The Geography Of The Imagination Forty Essays

Perhaps literature offers us both a way out of and a way into the liminal space represented by the Door of No Return.In my time-travel novel, A Wish After Midnight, doors are of the utmost importance.

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The Door of No Return is of course no place at all but a metaphor for place…A place where a certain set of transactions occurred, perhaps the most important of them being the transference of selves…

To have one’s belonging lodged in a metaphor is voluptuous intrigue; to inhabit a trope; to be a kind of fiction.

The door out of which Africans were captured, loaded onto ships heading for the New World. I grew up in a former British colony, dreaming of magical wardrobes and secret gardens.

It is a door which makes the word door impossible and dangerous, cunning and disagreeable.—Dionne Brand, A Map to the Door of No Return I am an immigrant.

I started high school that same year, and my essays took on a formal tone and were sprinkled with archaic words (such as gaoler for jailer).

When asked to make a picture book in my senior creative writing class, I wrote a story about a white family that neglects its youngest member; when little Violet goes outside to play with the wind, she grabs hold of a neighbor’s kite and is swept away.I learned early on that only white children had wonderful adventures in distant lands; only white children were magically transported through time and space; only white children found the buried key that unlocked their own private Eden.Perhaps the one benefit of being so completely excluded from the literary realm was that I had to develop the capacity to dream myself into existence.There is the sense in the mind of not being here or there, of no way out or in. My goal as a writer of speculative fiction is to engage the tropes of captivity, migration, and transformation in a narrative that is thrilling, compelling, and revealing.Some bemoan the seeming abundance of “slavery stories,” arguing that African American historical fiction only dredges up an abject past that shames young black readers, but I believe speculative fiction generates the kind of narrative possibility that enables us to revise, re-view, and reclaim the past.In a way, I was seeking asylum when I moved to the United States, but I was also aware that the circumstances behind my decision to leave were not dire.I was not a refugee; I wasn’t fleeing the prospect of starvation as my Irish ancestors had in the late nineteenth century.I spent one summer with my father in Brooklyn and determined to build a life there. But what differentiates me from most other immigrants — and what binds me more closely to my black ancestors — is the fact that I am also a descendant of those enslaved Africans who were forced to pass through that infamous Door, one of dozens found in the fortresses that once dotted the west coast of Africa.The First Family visited Cape Coast Castle during the President’s 2009 trip to Ghana; an African American tourist who witnessed the Obamas’ visit testified to the power of that moment: “The world’s least powerful people were shipped off from here as slaves.To live in the Black Diaspora is I think to live as a fiction — a creation of empires, and also self-creation. Du Bois’s idea of “double consciousness”: as an African American you see yourself as yourself, but also as the distorted image others have constructed in their minds.It is to be a being living inside and outside of herself… In this country of immigrants, the fact of one’s untraceable origins in Africa exists as what Brand calls “a visible secret,” something that is at once apparent yet remains unspoken in daily life.

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