"Q&A With Shayla Lawson"

Book: This is Major

Author: Shayla Lawson

Author Bio:

Shayla Lawson is the author of THIS IS MAJOR: NOTES ON DIANA ROSS, DARK GIRLS & BEING DOPE (Harper Perennial, 2020), two books of poetry-- I THINK I'M READY TO SEE FRANK OCEAN (Saturnalia, 2018 and A SPEED EDUCATION IN HUMAN BEING (Sawyer House, 2013)--and the chapbook PANTONE (MIEL Books, 2016). She has written for ESPN, Paper Magazine, Salon, Tin House, Guernica, and others, but she mostly writes for you.
She was raised in Lexington, Kentucky, is a Professor at Amherst College, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

 

1.  This is probably the most obvious question we’re going to ask so let’s knock it out first. What is your favorite song by Diana Ross?

Easy one. Love Hangover.

 

2. In your opinion, was Diana Ross a better singer or actress?

Diana Ross is a better business person. She knows her brand, her assets, and her status. Singing and acting are just a couple of facets of her phenomenal and aspirational self-awareness.

 

3.  Malcolm X once said, “the most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman." Do you agree with this statement 50 some years after it was first stated, and do you still feel that this statement holds true?

I actually quote that statement in the chapter “Intraracial Dating” in This Is Major. I absolutely do. In the past few months, we’ve seen a lot more conversations about how the lack of empathy, consideration, and care devoted to the protection of Black women is a tool that supports white supremacy. 

But in the book, I also apply the statement to the erasure of all Black femme bodies in relation to that calling—in recognition of trans, nonbinary, and gender queer identifying Black people. In this world, anyone one who chooses to inhabit their Black femininity is under profound attack.

 

4.  When was your first-time experiencing racism and what do you remember most about that particular experience?

The first place I experienced racism was my birth weight; I was born just under 7lbs. Despite my parents both working in the medical field, they seemed proud of the fact my sister and I were petite babies (or perhaps just their babies!) but, according to studies, low birthweight in Black infants is a result of the undue stress Black women experience battling racism over their lifetimes. I talk about this as well in This Is Major, “Love Songs for Thots.”

 

5.  Why was it important for you to write “This Is Major” and was there a topic you wish you had dived deeper into?

It was important for me to write This Is Major because of the myriad ways I see the vulnerability of Black women overlooked. If I were writing the book as the person I am now, as opposed to a few years ago, I would've spent more time in the book specifically writing about Black Transwomen.

 

6.  How much of your personality shines through to the readers in “This Is Major”?

A lot of it is my party persona, and other parts of it is how I talk to close friends.

 

7.  Is there such a thing as ‘black privilege’?

No.

 

8.  You recently tweeted that, “Black culture in particular is the most profitable global commercial marketing export the U.S. has”, can you please elaborate on this a bit more?

The entertainment, sports, and music talent the U.S. is known for globally is all rooted in Black culture. You wouldn’t have the Beatles without Chuck Berry and you wouldn’t have BTS without Boys II Men. We’re what other countries copy in their pursuit of an American aesthetic. But somehow we end up the most culturally exploited and the most villainized. 

 

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

Choose a different time of day to write. 

 

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

You can trust yourself. Nobody has a better sense of what you want than you.

 

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

I do. We’ll see what happens.

 

Places To Find More From This Author:

Instagram: @blueifiwasnt

Twitter: @blueifiwasnt

Facebook: Shayla Lawson

Website: Shaylalawson.com

 

Get Your Copy of This Is Major Today!

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