by Rion Amilcar Scott
(from the collection Insurrections)
In my eleventh year, my father taught me defeat.
I sat with my back pressed on that old, scratchy brown couch. Tom chased Jerry across the television screen and then the image dissolved into a white dot in the center. I turned to see my father holding the remote control in one hand and a crumpled cloth cradled in the crook of his other arm.
What are you doing with that rag, Daddy? I asked.
It’s not a rag, girl, he said. It’s a mat.
He unfurled the dirty checkered mat onto the coffee table and dropped a handful of chipped and faded black chess pieces in front of me. He started setting up the white ones without looking at me. I tilted my head, watching my father curiously.
Read the full story here: 202 Checkmates
An interview with Andrew Mitchell Davenport
In her 1942 autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Road, Zora Neale Hurston writes, “If you have received no clear-cut impression of what the Negro in America is like, then you are in the same place with me. There is no The Negro here. Our lives are so diversified, internal attitudes so varied, appearances and capabilities so different, that there is no possible classification so catholic that it will cover us all.” And so, too, does the fiction of debut novelist Cole Lavalais, a lifelong resident of Chicago, express true subjectivity in her Summer of the Cicadas. Over the course of weeks during the early spring, Lavalais and I exchanged letters about literature, history, family, and the artists who helped her along toward publishing her greatest achievement yet.
[This piece originally appeared in the Full Stop Quarterly Issue #3. The Quarterly is available to download or subscribe here.]
A.M. Davenport: Cole, we’re talking on the eve of your first novel’s publication; I find myself wondering what your journey has been like. Where have books taken you? What do you hope for your reader to find in Summer of the Cicadas?
Cole Lavalais: My intention is to present one woman’s experience at a particular moment in time within a particular context. Edwidge Danticat wrote a letter to her protagonist at the end of Breathe, Eyes, and Memory, and it’s always stayed me with. She apologizes for the ways the world will make her story representational for all young Haitian women, and I’ve never been able to forget it. That idea of a singular story is what sits at the center of Summer of the Cicadas. All of the characters are struggling to not be representational. So I hope readers feel as if they know Vi by the end of book, but also realize it’s all they know. Vi’s experience is not every black woman’s experience.
Chicago and the South play such integral parts in Vi’s life as she leaves the North for her college studies. 100 years after the Great Migration, what do you think Vi learns from her Southern sojourn?
Read more here: Cole Lavalais Interviewed on Full Stop
A Woman-Child in Jamaica
From THE NEW YORK TIMES
At 10 years old I was called into the living room by my mother and my grandmother. “Hurry up an’ sit, chile,” my grandmother said, her command like a hand pressed against my back, shoving me forward onto the plastic-covered sofa. After a moment of silence, my mother spoke. She told me she never again wanted to see me dancing and playing in public as I had been that morning. I was confused. I did not know that practicing my cartwheels and splits on the long veranda warranted such reprimand.
My mother had enrolled me and my little sister in dance classes and never minded our practicing before — even if we leapt into furniture or crashed into a captive audience of red hibiscus, bougainvillea, eucalyptus and ferns. Rudy, the yard man, would pause to give a brief applause before returning to whack at the weeds with his machete under the mango tree. “You’s no longah a likkle girl,” my mother explained to me, her eyes fixed on the small bumps on my chest visible in the thin blouse — two raisins that had appeared overnight.
Read the rest of the article here: A Woman-Child in Jamaica