I like to experiment with voice and style in my writing. I believe such experimentation is necessary if one wants to develop as a writer, to go forward instead of standing still. One needs to make good use of every scrap of background cultural knowledge, such as the dialogue in films and books of a given era. I don’t know if Wichega is halfway true to the life of people living in a certain time and place, and possibly there is no way of finding out. However, I think it manages an internal consistency and integrity that sounds real, that feels authentic, to the reader and the writer. It is tremendously satisfying when that happens.
I thoroughly enjoyed being Sweet Pea for the brief time it took me to write Wichega. She emerged from the back of my mind fully herself and fully alive, so that all I had to do was watch and listen and record everything she did. The same was also true for the other characters, particularly Daddy. I don’t know if they are white or black, but I do know they are human and that they inhabit their world as if they’ve lived there all their lives.
Ancestors of mine returned from an emigration to Canada in the early 1960s. They stood on the dock and watched their white Oldsmobile swing down in a great net suspended from a crane. Dockworkers admired the car, the like of which they had never seen before. That incident is the origin for this story. I hope you like it.