Sunday, March 08, 2009
I raved about Marlon James' new novel, The Book of Night Women, and so was excited to hear him read this evening at the annual Girls Write Now event held at the New School in New York. James didn't disappoint. He was funny and charming and read a section of his book in which the protagonist, the young slave girl Lilith, is taught how to read. Reading, she is told, will make her "free" if only for a moment. Inspiring words for a mentoring program which pairs young high school girls from New York City schools with professional writers. Annette Gordon also spoke about her childhood love of fiction.
I have my own history with mentoring programs, of course, and can see how once my father's estate is settled, I'll join the waiting list of women wanting to mentor young girls through the act of writing. Highlights from the evening: a mentor and mentee pair wrote and sang a song about how they hate Mondays: another pretended to be younger and older versions of the same person and reminded each other of youthful ambition and the right to enjoy adult success: a mentee's essay about her grandfather's death prompted a mentor to write about her grandmother's funeral in Japan: a girl read about her childhood in Tibet while her mentor wrote about life in the 50s in the Midwest. Watching the pairs read their work, I was reminded of how much I had wanted to be a writer. Creativity is always tied to childhood and to play; it's as an adult that you discover it isn't natural, that people will tell you that you aren't good enough, and that red tape makes things so difficult. I would love to have had a mentor at that age.
Also at the event: Ron Hogan, the always glamorous Lauren Cerand and Maud. The evening concluded with burgers, fries and a shake, and the 7 pounds I lost eating Asian food for a week are returning as we speak. Never mind. Dinner with friends is a good thing, and I finally met the incredibly elegant Tayari Jones, and music critic Garnette Cadogan. I've been back in NYC for just over 24 hours and have been reminded again of why I live here.