Writers Voices – Survival Math – Mitchell S Jackson



I had a mentor gordon lish an editor years ago and one of the things used to say is never elevate yourself above the other in your work and we have a really timely interesting fascinating book today to discuss our guest is Mitchell s Jackson now Mitchell's acclaimed debut novel the residue years won the Ernest Gaines prize for literary excellence and was a finalist for a large number of awards including the pen Hemingway award for first fiction and the Hurston write legacy award and Jackson has received numerous honors from such places as the Ford Foundation Penn America TED foundation for the arts etc his writing has appeared in the New York Times Book Review The Paris Review The Guardian tin house and elsewhere he is a clinical associate professor of writing in Liberal Studies at New York University the title of this book is survival math notes on an all-american family welcome to writers voices Mitchell now do you prefer to go by Mitchell or Mitch they were my students I would say Mitchell with okay so Mitchell you wrote a novel I'm guessing well you published a novel have you written other novels other than the one that was published no that was it I just stuck with that for a very long time 13 years I worked on that novel Wow yeah that's not the longest that I've had guests say they worked on a novel so you're close to winning the prize but not quite well what is the prize you know I think about 20 years I think so and now this book survival math is part memoir dirt would you say sociological study of inner-city black communities okay partly history of Portland yes and what else what else can what else is wrapped in I would I guess the most simple way I would describe it is a is a memoir in essays and I think I make the distinction in my hair because I feel like each chapter is has a an idea at the heart of it that's like separate from whatever their preceding or the following chapter is so I like but I also think that because all of them are kind of grounded in stories about me or my family that that's where the kind of memoir comes in so I say a memoir and essays it's the description I've been using so it does include those other elements you know history sociology psychology a little bit right right and what drove you to write this book so I was looking when residue came out the resident years which I just call residue the novel came out it received a fair amount of a critical attention but I remember when I when I was sending it out on submission to age no note I'm sorry to editors that one of the quotes the responses that I got back from an editor that like drove me crazy was this I felt that the combination of intellectual references and street slang and chants voice came off sounding oddly and plausible as original as it is and that just I mean it it it bugged me when I first read it it bugged me like almost all the through the process of publishing residue and I just kept thinking and wow this God can't imagine that a guy could be both you know against for lack of a better explanation or description like street-smart and literary smart or academic and I think that this book is a way for me to kind of force a reader to reckon with both of those cells it is I think unusual for a lot of people who aren't exposed to the type of community that you grew up in to understand that both of those are there yeah and yeah and so I think I think you're getting the word out now let's talk about the title okay survival math which is also the title of one of the essays yeah and it has to do with if I if I get this right you can create sort of the calculations that are young well maybe not even just young but the calculations that a black man in America today has to go through just to survive yeah black man I think it's the calculations that people who are placed there often people who live in disadvantaged communities must compute in order to kind of either stay alive or to like have some sense of security in their life and with me it just so happened to kind of come out of a confrontation with a guy that could have you know ended up with me being there and and you know I wasn't actually thinking about it as survival mapping those in the twenty years ago when it happened or 25 years ago but I do know that there was several sit-ins that I had to make in a very short span of time so he he threatened me and you know said he was gonna he would kill me and between him saying that and me responding to him I don't know how many kind of thoughts went through my head but later on and when I started composing the book and this is again decades later I started to ask myself well I know that my a lot of my family members are living in the same community and I'm wondering if them had similar experiences or if there were experiences that were different than mine but they were also that also had something to do with survival and so I went and asked I interviewed 16 min of my family and I asked each of them the same question and the question was what's the toughest thing that you survived and then I took their answers and I wrote them as second person narratives choosing the second person because I thought that it was one way to invite the reader to empathize and even to imagine themselves as the protagonist and then I also wanted to give the people who I interviewed like a some some form of anonymity so I never distinguished which story belongs to which person either so those are all kind of a part of theirs they both the photos and the stories make up what's called the survival files in the book and those are interspersed between the essays yeah right and so the pictures then these are all relatives appears yes relatives all of my brothers my uncles cousins grandfather is even in there and the photos you know kind of mostly look