Self-proclaimed identity rights rabble-rouser TaRessa Stovall refuses to let the world define her. She is sharing her story in her memoir. I recently spoke with her about SWIRL GIRL: Coming of Race in the USA.
Tell me about your book.
SWIRL GIRL: Coming of Race in the USA is the true story of how I, as a Mixed-race womanchild, fought to live my “and” in a world of “either/or.” SWIRL GIRL, published by Alchemy Media Publishing Company, is available for pre-order and will be published in May 2020.
I describe myself as a “truth-telling Black Power Flower Child” destined to resist the world’s attempts to define me. From the riots that rocked her hometown after Dr. King’s 1968 assassination, to the 2008 election of the nation’s first Biracially Black president, SWIRL GIRL reveals my battles to express the truths of my ancestry and allegiance on my own terms.
“TaRessa Stovall’s SWIRL GIRL: Coming of Race in the USA is gut-wrenching and beautifully poetic … I laughed. I cried. I learned. I understood the unique voice, and related to the ‘Sheroe’s’ journey,” stated Rain Pryor, an artist, actor, and activist and daughter of comedic legend Richard Pryor who shares Stovall’s #BLEWISH mix.
A writer since age seven, Stovall is a poet, playwright, and award-winning journalist. She has authored, co-authored, and co-edited several books including A Love Supreme: Real-Life Stories of Black Love; Proverbs for the People: African-American Literature; The Hot Spot: a Novel; Other People’s Skin: Four Novellas; and My Blue Suede Shoes: Four Novellas.
SWIRL GIRL: Coming of Race in the USA is available at taressastovall.com and on Amazon. It is available in paperback for $24.99, and in PDF format for $4.99.
Why did you decide to write it?
When then newly elected President Barack Obama called himself a “mutt” on global media, I was yanked from my life and creative/business pursuits by my ancestors, who insisted that I write this book. I tried to protest, but resistance was futile. I wrote SWIRL GIRL so no other Mixed-race child has to grow up limited to the “single story” that characterizes our lives. I wrote it to enlarge and evolve the public conversations about Mixed-race identity, and to better reflect the nuances and diversity of people who are “and” in a world of “either/or.”
Against the backdrop of a nation torn by racial tensions and rocked by shifting labels and categories, Stovall came of age as a student of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense against the backdrop of a nation torn by racial tensions and rocked by shifting identity categories. While being forced to help integrate Seattle schools, she learns to navigate the minefields of race relations, skin and hair politics, and the never-ending “What are you?” demands to justify her identity and choices.
What do you want readers to learn from the story?
I would like readers to learn that the dynamics of living as Mixed-race are much more nuanced and complex than normally portrayed for the public. And that there is no one “right” or “better” way to be Mixed.
What advice do you have for someone interested in writing a memoir?
I would recommend that anyone interested in writing a memoir do their homework and read as many great memoirs as possible, and also read a book or two about the basics of memoir writing. Next (and this can be very challenging), I recommend that they get very clear on the focus of the memoir, and their why–because that why will be tested every step of the way.
What was the hardest part about writing the book?
I have written a good deal of (non-memoir) nonfiction and fiction. And had several books published. By far, the most difficult part of writing this book… was curating my experiences, feelings, memories, and interpretations of those things in a way that will hopefully be engaging and captivating to an audience, especially since most readers don’t know me at all. This is why writing SWIRL GIRL took five years and countless rewrites.
What’s the best part of being an author?
Always, always, when a reader reaches out to let you know that what you’ve written has reached, touched, and meant something to them. THAT is why I write!
What’s next for TaRessa Stovall?
Now that I have finished SWIRL GIRL (and hopefully my memoir-writing escapades), I plan to sprint back to the comparatively easy (but no less challenging) world of fiction. Excited about the novels I’ve put on the back burner.
Do you have anything you would like to add?
Yes, thank you! SWIRL GIRL is for everybody who is either Mixed-race, who has a Mixed-race person in their family or their life, or for anyone who has thoughts, ideas, assumptions, feelings, or opinions about people who are Mixed-race. Like if you have ever thought, felt, and/or talked about this topic for any reason, this book is for you!
TaRessa Stovall is an author and identity-rights rabble-rouser who was born in Seattle, Washington, and resides in the ATL. Connect with her on Facebook @taressatalks on Twitter and Instagram or visit her website for a free excerpt.
Use my affiliate link to purchase your copy of SWIRL GIRL: Coming of Race in the USA.