Laissez Faire

Letting Life Lead

Yeah Write #88: Write It Down, Write It Down Forever ( #amwriting #nonfiction)


When I was in junior high school, I would stop home for five minutes, lay my heavy book bag in its corner in my room, and dash back to the door with four books.  “Going to the library!”

I strolled between the rear space between the Seventh Day church housed in a former, stone storage building (which had services every night of the week) and Down to Earth Natural Foods. I passed the packed comic book store on the corner, the mom-n-pop video place, and Auntie Anne’s Crafts. Folks waiting at the bus near Recas Pharmacy spoke Spanglish and Kriolu. The major intersection at the flashy Sunday church with the old Ginko tree in front didn’t have a working cross signal so you had to time your sprint to the red light. Madonna, Michael, and rap beats blared from the car windows.

The library and park wasn’t far from the schools. Back then, the city festival would be held on the grounds and piles of books would be waiting out front for a quarter or half-dollar.

The librarian raised her eyebrows at me, peeking over bug-lens glasses while she was reorganizing the card catalog according to Dewey. “Again? Weren’t you here two days ago?”

I’d set the books on the counter and promptly picked four more that I had had my eye on the last time. “Yup.”

She pushed up the sleeves of her loud sweater. “Why don’t you go ahead and take out as many as you want.”

“Really?” I hesitated, narrowing my eyes. “How about twenty?”

“We trust you. Go on.”

I limited myself to ten and stretched my visits to once a week. Around then I started writing as an obsession. However, it didn’t occur to me to write about the people I knew or saw on a daily basis. Instead, super tall people with no connection to me filled my head. They were usually Caucasian and American. With the exception of books like The Island of the Blue Dolphins the vast majority of the young adult and adult fiction featured on the “picks of the week” were homogeneous characters: Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Sweet Valley High, Choose Your Own Adventure. Encyclopedia Brown wasn’t…brown. Even the fantasy and science fiction often failed in diversity. Dark elves weren’t dark skinned but fair (but orcs were dark skinned and dark of heart).

My writing matured and I began to incorporate more of my own experiences and snag snippets from life. I’m fond of writing about Ginkgo trees, older characters, smells of comfort cuisine, multilingual dialogue, and the memories of places long past. I am Dr. Daniel P. Schreber from Dark City taking from one and another, injecting authenticity and a smidge of could-be-true trauma to create something recognizable but wholly new.

“I don’t mean to sound classist, but why would a poor maid speak three languages?” a reader asked.

Being monolingual myself and feeling unsure, I removed the line from the background character that didn’t have prominence in the story other than in a memory of a relationship.

Last week, my students spoke to each other in various forms of Spanish and English after class. I recalled a long forgotten former student from Nigeria who spoke no less than three fluently. Many of my grandmother’s friends and family spoke not only their mother tongue Cape Verdean Kriolu, but also English and Portuguese. My world growing up was rich with diverse faces of all tones in every combination. Living with little was life. The cadence and musicality of ordinary conversation still echos in my mind. Decades later, polyglots are still the rule, not the exception.

The characters I pen are familiars. I write what I know.

I replaced the line; it deserves to be there.

 

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24 comments on “Yeah Write #88: Write It Down, Write It Down Forever ( #amwriting #nonfiction)

  1. Lisa Shaw
    December 20, 2017

    YES. Keep writing what you know. I love reading it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Stacie
    December 20, 2017

    You stuck the ending perfectly! I love your love of reading (I have that too). But representation matters. Obviously that was never an issue for me personally, being blonde and blue-eyed. But I’m so thrilled to see more representation now. I recently read “The Hate U Give,” and it was so good. We need more writers from different backgrounds in all genres, but particularly in YA fiction.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Laissez Faire
      December 21, 2017

      I will have to check that out, I have seen it recommended before. I have begun to wonder if the rise of self publishing that has helped opened the doors to more diverse books.

      Haha…do you remember all of the ya romance in the 80s? Sooo many.