sort of like mug shots was that intentional yeah well the one thing that I wanted to do was to decontextualize the images Sasha I should also say that a part of them photo the reasoning for the photos was I was responding to I started thinking about this when they like that the kind of inception of the black lives matter movement when you know like they were saying that some of the people that were killed had looked dangerous or were threatening right I really wanted to see if I could kind of challenge that and so what I did with the photo listed I I told them to take all of the jury off you know earrings I also placed them all in a state where all wearing the very same thing which is a black t-shirt I framed them roughly the same I shot them in black and white so I was trying to remove as much context as I could from them to really invite the reader to question did these men look dangerous and then also to try to match the the stories to the men so you know what is it that you see in a particular person that makes you think that they have done these things or had these kind of experiences which to me is also kind of critiquing our implicit biases and yeah they do look like mug shots there's a they used to have these rogue galleries in the I think it was the 19th like the mid 19th century they were really famous where they would take mug shots and like basically turn them into art and so I think this is the cover very much represents like a kind of a neo rogue gallery so I also want to question this idea of what it means to be a rogue you know to be honest when I first glanced at this before I look closely I thought most of the men looked angry but as I look closer most of them look sad huh yeah yeah well I I try to get them to as much as they could not a moat a particular emotion I think that's hard for people who aren't trained dancers but I really wanted them to you know not to reveal to reveal as little as they could know in the photo but you're the eyes are always going to yeah hope it's gonna tell you're listening to writers voices with Monica and Caroline and our guest today is Mitchell s Jackson author of survival math notes on an all-american family so you write about some difficult things in here yeah and what kind of feedback did you get from your family do they feel like you're revealing family secrets you do try and provide anonymity to people who might want or need it but yeah but still there's a lot a lot going on in here yeah well they haven't read it yet most of them so we haven't got to the what did they think part yeah and I'm actually leaving I'm um here in Wisconsin now but the next month a stop on my tour is home so I'm going home to Powell to Portland and Powell's book store and everyone is asking for books so I guess we shall find out what they think about what I wrote but I think I go into it with not necessarily confidence but with the I guess a little bit of a sucker of having you know done the best that I could with the information and knowing that I was pretty pure hearted and what like I didn't write anything that I was intentionally trying to harm someone and I also think that the people that I wrote the toughest things about are also the people that I have like maybe the closest relationships with so they they understand our relationship outside of my writing and I would hope that they understand that I have you know I want I don't want to see them harmed but then I also think you know like the tough stuff is the stuff that you need to write about because that's you know that's where the conflict is and that's also where the challenge is to figure out how to write about it and then you know for me it was like well why am i doing this and I hope that there's something to be gained for people who might be experiencing similar circumstances well the person that you were the hardest on was yourself well one of them yeah yeah well you know throughout your you know this the secrets that you're revealing or probably you know a good portion of them are your own yeah and so it's not like you're just hanging anybody else out there without you saying I'm out here with you yeah well that was um I had a mentor gordon lish an editor and one of the things he used to say has never elevate yourself above the other in your work and I think that that is I know that's a guiding light and in both of my fiction animal nonfiction it's like if you can reveal something about or critique another person then you also have to be able to turn that same level of critique on yourself in your work and I think that that gives it a kind of fairness in the work that I strive for and yeah I can see that I feel like you're successful at that but as I as I was reading it and the the part that that I think that you meant to the where you're hardest on yourself is the essay titled the scale yes yeah yeah and having had a little bit of experience on the other side of that story what I'm wondering is and what I know now admittedly I you know to do this I do a show once a week and so I have to read the books pretty quickly so I may not have gotten everything out of it but I kept wondering and didn't get an answer too why did you change how did you change yeah well I don't I don't I think there are multiple reasons for it I think one of the kind of the simplest reason is like I got older and my not only that I get older and my kind of value shift with the age like I just I don't want to be out running around and you know it takes a lot of energy like you just can't keep that up that's not it that's not an old man it's not sustainable maybe we should give a little context into what the scale is about about levels of womanizing and it really trying uses a criminal profile the structure of a criminal profile to interrogate the kind of the history of womanizers but then also