Yes, it was hot and crowded in the classroom and the audio didn’t work as planned. These things were lamented briefly, but then quickly forgotten. Because Rebecca Walker was a force.
That human thing
First, she was so totally human. This is a questionable thing to say about someone in the public eye, because it sounds cliche and obvious. We are all doing the human thing. But Rebecca made us all feel like friends.
She answered questions with careful, often silent deliberation that made the connection she built with the people in the room feel sincere. She was alternatively funny and somber, always transparent. She also asked us questions, which brought everyone together by a show of hands. We could see how many of us were children of divorce, or who moved a lot, or who had parents of different religions.
New novel, Adé
Her stop in San Luis Obispo was a part of her book tour for her first novel, Adé: A Love Story. Of course, to me as an aspiring writer, a book tour sounds like a dream. But the reality must be exhausting. A new town, a new talk, a new audience, a new place to sleep, a new place to eat. All those people watching, listening. Missing your family, home.
But I am thankful that she stopped in our town, halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. She read from Adé, which was heavy with the wanderlust and longing of your early twenties. I’ve only read the first chapter so far, which was written in a pleasingly thick style, like a tropical evening that has just the right humidity. I’m looking forward to reading the rest during Thanksgiving break.
Tips for writers
Here’s a bit of what Rebecca shared:
- Sometimes you cry at the keyboard.
- Writing a memoir is complicated, in terms of verb tense.
- Be ready for what your writing may mean to your family relationships.
I remember reading her memoir Black, White and Jewish shortly after it came out. Now I’m ready to read it again. Hearing her talk about her experience moving through life feeling ungrounded and unsure about her identity, reminded me that I’m not alone with those feelings, having grown up overseas as a child, and having parents who separated when I was ten. (That’s another book project.)
Then there was dinner
I was lucky to sit next to Rebecca at dinner, where she was careful to connect with everyone there, even though she was understandably tired. She asked thoughtful questions, listened intently and had a grounded sense of humor. I have always appreciated her as a writer, but now I’m rooting for her as a person.
I really liked her, can you tell?
Best of luck with all your creative projects, Rebecca! You’re rockin’ it hard, and I’m thankful I was able to meet you.
- Writer Rebecca Walker to discuss race, gender, politics at Cal Poly (sanluisobispo.com)
- Nonfiction November: Be the Expert (feministtexicanreads.wordpress.com)
- “Because words come and pull me forward” (lifeandwrite.com)