggest thing you want your readers to receive as they read your first book?
I want them to receive love and fearlessness. I want them to release and own their own trauma and not hold on to it any longer. I want them to embrace who they are and stop telling themselves that it’s their fault. Stop finding reasons why it happened or reasons why it could’ve been their fault, or reasons why they are the way they are. You are the way that you are because that is the season you’re in. For me, whenever I speak on what happened to me, people are like “Oh my gosh!” But I’m okay with it because if that didn’t happen to me, I wouldn’t be in my purpose right now. I would still be that shy girl wearing that bang. I wouldn’t love myself the way that I love myself now – my skin color, the texture of my hair, and my body.
Jenelle’s book can be purchased at the following: