Readers are hungry to have their stories in the world, to see mirrors of themselves if the stories are about people like them, and to have windows if the stories are about people who have been historically absent in literature.
I realized if I didn't start talking to my relatives, asking questions, thinking back to my own beginnings, there would come a time when those people wouldn't be around to help me look back and remember.
The strength of my mother is something I didn't pay attention to for so long. Here she was, this single mom, who was part of the Great Migration, who was part of a Jim Crow south, who said, 'I'm getting my kids out of here. I'm creating opportunities for these young people by any means necessary.'
The epistolary form is one of the hardest to write. It's so hard to show something that's bigger in a letter. Plus, you have to have the balance of how many letters are going to work to tell the story and how few are going to make it fall apart.
I feel like I'm a New Yorker to the bone. But there is a lot of the South in me. I know there is a lot of the South in my mannerisms. There's a lot of the South in my expectations of other people and how people treat each other. There's a lot of the South in the way I speak, but it could never be home.
I didn't have any idea of what I was getting into by going away to college. And I was scared. I was scared of failing. I was scared of it not being for me because I was going to be one of the first people in my family to go off to college.
Who are you without your girls? I truly believe that. Who are you without the people who help you make sense of the misogyny, the racism, the economic struggle, all of it? You need those people saying you're a good mom, a great writer. You're a great dresser. You cook well. Whatever the beauty is that you need to hear.
I think there is much more queer visibility than there was when I was a kid. There is marriage, more trans visibility, and many more celebrities who are open about the sexuality. This was so not the case when I was a kid.
I think it's so important that, if I'm writing about the real world, I stay true to it. I think that kids do compartmentalize, and they're hopefully able to see it from a safe place of their own lives and, through that, learn something about empathy.
Even after Jim Crow was supposed to not be a part of the South anymore, there were still ways in which you couldn't get away from it. And I think once I got to Brooklyn, there was this freedom we had.
I always say I write because I have questions, not because I have answers. It's true that you begin the conversation - that's the role of the artist. But it's not my job to tell us what to do next. I wish I had those tools.
I think when I was a young person, there was just kind of - there was very little dialogue about it. And there was just kind of one way to be gay, right? You saw very effeminate guys. You saw very butch women. And there was no kind of in-between. And there was no - you know, there wasn't anything in the media. There wasn't anything on television.