Is your work political?
I started as a writer, generally speaking, because I did not see my reality reflected in the books I read or the news I listened to or watched. Drawn to reading and writing from a very young age, I finally made the connection, after college that I could write about the world and people and the everyday struggles and successes around me—Black people who were organizing their communities, working outside of established systems, raising their voices and pushing back. I was focused not so much on electoral politics but how legislation affected communities of color: What did those laws mean on the ground and in the day-to-day? I wanted to give flesh and form to statistics and why they mattered.
What is the place of literature in politics?
There is magic to literature. It can pull readers into topics, questions, debates or struggles that they might otherwise sidestep if they see them floating by as a trending topic or a fleeting radio headline. Literature allows us to see and feel the stakes and understand the long arc of a difficult but necessary fight for justice, visibility and parity. Literature can provide immersion and a shifting POV. It can settle inside the reader making what might feel distant and inconsequential, immediate and imperative.
What is your favorite political work?
Hard to pick one. I find myself pulled to books about people’s history, people working around established systems and locating and exercising their own power. Histories of A. Phillip Randolph and the Pullman Porters’ unionization is an example of the sort of books about social movements I’ve gravitated toward. Most recently I took a lot away from Candacy Taylor’s engrossing book, “Overground Railroad: The Green Book and the Roots of Black American Travel” which dug deeply into the history and politics of Black mobility and travel during the Jim Crow period. It also threaded in realistic prescriptions for resistance and reclaiming community and power today. Also, I look to the photography of Black artists such as the late Roy DeCarava and Dawoud Bey who explore the texture of Black life as an ongoing political act of determination and self-definition.
Do you feel voting is important?
I grew up in a household that underscored the importance of your voice and your vote because it had historically been denied us. There was no back talk about it. Clearly, it isn’t the only piece though. As these voices in these books I’ve gravitated toward and faces in photographs tell us so much of our work is still on the ground in order to change the top.
What are your hopes for this election?
For many years now, I have had to recalibrate my expectations and my definition of hope. It’s fraught. I have been heartened by Gen-Y and Gen Z’s enthusiasm. I am hoping that their enthusiasm to march and organize and agitate translates to the voting booth and re-energizes and redefines what is possible. We need fearlessness.
Lynell George is a journalist and essayist who explores human behavior, sense of place music, literature and visual arts. She is the author of two books of nonfiction. “No Crystal Stair: African Americans in the City of Angels” (1992, Penguin Random House) and “After/Image: Los Angeles Outside the Frame” (2018, Angel City Press). Her new book “A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky: The World of Octavia E. Butler” is out now on Angel City Press.
To learn more go to: http://lynellgeorge.com
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