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What in me is dark Illumine, what is low raise and support, That to the height of this great argument I may assert Eternal Providence, And justify the ways of God to men.
Harper is a novelist, screenwriter, and mother. Her work has appeared in many publications, including Black Cool: Harper has received fellowships from Yaddo and the MacDowell Colony. Literary Mama Social Media Editor Rudri Bhatt Patel spoke with Harper on the phone and corresponded via email on her thoughts about her recent novel, writing, and balancing motherhood.
I pay attention to epigraphs and love to hear why an author chooses a particular passage to set the tone of his or her work. How and why did you decide on the Milton epigraph for your novel? I fell in love with the word "Providence" when I was a child growing up there—not because I knew what it meant but simply because it had a beautiful sound, and I was already the type of child who noticed things like that: So I paid attention whenever I saw "Providence" in any context outside of the name of my hometown.
When I studied Paradise Lost in college, I took note of the reference to Providence, the idea of Providence, and I remembered it years later when thinking about the epigraph for this novel. I was thrilled to come across it again because it seemed so fitting—the idea of wanting the dark parts of himself illuminated, the low parts raised and supported; it felt so true to the characters in my novel.
The final words hit me hard every time I read them: I love the multiple voices presented in This Side of Providence —from the addict mother, Arcelia, to the strong-willed Cristo, as well as the introverted but lovely Luz. How did you manage to flesh out the arc of these diverse characters in your narrative?
I wrote a five-page synopsis of the entire story, following the plot points for each main character, and, through that synopsis, I figured out which character should tell which part of the narrative in his or her voice. At that point, I had a solid outline broken into chapters and delineated by narrator and that, as a tool, was indispensable.
I think the mathematical part of my brain began to take over during that process, and as I moved into the writing, I would go back and forth between the outline and the manuscript, making sure I had fleshed out all the storylines in satisfying ways. We had to get to know each of them through their own chapters in order to understand the complexity of each relationship from the various points of view.
The best way to do that was to give everyone their own story arc and then to weave them together into the central narrative. How do you strike a balance in presenting flawed but sympathetic characters?
Authenticity—of character, voice, and action—is very important to me, so I work hard to strike the right balance with all my writing. Especially the bad guys, the most flawed—you have to give them strengths, too. In my opinion, one of the most poignant moments of the novel is this passage: Luz drops her fork into the bowl.
The macaroni splatters onto the table, a few pieces hitting my arm. How many chances should one person get? This is our mother we are talking about. Not some lady in the street. While Cristo is willing to offer unlimited chances to his mother, Luz decides she is done. It is a transformative moment in which a daughter realizes her mother moves from hero to human.
How important, do you think, is it for a child to recognize the flaws of the woman he or she calls mother? And recognizing the flaws and the humanity of your mother encompasses one of those moments.
Puerto Rican culture is an important pulse in this work. Why did you choose this particular culture as a backdrop for the novel?
They arrived in my head fully formed: As a writer, all I can do is search for the truth and then write it down as I see it or imagine it. You tackle race, prison life, addiction, rape, and more in this moving look at a narrative pitched toward love and family.
Did some of these themes naturally develop or were you purposeful in including these threads in your novel? Everything developed naturally as I got deeper into the story.
For me, action and plot are the results of character.Michael S. Harper’s oeuvre has established his stature as a significant voice in contemporary poetry. As an African American poet, Harper explores the historical and contemporary duality of.
Learn vocabulary, terms, and more with flashcards, games, and other study tools. She took definition as her province and a literary analysis of the poem brother john by harper challenged the existing definitions of.
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Get started now! Meta DuEwa Jones. Harper's poem "Brother John," is an exemplary model to use for a discussion of prosody in jazz poetry because it resonates on a structural, syntactical and lyrical level."Brother John's" adept intra-linear shifts in syntax and phrase changes between stanzas draw on the power of repetitive iteration, what Aldon Nielsen would .
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