An Exercise in Lyrics

Hey there…I am so hyped to be a part of FIYAH Literary Magazine’s Winter 2018 Issue #5: “Ahistorical Blackness” along with Monique L. Desir, Irette Y. Patterson, Shari Paul, Phenderson Djèlí Clark and cover art by Trevor Fraley!
IMG_20171201_142345In addition to fantastic stories, essays and interviews every month, FIYAH releases a Spotify playlist in conjunction with the issue. The FIYAH team asked us to contribute three songs that complement our stories. I don’t know about anyone else, but I sat there for a moment like “Whoa…” as I hadn’t thought about it before. And I’ll be honest, I really enjoyed every minute of trying to decide.

I thought about my story’s themes and decided upon the main ones: freedom, dreaming, beginnings, creating. The lyrics of the songs themselves were also very important. Without telling you much more (you’ve gotta read “With These Hands” for yourself!) I went with Nina Simone‘s “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free”: “I wish I could live/Like I’m longin’ to live/I wish I could do/All the things that I can do/Though I’m way overdue/I’d be starting anew.”

The third song I chose, “Golden” by Jill Scott, has always felt like a celebration of self to me: “I’m taking my freedom/ Pulling it off the shelf/ Putting it on my chain/ Wear it around my neck…”

But the first one, “Fantasy” by Earth, Wind, and Fire, is a true love for me. It is one of the first songs that I ever knew in my life. I sang a part of it (“It’s your day/ shining day/ all your dreams come true”) to my baby when he was born. Its beautiful, hopeful lyrics have always spoken to me of dreaming, freedom and faraway places: “Come see victory, in the land called fantasy/ Loving life, a new decree/
Bring your mind to everlasting liberty.”

Enjoy the playlist and issue and support the hard work of the team at FIYAH by getting a subscription already!

See y’all next time…
~L.

 

 

 

News: Sycorax’s Daughters

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I am absolutely thrilled to announce that my short story “A Little Not Music” will be in Sycorax’s Daughters (Cedar Grove Publishing), an anthology of Black women horror writers. Out in February 2017, it is edited by Kinitra Brooks, Linda Addison, and Susana Morris.
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“A Little Not Music” is set in 1939 Washington, D.C. Its protagonist, a young dancer at the popular club Crystal Caverns (that’s an actual ad for it above!) is dealing with…well, you will have to check it out for yourself!

Don’t Forget the “Story” Part!

St Lawrence Hall was an important site in the Canadian anti-slavery movement

St Lawrence Hall was an important site in the Canadian anti-slavery movement

The pic at left is of Toronto’s St. Lawrence Hall–an important site in the Canadian abolitionist movement. The Anti-Slavery Society (founded in 1851) invited lecturers such as Frederick Douglass to speak there and the North American Convention of Colored People met here.

I was in Toronto since a very good college friend of mine–now a professor at the University of Michigan–was attending a symposium entitled “Tales of Slavery: Narrative of Slavery, the Slave Trade and Enslavement in Africa.”

Since my best friend (his wife) and I are writers, he thought we would enjoy a panel on “How Novelists Construct Past Slaveries.” He was right. Given that two of my published stories involved slaves, I was absolutely fascinated. Moderated by Kofi Anyidoho of the Univ. of Ghana, the panelists all spoke on their challenges, inspirations and realizations as they tried to turn history into a story. The panelists included African-Canadian author Lawrence Hill (The Book of Negroes, US title: Someone Knows My Name); South African authors Manu Herbstein (Ama, A Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade) and Yvette Christanse (The Unconfessed); and historian Natalie Davis (Fiction in the Archives, Slaves Onscreen, and Women on the Margins).

I found Mr Hill’s and Ms. Davis’ papers and answers during the Q&A to be the most compelling as I know the feeling of how going through an archives and reading things like lists can get you hyped and trigger questions that become inspirations, such as “Who were they? What were their lives like? What are their stories?”

I also liked Ms. Christanse’s honest answer to a question of “Can anyone write the story of another culture?” Her take on it was that in theory–yes–but there are certain stories that she’d be nervous about taking on, such as that of a Jew during the Holocaust. Chesya and I debate this question constantly, as, is it a matter of “appropriation”? Or as writers, shouldn’t we be able to write about anything or anyone if the facts are straight and the voice is true? That’s a whole other post for another time though.

Having been a history major myself and considering that I write historical fiction, I could see one problem if a historian wishes to create a work veering more towards creative writing than not. A comment was made about “Wondering what other historians would think.” I remember muttering, “We don’t necessarily care what you think. Who are you really writing for?”

Don’t get me wrong. No writer ever wishes to have their facts incorrect or to misinform others, but a creative writer is not the same as an academic writer. We can take some liberties where a historian writing a more non-fiction or scholarly work absolutely should not. We are not writing for scholars, we are weaving a story for the reader and there’s nothing worse than reading a novel that is just a stringing together of the author’s research notes. While I believe historians have the capability to write an engaging story, they have to be able to be skilled enough as a storyteller as well.

History is a great inspiration for fiction, without a doubt, but to make it come alive…one can’t forget the “story” part of it.