Issue 157 | July/August 2015
"I was married to a novelist, my first husband. He was what they call a "writer's writer." A modernist. He used to say to me that women cannot be artists, and at first I thought he was joking, but then I slowly realized he meant it. He had a severe hierarchy. The novel was at the top and journalism and nonfiction was way below that. And unconsciously I moved away from where we'd have rivalry and I wrote what would become The First Stone, a work of nonfiction. I was under the sway of that husband, and still am. I suppose I still have an overhanging feeling that this is not the highest form of writing. But it infuriates me."
Laughing away the tragedy and pain is a form of creativity that is "genius in its own way," says Asim, noting that the darkness wrought by #blacklivesmatter and #blackspring has left many people laughing away the pain caused by the deaths of the likes of Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Brown and Boyd, real-life people rooted in the backstory and shared experience of these characters and fictional cities like Gateway. Growing up in St. Louis, Asim says there were a lot of street-corner, porch-sitting Dave Chappelles, Jesse Jacksons, and Martin Luther King, Jrs.: "They were yarn spinners and joke tellers," who had "unrecognized genius sparkling in the midst."
"I had the opportunity recently to hear Ta-Nehisi Coates speak, and he noted that the job of the writer is to make the reader understand 'the beast that they are facing.' And what Kevin endured is a beast, a national and global epidemic, a part of a larger conversation, absolutely, however unique it may be to him. This a murder that I feel was, in many ways, preventable, and the very conditions that led to this woman's death repeat themselves with frequency; silence, it seems to me, affirms these conditions as acceptable, as unavoidable, as preferable to discomfort."
"My interest in the Iraq war was not a straightforward condemnation of the occupation, but rather an exploration of the collateral damage. I wanted to show a fantasy world where the foreign occupation is simply the top layer, below which there are thousands of years of history and conflict and mythology that have to be dealt with. By removing the lid, you unwittingly allow all of these secret histories to bubble to the surface, and everything becomes much more interesting."
"I was struck by The Ladies Almanack because it is the most lesbian thing Iíve ever read. This was no Well of Loneliness, bargaining for acceptance from some unseen father, though it was published in the same year (1928) and featured one of the same models (Barney). Barnesís book is funny and stylish and sexy and bizarre. It pushes conventions of style and propriety, but from the perspective of those in the know. It is a giant unapologetic wink."
"When I started researching the time period, I realized there was a lot going on in the US at the time -- the westward expansion, the rise of the cowboy, the Missouri Compromise, which outlawed slavery in the north and allowed it in the south. However, the question of whether slavery would be allowed in the new territories was very much an open question. So all these issues converged in my story."