A Conversation with Nina Collins

Not only did I get the pleasure of reading an early copy of Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? but I was fortunate enough to sit down with the woman behind making the collection possible, Nina Collins. As the daughter of the late writer & filmmaker, Kathleen Collins, Nina felt it her mission to restore her mother’s work; she showed me the plethora of her mother’s work and talked about the autobiographical elements in her favorite stories from the collection, which is out today!

Watch my conversation with Nina Collins below:

Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? Book Review

In the introduction to her 1983 collection of interviews with black women writers, Claudia Tate explained the difference between the black hero’s and the black heroine’s quest for self-affirmation and identity. While both the black hero and the black heroine are in search of “increasingly higher levels of emotional and intellectual awareness of the self and the outside world,” the process by which they journey to such a destination differs. The black hero’s journey is often an external exploration requiring his physical departure from his home/community of origin. The black heroine’s journey is internal requiring physical isolation or restriction. She is not detached from responsibilities as often times these heroines are mothers, wives, etc. Therefore the black heroine’s destination is not a place, but rather, a state of mind. Writer and Filmmaker Kathleen Collins employs this dynamic exploration of the internal journey throughout her posthumous collection of short stories,  Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? But Collins’ doesn’t make that internal journey exclusive to her black heroines; she extends it to her black hero’s as she delves into the murky mist of self-reckoning. But by expanding Tate’s theory of isolation to her black hero’s, Collins, inadvertently, examines the ways in which such physical isolation affect both her male and female characters. Where the isolation is a therapeutic experience for her heroines it is a crushing life-threatening experience for her heroes.  This curious examination reveals Collins deep interest not with the physical outcome of her characters, but rather, their interior resolution of their lives and place in the world. Whatever results from such resolution is purely circumstantial.

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The first couplet of stories appropriately titled “Exteriors” and “Interiors” set the tone for which the following fourteen stories will take. We begin with the external voyeuristic view of a couple whose marriage is unhinging in “Exteriors”. The husband goes off on a whimsical excursion while the wife is left in isolation. Or rather, the wife chooses isolation. In “Interiors” the wife is not lamenting the reasons why her husband left, instead she voluntarily enters a “benevolent solitude” where she steps into herself and explores her horizon. She plays the violin, she starts a home garden, she takes on lovers–however inept–she creates art. All of these are attempts to understand herself while also resolving an independent identity in the face of her broken marriage.

Collins presents isolation as a choice, a reprieve from the external world, an Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole falling experience where one discovers the depths of one’s own soul, when it comes to her female characters. But a reprieve it is not for her male characters. Where the wife in “Interiors” emerges with her life and some sort of hope for the future, the Uncle in “The Uncle” isn’t as fortunate. His external circumstances have forced him no other option but isolation and in those confines he is never able to emerge with his life or any such hope for his future. Such is the same for the young man in “Only Once.” Isolation, for these men, is instead a cocoon, a Plato’s cave of manipulated images from their external reality are reflected in their internal resolutions preventing them from ever rising to the light. This dichotomy continues to play throughout Collins’ stories and characters: a disenchanted young woman who finds solace in a dark closet, an ill-fated lover and his gun, a playwright in suburbia, another abandoned wife who retreats into a new home. Many of these characters are faced with the external challenges of race, gender, class, and unfulfilled relationships, but Collin does not focus on the external. Instead she takes us into each character’s interior challenge of reconciling a self-image despite, or perhaps in spite of their outside circumstances.

There is a rebellious undertone in Collins’ work threading itself through each story. From the daughter who commits the “unforgivable sin of (“Negro”) girlhood” by cutting her hair and therefore turning herself into “any other Negro,” to the man who takes his own life, to the black middle-class girl from New Jersey agrees to marry her white lover in 1963 as they both naively confront the south and racial segregation, Collins presents unconventional resolutions that are not tidy, but instead a form of rebellion from what each of these characters are expected to be from the outside looking in. Each character is trying to find themselves and it’s a journey that requires the painful task of rejecting the external labels which have been arbitrarily placed on them from white-supremacy ideas of blackness to their own black bourgeois community’s.  In these rebellious internal resolutions Collins is  calling for a deep introspection of us all. Her work reminds us that we are humans first and our journeys toward seeking higher levels of emotional and intellectual awareness begin with our individual selves first.

That confrontation of self is often brutal and not all of her characters make it out alive, but the point is not to make it out alive, the point is to go through the process of delving deep into one’s self. That alone is one of the bravest things any human can do. 

