Native Brooklynite Doreen St. Felix is writing for MTV News, Lenny Letter, the New Yorker, the New York Times, and Pitchfork, among others. Her essay, “The Prosperity Gospel of Rihanna,” is definitive; her Twitter is on fire.
You are a Brooklyn native! What is it like living here now? How does Brooklyn inform your writing?
My real home has become surreal. The simplest way to describe the sensation of coming back to Brooklyn after university in Rhode Island is that I feel like a very knowledgeable outsider. I didn’t really have a sense the city was changing because I spent most of my life in heavily West Indian neighborhoods—Canarsie and East Flatbush. Truthfully, I’m deeply resentful about what’s happened to my city in recent years. I think that’s where some of my motivation to more local, neighborhood-based reporting comes from. I see something beautiful, international and majestic passing away. Not forever of course; land struggles happen in cycles. I want to help document the glory, even if that means witnessing the demise.
You have a great Twitter. How does the internet inform your writing? How has is the internet been important to you?
Thank you! This is a boring but essential answer. Using the internet via Twitter has made my sentences better. Clearer syntax, cleaner word choice. The more elaborate answer has to do with the validation. Before I found a community of black women online, I didn’t know my voice was valid, much less valuable. I’d had no model of black female cultural criticism in the mainstream. I didn’t know it existed. In the last year, I’ve found a whole world of people who let me know my perspective isn’t a bias—it is one subjectivity deserving of analysis for the sake of doing justice to our experience, not to prove anything to a white mainstream.
How did you first come to writing? Why is writing important?
I was an extremely bookish and shy child. I think I didn’t start talking until I was three! I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, though, because it’s a good way to communicate if you don’t like talking to people, ha. I haven’t been publishing for that long. So in my case, the more apt question is how did you come to start publishing. I still have a lot of anxiety about putting my work out there. I have dozens of unpublished pieces rotting on my computer. I’m working on my nerves more these days, though. Editors who recognize the anxiety and help me through it are my personal saints right now. I owe them everything.
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