“I do like that people read my writing as Southern and not just as that of a bland white person. But I feel like if you are a writer who’s Southern, your sensibilities should probably just be organic. I grew up poor in Florida—I have a very specific sort of family—and the characters in those stories are deeply embedded in my story, and in who I am. I feel like Southerners deal with different situations and circumstances than people in other parts of the world—we have such distinct issues with poverty and social issues that don’t get addressed because you’re dealing with crazy belief systems.”
My husband and I are yard-sale junkies, like our mothers before us. When we walk in our neighborhood, we rarely pass a cluster of rusty tea-kettles and CD-holders without taking a closer look. In our primes, we were both shameless appropriators of sidewalk goods: in Cambridge, MA, I once carried a plywood bookshelf nearly a mile home. His greatest find: a complete set of nesting screwdrivers. Alas, the great New York bed-bug crisis of 2010, along with our adult wisdom about the protein contents of other people’s futons, has made us wary of taking home anything upholstered.
Ann Arbor has always been a place where creativity thrives. Colorful murals, graffiti art, and whimsical fairy doors grace downtown building exteriors. Filmmakers, musicians, architects, poets, painters, publishers—artists and writers from all over the world are drawn to Ann Arbor for its diverse community, educated population, and vibrant campus atmosphere.
In his manifesto Reality Hunger, David Shields uses assemblage to curate a dialogue about the limits of The Real. The voices he appropriates and sequences implicitly argue that our increasingly urgent twenty-first century desire for reality is compromised by the fact that our storytelling mechanisms are growing further from it. As Shields notes (without acknowledging in the text proper that he is parroting E. L. Doctorow), “There’s no longer any such thing as fiction or nonfiction; there’s only narrative.”
“When I teach nonfiction, we talk about writing to a question. If you write what you already know, it’s not going to be interesting for your readers. You need to be looking for some kind of a discovery, and so I went to Yale to see what and what hadn’t changed, because my story needed to be contextualized. After hearing from young women that their experiences were just as bad as mine, it floored me. That’s the moment I knew I had a book.”