There is the sense in the mind of not being here or there, of no way out or in. My goal as a writer of speculative fiction is to engage the tropes of captivity, migration, and transformation in a narrative that is thrilling, compelling, and revealing.
Some bemoan the seeming abundance of “slavery stories,” arguing that African American historical fiction only dredges up an abject past that shames young black readers, but I believe speculative fiction generates the kind of narrative possibility that enables us to revise, re-view, and reclaim the past.
Perhaps literature offers us both a way out of and a way into the liminal space represented by the Door of No Return.
In my time-travel novel, A Wish After Midnight, doors are of the utmost importance.
I spent one summer with my father in Brooklyn and determined to build a life there. But what differentiates me from most other immigrants — and what binds me more closely to my black ancestors — is the fact that I am also a descendant of those enslaved Africans who were forced to pass through that infamous Door, one of dozens found in the fortresses that once dotted the west coast of Africa.
The First Family visited Cape Coast Castle during the President’s 2009 trip to Ghana; an African American tourist who witnessed the Obamas’ visit testified to the power of that moment: “The world’s least powerful people were shipped off from here as slaves.
Looking back on those days now, I marvel at the girl I once was.
Why would a plump, brown-skinned girl with an Afro embark on a quest to read all the books she could find by Frances Hodgson Burnett?
(There is a common misperception that mixed-race people exist solely for the purpose of bridging the racial divide.) I am an educator, so I do have a professional obligation to teach others to respect and value difference.
As a writer, however, I have a somewhat different mission.