Mar 13, 2017
Brooklyn 100 Influencer: Angela Flournoy, Novelist
Currently a Rona Jaffe Foundation Fellow at the New York Public Library, novelist Angela Flournoy has office space in one of the finest buildings in New York City. The much lauded novelist—her debut, The Turner House, was nominated for a National Book Award—is originally from California, but has lived in Brooklyn since 2015. (Her book, a haunted multigenerational family saga, is set in Detroit, her father’s hometown.) Flournoy’s also an alumna of PostBourgie, the group blog so good it got a namedrop in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah, along with NPR’s Gene Demby, Slate’s Jamelle Bouie, BuzzFeed’s Tracy Clayton, and fellow Brooklyn 100-er Hilton.
How did you become the writer you are?
I was always that kid who sat very quietly and tried to go unnoticed so I could listen to the grownups talk when I probably shouldn’t have been in the room. Those were my early exercises in imagining lives outside of my own, and seeing issues from multiple perspectives. Essentially, eavesdropping on my aunties made me the writer I am today.
What are you working on now? What is at stake?
I’m working on a novel about how the friendships between a group of black women change over time. What’s at stake in this new novel is a bit more self-examination, and possibly a little exposure. The main characters are all in my same age group, so I’ll be writing about the joys and challenges and conflicts of my generation of black women, versus a demographic that might allow me more distance.
What is your proudest achievement? Your greatest challenge?
Anytime I can set a goal and achieve it, especially if it involves tuning out self-doubt to get words on the page, I’m proud of myself. My greatest challenge is to keep pushing for more precise and evocative language, to write the sentence that lives up to the hopes I have for it.
What do you hope changes or improves in your field?
Outside of a never-ending desire for more diversity in the arts? I think that if my industry in particular can truly become a more inclusive place, at every level, the innovation and risk-taking as far as what gets published will naturally follow.
What does Brooklyn mean to you?
The things I value most about Brooklyn are its size and its diversity and its trees. Brooklyn provides the sort of anonymity that draws writers to big cities, but it also is a place where I can be outside and forget I’m in a metropolis, whether I’m in Fort Greene Park or on a quiet block in Bed Stuy. It’s a good place to breathe.
Who would you nominate for this list?
I’d nominate Olaronke Akinmowo. She runs the Free Black Women’s Library, a social art project that hosts a monthly mobile pop up library featuring an impressive collection of books by Black women.
Learn more about this year’s 100 Influencers in Brooklyn Culture.
Photo by Jane Bruce.
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