My mind is awash with so many ideas and connections from things I’ve read and talked about.
I’ve been reading, devouring actually, books by Kwame Alexander. Over the weekend I read The Crossover once for myself then a second time aloud with my 11 y-o. I quickly went on to finish Rebound and on Monday picked up another title, Booked, which instead of basketball-focused, has soccer and futsal as its athletic backdrop. If you’re not yet familiar with Alexander’s work, he is credited with motivating young people across North America and in Asia to take up the writing habit with enthusiasm. His read-in-a-day novels in verse offer even reluctant readers compelling stories that come to life on the page.
While I was reading Rebound in particular I was struck by his portrayal of the main character’s grandparents. They are practical, down to earth folks who provide their struggling grandson just the right mix of firm expectations and gentle care. They are not mythical creatures. For me their characters rang so very true and real, like some of the Black elders I knew when I was growing up. This led me on a further tangent: Thinking about reading Black elders in current fiction and non-fiction and how I take these messages in as a middle aged woman on her way to becoming a Black elder. I have Brown Girl Dreaming by Jackie Woodson, Heavy by Kiese Laymon and Thick by Tressie McMillan Cottom on my mind.
I’m pretty sure there’s an essay that wants to surface from that line of thinking: “Reading Black Elders” or “Finding mentor elders in unlikely places.”
Another thing that reading Alexander’s dynamic narratives has done for me: it has made me want to work on my own memoir in a similar format. Showing without telling all; Details revealed in simple lines rather than complex shading and texture. For my process that means shaking words out of my keyboard quickly rather than worrying too much about crafting the total image. It’s easy to get bogged down in what feels awkward or out of place. For now my aim is to just write past those reservations and produce as much as possible. The paring down, smoothing edges and blowing away dust, that will come later.
I can do this. Doing it is worthwhile. How the product turns out is a different story.