After a not-really-all-that-brief-at-all hiatus, The Writing Ass Chick We Love series returns with the homie Brooke Obie.
We’ve known each other since we worked together at EBONY.com, and I’ve read and admired your work in the past. But, in preparing for this feature, I visited your personal site (brookeobie.com) for the first time, and read your bio, and holy fucking shit! Why are you writing novels and not like, I don’t know, running for President or starting a colony on Mars? Do you introduce yourself to people by saying “Hi, I’m Brooke, and my bio will kick your bio’s ass?” Because I totally would if I were you.
Ha! Well, I will, now, thank you! My Twitter feed would disqualify me from the presidency; I don’t have Trump’s rich White maleness as a shield. I also have zero patience for politics, especially after this election year. This “lesser of two evils” scenario gives me less hope that any sort of revolutionary and lasting change can happen through the political process. That’s why I write fiction! I can upend entire systems with words. But that colony on Mars is not a bad idea…I told my 11-year-old nephew that I’d write a book for him to star in where Black people escape to another planet and are safe from racist/sexist/queerphobic harm. Like ‘Black World’ on In Living Color, or something.
Shit, can we join him? I mean, I’ll miss quite a bit about Earth — particularly the NBA League Pass and the bacon-wrapped bacon strips I made this morning — but the idea of an actual Black Planet is sounding better and better now.
I’m saying! So, I’m working on that, too, but I’m coming off of a 15-stop international tour for BOOK OF ADDIS, and people are already asking for the second and third books in the series so I’m writing these next two books first. In BOOK OF ADDIS, Addis is a 17-year-old magical Black girl who kills her enslaver, the first president of the country, and starts a revolution. It’s all about revolution for oppressed people; it’s a way for me to reimagine American history at the foundation of the country so this trash year 2016 we’re living in right now never comes to be.
The book sounds very Hunger Game/Divergent-ey. Which is unfortunately apropos today. I’ve never read either of those books, but I’ve seen the movies — I’ve seen Divergent at least five times because that’s what was shown every single night on this Royal Caribbean cruise I went on three years ago — and consumed them as allegorical dystopian fantasy. But after Darth Cheeto’s victory, they feel like predictions; guidebooks for how to survive in what may be the nearer-than-we-want-to-believe future. You wrote Book of Addis before all of this, though. What was the impetus behind this?
A part of the reason I wrote this was because of the hype around The Hunger Games books. It annoyed me that the deepest fear of a White-centered dystopia was that the things they’ve done to Black people would be done to them. I wanted to write this world history lesson to remind people that the dystopia for Africa’s descendants, brown people and Indigenous folks the world over has been white enslavement and colonization of the globe–the impact of which we’re all still feeling today. I also wanted Black Americans to be able to have a revolution in the way that these white characters get to have them–not just a physical freedom, but a mental one, as well. Addis journey includes the stripping away of anti-Blackness that she’s been socialized with. I hope the readers go on that journey too and can learn to embrace and be excited about the power and poetry and the inherently revolutionary nature of writing in Black vernacular. I hope readers unfamiliar with texts in Black vernacular will see the rejection of Standard English as empowering, as validating, and as a sign of Black brilliance and resilience. I hope they notice that every time the words black or dark are used, they signify beauty or safety for the enslaved people who long for night to shield them as they escape. I hope when readers see the Black people Addis meets in a free village in the North, they’ll note the village includes genderqueer people, femme leaders and warriors, egalitarian rule, and unconditional respect for each other’s humanity. The revolution for all Black lives starts in the mind and manifests in the physical, so I hope this book that contains so much true history mixed in with fiction can help people understand that nobody gets free unless we’re all free.
(Book of Addis can be found on Amazon, and is available in print and Kindle. Also, Brooke created a whole #BookofAddisSyllabus — comprised of work from the last 400 years to help us get through the next four.)