For those who don’t know, Mostly Lit is a Shout Out Network Podcast (a UK network providing our ears with podcasts like Melanin Millennials and Two Fools Talking) hosted by Alex, Rai, and Derek, three witty, intelligent black millennials who read 😨 and talk all things lit(erature) and beyond.
Their first podcast came out in April 2016 and they have discussed issues from Brexit to Chinua Achebe’s writing. Mostly Lit went live, on Saturday 25 March with their first event in Waterstones, Gower Street in London.
If you were not a part of this lit audience (yes, I will be using lit whenever and wherever possible), then fear not, as the event was recorded and I’ve captured the best moments for you.
The ML gang began by discussing their literary heroes… Derek selected Oscar Wilde, James Baldwin, and Chinua Achebe, authors that could be found on posters on his university bedroom wall, he enjoyed their work so much. Another literary hero, was Jay Gatsby, which came as no surprise to regular listeners as Derek l o v e s ‘The Great Gatsby‘ and even claimed Gatsby was “from ends” (to much audience condemnation).
Rai selected, Hermione Granger, from the Harry Potter books, a character many fellow nerds can relate to. The panel then went onto discuss what house each person would be in. If this is all going over your head, in the Wizarding school of Hogwarts, each student is sorted into a house based on their qualities, with those in Gryffindor supposedly brave and courageous, Ravenclaw students intelligent, Slytherin students cunning and sly, and Hufflepuff the house no one ever really wanted to be in…but they are nice and gentle. Rai thought Ravenclaw would be fitting for Alex, and Derek (Gryffindor), proclaiming herself Slytherin….make of that what you will.
The topic then turned to literary figures the panel loathe. Again, if you’re a regular listener you’ll know Derek is not a fan of (the GCSE favourite) To Kill a Mockingbird (which Rai loves) so the protagonist Atticus Finch made his list. Derek argued that Finch doesn’t defend Tom Robinson because he too is human, but because morally he feels compelled to, not recognising the separate humanity of black people. For Alex, Harry Potter, is a character he hates, an opinion I’m inclined to agree with. The books may centre on Potter, but he is a mediocre and whiney wizard, who survives due to luck and the knowledge of others.
The panel then asked, if readers could find better role models or guides for life in literature in real people/reality.
Interesting points were made all round, with both Derek and Rai pointing to the Bible and Qur’an for examples of figures that empower and inspire. Derek also went on to say authors are able to write out the imperfections of literary figures, whilst actual humans are fallible.
Exploring the impact literature can have further, Rai attributed aspects of her sexual education to writer Omar Tyree (author of Flyy Girl, Sweet St Louis and more), as it was his books that introduced her to sex in literature, moreover, explored a taboo topic in her reality.
Alex has read Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life, a life guide that shares inspirational/spiritual mantras to lead you in adulthood. From this, the panel discussed being a millennial, and how our experiences compare to previous generations. The consensus was that they had it both easier and harder in some ways, property was more attainable and higher education free, equally millennials might not get onto the property ladder until 85, but we have the space to be more selfish, living for our individual needs.
In Rai’s remedies, Rai discussed the recent announcement that Twitter is exploring charging people for their services 😨😅😅. Aside from all the lols many of us get from Twitter, it has become a serious platform for up and coming entrepreneurs/ businesses providing a platform to share info/ services. Rai would thus be happy to pay a small fee for this medium, and about 1/3 of the audience, myself included agreed (but please stay free).
The floor was then opened up for questions.
Can men really be feminists?
Derek said yes, as it’s a way of acting/thinking rather than an ideal only women can be a part of. Alex agreed, and added that it is a journey in which men can constantly learn to do better. Rai finished this with an apt point, “men are intrinsically a part of feminism because the movement requires them to change”, and as Angela Davis mentioned at the WOW Festival, many of the problems women encounter are directly/indirectly because of men, thus of course they can and should be feminists.
Has the idea of everyone sharing their own stories encouraged poor writing?
Derek rocked the boat by saying he had read some authentic Ghanaian books that had not been written in ways appealing to him, and added that some descendants of the wind-rush generation force their connections, trying to tell a story of “home”. This was a contentious point, and an audience member said her African connections weren’t forced, and despite never visiting Nigeria she still felt it was home, as that’s how she was raised, and Britain regularly reminded her she was not fully British!! Rai then noted that the industry is elitist, in terms of what’s deemed good literature. Furthermore, it is a craft perfected over time, and in the context of Africa, much of the continent was pillaged and disturbed for centuries, thus, it’s not had the time to perfect this craft, like Europe for example. Writer and poet Suli Breaks then reminded us all of the importance of differentiating between literature and storytelling, as both serve different purposes.
The night ended with Suli Breaks back up again, this time to perform one of his poems, a brilliant piece on John Boyega.
This post has got me thinking about the diff between story telling and literature. I’m also appreciating the the space for black people to be nuanced. Well written piece, looking forward to the next.
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