On family stories and acts of historical imagination
Troy Landrum Jr,’s passion for youth work led him to Seattle from Indianapolis; his even greater passion for writing and literature has kept him here.
Troy’s arrival in Seattle coincided with the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, which, together with the killing of Michael Brown, catalyzed the Black Lives Matter movement. The impact of these events led Troy to questions about his identity, the American context, and where he came from. He discovered writing in the process of rediscovering his own family’s stories of survival and migration from the Jim Crow South.
Troy continues to pursue writing as a means of discovery through the MFA in Creative Writing & Poetics in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences. He describes his thesis project as “a search for the history of my family,” an act of historical imagination that draws upon interviews with family members as well as archival research to uncover and bring to life the sights and sounds, the contexts and forces, that moved so many from his grandparents’ generation north. It is, he says, a survival story, “the story of how did my people survive.” As a writer, he is also discovering “myself, my skin, my story” as a character in the larger picture of history, and with that, “stepping into my place in what it means to be an American, an African American, and a human being.”
In the following interview excerpts, Troy cites a number of authors who have influenced him, including James Baldwin, Ta-Nehisi Coates, James McBride, and Isabel Wilkerson. For more on these writers and their work, see the references and links below.
Coming to Write Race
Writing a Novel of African American Experience
- James Baldwin, author (fiction and non-fiction), including Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953), Notes of a Native Son (1955), Another Country (1963), The Fire Next Time (1963), The Evidence of Things Not Seen (1985), and The Price of the Ticket (1985).
- Ta-Nehisi Coates, journalist and author (fiction and non-fiction), including The Beautiful Struggle (2008) and Between the World & Me (2015).
- James McBride, author (fiction and non-fiction), including The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to his White Mother (1995) and The Good Lord Bird (2013), winner of the National Book Award.
- Isabel Wilkerson, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration (2010) and Caste: the Origins of our Discontents (2020).