1. When did you start writing Blackgirl on Mars, and what was the initial inspiration or questions you wanted to answer by writing this book?
In a way, I started writing Blackgirl on Mars when I moved to Denmark in 1999, although the idea didn’t fully mature until the early 2000s with the launch of the same-titled blog. I’ve always been captivated by views of alienation – I remember as a child hearing the term “alien” applied to those in my family who did not have US citizenship and feeling jarred by the word until I started looking further into the concept, which brought me to the beautiful truth that it is ironically, a universal feeling that happens on many levels – from our emotional spheres to that of our physical.
But the book began to take form once I hit the road in 2019, traveling under the guise of a book tour – which was true, under it all, a search for a home. How does alienation relate to how I relate to home? As I journeyed throughout the States and back to Trinidad and Tobago, I was forced to think about home in different ways and about migrations – how am I met at various borders? What do these interactions mean? If anything, at all? I also wanted to understand what was happening to me physically – which brought me to the work of various healers who inevitably speak about “soul loss” and how to heal. These discoveries are fascinating to me because they shed light on oppression’s true purpose: to break the soul.
2. You talk about your time in Denmark as a teacher there and your experiences of that time — can you explain how it felt to engage with students and the broader educational system from your perspective and what frustrations you thought at the time?
The best part of teaching for me has always been the students. I learned so much about the world and Danish culture in my classrooms. It was always a joy to teach – but I did find the conditions under which I was expected to lead to be, in the end, intolerable.
My experiences revealed that although Denmark has a generous social welfare system compared to the rest of the world, this system can often be violent towards the most vulnerable. I’ve seen how detrimental it can be for poor Danes to those we call refugees. So many caring, beautiful souls work in this system – I always see them. However, I have seen how soul-crushing it can be for too many to depend on the State, whether for mental health, financial support, or help finding work. It doesn’t have to be like that, of course. We need trauma-informed care.
On a recent trip to Finland, I was lucky enough to see a brood of ducklings walking through the park with their mother. I was fascinated by what I saw: one of the ducklings was injured, and the entire family, including the mother, adapted to the pace of this wounded bird.
We must genuinely interrogate how much our ableist tendencies are in integrity with Eugenics’ policies and how far-reaching this idealogy has been in our culture.
Ivan Illyich, the author of Deschooling Society, speaks about our education system being one of “banking” – the student shows up and is filled with information that we confuse with knowledge. We create our schools along specializations, which fracture the interconnectedness of various knowledges, further isolating ourselves and knowledges from each other.
I don’t have much faith that our current school system can be more inclusive and progressive when the system is generally developed around ideas of hierarchy, Eurocentric fundamentalism, and other violence towards the students and teachers. Again, I advocate for trauma-informed care.
4. You write about your family and your attempts to find a sense of home and belonging through your memories and relationships with them, as well as traveling to different ‘homes’ during the book. Could you tell us more about that journey and how you conceptualize ‘home’?
“As a woman, I have no country. As a woman, I want no country. As a woman, my country is the whole world.”
― Virginia Woolf
Home is Turtle Island – a land that has been brutalized and stolen, whose healing rests on our abilities to tend to our historical traumas.
Home is Trinidad and Tobago – where my ancestors came or were brought to or were there before and who to has unhealed historical traumas.
Home is in Denmark, where I have given birth to my child and spent the most significant chunk of my life – far longer than any other place; and she, too, is with her share of social/historical traumas.
Home is the healing that becomes the journey to the person you were always meant to be.
“Thus Spoke the Plant: A Remarkable Journey of Groundbreaking Scientific Discoveries & Personal Encounters with Plants” by Monica Gagliano, PhD
“The Nation of Plants” Stefano Mancuso
“The One-Straw Revolution” by Masanobu Fukuoka
“Killing Rage” by bell hooks
“When They Call You a Terrorist” by Patrice Khan-Cullors & ashe bandele
“See Now Then” by Jamaica Kincaid