I was very flattered to be interviewed by The Wheeler Centre about writing and among other things I talked about the importance of Kiese Laymon’s essays and also, Rachel Cusk’s memoirs to me.
What’s the book that’s had the most significant impact on your life or work – and why?
Rachel Cusk’s two memoirs, A Life’s Work and Aftermath, were breakthroughs for me with my writing. I was a new parent and she was the first writer I found interested in connecting her personal experiences of motherhood to the broader discussion of feminism and writing. Plus, Cusk has been prepared to go as dark as required with that pursuit. I didn’t find her books all that confronting, to be honest, but some readers did and it’s always very interesting when terribly human moments disturb people to that degree.
The other thing Cusk showed me is that you do not always have to start your conversation with readers at the beginning. Some pieces are written for beginner-level understanding – they’re extremely important − but it is perfectly acceptable to pitch other essays only to readers who are progressed on the issue. It is nice to see what your article provokes with them and to learn from their part in the conversation. (Although reading the comments on those articles where you didn’t start from the beginning and bring everyone with you might be a brutal experience).