situate myself in in that history and then to question you know what was the environment that produced that but also like what are the kind of psychological factors that did it and then it also detailed the harms that I've caused women and so it's really you know I was thinking this morning about it I was like well I started that essay in 2011 and but I finished revising it you know several months back and that was really at the I don't know if it's the apex workers will know years from now but like what it felt like the apex of the me to movement and but then I said well it's a difference though because in him you bet you correct me if you think that I'm wrong they're like me too was about women forcing men to reckon with what they wrought against other women right right in this case it was me me to win myself – I mean you yeah yeah you're saying yeah it's like look at all doing when you ask you know how did I change I think a part of it was was growth but it's also like there's a I think the thing and I don't know if I maybe got this through an essay is that this is part of a like community and it's a community of like-minded thinkers for various reasons and so if you're a part of a community and the community's value systems change then it gives you less reason or maybe even less opportunities and keep up the same behavior and have the same reinforcements and so when my friends grow older and get married and have children and and have really good jobs and you know there's no there's not the reinforcement for what you're doing and is less and so a part of it while you're doing is that this currency that you can use with other men but when you lose that it's like well then you have to ask yourself like why am I doing this like is this just something that's inherent in me or is this a part of my nose nurturing or socialization and I think from myself I couldn't answer the question of why do it when there was like little positive feedback for it hmm so those are I think those are two kind of reasons for how I got to a space outside that I mean I guess you can also say that I open myself up more to vulnerability in my relationships and maybe that's a part of being older it could be a part of watching my daughter who'll be 18 this year you know like I know what she's about to come into these relationships and I definitely don't want to model something that I don't want her to interact with yeah now you you grew up in a neighborhood or in a community that we're just say criminals what is considered criminal behavior is was pretty prevalent it's particularly it seems like in the generation before you yes and so has it gotten better is it is it continuing to improve and then you know I'm making an assumption that less criminality is an improvement over more criminality but well you know I interview someone was talking about yeah criminality but before and I was like well to a certain degree the weather's criminal or criminal or not is in the it's like the state right right so then so but one of the things in the scale that I talked about is the two types of crimes throughout history are with animala and say and in mala prohibitor Somalia and say crimes or crimes that are wrong in and of themselves so like they're like violations of our kind of moral code and then mala prohibitor Clark crimes are like crimes and are wrong because the state statute and in the state statute says because the state says so and so when we talk about criminality I mean we can talk about crimes that are like wrong in and of themselves and then but then there are also you know crimes that are like well they're just you know they've been criminalized but write some kind of state I think my the men that I grew up with were on both sides of that like I would argue that you know Pippi is a mala and sacred like to take advantage of a woman to force her to coerce her to go out and do your bidding and to take all of her resources is mala and say I think if we talk about drug dealing I think we get into a kind of sticky hair place because you know over the course of American history certain drugs have been legal and not lead going back legal again so then we have to ask ourselves like is that is it wrong in and of itself I mean we looked at just you know the marijuana what's happening now all across the country like I know people who did time for marijuana and now that would not be the case so in that mala and say or mala prohibitor well I think that would be mala prohibitor yeah yeah so yeah I grew up with me and I don't think that it's changed much if at all and that is because it's symptomatic of the social climate and so I mean I don't think that black people are in any better shape that they were and they were in in the 1970s I think we might have you know we we could say that we have exemplars but I don't feel I feel like the communities that we're struggling are struggling in the same way that they were struggling two three decades ago which produces what these men who are willing to engage in behavior that has been criminalized now you know looking at your family history first of all there seemed to be quite a lot of instability in the generation before you maybe before that but going back to your great-grandparents was very stable yeah and what do you think you know how did that get lost how did that stability get lost I think the stability was lost in the the fracturing of the family so my great-grandparents were married well actually my great-grandmother which I write about what died mysteriously and then my great-grandfather remarried a woman who I name is mama eating that was her name and so they stayed married I don't know 40 years and they were the first Jacksons as my part of the family that came to Portland and she could not have children so she adopted children but they had a very stable