Longtime listeners know I spent some formative years in some rough neighborhoods in Philadelphia. In researching them for my upcoming book, I discovered the many-award-winning book Loving Day by Mat Johnson took place largely a block from where I lived. His Wikipedia page showed he went to grade school with my stepbrother and stepsister.
I read and loved Loving Day, which not only described my neighborhood, it explored it through race, which I was looking to understand, and it was raw and vulnerable, which I struggle to create in my writing. It opens: “In the ghetto there is a mansion, and it is my father’s house.” That house was a block from my home.
Loving Day led me to read his books Pym, Incognegro, and Incognegro Renaissance, all of which I enjoyed, comprising most of the fiction I’ve read lately. I invited him to this podcast to explore all these topics. Since he teaches writing at the graduate level and has written so much, he shared more than I had hoped for, to my pleasant surprise.
I think of this episode as less about the environment and more personal to me and my history, but his experience in creative expression and teaching will make it valuable to all.