By Thea Lim
From “Smart Conversations about MFA Programs” – though I believe you can apply Danielle Evans’ thoughts to many different academic programs:
I explain my mother to my father
my father to my little sister
My little sister to my brother
my brother to the white feminists
The white feminists to the Black church folks
the Black church folks to the ex-hippies
the ex-hippies to the Black separatists
the Black separatists to the artists
the artists to my friends’ parents…
I’ve got to explain myself
I do more translating
Than the Gawdamn U.N.
I could see some of the characters in the collection identifying with that need for endless translation, and also with the line I am sick of being the sole black friend to 34 individual white people. But the particular line I chose as the title I like because it has layers of meaning. In the poem itself, it’s directed by the speaker to someone else, and the implication is that the someone else is one of the people who has been using the speaker to define him or herself, or expecting the speaker to explain herself all the time. So, there’s an element of the title that’s confrontational, that’s directed at the reader, saying something to the effect of try to understand my experience before you drown in your own, which seems fitting in a collection that is somewhat concerned with characters who don’t often get to tell their own stories in their own words…
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