Chelene Knight: Last year, I was on a panel with Vivek Shraya and she said something that had us all shouting "Yes!" She said, "I just want to write about a lawn mower"—so, that idea of just writing something simple without worrying that we as marginalized writers are expected to write a "Black experience," the "people of color experience," or offer up trauma and pain on a platter.
And I wondered, too, is that an emerging writer problem? Is it anything that you experienced when you first started out many, many, many years ago?
Dionne Brand: Oh, don't say "many, many . . ." like that. How many "manys" do you want to add to that? [Laughs.] Hmm. I'm not writing from a place of pain. I don't think so. But I might write about pain.
Knight: It's a different mindset for sure to feel that pressure to do that, so I wonder have you ever felt the pressure to explain the pain.
Brand: I think the pressure is there. One has to make a choice about whether one attends to that pressure. I just did a talk in Toronto about the spectacularization of Black peoples in media, in narrative in particular, and so on—and whether one attends to that spectacularization. How one does that is really important…. It used to be a question in the ‘60s and the ‘70s, how does it free us? Whatever you're doing, whatever you're writing, how does it free you? The fact that it can is what you need to focus on, not the responses from the traditionally oppressive regimes. I don't really care about that, right. I care about putting together the life that I see and the life that I see being lived and how delicately I have to put that together, right? What I want that to be—like, I have to speak into my imagination, not into other people's deficit.
- Dionne Brand, in conversation with Chelene Knight over at Rungh Magazine. You can read the whole thing here.