|My son Nolan and me in Billings, Montana|
After I said yes, the question was what shame to write about. I wasn't at all at a loss for subject matter. There was my shame about not having/making enough money; of living amidst lots of clutter; of hating my body and the list went on. But as I thought about all the stories attached to all my various shame issues, I realized that although my perspective on these issues might be unique, the issues could easily be covered by any number of the other women asked to write for Shame Prom. Then one day while I was thinking about the word shame, my grandmother’s ubiquitous comment popped into my head – “That’s a stinkin’ shame.” I called Amy and asked her how many African American writers had been asked to contribute and there weren't many so I knew then that I wanted to write about something that no one else would be able to write about and something that I felt very few people even knew about - the incredible shame that some black people feel about simply being black. This is a subject that I've always felt needed to be publicly discussed more often. (You can read an excerpt from my essay to see more what I’m talking about and then buy your own copy of Dancing at the Shame Prom to read the rest of the essay and all the other amazing entries.)
It wasn't like it was smooth sailing after I decided on my topic. I struggled with how much to reveal and how other people would react to what I wanted to reveal. But since this is a topic that I felt needed to be out there, I realized that I had the responsibility of getting it out there. So I wrote as honestly as I could based on my own experiences and turned it in. I told very few people about my essay – no one in my family besides my husband. And then the book was published. (Truthfully, I kept thinking I might get the call that said that my essay would not be included. ) But alas, my essay was included. I was excited, proud and torn. Hollye Dexter (the book’s other fabulous editor) and Amy said people really liked it. Then Hollye posted an excerpt of my essay on facebook. That’s when I realized that I needed to come out of my shame closet and tell my family. I had no idea how they would react. I sent two copies to my mother with a post-it on the page with my essay. She called and told me that she was proud and appreciated what I wrote because it was my truth. I gave a copy to my sister for her birthday. She has yet to comment.
But it was my son who I was most curious and concerned about. I went to visit him one day at Yale, where he is now a senior, and gave him a copy of the book. He was impressed and proud to see my name in print in such a “nice-looking” book. He had no idea what the essay was about but he said he wanted to put it in the library at his social club. I suggested he read it first. He said he would. It’s difficult to get him to read anything that he doesn't absolutely have to read so I didn't know when that would be. A few days later I got a text that said “Nice story Mom” I was thrilled. When he came home a few weeks later and I asked him more about what he thought, he said. “It was good. I didn't know all that about you.”And I could tell he was really glad to know it. Instead of prodding for more, I let it go at that.