The Geography Of The Imagination Forty Essays

To live in the Black Diaspora is I think to live as a fiction — a creation of empires, and also self-creation. Du Bois’s idea of “double consciousness”: as an African American you see yourself as yourself, but also as the distorted image others have constructed in their minds.It is to be a being living inside and outside of herself… In this country of immigrants, the fact of one’s untraceable origins in Africa exists as what Brand calls “a visible secret,” something that is at once apparent yet remains unspoken in daily life.The place where all names were forgotten and all beginnings recast.

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Looking back on those days now, I marvel at the girl I once was.

Why would a plump, brown-skinned girl with an Afro embark on a quest to read all the books she could find by Frances Hodgson Burnett?

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.

The door out of which Africans were captured, loaded onto ships heading for the New World. I grew up in a former British colony, dreaming of magical wardrobes and secret gardens.

It is a door which makes the word door impossible and dangerous, cunning and disagreeable.—Dionne Brand, A Map to the Door of No Return I am an immigrant.

They were not, however, much of a mirror for my young black female self.

Doors figured rather prominently in my imagination, and books were indeed windows into other worlds.

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.


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