I really believe that we’re never more beautiful than when we’re most ugly. — Chris Abani”

One of the things that I believe artists are blessed to be are witnesses, voices for the things of this world that we often overlook, ignore or don’t see. This weekend, I was blessed to see John Francis bear witness to questions about America, about humanity, about identity as he sang. In the books I read by people like Marilynn Robinson and Uwen Akpan, I see writers acting as voiceboxes for people whose voices are unspoken. I am blessed by the people these artists are, and by the way, they give me people I don’t even know.

In the book I am writing, my goal is to give voice to the slaves on this farm who have never been known, let alone heard. I take on this project with utter humility and prayer. I presume no expertise or skill beyond my desire to give them voice through the words I have been blessed myself to love.

So today, when I came across Chris Abani‘s TED presentation, I found hope and joy and resonance with a man who tries to tell history in all its beauty and its reciprocal ugliness. In this talk, he uses a South African word “ubuntu,” which roughly translated means “there’s no way for us to be human without other people.” I find this profoundly true as a woman, as a person, as a writer. . . I am only all that I can be because other people are being who they are. I would have no stories without you, the people of the world. So thank you for being you. Thank you.