White people, black authors are not your medicine | Yaa Gyasi

White people, black authors are not your medicine | Yaa Gyasi

The Guardian

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When Yaa Gyasi’s book rocketed up the charts after last year’s Black Lives Matter protests, she grieved. Treating authors of colour as tools for self-improvement is an impoverished response to centuries of harm

In 2018, two other novelists and I were being driven back from a reception in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, to our hotel in downtown Detroit, when we saw a black man getting arrested on the side of the road. The driver of our car, a white woman who had spent the earlier part of the drive ranting about how Coleman Young, Detroit’s first black mayor, had ruined the city, looked at the lone black man surrounded by police officers with their guns drawn and said: “It’s good they’ve got so many on him. You never know what they’ll do.”

Two years before, I had published my first novel, Homegoing, a book that is, among other things, about the afterlife of the transatlantic slave trade. The book thrust me into a kind of recognition that is uncommon to fiction writers. I was on late-night shows and photographed for fashion magazines. I did countless interviews, very little writing. The bulk of my work life was spent touring the country giving various readings and lectures. I spent about 180 days of 2017 either at an event, or travelling to or from one. By the time that car ride in Michigan came around, I was exhausted, not just by the travel but by something that is more difficult to articulate – the dissonance of the black spotlight, of being revered in one way and reviled in another, a revulsion that makes clear the hollowness of the reverence.

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