VIDA Reads with Writers — Tisa Bryant!

What are you reading on the subway or in the waiting room today?

I’ve been carrying around and nibbling on Dawn Lundy Martin’s Life In a Box is a Pretty Life, The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion, by Kei Miller (highly recommended by a current student, Amanda Choo Quan) and Lynne Tillman’s The Madame Realism Complex. “What is reading? It’s eating on the sly.” Says Hélène Cixous.


What book popped for you in 2015?

Vibration Cooking, or, the Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl, by Vertamae Grosvenor, 1970. I realized that my knowledge of the book was pure osmosis: I’ve held the title, her face and scant memories of her cooking show close to me since childhood, but never actually read it. Thanks to coat-pulls from Ricardo Bracho and Julie Dash, I bought a used copy and dove in, and was astounded by it in every way, including the fact that it’s still in print.


Whose words do you return to regularly?

Gayl Jones, Trinh T. Minh-ha, Henry Dumas, June Jordan, Clarice Lispector, Toni Morrison, specifically those in her 1975 Portland State lecture to Black Studies, “A Humanist View,” Erna Brodber, and the inexhaustible brilliance of James Baldwin. Real loin-girding, spirit gilding stuff.


Is there an author you can’t wait to read next?

Just one? Must I obey the diet the article ‘an’ demands? There are so many! On the menu are Maggie Nelson, J.M. Coetzee (Disgrace, or Elizabeth Costello? Hmmm….), Bettina Judd, Marie N’Diaye, Phillip B. Williams, Margo Jefferson, Saidiya Hartman, and Ricky Laurentiis, Katherine McKittrick’s edited volume on Sylvia Wynter, On Being Human as Praxis, I’m curious about Renata Adler, Grace Jones’ memoir, and, L.A. Rebellion: Creating a New Black Cinema, edited by Allyson Nadia Field, Jan-Christopher Horak and Jacqueline Najuma Stewart, that just came out, among others. I’m on sabbatical this spring, so I plan to gorge myself with the pleasure of reading just to read. And now this chestnut of an anthology pops into my head: Time to Greeze: Incantations from the Third World, 1974.


What are you working on now? What can VIDA fans look forward to from you next?

My bio could answer this, but I’ll spread the table here, and celebrate the amazing work people are doing in the arts, and that I’m honored to be a part of. I’ll have an essay on the continuum of black women’s experimental writing in Erica Hunt and Dawn Lundy Martin’s anthology, Letters to the Future: Black Women Experimental Writers, and a collaborative essay with Jen Hofer on live film narration will be out soon in Roxi Power’s Viz. Inter-Arts: Interventions. I’ve another essay on Black women, travel and the cinematic I’m going to get up off of soon. I’m a reader at the Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens in Pasadena, immersed in science fiction writer Octavia E. Butler’s papers for an essay on her for Clockshop’s Radio Imagination event series, which commemorates this year the tenth anniversary of her death. Clockshop is a Los Angeles arts organization run by the generous and hardworking Julia Meltzer; my readership at Huntington is thanks to her. It’s a gorgeous place to work. My next book is (tentatively) titled Abeyance, about desire, grief, longing and archival research, and where perhaps I’ll (un)explain my love of parentheses (and my abhorrence of dreams deferred). With that, I’m happy to say that Encyclopedia Vol. 3 L-Z will be out this year, and that my novel, The Curator, will soon and at last need a home. Good times and groove food abound, despite it all.


T Bryant Headshot for VIDATISA BRYANT is the author of Unexplained Presence, a collection of essays on myth-making and black presences in film, literature, and visual art, and co-editor of The Encyclopedia Project.  She is an editor of fiction & hybrid forms at Obsidian: Literature and Arts of the African Diaspora, and teaches in the MFA Creative Writing Program at the California Institute of the Arts.