Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

How the Light Gets Through

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How the Light Gets Through

When the going gets tough sometimes it’s just tough to get going, and maybe when life throws you lemons, you don’t feel like making lemonade. So when things get tough and the world looks like it’s tearing apart it becomes hard to fathom the possibility or even meaning of taking pen to page.

While this is not obviously meant to be a “political” blog, I find it incredibly hard to separate the political from the literary—in this case, how the world news I have access to (lately very disturbing) affects the ease with which I can write, and the growing futility of the act of writing in silence. At some level, there is a sense of helplessness, even though I believe writers can be advocates for a better world (the idea of writers as the unacknowledged legislators, etc.). But when you feel helpless for others and realize you also share in a certain history of disenfranchisement and the world seems to be ripping apart at the seams and your writings are trying to put absurd things back together—what does one do?

Sometimes I'm not sure if the rainbow—to riff off the choreopoem by Ntozake Shange, one of my favourite writers—"is enuf." This is not in any way to dim the implications of her fierce piece on strong triumphant women. Rather to say that moments of pride or creative “eureka,” fleeting encounters with the divine muse, or even the joys of finding communion with other writers who "get" your work—may not counteract the larger pain of feeling lost in a world bombarded by injustice. We may legitimately feel like we're in the dark.

Sartre once said, “Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you.” I want to believe in the resilience of the human spirit against all odds. Though I also want to believe that with time, fewer things will be unjustly “done” to us to keep us in a state of relative fear and unfreedom. I hope to continue to find a way, in the humblest of ways possible, and in using social media in the most useful way possible, to keep my writing relevant and my actions authentic and never merely self-serving. In a world where the literary arts are often deemed bourgeois instead of radical, private instead of social, and petty instead of urgent, things need to change. And the world will still need people who can write and voice their writings to make the changes needed over time.

To quote from a poem by writer Lilly Barnes, who I happen to respect so dearly, I think is appropriate here. That it is the greatest difficultly, but most necessary one, to “[Learn] to trust/That the Universe/Is not malevolent.”

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Adebe DeRango-Adem

Adebe DeRango-Adem is a writer and doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania. Her work has been published in various North American sources, including Descant, CV2, Canadian Woman Studies and the Toronto Star. She won the Toronto Poetry Competition in 2005 to become Toronto’s first Junior Poet Laureate. Her debut poetry collection, Ex Nihilo, was longlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize. She is also the co-editor, alongside Andrea Thompson, of Other Tongues: Mixed-Race Women Speak Out. She was recommended by current Poet Laureate of Canada George Elliott Clarke as a young black "writer to watch".

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Go to Adebe DeRango-Adem’s Author Page