household but I guess this also gets back to Mala Mala and saying my luck inhibitor because she was from a family of wealth and they're in the way did they gain their wealth within the prohibition so they were bootleggers parents were bootleggers and then they send all their kids to college and bought a bunch of land in Alabama so if my grandmother was a person of me my great-grandmother was a person of means so when they moved to Portland they they didn't really have to struggle in that sense but my grandmother my mother's mother died in an altercation with my grandfather and so that really was the first kind of fracturing of that family unit and so from then on out like none of mine none of none of my grandfather's children have had successful long-term relationships except maybe I don't even know if my uncle has yes so to me that's where it kind of started on the Jackson side now I'm a Johnson side my great-grandmother I mean my grandmother my father's mother married several men and and you know never staying with him and had many different children so there was also this kind of we never did that they never had stability in their home so I think it really starts with the kind of family unit right and and societal influences you know that's a family unit isn't an island unto itself so right there are certainly influences and even even you know a family of means a family of that may appear from the outside is stable you'd like your great grand there may have been stuff going on right behind those doors that that impacted the children from that family yeah that's always you never know you never know and so Mitchell why don't you read a little bit from survival math so we can get the listeners can kind of get a feel for your voice okay if there's a curse words that I omitted yes what was the first survival file that I actually composed which is actually the first survival file in the book and I'll do my best all right you're out one night at the weekend hot spot of too many straight shots to count and therefore the kind of Fae that you swear meta folds are funny when you hear a dude you don't know say blood to Kappa since I didn't know people with still gangbanging you say and such the mirrors faces from Earth but don't nobody smile nor laugh and in fact dude smack you upside your dome as if your joke was his cute in an instant the two of you take to scrapping inside the club while neighbourhood dudes whose account could damage your rep bear witness and you best him before being wrenched apart and bounced outside he paces one way you paste the other and in the distance between you lies the tacit truth that the animosity is in no way squashed the next day your friend is hosting your brother's moving to New York BBQ fish fry and you show up hours prior dump a shoebox carrying your easy and nine-millimeter on the living room table and shout to the group of gathered man and god I heard somebody was looking for me well let them know I had hard to find somebody come die in your mid-thirties you'll bust one shot near but just near your father inside your crib not to kill him but to discourage him from discouraging you against prosecuting what might be your last ballistic beef but on this day your your late 20s which in this case is plenty old enough to die you stop out of the house and slam yourself into your car driven by your ride to beyond good sense girlfriend your brother calls and cautioned you against doing something you'll regret and furthermore against returning to the barbecue Fish Fry hours after his call you flout your dis invitation which is to say you show up and stop the yard with a waist tug nine-millimeter bulging under your t-shirt in a scale that ain't got no place near nothing festive you see a dude who witness your scuffle the night before a dude who's a friend of your new foe and you flash your 9 and threaten him into the basement you know your pistol in plain view and see we can scrap right here right now you say bro I don't want no problems he says it warns your newest aren't just fun heard word of your whereabouts and it's on his way into the BBQ french fries for action by now almost everyone wants you to leave including the father of the friend who's hosting and it's the father's wish you decide to heed oh the timing you stopped out of the yard Pierre down the street and in the distance see you're new aren't faux among a circle of dudes you pulled a pistol from your waist and men women and God's only begotten Son be darned marched into the middle of the street once you told a grade school teacher of your plan to become a hit man and though you haven't considered that career choice in ages today could be the day that delivers you to the threshold of that young hope before you shoot yourself into that faint or grow you know from high school darts between you and your new foe she calls your name please please stone please she announces your FASFA is her brother appeals once more against gun plane and you pause seen an escape out of what a breath before fell for ordained oh that show brother you say and lower your pistol the next week you pull into the parking lot of the grocery store with your daughter in the passenger seat and out of someplace unseen your foe pulls up beside you neither hand touches the wheel and you bet blood on why they aren't interview and what one holds decisions of which the most fool would be to reach for what's under your seat your daughter is a fifth grader which is to say in this instance plenty old enough to die you curl over her embrace and when you don't hear a pistol bark you raise your head shaking no no no no no no no no look your foe eye to assassin black eye and mouth man I don't want no problems it's squash its squash he idles for what could be the rest of your and your firstborns life and that was Mitchell that's