The Geography Of The Imagination Forty Essays

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There is the sense in the mind of not being here or there, of no way out or in. My goal as a writer of speculative fiction is to engage the tropes of captivity, migration, and transformation in a narrative that is thrilling, compelling, and revealing.

Some bemoan the seeming abundance of “slavery stories,” arguing that African American historical fiction only dredges up an abject past that shames young black readers, but I believe speculative fiction generates the kind of narrative possibility that enables us to revise, re-view, and reclaim the past.

I started high school that same year, and my essays took on a formal tone and were sprinkled with archaic words (such as gaoler for jailer).

When asked to make a picture book in my senior creative writing class, I wrote a story about a white family that neglects its youngest member; when little Violet goes outside to play with the wind, she grabs hold of a neighbor’s kite and is swept away.

I spent one summer with my father in Brooklyn and determined to build a life there. But what differentiates me from most other immigrants — and what binds me more closely to my black ancestors — is the fact that I am also a descendant of those enslaved Africans who were forced to pass through that infamous Door, one of dozens found in the fortresses that once dotted the west coast of Africa.

The First Family visited Cape Coast Castle during the President’s 2009 trip to Ghana; an African American tourist who witnessed the Obamas’ visit testified to the power of that moment: “The world’s least powerful people were shipped off from here as slaves.

I learned early on that only white children had wonderful adventures in distant lands; only white children were magically transported through time and space; only white children found the buried key that unlocked their own private Eden.

Perhaps the one benefit of being so completely excluded from the literary realm was that I had to develop the capacity to dream myself into existence.

My mother’s maternal ancestors were African American slaves who bought their freedom and arrived in Ontario in 1820.

I left Canada at age twenty-one not because of political persecution but because I was unhappy and could only envision a better future for myself somewhere else.


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