Privileging the truth does not have to be an oxymoron to writers of fiction. In fact, at present, when some newspapers and journalists scramble to criminalize and demonize black people killed by police in the face of hard evidence shouting for their innocence, fiction can be a powerful place for the truth to shine.
In 2011, Guadeloupean writer Maryse Condé highlighted the importance of writing one’s truth. It must be noted that Condé is one of the most influential Caribbean writers to date. Born in Pointre-A-Pitre, Guadeloupe, her stories have centered women, race, colonialism and the complicated relationships between the three. Over ten of her books have been translated into English from her native French, and she has also written plays, essays, and children’s books. Her writings highlight narratives often unexplored by English speaking discourses and are therefore integral to diversifying stories in diasporic fiction.
“I am searching for myself without lies, without pretense.”
In the short interview below, Condé highlights various criticisms she has received from her works, however, she remains unperturbed by them. Instead, she states writing has been a place where she has felt it necessary to share her truths and critiques—regardless if the communities she writes about agree with her. Now, as a heavily awarded writer and professor of literature, I’m sure Conde has confronted her own biases in a manner that allows her to sift through unfounded stereotypes in order to arrive at her truths. It is this ability to derive truth from dominant narratives that generalize the varied experiences of people of color that I find truly significant.
I learned early that telling the truth does not always please everyone.
Her words are a great reminder that in searching for truth, not everyone is going to agree with your interpretation of events. Furthermore, there will never be a ‘perfect’ way to describe your version of the truth because there will always be those who disagree with you. Thus, storytelling means being prepared for dissenting opinions, critiques, and disdain. Yet, sometimes, the dialogues that emerge from these differences can be a means of learning from one another. It is in these moments—and other forms of critical intervention—that progress can be made and solutions reached. Condé does not seem concerned with writing ‘unflinching stories,’ but rather crafting works that push her readers—and those she writes about—to flinch at their own preconceived notions of themselves and others.