There are so many—so many women I've met, so many stories I've heard—and so many warnings I was given, warnings that came down to the same fear, "I don't want my family to know. I don't want my relatives to hear what I think. I don't want my friends to jeer at me, get disappointed in me, point fingers at me. I don't want any trouble." And yet all of them were talking to me, for hours, often stumbling over words, unable to stop. They all wanted to share. They wanted their stories to be heard. And I told them I'll make them heard. I asked if it was okay for me to write their stories down and post them on my blog. Some women happily agreed. Others told me it's okay only if I change their names. Some flat out refused. The stories they told were not always their own—they were stories of their girlfriends, their sisters, mothers, aunts. Stories like the stories Lyudmila Petrushevskaya was writing down, stories forbidden to be published in the Soviet Union because they revealed the ugly truth our government didn't want people to know. These stories still happen today. Stories connected to today's atrocities like the recent law change in Russia that made domestic abuse not a criminal offense but an administrative one. If Putin signs it, it will mean only concussions of broken bones will lead to criminal charges. Think about it for a second. And now think why these women were afraid of me sharing their stories. In light of this I have decided to write all of them anonymously, changing names and genders of their children or friends where I saw appropriate, retaining original stories in such a way that it wouldn't pose danger to the women who shared them with me. If you see anything that reminds you of someone you know, it's because these stories are typical. Which is a tragedy. These stories are our stories, no matter where we live. These women are us, and so the names don't really matter.Read More
I don't know if I know what's home. What I thought was home never was, and what I'm running toward and trying to catch always seems out of reach. I try to find home within me, but that eludes me too.
All this is bubbling up as my trip to Russia draws nearer and nearer. The conversations on whether or not I can write a black character made me think hard about my own identity and how I'm trying to run away from it because I don't know what it is anymore. Gissel Escudero has sent me this very helpful post by Kristin Nelson of Nelson Agency: Can White Authors Write Characters of Color? Within this post there are links to more posts, each expanding on this topic, so I've read them all, and all the posts linked within those other posts, and so on, and every one of them talked about what many of you and what my writing mentor has been trying to tell me for years (those who know me tried telling me gently, those who don't harshly)—write my truth. As I've seen with TUBE, no matter how hard I try to adopt this new me, the American me, I'm not American. I'm Russian-American, in terms of my ethno-racial group, and I'm Russian by nationality since I was born in Russia and came to America in my twenties and have lived here for almost twenty years (fours years out of those in Germany). But inside me I don't know who I am, really. And I didn't realize what kind of responsibility a black writer's request of me to write a black character would present. And that's facing my own fear of telling my true stories.Read More