Short Essays by Black Authors Exploring History, Culture, Race & Ethnicity

All last month on the Angry Black Woman I posted short essays written by black writers about how history intersects with their writing. I’m lucky enough to know or have contact with some really amazing authors who agreed to contribute. Now that February is over, I can link to them all. They are definitely worth reading if you have any interest in writing and authors.

Weaving My Herstory With My Fiction by S. Renée Bess

Have I taken that risk and written about the unknown, or have I created plots and characters borrowed from familiar territory? I need to be honest with my readers and with myself and confess that I’ve used bits and pieces of my personal history in writing three novels thus far. Don’t most writers do the same thing? …in committing my characters to the computer screen, I couldn’t escape my past and present realties any more than I could walk on my hands for a mile while singing my favorite Gladys Knight and the Pips song.

Fiction Is Just Nonfiction Through A Distorted Lens by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu

When you are athletically gifted, in many ways, it’s like having this weird magical talent. You can just do these things that people find amazing, yet, it comes easily to you. I was always the first chosen during games on the play ground. I was always the one racing and beating the boys. It was all easy, natural. Being in motion always brought me great joy. So I’ve known this kind of ability.

My storytelling often takes the form of a poem by Linda Addison

As the world whispers to me, as stories and poetry fall from my hands, history personal and impersonal take form, teaching me many lessons. I try to be a grateful student.

The personal history of the author is tangential at best by Alaya Dawn Johnson

…my daddy, this reviewer said, was white, my mom was black, and I just didn’t know what I was talking about. This reviewer did not know me personally. Information about the ethnicity of my parents is not available online. There was, however, a photograph of me at the end of my offending story, revealing the salient detail: I’m one pale black person.

How can we conjure the wondrous world we believe in? by Andrea Hairston

People with power, talent, and beauty don’t necessarily get wealth, success, and happiness. The tragedies that befall us are not simply caused by the flaws in our characters. Power and talent can be a torment in a system stacked against you. People can shun the magical ones, be jealous or frightened of brilliance. Social forces can thwart even the strongest will and structural reality can crush individual imagination and agency.

Each turn of a writer’s imagination creates a different history by Charles Saunders

I used real history to change fantasy history – a reversal of the usual mode, in which fantasy history is a transmutation of real history. Were it not for the historical sources provided by the books of Du Bois, Davidson and Diop – along with many others that line the shelves of university libraries – I probably never would have started writing at all.

I’m a die-hard multiculturalist as a result of my very existence by Tobias S. Buckell

Later, when I started my first novel, I took a Caribbean-settled world cut off from the rest of the universe, developing on its own. I wanted to place Caribbean people out in outer space, something I’ve actually gotten hate mail for doing (I was told by the emailer I had no business writing about 3rd world people in outer space because only westerners had the ability to pull of the technological grunt work do ever reach the stars). I guess my writing set out to provide an antidote to attitudes such as that.

I’ve grown to love complexity by David Anthony Durham

Early stories are likely to be autobiographical. That one was. I was Marcus. I experienced all those moments, and in some variation had that cultural awakening, spurred by images of Hannibal. My awareness may not have happened in the tight time frame of the story, but the motion of it is accurate as far as I can remember. It marked the connection with history – and with the history of people of African heritage – that became fundamental to my life ever since.