What ‘The Last Suspicious Holdout’ book says about the Black experience : NPR

The latest suspicious heist” is designed as a kind of diary for the community with interconnected events, people and places over the years.

HarperCollins


hide caption

toggle caption

HarperCollins


The latest suspicious heist” is designed as a kind of diary for the community with interconnected events, people and places over the years.

HarperCollins

Ladee Hubbard’s brand new collection of short stories, The latest suspicious heistis set in an unnamed predominantly black southern suburb in the 90s and early 2000s.

It is designed as a kind of diary for the community, with interconnected events, people and places.

As the years pass, adults fight for justice and financial security while mourning lost loved ones; children grow up and become aware of the struggles they will inherit.

Ladee Hubbard spoke with NPR’s Juana Summers. Below are highlights of their conversation.

The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

On what inspired Hubbard to write the book

Originally, this collection was to cover the 20 years preceding Obama’s election. And it’s somewhat self-referential in that I was talking about me and my generation, the generation of black people who grew up in what was sometimes called the “post-civil rights era.” So we were coming of age in a time when people were kind of living in and with the victories of the civil rights movement. And that meant that for black people who could afford it, there were more and more opportunities to move to different neighborhoods, go to different schools, and get different jobs. And I was very interested in the real effects of this movement and the repercussions of the civil rights movement during this period.

On the development and structure of the book

These stories were actually written over a long period of time. I started writing them shortly after Obama was elected, which of course had huge symbolic meaning of sorts for a lot of people. But the main thing was that they were still located in the same community. So it was always the same group of people. And I always wanted each story to represent a different year. So that was really all I had to do when I started writing them. And I’m very interested in people who keep going, who survive hardship and find a way to keep believing and working to make things better. And so I think I wanted to represent and show that in the book. So you also see the characters over time. And part of their transformation is emblematic of some of the transformations the community as a whole is going through.

On the resilience of the black community through three decades of the book

It’s kind of interesting how much the cultural landscape has changed since I started writing these stories or in the issues that arise, and then how much the way people talk about it right now has changed. But for me, an underlying theme for them is probably, during this time, the difficulty in expressing grief. And I think we still face the consequences. There are a lot of things that have apparently taken a long time to be able to talk about openly and honestly. And I think it’s important to know the history that preceded it. I think the current situation is quite emblematic of that. And so it’s kind of a period where I don’t think people were talking very honestly about a lot of issues and there was a lot of obfuscation as to how certain things that were going on were portrayed. So yeah, so that’s for me, it’s almost like the quiet before a community picks up their voice.

On the tension around education and privilege within the black community

I really think that’s a recurring theme from that era, and it’s definitely in those stories. So part of what I was saying before is that I feel like in terms of the opportunities that were presented, again, to people who could afford to take advantage of them, that been greatly exacerbated in media representations. There was like this idea that black identity had become bifurcated along class lines. And so the experiences of middle-class, perhaps upward, black people were totally separate from the black majority. And of course, this is an idea that assumes that structural racism no longer exists, which is not true. It wasn’t true then and of course it’s not true now. It’s rather interesting that it seems more obvious now than it did 30 years ago. But I think that was a huge tension that a lot of people were dealing with. You can’t have a post-racialism, that’s what we would sometimes hear. This idea presupposes that structural racism no longer exists.

The family being both a support system and an obligation

I think the idea that you would have these very complicated feelings about your family is quite common. It is not a monolith. It’s no more monolithic than any other community. But it’s what creates you, it’s part of who you are, it’s how you react and process and deal with all these kinds of differences and the different needs that people have and the different ideas about the right way to live. And you, even if you resent it, it’s still part of who you are. So it’s not just a conversation because there’s a lot of conflict in there. But it becomes part of who you are.

On the story “Houston and the Blinking What” and how she writes about the choices men and women make when it comes to love

I think a lot of the idea of ​​manhood has a lot to do with how women relate to men. So this story is really about two women dealing with maybe ideas they had about what they wanted from their relationships with men weren’t serving them and really empowering them to the point where they were becoming in somehow unsustainable. So one of the characters says she realized her husband had become a man she couldn’t trust to do a simple task which also refers to fairy tales, folklore and stuff like that . Because the idea that a man is given a task to do in order to achieve some sort of goal and in a lot of these stories the way women are portrayed their function is to sort of help the man to realize their own identity. And I think a lot of women are probably tricked into thinking that it empowers them, that they should be, instead of focusing a bit more specifically on realizing their own identity.

Was writing this book an exercise in releasing frustration on paper?

Probably to some extent. I mean, I think there’s a lot of really painful things that black people have been through. There are a lot of really painful things about the black experience in this country. There are also a lot of very beautiful things that I hope to express as well. But again, I think underlining how difficult it is for me, ultimately it’s a celebration of the resilience and the artistry of people because they can keep going and keep trying and keep trying to envision new futures. And I think it’s really beautiful and poignant. And it’s even more poignant when you realize how difficult it is for a lot of people to do that. But I think that’s one of the lessons I take from my own history is that we wouldn’t be here if we weren’t capable of huge acts of imaginative bravery and hope. That’s the hope. There’s a lot of bravery and artistry implicit in that. I hope the people in these stories will be known – like the fact that I consider many of them to be very beautiful human beings. It’s not just pain. And it’s also about connecting with each other. There are things that persist despite all of this. It’s very complicated for me. To some extent, though, it’s how I work through my emotional and intellectual issues or things that are moving and deep for me. But I think the beauty of the artistry and the amount of people who have managed to create and contribute to the United States in the world as a whole moves me incredibly. So, I think about those things a lot and I hope that is reflected as well.

What Hubbard wants people to take away The latest suspicious heist

Well, one is again about the complexity of things that people I knew had to deal with during that time. And again, it’s an evocation of resilience and strength. So I just wanted to represent that because I felt it was very important to me. And as a writer, a lot of things that were very interesting to me ultimately had to do with language, with the ability to access language to express what was going on and what people were feeling during that time. I think it was pretty tough. So much resilience and that I find something very poetic and beautiful in that. I think it’s also a very important time in history to understand or make sense of where we are right now.

The audio for this story was produced by Lauren Hodges and edited by Justine Kenin. Ayen Deng Bior adapted it for the web.

Angela C. Hale