Jackson reading from survival math notes on an all-american family so I'm curious about the survivor files which there 16 right here and they're all about that length how long did you spend like hours in conversation with these men to and to boil it down their story into you know it's such a succinct powerful story yeah yeah I did them all you know I don't know if you heard of Kenneth 10 house magazine yeah in fact Michelle wild grin used to be the editor and I took a course from her once and she's been also before yeah I don't know if she's still there or not well you know they're closing we're not the magnet the magazine yeah the magazine is closing oh wow that's too bad yeah but they have the tin house which is a place in downtown Portland and what I didn't know is that they let writers stay in the tent house for very cheap and so one summer I came home and I stayed there for like 12 days and I actually conducted most of the interviews for the survival files in tin house and so I was just call I called you know my uncles cousins and I would just invite them over I had a setup I shout out with these Polaroids which and then I would you know sit down and talk to them for an hour to and then I would always have follow-up so one thing that the survivor files do and it actually started from that file that I said I guess that was the template for them is that there's always a moment in the file well I look into the past and one moment where I look into the future so in this particular one I look into the future when he'll shoot and his father in his house and then I look into the past where he said once that he wanted to be a hitman so I was also trying to find moments that I thought contextualized the current whatever the current moment was right yes see now if you hadn't pointed that out I wouldn't have noticed it yeah but that's it's really interesting to carry that thread through all of these yeah Oh interesting yeah so what led you to become a writer but oh so I used to journal a lot especially when my mom was first struggling with her addiction and I didn't have an outlet to talk about it I in journals and I only know this because I don't remember doing it because she kept some of those notebooks and so all of this it was really me talking about trauma but I didn't consider myself a writer I was not a childhood reader I just start like reading really reading until I was already in graduate school for writing but I first you know I remember meeting was when I was in prison and if we had like a – a – shell bookshelf or yeah – shell bookshelf and I read a few novels while I was incarcerated that's where I thought like oh I'm gonna write my life story one because people would like to make that claim in the while they're locked up that if someone wrote their life story and would be a best-seller but then also because I was on a I was on an academic scholarship when I went into prison and I knew I was going right back to college and so I wanted to start preparing my faculties for going back to being you know forced to think in a different way and so I thought writing with would prepare me for school I got out in July of 1998 and in September eventually I did I was enrolled back in college so it was a really quick turnaround and when you were when you were in prison was it for something that today you wouldn't have been locked up for no I would have been like I was pretty selling crack okay good so yeah but you were in college yeah I was in communication because but I was just I didn't really have a focus I just I thought I was gonna play basketball and I thought eventually I would go overseas to play and and so school was just something to do that kind of made me not feel like a failure what I was selling drugs but also you know it gave me like a reason to get in and to have something to do and feel like our it was participle do you feel like you were lucky to have broken that cycle of dealing drugs and pimping and so forth thinning go to college or was it something other than luck well you know the crazy thing is most of the men that I am right about maybe even all of them it's a I'm talking about like the my forebears so like my us my uncle is my dad all of them went to college at someone really yeah they were all really bright yeah some of them became preachers they all like like really first-rate rhetoric Titian you know so like in that sense I mean I don't I don't think any of them maybe a couple of them graduating some but I don't think most of them graduated but they all went so they all in there all the way saw the value of like formal education so you were following tradition not breaking with it go in and graduate and I was also like you know I mean I was like on the honor roll and the Dean's List and all that so so maybe I don't know if they did that but yeah they all went and they I would say they were all really smart I mean there definitely were witty and you know resourceful and all of those things but also I think look smart you know I found interesting and I don't remember which which essay it is and oh I think it's the one about the pose which is about pimping that yet the sort of pimp – preacher actually like corrupt preachers are really just pimps yeah right like they just say they they take all the offering then go buy their Cadillacs and Rolls Royces and jets and all of that stuff and there's they really are head down and palm up literally yeah which is what the pose head down palm up yeah what does that mean so it's a position then I mean you're supposed to as a pimp when you are dealing with a woman that's working for you it's supposed to keep your head down and put your hand out so it's what can she give you and then also you're never looking at her so I think it's in one way it's like to kind of ignore the the harm that you're causing and the