Dominica’s mountains form a chain; verdant, dense. Nine are active volcanoes. Sometimes they rattle, but none have erupted in centuries. They cradle bodies of water in their bellies; one boils perpetually. My homeland. There, I devoured countless books and harbored a desire to write as my life’s work. Younger versions of me saw no immediate representation of this vocation and the notion of preserving or exploring language in concrete ways was farfetched.
I encountered stories in the deluge cascading from towering caverns, in the 365 rivers seeking the sea and in the sparkle of the black sand gracing our beaches. Yet, I pursued business, a solid career like the mountains and the narratives they hide. Land, as sturdy as it may seem, is malleable. It betrays itself, shifting soil en-masse, leaving spaces naked, forming new life elsewhere. Rocks, too, are pliant; reduced to bits as oceanic waves maul them, reshaping landscapes as they please. Similarly, experiences exposed my malleableness, expanding my worldviews and reshaping my seemingly solid career.
People say when a calling calls, it doesn’t stop. It brought me to the MFA Program at University of Maryland, a literary immersive space. I discovered an array of writers, forms and subjects; some grounded in reality like Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God; some otherworldly like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. This underscored my love for literary and historical fiction. The themes I explore are generally premised on realistic concepts. My characters live in the dimension we currently inhabit, in environments I conjure or recall, mostly intertwined with my island’s rich landscape.
Stories find me in the heart of the mountains when I trace the footsteps of my ancestors – Kalinago and African maroons. I write to examine the residual effects of their resilience, their resistance and their will to escape the depravity of plantation life. I hear stories in the journeys of my people; their patois a comforting lilt, their relationships complex. Writers like Edwidge Danticat and Jamaica Kincaid reinforce my confidence in the authenticity of Caribbean patois in literature. Reading Chimamanda Adichie helps me to explore culture and history in these stories and to interrogate relationships with self, others, and place.
Form fascinates me, particularly utilizing different narrative modes in storytelling, like Melvin Kelly’s A Different Drummer. A new appetite to use this style has lodged itself into my psyche. Perhaps one day, I’ll discover Toni Morrison’s secret for magical lyricism.
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Atiya Firewood published in adda by Commonwealth Writers for their ‘Speak Out’ Issue 1 related to Freedom of Expression and its wider subthemes of gender, LGBTQIA+, race/ethnicity, politics among others.
Summer’s End made it to the final round of the 2020 BCLF Elizabeth Nunez Caribbean-American Writer’s Prize. Listen to Summer’s End below or read it here: https://www.bklyncbeanlitfest.com/lisa-j-latouche
The Year I Got Pregnant With Timmy published in Leavings Literary Magazine: https://www.leavingslitmag.com/theyearigotpregnantwithtimmy
Anniversary in the Cabin published in White Wall Review: https://whitewallreview.com/anniversary-in-the-cabin/