When I started this blog and chose “truth is stranger than fiction,” as the tagline, it was puzzling to people. Someone even reached out to correct, me, saying, “don’t you mean the truth is stronger than fiction?”
No. Stranger is the word I meant.
What it seeks to communicate is that nothing we can create can be as unusual as what we find in actual life, and speaks metaphorically of the unsettling realness of truth—the “strangeness” of reality. You think something is weird until you find out just how deep the rabbit hole goes. You think my blog name and the tagline is strange until you understand what it means.
Everything that is happening right now, I could quickly put in a novel. Except, there is no story I can conjure up that would be equivalent to the real-life terror that blacks face and have faced every day in this country.
As someone who writes Black Historical Fiction, there is a strangeness about what’s going on because what happened in the 60s is still happening. And as I place my fictional characters amid events that actually happened, I realize that I am a character in the present world, a world that mirrors the one passed. Our children and their children will read about what happened this year, and they will ask the question, “what was it like living in a world with civil unrest because of the mistreatment of blacks during a pandemic?”
The first five months of 2020 have been brutal on every level, and we are living in what will one day be part of America’s history, and it must not be lost to us that we are part of that history.
If America were a house, racism would be the foundation on which this house sits. People don’t want to hear that many of the founding fathers were slave-owners. They don’t want to hear about the Slave Patrols turned southern police departments. People don’t want to hear that dismantling systemic racism means to dismantle that system. And people certainly do not want to hear about the spiritual connections between the afflictions blacks have endured, their real identity and heritage, and their place in America.
But there is no one way of looking at everything that’s going on, but this is also what makes writing a powerful tool for shedding light on these truths, exposing prejudices, and breaking down barriers, and eventually whole systems.
Everyone can’t be on the ground. I won’t say “on the front lines,” because I don’t believe there is one way to be on the front lines. The term comes from the military line or part of an army that is closest to the enemy. To be on the “front line” means to be closeted to the enemy, which is usually depicted as physically facing him. But there are other ways to face the enemy, and one way is to write with accuracy.
Write the truth. Write it as raw and as bloody as it is in real life. Pass down stories to the next generation that will teach them the truth about who they are. Take Toni Morrison, for example, who in the 60s and 70s chose to publish the books of black writers telling the truth and exposing lies. Books play a significant role in educating a people, and miseducation has a lot to do with what is and is not, written in books.
Writers are, therefore, also on the front lines and in a powerful way. In the words of Nina Simone, “you can’t help it. As far as I’m concerned, an artist’s duty is to reflect the times.”
As devastating as things are right now, what black writers write today, be it a poem or blog post or scholarly article, can make a difference in the next world.
In this 99th year of the destruction of Black Wall Street, I am thinking about ways to improve my fiction, poetry, and other writings to provide a better historical context and learning experience for the next generation.
I hope I can adequately contextualize it in a way that clearly communicates what today’s world was like for those who lived it.
Be Sure to Pick Up Your Copy of my Black Historical Fiction Series, The Stella Trilogy and to leave a review on Amazon. Click Here.