Thursday, July 23, 2009

Will my writing find me a home?

Anne Michaels, author of Fugitive Pieces and The Winter Vault, has an interesting article in The Atlantic called Reading Faust in Korean. It got me thinking about something a writing friend often says. She believes I have a distinct advantage over her since I grew up in America and now have lived so long here in Botswana. She believes I somehow have better insight having my feet in two countries. She thinks my range of stories might be wider because of this. I always think it leaves me homeless with no real, authentic place from where I can write as I drift in an in-between place. Maybe this is why in so much of my writing I must force setting in or there will be none. My stories would hover in the no man's land where their writer often lives.

Michaels asks : "Do we belong to the place where we are born, or to the place where we are buried?" In many ways I know I'll never truly belong to Botswana, but in my heart I know I no longer feel connected to America. She ends by saying: “When the dead cannot be laid to rest in ground that remembers them, sometimes literature is the only grave we have. And that grave is one way a migrant claims a place in his adopted country.” I find this very hopeful. I think now since the bulk of my writing lives only in Botswana , in Southern Africa, by default I am given a home in Botswana. What about when my writing moves to a larger audience? Where will my home be then? I hope my writing will put down stakes here in the land that I chose, not where I was born, because in the end isn't that more important? If my writing helps me to do that then it's a wonderful thing.

7 comments:

Vanessa Gebbie said...

On the other hand, having a sense of rootlessness is a real gift. How utterly boring to 'only' belong in a single place! And to have no aches to drive us as writers is a killer. Long live 'not belonging', I say.

Elizabeth Bradley said...

We moved around a lot when I was growing up, but always lived in the Pacific Northwest. At 18 I left home and moved to Southern California. I'm 53 and I still don't feel that I "belong" here. I'll never move away from my family and friends or California, but I dream of "greener, wetter pastures", and I set much of my fiction in the Pacific Northwest.

Where in the states are you from, (if that's not too nosy)

Lauri Kubuitsile said...

Vanessa, I think you do have a point. I agree that not belonging is a gift.

Elizabeth- I was born in Balitmore and grew up and went to university in Wisconsin.

SueG said...

What a great quote! I often wonder if my need/desire to write about place, and to turn my settings into characters themselves, has to do with my living outside my birth country. But as Vanessa said, it's not really a bad thing. Though sometimes uncomfortable, it can be quite useful, too.

Selma said...

I often think about this having been born in Scotland and now living in Australia. In many ways I feel much more Australian than Scottish and when I write I do include a lot of imagery taken from the Aussie landscape. Perhaps I have already subconsciously put my roots down in the land of Oz.

Lauri Kubuitsile said...

Sue- It's funny how in your writing place becomes so big and in my writing I must force myself to remember to include place, though we are simlarly displaced.

Selma-You seem very suited to Oz but your writing, I find is often like mine, without a strong setting. Curious.

groovyoldlady said...

I have the same problem - only on a State level. Whenever folks ask me where I grew up or where "home" is, I just laugh. Presumably I am now a "Mainah" since I have lived here almost 20 years. Yet, folk here reer to me as somene "from away". I have a bizarre southern, mid-western, Downeast accent (with a touch of Texas drawl on certain words) and I like chicken fried steak whilst living amongst those who've never heard of it.

I'm an authentic mutt. It is, indeed, a privilege to have a multitude of views and ideas to choose from. The problem for me is that I mix them all up!