November is National Novel Writing Month and, traditionally, many novelists/writers commit to starting, working on, procrastinating on, avoiding, finishing, and/or thinking about their debut (or next) novel. I chose to spend the month considering the novels which have shaped me (as a lover of books in my childhood, and then as an English major, and then as a Language Arts instructor, and finally as a writer) and then creating textile narratives inspired by those novels which rose to the top of my list.
For how much time I spent on these pieces, I'm shocked that the collection (in its current form) is so relatively small. There are seven pieces in my home that were meant to be included here and which just aren't yet finished. I can't imagine, for instance, a personal collection of this sort excluding Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man. I look forward to adding to this collection in the coming months, as I'm inspired.
The novels represented here truly shaped me--and American culture--in innumerable ways. There are many more that may find their way here eventually: Ellison's Invisible Man, Vuong's On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous, Faulkner's Light in August, and Schuyler's Black No More come immediately to mind. I've cheated just a bit by including Baldwin's collection of essays in a series meant to honor the novel, but I trust you'll extend grace. There are so many collections of poetry and essays that would certainly be worthy of inclusion...I wonder if this series will continue to grow to include those over time.
With each textile narrative, I've included the first three or four sentences of the novel which inspired the artwork. My goodness, what a joy to revisit each text, flip through them to rediscover my favorite scenes and sentences, and then consider the weight and worth of the authors' opening lines, knowing what a reader familiar with each novel knows of how each story unfolds.
I think, too, about first impressions in our own lives and how magnificent their worth--for good or bad. I also think of the ways we "open" ourselves to each other, to the world, to discovery, to new ideas, new adventures, another person's experience or perspective. And how, in the context of a globe that remains impacted by a pandemic and physical distancing, we may close our homes and physical spaces to others (those we love and those we have yet to learn about) but continue to find ways of opening up to healthier, stronger, more innovative and resilient versions of ourselves.