I thoroughly enjoyed Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? Collins’s critical but sympathetic gaze on the black bourgeois is a perspective reminiscent of Nella Larsen, Lorraine Hansberry, and Dorothy West. Her insistence on the human spirit and internal self first allows her voice to be dynamic, idiosyncratic, and refreshing.  I only wish that there was more.

Be sure to pick up Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? when it arrives this December.

Taking Her Time: A Reflection on Solange & A History of Black Women Creatives who Couldn’t Afford to

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I recently wrote a piece reflecting on the anomaly of Solange taking 4 years to create her latest album, A Seat at the Table. Historically, black women creatives have not had the luxury to take their time, so not only is Solange’s act subversive but it’s a cause for celebration.

Read the piece in its entirety at The Establishment

‘The Healer’ in RookieMag

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I’m very excited to share that my short story, ‘The Healer’ has been featured in RookieMag’s Infinity issue! Storytelling is my passion and to have that validation of connection with readers is an amazing feeling. I am so appreciative of all of the support sent my way. Click HERE to read the story!

Women Who Write: Naki Akrobettoe

Back at it again with yet another Woman Writer!

Naki Akrobettoe is an acclaimed poet and spoken-word artist. She’s released two albums, given TEDtalks in Ghana, and is currently working on her first collections of poems.

I got the privilege to sit down with Naki and learn about her love for poetry and home in her piece, “Crown Morning Gold”.

Watch below:

Learn more about Naki at Nakispeaks.com 

Women Who Write: Raven Starr

It’s been a long time, I shouldn’tve left you without a dope beat to step to, step to…

I’ve been gone for a minute, but I’m back with another profile on yet another brilliant writer. Raven Starr is a poet whose vulnerability is so authentic it will inspire you to be just as open. She’s raw, she’s honest, and she’s talented. Check out the amazing piece she shared with me, “It was 12 a.m. and I Thought I was a Rapper”

 

Woman Writer Wednesday: Lenora Inez Brown

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#WomenWritersWednesday is a docu-series that explores the inner lives of women writers. Writers discuss everything from inspiration to writing processes to inherited gifts.

Dramaturge and writer, Lenora Inez Brown shares why writing is horrible, the challenges for creators of color on the theatre, and what dramaturge do. Brown has published two books: The Art of Active Dramaturgy: Transforming Critical Thought into Dramatic Action, and,  New Play Development: Facilitating Creativity for Dramaturgs, Playwrights, and Everyone Else. She has also written several articles and chapters. She has been a guest dra­maturg for the Sundance Theatre Lab 2000 and 2001, the Southern Writer’s Project at Alabama Shakespeare Festival, the Kennedy Center’s Youth and Family Program’s New Visons/New Voices and the Cleveland Play House.

 

Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah and the Necessity of the Black Woman Critic

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bell hooks wrote in her book, remembered rapture: the writer at work:

“Whenever I meet black females who have compelling visions, who have knowledge of our collective buried to share or moving personal stories, I urge them to write. I plead with them to put it down somewhere in journal and diaries, just put it somewhere […] We write to leave legacies for the future.”

My piece on Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah ( @the-rachelkaadzighansah) and the Necessity of the Black Woman Critic is an urgent echoing of hooks’ words to many of the black women writer/critics from across the diaspora. While I couldn’t name you all, I hope you accept this as a token of my appreciation for the work you do in capturing our varied histories and legacies. May you, please, continue on writing it down.

You can read my latest for Blavity, Here

#WomanWriterWednesday: Lady Silk

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#WomenWritersWednesday is a docu-series that explores the inner lives of women writers. Writers discuss everything from inspiration to writing processes to inherited gifts.

Lady Silk is a writer deeply influenced by Hip-Hop. I spoke with her about the importance of telling the truth, living in order to write, and how she likens her writing to an MC rapping.

 

#WomenWriterWednesdays: Cynthia Amoah

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#WomenWritersWednesday is a docu-series that explores the inner lives of women writers. Writers discuss everything from inspiration to writing processes to inherited gifts.

Cynthia Amoah is a spoken word artist originally from Ghana. Her powerfully articulated poems have taken her around the world. She tackles subjects like race and gender as she fuses her experiences as an African and American Woman into a voice that is uniquely her own. I spoke with her about her performance style, the oratorical power of her ancestors, and the responsibility to tell her story.