Over the past few months, as well as finishing my third novel, I turned my attention to new work as a way of reckoning with the discovery that two of my eighteenth century forebears benefitted from chattel slavery in the British West Indies in the 1790s. I have written about that separately here: Past & Present.
This new work includes a short story which explicitly sets out to expose the guilt of these forebears of mine: two men who very nearly got away with being forgotten. As the story reaches its end, it pivots, and fiction is revealed as fact.
Even so, I am troubled and deeply conflicted. If it is published, I do not want to benefit from it.
The purpose of the story is this:
- Foremost, it is an act of exposure. I wanted to expose John and Duncan Glasfurd and set their names on the page.
- But what use a story, if no-one reads it? I might as well have scratched their names on a stone and thrown it into the sea. If the story is published it will bring their guilt to the attention of a larger audience.
- I see the story as placing a marker in the present, as a way to show that the past is not past.
- I see the story as a way to contribute to the discussion on reparative justice. In the (unlikely) eventuality the story is recognised, I would donate any prize to the St.Kitts’ historical archive.
I see my work as political and fiction as a way to effect change. For me, historical fiction is a place where traditional histories can be interrogated and challenged.
I am not a perfect ally, but I am an ally.
Black Lives Matter.