Lola Akinmade Åkerström: In Every Mirror She is Black

Author Bio:

"Having lived on three different continents — Africa, North America, and now Europe — for extended periods of time, Nigerian-American author Lọlá Ákínmádé Åkerström is drawn to the complexities and nuances of culture and how they manifest themselves within relationships - www.akinmade.com
 
Based in Sweden, Lọlá is an award-winning visual storyteller, speaker, and photographer. Her work has appeared in National Geographic, BBC, CNN, The Guardian, Sunday Times Travel, The Telegraph, New York Times, Travel + Leisure, Slate, Travel Channel, Adventure Magazine, Lonely Planet, amongst others. In addition to contributing to several books, she is the author of the following books–—2018 Lowell Thomas Award winner for best travel book, Due North and bestselling LAGOM: Swedish Secret of Living Well, available in over seventeen foreign language editions.
 
She has been recognized with multiple awards for her work, including 2018 Travel Photographer of the Year Bill Muster Award, and she was honored with a MIPAD 100 (Most Influential People of African Descent) Award within media and culture in 2018. She contributed to National Geographic's Image Collection.


She is based in Stockholm and tweets at @LolaAkinmade."

1.  Your book, "In Every Mirror She's Black" tells the perspectives of three black women in white-dominated spaces. As a Nigerian-American woman, what has your experience been like in these spaces? 

Since moving from Nigeria to the US at age 15, I found myself in mostly white-dominated spaces. I worked as a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) developer and system architect for many years before diving into travel writing and travel photography, all of which were white-dominated spaces and still remain so to some extent.

So, I've felt so many of the emotions all three women have felt... exclusion, loneliness, otherness, condescension, and being second-guessed.

 

2.  Do you think your experiences have been different as a Nigerian-American compared to other black women in these spaces? If so, why?  

The point of the book is to show that the Black womanhood experience isn't monolithic. So my experiences as a Nigerian-American vs. Kemi's experiences as a Nigerian-American are also different.

 

3.  Although you may see yourself in all three characters, which character in the story do you feel is closest to your experiences, and in what ways?

I loved Muna’s character so deeply and often cried when I wrote her life out on the page, because I connected with her deep isolation the most. As someone who has been isolated and sidelined so many times personally and professionally, I could feel Muna’s pain in trying to create connection and understanding of who she truly is as an individual.

 

4.  Your book touches on important topics about race that are often swept under the rug, especially when it comes to black women's perspectives in these spaces. What perspectives do you hope your book can shape upon reading it? 

I want these women to be seen as individuals with hopes, desires, fears, needs, wants, just like everyone else. Even though they are strong, I wanted to give them space to make very human mistakes without having to bear the weight of entire communities on their shoulders.

 

5.  In your opinion, what does it mean to be black in every mirror? 

The title is very nuanced, but on the surface, it means to be instantly defined by the color of your skin before you open your mouth.

 

6.  What was your publishing process like? Especially for a book like this, that often doesn't get picked up by major publishing houses? 

The manuscript for my book was rejected over 70 times and those rejections came with high praise. I detailed the entire process here (worth reading)

In a nutshell, major publishing houses were gatekeeping this story from reaching their audiences and said they didn't have the vision for publication because it centers Black women on a mainstream level. The same audience is now discovering the book and leaving incredible reviews for it.

 

7.  What are you excited for people to learn about themselves while reading "In Every Mirror She's Black”? 

To me, the power of IEMSB is that everyone will walk away with something different. It could be anything from fully understanding that Black women are not monoliths to the effects of denial on not confronting issues, and how isolation and exclusion can mentally affect even the strongest amongst us. 

 

8.  In your opinion, what does a world look like where black women, specifically, can be seen in full in all mirrors they encounter?  

A friend of mine said that people in the middle of a circle always have a limited view of what's around them, while those who have been marginalized and are standing on the periphery, along the circumference of that circle always have a larger perspective on life.

Imagine the wealth and depth of experiences and excellence Black women already bring to the table. Legendary actress Viola Davis said it best... "The difference between Black women and others is opportunity".

 

9.  As a woman of color and having lived in as many different countries as you have, how have you noticed racism to be different across the planet? Is it the same everywhere or are some places worse than others? 

In my book, a man who Kemi meets at the bus stop named Godwin says it best: “At least in America, you’re fighting your enemy in broad daylight.” Racism is everywhere. The difference is how countries handle discussions about race and if they do so adequately in the limelight.

 

10.  When did you fall in love with writing?

In my pre-teens. I used to write a ton of short stories when I was in boarding school in Nigeria. And I was running my own mini library with a sign-out sheet for friends who wanted to check out my stories to read. There was always a waiting list. 

 

11.  What’s your best advice for getting over writer’s block?

I personally don't push through writer's block. I just switch to another creative talent I have (photography, painting, whatever) so my writing cells get some time to rest and relax. When I'm ready, then I switch back and my writing comes back refreshed.

 

12.  What’s the best book you have read this year so far?

I loved WAHALA by Nikki May. This should be on your radar for next year.

 

13.  What’s the best advice you have ever received on happiness?

I always reference this Yoruba proverb from my native language, "The sky is big enough for all birds to fly". I naturally operate from a space of abundance with this mantra in mind, which is what keeps me happy because comparison steals happiness.

 

14.  Do you plan on writing more books in the future?

I am working on several books and ideas at the moment. Lots on the horizon.

 

Places To Find More From This Author:

Instagram: @lolaakinmade

Twitter: @lolaakinmade

Youtube: Lola Akinmade Akerstrom

Website: www.akinmade.com

 

Get Your Copy of In Every Mirror She's Black Today!

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