Saturday, September 17, 2011

Quote: Isabel Wilkerson

"At one point in the research process, I was reading a book a day — books on citrus production or southern geology or obscure court cases in Florida. I took to paying close attention to the footnotes and actually enjoyed reading them. I was reading the footnotes of the annotated version of Richard Wright’s autobiography, Black Boy, when I saw a passage that had been in the original published version of the book but omitted in the text of the current version. This passage had not been part of the original manuscript he had submitted, and he had had to write it in haste when he had been asked to cut the second half of the manuscript in order to get it published. Under deadline, he had to find the words to conclude his now truncated autobiography, and those words were succinct and beautiful:
I was flinging myself into the unknown, I was taking a part of myself to plant in alien soil…to see if it could grow differently…. If it could drink of new and cool rains, bend in strange winds, respond to the warmth of other suns and perhaps to bloom.
"I came across this passage fairly late in the writing process. Until I saw that footnote, I had neither an epigraph nor a title. That passage gave me both."
--from "An Interview with Isabel Wilkerson," conducted and posted by Kim on Sophisticated Dorkiness, March 1, 2011. Wilkerson is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration, New York: Random House, 2010, which received the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Mark Lynton History Prize, administered by Columbia and Harvard Universities.

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