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Rowan Hisayo Buchanan on Wellness and Sickness

How To Write a Novel When Everyone You Love Might Be Losing It

Rowan Hisayo Buchanan on Negotiating Wellness and Sickness

By Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

Susan Sontag wrote, “Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick.” For a while the people in my life kept journeying to that second kingdom, specifically to a metropolis known by various names — madness, despair, insanity, acedia, melancholia, and other Latinate titles.

I was once in love with a boy with a white scar on his skull as jagged as Harry Potter’s famous lightning. Sometimes when we lay body to body, I’d push my fingers through his black hair until I found the zig zag. It was made before I met him. He’d waited until dark and thrown himself from a roof and onto hard paving. This thin mark was the record of his fall. Imagining his small lonely body that night, I’d trace it again and again. Even now if I close my eyes, I can still feel the transition from thick strands to naked scalp.

I have a writer friend who believes that women are asked if their work is taken from life, because no one believes women have any imagination. I suspect she is often correct. But I also understand why some people might ask a writer, why you and why this story? It is a popular question, one that you might be asked in interview, in workshop, by a friend, or by your father over dinner as he worries about the path your life has taken. Read the full essay at LitHub.

Rowan Hisayo Buchanan’s Starling Days is one of our current book club selections. To read more about it — as well as our other current favorites — visit our Books in the Bag page.

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