      Like

      • Stacie
        December 21, 2017

        Danielle Steel, lol. I literally NEVER read romance now. That was a short-lived genre for me.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. hers4thereading
    December 20, 2017

    I love that we read so many of the same books growing up. I enjoyed your perspective about a lack of diversity in the characters. To me, they were all exotic, even if only for their adventures and relationships and the locations in which they lived. My only critique has to do with the description of your journey to the library. It was extremely detailed and specific, but it didn’t seem so tied to the theme of the rest of the piece. I think there is a tie to your love of reading and the adventures you had there. Maybe a small tweak could pull it closer.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Laissez Faire
      December 21, 2017

      I am not a nonfiction writer, so to me it all makes perfect sense and has layers. Lol. But I can see how the walk through my neighborhood might not seem to tie in with the contrast of how I was living and what I was reading. Nonfiction is a tough nut for me and tends to err on the clumsy side 🙂 Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

      Liked by 1 person

      • hers4thereading
        December 21, 2017

        Nonfiction is the hardest! I wouldn’t have known that you thought that based on what I read.

        Like

  4. Anonymous
    December 21, 2017

    How interesting it is that I read the very same books growing up! Nancy Drew, Hardy boys…I could visualise you walking down to and from your library, with your favourite books under your arm.I did that too. And, the pleasure it gave me can not be compared with much else! I, too, developed the love for writing while reading my favourite books as a young girl.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Laissez Faire
      December 21, 2017

      The library was a small one and I remember it exactly as it was then. I spent many hours there. Me and the old folks reading the paper. One day my mom got mad at me for not knowing where a I was and If was like…uh…where else do I go???? Lol

      Like

  5. Danielle Dayney
    December 21, 2017

    Perfect ending, Tara! I loved this piece. It could have been a conversation between the two of us – very natural. Keep writing what you’re writing. I love reading it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Laissez Faire
      December 21, 2017

      Thanks. You all made me do it. Too bad my younger self didn’t have a nerd writing group to hang out with 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Just Me
    December 21, 2017

    Small writing world, I was the narrow minded reader who asked that question… (Which likely comes from a childhood being consistently exposed to a very non-diverse worldview.)

    I’m glad you put the line back. And for reminding me I have a responsibility to do better, to see beyond my own front door. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Laissez Faire
      December 21, 2017

      Honest, your question made me question why I often edit things out that I feel are authentic to me but not usually in the books I have read. We are all affected by our world bubbles. My bubble has some snags too. If I hadn’t had a grandfather with an 8th grade education who thrived on self education and DIY motivation, I would see education as a whole very differently! Have you seen “the danger of a single story?” https://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_sorry

      Liked by 1 person

      • Just Me
        December 21, 2017

        I haven’t see the TED talk, but that’s the second time it’s come up in conversation recently. Must make some time to watch!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Laissez Faire
        December 21, 2017

        Yes, do. It’ok stay with you

        Like

  7. unfoldingfromthefog
    December 21, 2017

    I bristled when I got to the part questioning the maid who spoke three languages. So I was glad to see the ending. The only monodemensional character was the person who questioned that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Laissez Faire
      December 21, 2017

      It was a bristle that I am glad I reflected on. I made me think how what a person is used to seeing affects them and why — in Japan when a Japanese American can’t speak it vs an African American exchange student who does fluently. Things that make you go erk. 😀

      Like

  8. innatejames
    December 21, 2017

    It really is narrow-minded to assume only wealthy people know more than one language. I’d never thought of that. Thanks for the new perspective.

    Like

  9. d3athlily
    December 21, 2017

    I’m sooo glad you keep writing what you know. That’s what makes your stories come to life so well, and why you’re such a master at dialogue. I agree, there is such a general lack of representation in all the best of picks. I used to trawl through the library looking for a Native American book that wasn’t Last of the Mohicans. hah

    Liked by 1 person

    • Laissez Faire
      December 21, 2017

      My first introduction to Native Americans was Hiawatha 😮

      Like

  10. optimisticauthor10
    December 21, 2017

    It does all start with a love of books. My favorites were the little Golden Books my mom would buy from the grocery store for 50 cents. She taught me to read just so she wouldn’t have to read them to me anymore. I truly believe that incredible writers are borne of voracious readers.

    Like

  11. michellelongo
    December 22, 2017

    I love that you put the line back in the story. By writing what we know to be true and not what everyone expects, we widen the perspective of people in a way that only stories can.

    Like

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