Last night I wrote this tweet.
Today I thought I’d expound.
Some authors are a brand. They create stories within similar settings or with similar themes to give their readers a reliably enjoyable experience. That’s not a knock. It’s a choice, and not a bad one necessarily.
Others may write stories that may seem similar to readers because certain things compel the author. Certain things simply appeal to many, if not all of us, and perhaps for the same underlying reason. It’s not so different than loving spicy food (no matter the cuisine), intimacy or, nature. They’re all vast concepts that share a multifaceted characteristic.
I don’t know if I write that way. I do know that my last book, Broken Fevers, contained stories that covered a broad spectrum of experience and tone. I thought so when I put it together and readers and reviewers have confirmed this notion.
For a time though I was compelled to write almost exclusively about the inequality of the Black experience in the US. Because I’m Black? No. Because the depths of it are bottomless and the fallacies that were perpetrated in my public school education grotesque and ubiquitous. The collective delusion was truly profound. It provided one of my first life lessons.
I committed to educating myself because clearly my curriculum was not up to the task. Bear in mind I was in the so-called advanced classes so the inaccurate and slanted tripe I was heard the best the state had to offer.
In my quest for knowledge it helps that I love research.
Not everyone does. So, in fiction, beyond just discussing the hard facts that can lead to softer futures, I believe there is value in educating people about new perspectives. One of the great joys I find in reading (and life) is identifying with others not by hiding our truths from each other but by sharing them.
If you want it to heal you have to let the sun get to it.
Tenea D. Johnson