I recently read The Word: Black Writers Talk About the Transformative Power of Reading and Writing and contacted Ms. Marita Golden for an interview. She graciously accepted and I’m pleased to bring you her answers to my questions. There are other interviews, to the right, in the Writing and Reading “neighborhoods”. This book is worth reading, soaking up, and holding onto. Ms. Golden has several other published works that the same can be said about. Now, the interview.
MW: Your book presents author interviews and one of your common questions is about childhood influences and early beginnings for those writers as readers. Talk about your early beginnings as a reader and writer.
MG: I grew up in a home in which my love of reading and writing was
nurtured and encouraged. My father and mother both influenced my
writing life in different ways. My father was a great storyteller and
his stories to me often told at bedtime, were about famous heroines
from Black history such as Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth so I
learned early on what a hero was and what a hero or heroine did. My
mother told me early on that one day I would write a book and that was
crucial in terms of my development of a creative identity.
MW: The Word exposes us to writers today who are telling great stories. Who are some writers from before, perhaps writers too quickly forgotten, who readers need to find, remember, and keep reading?
MG: Anne Petry is one of my favorite writers from the 40’s and 50’s she
is most known her novel THE STREET but I am a huge fan of her second
novel THE NARROWS which is rich and deep and very satisfying to read
as well as her short stories.
MW: Your latest book reminds me of the continuous gift of Gumbo, an earlier anthology you edited with E. Lynn Harris. In that great book, along with this current one, you’ve brought together astounding artists. Tell us about your process of editing them. I imagine those works were full of gifts for you.
MG: In the Word I wanted to shape the interviews so that the
conversations became a commentary not only on the writing and reading
life of the writer, but also an invitation into that kind of life for
the reader. It was important to also get them talking about the issues
of literacy facing the Black Community.
MW: Speaking of gifts, how did you establish the Hurston/Wright Foundation? How did that vital work come about?
MG: I established the Hurston/Wright Foundation 20 years ago with Clyde
McElvene as a way to support what I saw as a fantastic flowering of
creativity among Black writers. I wanted to create an institution that
would give Black writers the kind of support I wished I had had as a
younger writer-workshops, awards, recognition, community. The
foundation has opened doors and created possibilities for a whole
generation of writers and I am just glad that I was chosen to do that
MW: You’ve shared this answer in pieces throughout interviews in The Word, but tell us why reading is important to you.
MG: Reading is important to me because it is a passport into the lives of others and the unique wisdom, intelligence and creativity that they possess. Reading also gives me experiences that I have not and may not ever had and increases my empathy for and connection to others.
MW: What are you reading these days?
MG: I am reading a wonderful memoir called THE MEMORY PALACE and a
collection of short stories by Nadine Gordimer.
MW: Can you recommend particular writers who are must reads for children?
MG: Eloise Greenfield is a must!
MW: You have communicated in multiple forms and continue to do so. How do your roles–as writer, teacher, speaker, and editor–intersect? What enables you to do all you do?
MG: I find that writing teaching and speaking are all interrelated in
that that enable me to connect with others which is one of my favorite
things to do.
MW: How can readers of my blog learn more about you and your work?
MG: They can go to www.maritagolden.com.
Questions for you, blog readers: What are you reading? What have you just finished or are looking forward to reading? I just closed Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake and am taking in long amounts of the elegant and massive The Warmth of Other Suns. I am also reading Souls in Transition.