My novel Zaire’s Place is different. Yes, I already know that. When I set out to write it, that was how I intended it to be. Society is watering down our culture, especially among the black community. We have become a group of reality-addicted drones that spew out the lyrics to the latest hip-hop song yet rarely open a book.
I love new words, unusual words, words that twist things in a thought-provoking way. Because I love words, I couldn’t help but show that love in my novel. My character Charlene Wilson is a Scrabble addict who loves words as well. She can’t help it, which is why I have her “voice” speak the way it does. In her thinking, she uses words like “raucous”, “threatened to break free”, etc. Does she use those words when speaking to others? No. But I wanted to show her intelligence, her love of the English language through the way her chapters flow. Same things goes for Rebecca Reich. She uses words like “shoddy” because she loves playing with language. And so do I.
It’s a shame that we have gotten away from books that teach us new words, that play with language like a violinist strums his violin. Just look at the explosion of the urban literature market. Every time I’m on the street and ask someone if they like to read, they are quick to say only urban books. I’m willing to bet a word like “shoddy” doesn’t appear anywhere in a novel like that.
There once was a time when black people devoured the words of Toni Morrison, of Zora Neal Hurston. Now writers who talk about sex and tossing their characters into different positions have become the norm. There is no thought behind those words, just words thrown on a page in hopes that they will stick.
I have no problem with urban literature, erotica, etc. There’s a place for everything. But the problem is that urban literature is becoming the norm, and literature is dying a slow death. And you know what? That’s how “they” like it. The system doesn’t want black people to be smart. It doesn’t want black people to delve into books with meaning where the language reads like poetry. It wants us to disappear in the incessant brawls on reality TV so we can forget the value of an education.
Take Rick Santorum, for instance. When President Obama said he wanted everyone in
to go to college, Santorum responded by calling Obama a snob. Would he have said that if George Bush uttered those exact same words? I highly doubt it. Society at large wants black people to stay in “our place”. Don’t you dare get involved in educational pursuits. Don’t you dare become too smart. Don’t you dare devour the literature that black folks of yore fought hard to preserve. And you know what? We’re falling right into their trap. America