I’m writing a collection of short stories. The characters spawned from one I wrote for a class last semester called, “After the Accident.” It is the first piece of fiction that I felt encapsulated who I am now as a person and writer. For years, education has been teaching me that my voice has very little value. It does so in ways that are so hard to see. It’s the way that I’m often the only Black student in my classes. It’s the way that the reading assignments rarely, if ever, feature people that look like me. It’s the way that bringing this up has a way of creating awkward silences. For a long time, I internalized this. I instinctively avoided writing anything that would cause this silence. In my degree(s), I didn’t really come into contact with Black authors. I grew up reading white authors, and when I tried to write fiction, emulated them. It is only in the past few years that I realize that the characters I want to write didn’t fit the narratives I absorbed and tried to recreate. A lot of my non-fiction/memoir stuff has gotten lots of positive feedback. With non-fiction stuff, I didn’t have to worry about the type of feedback I’d get from my all white cohorts. If they had issue with the Blackness of the story, then I’m sorry you have an issue with how I present my life. It’s easy to defend my decisions when it’s coming from a real place. But, I realize now, the problem has always been knowing on an unconscious level that if I write things from a place of honesty about the types of characters and lived experiences I would write about that I would need to defend them. In my last class, I wrote five stories across different genres and ideas all centered around Black characters and I was told some of it was overtly political or “on the nose.”
And I was like, “Fuck that noise.” The shit I’m writing doesn’t need defense or explanation or validation from people that can’t handle stories not centered around their experiences. Fuck em. I’m enjoying what I’m writing more than anything I’ve done before. Even better, now that I’ve had this epiphany, I have so many ideas for stories that I just…can’t stop writing. It’s the best feeling.
The other part of this thesis is all of the reading. The past few weeks I’ve read:
- The Office of Historical Corrections – Danielle Evans
- Playing in the Dark – Toni Morrison
- Black Leopard, Red Wolf – Marlon James
- Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison
- The Secret Lives of Church Ladies – Deesha Philyaw
- The Antiracist Writing Workshop – Felicia Rose Chavez
A friend gave me “The Secret Lives of Church Ladies” for my birthday. I devoured it. Philyaw’s stories, voice, and characters all vibed with me in a way I haven’t experienced. I felt people I know represented through the book. Some turns of phrase I know I’ve heard but had long since forgotten that made me smile and laugh. It reminded me of the things I’ve lost through time and education that need to be remembered and valued. It’s such a great collection and I wish her continued success.
I’m starting “The Only Good Indians” by Stephen Graham Jones and “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” by Paulo Freire now. And I’ve got one short story about 1/2 done and a solid idea for another. Hoping to be up to eight completed stories by the end of this week. I want to revise and edit throughout July and hopefully defend in August.
Also, I wonder if proclaiming that I’m writing something will ever not feel pretentious af?
Also, my wife got me one of those cakes that don’t look like a cake. It was Red Velvet, which makes me less mad about it, and it was delicious, but also, stop making cakes that don’t look like cakes. Thanks, for making my 40th awesome.