I couldn’t get through it intact. I tried. I took a deep breath and swallowed the tears, but Heather – my friend of forever – was right there, and she knew, and because she knew, I couldn’t hold back anymore.
I cried when I read from The Slaves Have Names on Saturday at my book release party.
Somewhere back in the days when I first read my work in public, someone – a woman someone – taught me that it was a sign of truth and honesty when we found the emotion in our words as we read them aloud. I have taught that same lesson to my students over and over again . . . because it, too, is true.
So when I read about Primus bending low over his sleeping children, about how his legacy had survived slavery and Reconstruction and Jim Crow and Civil Rights . . . when I realized that the 12 people around me were hearing his name, knowing his stature, taking him into themselves via some words I tapped out . . . I couldn’t contain it.
I didn’t want to contain it.
Here, then, is why I write . . . another reason to tack on to the long list of things that include “sanity” and “clarity.” I write because sometimes I only find the deepest truth when someone else sits to hear it.
So to all of you who read what I write, to all of you who read what other people write, I must say a hearty, tearful thank you . . . for you make all of this work all the more real.
It’s as if I can help you stretch out a hand so Primus can shake it. Oh, to feel the soft rasp of his skin. . .
I’m giving away 5 copies of The Slaves Have Names on Goodreads this month. Stop by to enter.