When I was 10 my mother became enamored with Danielle Steele, she would read her books at the dining room table and read a few chapters to me and then she would let me read to her. I didn't know what she was doing at the time, I had no idea that those table reading sessions would shape me. I remember seeing the list of Danielle Steele's books and thinking how I wanted to write more books than her. The same loved filled stories that she wrote but that was until I read Flyy Girl.
I was a freshman in high school. My first time being in public school in a building with more than one black person and I didn't feel like I fit in. You learn a lot of academics in private school but real social cues are all taken up in public school and I had missed years of learning.
No longer was I shuffling to religion class, instead I had to learn how to navigate the lunch room politics. Cliques that formed way before I entered this school would all affect me if I wasn't smart. So I surveyed the lunch room and saw nothing that made sense, I was going to go sit in the library alone when I saw a girl sitting in the hallway reading a book. Reading I could relate to and with all these people talking and laughing around her the girl's head was still deep into this book. I had to ask what it was.
She told me the book was Flyy Girl. "It's so good." She started to try to explain and I stopped her. The title and it being good enough to captivate her in this circus we called a hallway was enough for me. That was all I needed to hear. I got out of school and went searching for this book and within a week I was finished and Omar Tyree became my favorite author. I was pissed that I didn't know about him before, the book had been out for a while when I found out about it.
Then I discovered more authors including Eric Jerome Dickey, E.Lynn Harris, Bebe Moore Campbell, and the list goes on. I was all in, I couldn't read them enough but it wasn't easy getting the books. The library would only carry one or two copies of each author and they were always on request. I didn't have $20 to $30 to spend on a book...so I would go to the African Bookstores in my town and get whatever I could for the $10 or $15 that I had.
But those books saved my life. They gave me something to believe in and they showed me a life that wasn't the reality of what I was seeing and for that I'm forever grateful. Because of those books I am a writer today.
The question was posed on Instagram which legendary writer would you have write your story. From those on the list I would choose Eric Jerome Dickey. I've loved EJD since "Friends and Lovers" but when he wrote about Gideon I was captivated. He made Gideon (A prominent character in several of EJD's books) so real to me that I found myself researching some of the places that he traveled to see how authentic EJD's descriptions were. And they were spot on and I love that about him. He could write my story with such feeling and emotion that would keep people turning pages.
But those that aren't on the list are actually my favorites. Two in particular... E.Lynn Harris and Bebe Moore Campbell. Gone way too soon and these are the authors that really shaped me. Their books were the hardest to get but I'm still singing "Anyway the wind blows" in my head. That's how much of an impression Mr.Harris left on me. If I could really choose anyone I would pick Ms.Campbell to write my story. Her perspective was different, the angles in which she would pick apart and show you this fictional world that felt so real. I loved that about her.
Salute to all the authors. Thank you for your inspiration.
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