other way is like your hand is always out because that is one you need it but that's also you have to enforce upon her that this is the only thing that she should be doing for you is like giving you all of our resources and so I take that idea and then try to extrapolate and say well what other areas of American culture are other people using this same kind of ideology you're listening to writers voices with Monica and Caroline and our guest today is Mitchell s Jackson author of survival math notes on an all-american family one thing that surprised me in that I believe it was in that chapter where you're talking about your aunt who became a sex worker by her own insistence yeah is that a common thing do you think that because you know there's the whole idea of trafficking and and how wrong that is but then if if a woman chooses that work right it's it's confusing doing the research like I didn't know that she was so insistent upon that and I don't I mean I I mean it does make it really hard to find the correct the the pure Fault in that kind of relationship at least the wait with me but again you know she's passed so I'm only getting his side of the story but I remember I just read recently recently meaning that I guess the last few months there was someone who posted something on Facebook a guy that I know who's like I don't know if he's a former pimp or he's a current pimp but he at some point was involved in life and then the woman some it was a woman that posted and the way that she spoke I mean it was clear that she had been a sex worker but she spoke about it and this like in the same way that my idea was like you know I don't know why people are disparaging this and like this is what I do and I have this set of rules and I was like wow like that was so interesting to me it wasn't like she was retain herself as a victim she was actually like like proud of it almost and so I guess that that had to be like the most kind of rare circumstance I would think most women but even then it's like what are the forces that made her believe that that was an option in her life what kind of a moral will you is she in that like she can make that okay in her in her world so so even if she say like this is what I want to do and you know I'm gonna do it anyway like I think we would have to take a longer look at that and say like well what are the forces that make that make this an option in a person's life well I think that to some extent other opportunities being very limited right yeah other point is like well then it's not really an option for anyone right right if that's your only option then it's not an option right yeah yeah some of the other things that I found really fascinating you're writing in one chapter about how the gang started and I guess that's survival math it's in that chapter and there was a sentence in here you're kind of comparing the gangs to that nation's and to nationalism and of course that's one of the reasons why this book is so timely because of the rise in nationalism both here in the US and in Europe and you you write this one sentence that really just struck me so members of a nation I'll call them nationalists love in proportion to the sacrifices that they've committed and the troubles suffered and reason that jumped out at me is because you know I'm not afraid to say that I think Trump is an abomination and what's happening in our country is horrible and I don't and it's so hard to understand these people who are so harmed by his poems and yet support him and this is an explanation for that yeah yeah it's just like shared suffering coheres a nation more than their share triumphs but that wasn't mean I think I'm paraphrasing there but I do agree with that right okay so the more that he can paint them as being victimized by some aspect of American culture the more it's unifying them and the more that we kind of you know can't understand them and encounter us and other them right as a nasty mess I'm kind of what you know the the mainstream the more that they unify so it's like looks like it's like fighting a monster that you can't win because the more the jerk hike or more you call them a monster the stronger the monster becomes yeah yeah and you keep thinking well they've got to wake up and see that you're victimized by the same forces that they're following yeah you know when it when are they going to see that and that the people that they that they demonize are the ones that are trying to help them yeah it's but you know there's um in the essay man which one is it uh it might be I think it might be match man I don't remember actually which essay it is but there is every it might be in survival man but it's like every country has a every nation has a sacrifice right and so you know so so so these kind of marginalized groups become the sacrifice for the nation to prosper and I think there is also something to be said about and maybe that I think that's an American blood actually but I think that that is like if you can convince someone that like you love the state so much that your lack of prosperity is actually a sacrifice that is the nation that the nation demands then you can make it like like a like something for them to be proud of as well right and it does sometimes seem like people who are who get less out of the system that we have are the most patriotic right yeah which you know puzzle is puzzling but it's also understandable because of what you just said all right we're getting short on time so I have a couple of other things I want to get to okay another way this book is really timely is the current attention being paid to the idea of reparations and you do get into a little bit there's not a lot of it but a little bit into what happened you know how when the slaves were freed and yeah and how what a deep hole they were starting the