Q: How did growing up in a Guayanese family in Canada inform your approach to storytelling?
A: Guyanese culture is story-telling based. From the time I was small, I was taught to sit and listen to my elders’ stories. This is how I learned my family history, my culture (and if I was *VERY* quiet and the grown-ups forgot I was around, I got all the really good gossip!). The other thing I learned is the difference between telling a story and writing it. With telling a story, I watched people’s reactions, and saw when I was losing their interest or I wasn’t giving them enough information. All of this was gold when I transitioned into writing stories—it gave me a great foundation of skills that I could hone and focus.
Q: Do you believe in ancestral signs and wonders the way your character, Tuna Rashad, does?
A: I’ve often wondered about the ancestral signs. As a kid, I wondered if it was a great way for the elders to make sure you behaved—“Go play, but remember, Aunty is watching you from above.” Then, as I got older, I wondered if it was a rebellious scream against the enslavers that stole my ancestors from their lands and used their children as chattel… “You can take us from our families, you can take our children from us, but you cannot stop the love that binds us together. Even in death, we will watch over our loved ones and find ways to tell them they’re not alone.” I love the idea of love being eternal and I have relatives that would absolutely turn over the grave to come help me if I needed. (I also have relatives that are like Tuna’s great-aunt Cecile, but that’s a story for another day.)
Q: What’s the one thing you think we can all learn from how Tuna lives her life?
A: What I love about Tuna is her audacious optimism and her emotional bravery. Despite the hurts and her grief, she’s willing to put her heart on the line for love. Even though it’s risky, she’ll take chances if it means living the life she envisions. When I grow up, I want to be as courageous and resilient as she is.