Lakiesha Carr graduated from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, and received her MFA at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she was awarded a Maytag Fellowship for Excellence in Fiction and a Jeff and Vicki Edwards Post-graduate Fellowship in Fiction. A journalist and writer from East Texas, she has held various editorial and production positions with CNN, The New York Times, and other media. Her writing has received support from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop, the DC Commission on Arts & Humanities for nonfiction writing, and the Kimbilio Fellowship for fiction writing.
Lakiesha joins us on Wednesday, March 8 to celebrate the release of her new novel An Autobiography of Skin, published by Pantheon Books.
Where are you writing to us from?
I’m in sunny East Texas where just a few weeks ago we endured an ice storm that once again threatened our fragile power grid, and yet now it feels like an early spring. Temperatures are usually mild around these parts year round but like much of the country lately, it’s sometimes difficult to tell what’s to come.
What is bringing you joy right now, personally/artistically/habitually?
Music has always provided a specific kind of high and served as inspiration. I’ve been listening to all my old Minnie Riperton albums—Come To My Garden more specifically and most often. Joni Mitchell’s The Hissing of Summer Lawns was the personal soundtrack to which I wrote my novel and as I approach publication day, I find myself returning to it as a sort of remembrance of what the solitary process of writing my book felt like. Its soothing sounds also help relieve my jitters.
Which writers, artists, and others influence your work in general, and this book, specifically?
Gayl Jones has always been the standard in my mind, but so many others join her in my heart: Toni Morrison, Gwendolyn Brooks, Lucille Clifton, Gloria Naylor, Zora Neale Hurston, to name a few. John Coltrane, Billie Holiday and Sun Ra’s music, along with the great blues artist Bessie Smith.
What books are you reading right now and would you recommend any to others?
I’m inspired by the passion and beauty of writer friends also publishing at this time: Tracey Rose Peyton’s Night Wherever We Go and DK Nnuro’s What Napoleon Could Not Do represent the range of the American experience, and long conversations with them both have provided more comfort and relief then they’ll probably ever know. I’m so proud to be experiencing the absolute terror and thrill of this moment together.
And I’ll always recommend Jamel Brinkley. His story collection Witness hits shelves this summer and I can’t wait!
If you opened a bookstore, where would it be located, what would it be called, and what would your bestseller be?
This might sound entirely weird but I imagine a place that’s become real inside my mind. My version of heaven where all is peaceful and there is no death. We eat, we dance, we love without fear. I’d like to have a bookstore there commemorating my time on earth. Perhaps it’d be called “Gaia’s Gems” or some such name that I’ve run across in New Age stores over the years. Anyway, I’d sell all the weird and beautiful stories of what life was like on the water planet. There’d be no bestseller because they’d all be celebrated with equal enthusiasm. A writer’s dream!