5:30 pm (Fri)
I’m a stalker of writers, especially black female writers. One such writer is Chimamanda Adichie — a Nigerian with such power and depth I fell in love with her work.
The first time I met her was in 2009 during my first semester at the University of the West Indies. My lecturer, Professor Carolyn Cooper shared a TED talk by Chimamanda Adichie called “The Danger of a Single Story”.
When I heard her talk, I thought, Now that’s why I want to write. She understood the power of stories. She understood the dangers of a single story, of stereotype and labeling.
Her talk made me recognise how imperative it was to write my story — stories about Jamaica that spoke of more than our beaches and sunny clime. It made me think of the sad case of children’s literature in my region. Anyone who has ever gone to a bookstore in Jamaica knows one thing is lacking for sure — local children’s books.
I long for the day when our bookstores will flood with children’s books written by Jamaicans, books with black characters and images that transcend the “tourist perspective”.
I’ve gained many insights from Chimamanda. That’s why I stalk writers. They’re so much I can learn from those who have gone before me.
My most recent stalking began today when I visited an online magazine dedicated to Caribbean children’s literature called Anasesem. While on the site, I read an article which referred me to an article in The Nation. After reading it I thought how important it is for me as a black female writer to encourage conversation regarding diversified reading.
I think so many times people are under the assumption that black people don’t like to read much less write. These critics don’t know people like Robyn, a friend of mine who devours books. They never met me during the decade of my life when romance novels were my only feast. They’ve never listened to Chimamanda or read her books.
Sometimes all this researching makes me think I have the cards stacked up against me. I’m black, female and maybe my writing won’t ever get the attention it would if I was someone else.
Should I even be concerned? Should I care that I will be seen as the minority in the world of bookshelves and book spines, blurbs and stories, publications and “worded” innovations? Should I be wounded and rant– spark a flame of protest — or should I remain silent? And what does it matter anyway if I talk and have nothing to show?
Though the article from The Nation seemed to open a cave of rambling thoughts, it wasn’t without its benefits. It led me to the discovery of another black female writer who I’ll probably be stalking for a few months or more. Her name’s Jesmyn Ward, writer of the novel Salvage the Bones and memoir Men We Reaped.
Perhaps another time I’ll tell you more about the women writers I’ve come to love like Olive Senior, Lorna Goodison and Zora Neale Hurston. I’ll tell you more and maybe even find a few new female writers to stalk while I’m at it.
But for now I’ll kick back and reminisce while I add Jesmyn Ward to my list.