freed slaves or former slaves or what is it people who had been enslaved rather than identifying them as rather than slavery being part of their identity being something happened to them what a deep deep hole they were starting out in and how how that still has an impact today yeah yeah that's a and then in that saying I was trying to figure out I was really kind of thinking about my father my stepfather my uncles and like who our lifetime hustlers and then like well where did this come from that they felt like this was a necessity for them and so I was trying to track the genesis of the hustler as I knew it and it just at some point in just dawned on me that like there would have been no need for hustling when they were enslaved and that so that meant been hustling as I knew it had to have been born after manumission and so it was really me kind of tracking you know what did many many miss lanes do and you know there's a famous Frederick Douglass speech where he's saying like whoo yeah they freed them but they freed them to famine and to suffer and to you know all of those things like all you really got was like a certain ostensible freedom while everything else was you were still enslaved and so one of the things I think in the book that maybe kind of breaks it down to the Commission of memoir as well is that I imagine whole scene so like I imagined one slave coming out of an enslaved person being man you made it right so I didn't have I could not find the first the first person to start hustling so I had to invent that I'll do the same thing with like imagining Frederick Douglass making a reprisal of his what to the flame as a fourth of July speech so there are moments where they're like pure fiction in this book they're they're few and far between but and I also make sure that I hope prep the reader that did what follows is is pure imagination right right I couldn't get to some of those things and I had to figure out well how am I gonna do this it's they're a type of writing that you enjoy doing most no I just enjoyed sittings making so as long as I can make sentences to make sense so I like the freedom to make the same kind of sentences I want to make so like I will refuse an opportunity if I feel like the publication will want except my voice because I just I think that to me the voice is who I am and so it's the identity and if you take that away from me it's like you've taken away my power so I do like that though I had trouble with the the central poems right because I could not I had to use the language that was already in the documents so that was that's a different thing but I still tried to like organize the senses in a way that still was representative of how I think about the world and are you working on another project now I wish I do actually I have kind of started like I've taken notes and watched a couple documentaries and I know what it is I'm writing a novel based on a coke in Portland that was led by a black man oh so yeah so I'm really excited because I get to create a voice you know like a voiceless you know biblical but then also he would like from Watts California so he's also like streetwise so I'm just I'm really excited to kind of figure out what that sounds like Wow and I kind of switch subjects but what are what are your thoughts about reparations since that's now my subject if they were giving them out I would be in line I think I think that if we give out reparations and then we keep the same systems in place to keep people of color or I guess in this case black people like excluded from the means of like keeping the wealth it's like it's like winning the lottery exactly you know so like as long as the financial markets are set up and they are having a bunch of money wouldn't necessarily you know like it would be great in the short-term but like it's not going to create generational wealth because there's a book I didn't read the book but I saw it on a book review it was a guy's basic premise was that that the financial What did he say yeah but the financial system or the financial markets and philanthropy where arms and white supremacy and like they're basically saying that they were both they both keep maintaining the status quo and so I really do think that like you could give us a bunch of money but when we didn't have access to like the best schools and you know if we couldn't participate in the markets in the way that they do then if you don't grow up in an in an environment that knows how to deal with money it can be very hard to learn that successful yeah later I've seen this with some very very close friends very very challenging and so it's it's very likely that a large portion of people would will not would not be able to hang on to the money for very long and and that's common you know whenever there's a redistribution of wealth for whatever reason it ends up getting concentrated again yeah that's you know look at history you're gonna find that my fear is that if we if if the US government did these reparations then that would be like an excuse okay the playing fields even now so you know we're you know anything else like now we can do yeah I guess exactly exactly I know I know so we're out of time and it's been so much fun talking to you today Mitchel yeah been a bland good luck with your tour I know you're just starting out and you've got yeah to go and I want to recommend to all my listeners survival math notes on an all-american family Mitchell quotes a very powerful speech by Frederick Douglass on manumission in the book and since Caroline isn't here to provide our closing quote here is a quote from Frederick Douglass that I think is very appropriate for this book it is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men see you all next week on writers voices

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