Kaitlyn Greenidge

Brooklyn writer

Kaitlyn Greenidge is a writer living in the USA. She received a 2017 Whiting Award for Fiction for her debut novel, We Love You, Charlie Freeman. Her second book is a historical novel called Libertie (2021)

Quotes edit

  • ("what radicalized you?") When we lived in public housing my mom started a community garden to grow food to save money and to occupy the kids that lived there and the public housing, authority came & pulled out all the plants and poured bleach into the ground to destroy it. Because gardens weren't allowed.
    • 8/3/2020 on Twitter
  • The whole nature of how ppl respond to this coup would change if ppl, knew the full history of Reconstruction--and learned it as "white identity based mobs regularly overturned elections whenever a Black person or someone perceived as a Black ally was elected
    • 12/12/2020 on Twitter

Interview with Literary Hub (August 13, 2020) edit

  • The question of the silent majority, I think that the demographic that that phrase is invoking exists, but I don’t think they’ve ever been silent. I think they’ve probably been pretty loud in the chorus of what people think America can or should be. But a key part, at least in there, that demographics’ identity of the last 50 years ago, since the 70s, is this idea that they are somehow on the defensive, that they’re somehow oppressed, which is super interesting. I think if there’s anything that is different about white supremacy in this moment than it has been in the past in American culture is that it’s very much invested in the idea of whiteness as victimhood and less sort of whiteness under attack, which are two slightly different things. The older version of white supremacy is whiteness under attack, but always triumphant. And this version is very much whiteness as a marginalized identity, somehow, in this country.
  • I said, “The term white backlash frames those actions as inevitable and natural, as if order is being restored after Black liberation goes ‘too far.’ And while I agree that white backlash inevitably follows Black freedoms, I do not think there’s anything natural or blameless about it. What if the conversation instead was framed as ‘There’s something in the construction of whiteness that demands violent supremacy, when even the glimmer of another way of being comes through, and why is that?’“ So, I thought a lot about how I was taught about white backlash in history class growing up. I don’t even think we were allowed to attach the word “white” to it. I think it was just sort of like backlash in general. It’s often framed as sort of, “Well, what do you expect people to do? Like, this is sort of like a bridge too far.” And even for myself, I think I’ve internalized that.
  • We’re going on like year 250 of this argument that doesn’t seem to be true. A statistic that really struck me that I read a few years back was that the Obama administration is the only administration in like the last 40 years, I think, that didn’t have any felony convictions come out of anybody working in that administration. Unfortunately, that is a remarkable fact of American political life. So, even with a presidency, and Obama I’m not suggesting was like a wonderful, blameless president and did everything correct, but within the letter of the law, he sure did apparently. So, even in that instance of the Obamas so carefully curating their public persona and public approach for a white audience, for a white middle-class swing voter audience, and really catering to that audience in their policy, and general stance—even in that case of like the best “Good Negro” we could ever produce resulted in Trump. I just really want to push back on this idea that white backlash is somehow something that can be satiated or stopped in any sort of way, and that it’s more a function of the social construct of whiteness and what’s within that.

Interview (2021) edit

  • I love history, particularly the stories that get left out of overarching narratives because they are deemed too niche, strange, uncomfortable, or hard to understand. There’s so much in the archives waiting to be discovered. I think a big misconception is that our current moment is somehow one that has never before been experienced. One of the pleasures of studying history is finding the ways the past mirrors the present, and is also completely different and points to radically different outcomes.
  • I’ve been blessed to know a lot of artists who are also mothers, who don’t necessarily go the cliché route of “motherhood ruins you.” It has always been more nuanced conversations, about the joy found in some aspects of parenting, how this perspective does and doesn’t inform creative life, and how one has a full community life as an artist even if one isn’t as a mother.
  • Nonfiction and fiction are both about asking questions and hopefully inviting a reader into an ongoing conversation.
  • I write for Black women. If others enjoy as well, I am really happy that they connect to the work. But if I were to write a piece that everyone except Black women connected to, I would feel, on some level, that I’d failed.
  • The contemporary fiction I read is mostly by Black, queer, and Black and queer writers. There are some extraordinary people working right now and there are scenes in literary fiction being published that I know wouldn’t have been published five years ago. But they probably would have 45 years ago. Tommy Orange, Torrey Peters, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, Maisy Card are all extraordinary. Art is cyclical – it’s less about getting better, and more about looking for those books and pieces that have always done what I described above – inviting people into a conversation, always going deeper. They’re out there. They just aren’t necessarily a part of “the canon” and definitely aren’t regularly taught to others. Simone Schwarz-Bart’s The Bridge of Beyond; Michelle Cliff’s No Telephone to Heaven; Carlene Hatcher Polite’s The Flagellants are all books like this.

Interview edit

  • The work of a fiction writer is to take narrow experiences and explore the emotional vastness that’s within them.
  • One mantra of the last couple years that I’ve given myself is: we do not have time for shorthand anymore. We don’t have time to reduce things to its pithiest element. We do not have time for that because that actually sets us back so far and muddies the water so much and just messes up the actual conversation. We should be looking at works and having big, messy, and complicated discussions about them.
  • Read the books that are really messy. Read the books that everybody is telling you are problematic. And actually pick a part that word. When I was teaching, the last quarter of class I had to sort of be like, “we can’t use that word to talk about books because it means absolutely nothing.”
  • One of the things that guided how I was thinking about the ending was this Alice Walker quote, where she’s talking about writing The Color Purple and about what a radical act it is to give certain characters a happier, peaceful ending. I don’t know that Libertie necessarily has a happy ending, but she has an ending in which she is in a place of strength that she wasn’t necessarily before. That was really important for me, as an artistic and political choice. As I was writing the first draft, I was also teaching the Toni Morrison novel Love. I was reading a lot of her interviews around the time that book came out, and she did this really wonderful interview with Charlie Rose. He asks her about her characters being happy and she says something like, “They know something about themselves that they didn’t know before. And so in that way, they have won.” And she said, “Winning isn’t like your character gets a fancy car at the end or a big job, or gets the girl or anything like that. Winning is, they didn’t know something about themselves before and now they understand something about themselves fundamentally at the end of the narrative. And in that way, they have ‘won.’” And then she says, sort of very playfully, as she does in her interviews, she says, “I only write about winners.” So I think about that a lot when I’m writing and thinking about what sort of choices the characters make and why you may follow a character through a story and what that might look like when you’re writing.
  • I read the same five people over and over again. But it’s Toni Morrison; Toni Cade Bambara is a huge influence...
  • A lot of us come to writing because we love to read books and read very widely. And if you are a Black person or a person of color or a white woman or a woman of color or a Black woman, so many of the books that you’re told to read—“You love to read, read this book”—you’re not in them. Those books could be very wonderful and formative, but I think as a creator, you have to think about, where am I actually writing to and from, and what am I going to pull from? Am I going to pull from the tradition that is not necessarily my language, but I’ve been told is the language of fiction? Or do I pull from the things that are actually around me to make stories— make meaning for myself and for the people who I want to write to?

External links edit

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