Interview with Rosa Guy
2nd International Conference of Caribbean Women Writers
Trinidad & Tobago
April 27, 1990
Q: Rosa, how long have you been in writing.
RG: Well I would say for thirty, thirty-five years or something like that. I've been publishing, let's see from 1965. Now the first book I had published was in two short stories that I had published in Trinidad and by C L R James when he worked with the Nation.
Q: What were those stories, what were the names.
RG: One was 'Magnify' and one was 'Carnival', oh, I have lost them an I would like to find them, I want to know how I could get into the files, the Nation's old files, it's since 1960.
Q: You write mainly novels, is your work fictitious our autobiographical.
RG: Well it's always a combination really, because one always writes what one knows, although sometimes I go very far afield, if I know what I want to say I get the characters, other characters to say it. If you know, like I'm just reminiscing it becomes a little autobiographical.
Q: What is the first novel that you had published.
RG: Bird at My Window.
Q: And what is it about.
RG: It's a sociological novel about a young man, growing up in Harlem, United States.
Q: What are some of the issues that come up, in that novel.
RG: Well, what happens to someone who is denied all sorts of, of attention in the most public sense, decent education, decent housing, all of and if he is very brilliant, channeling his mind in ways that has no real outlet except towards violence.
Q: How have your childhood experiences been integrated into your stories.
RG: Well some, like you know, the novel which is one of my most famous novels is 'The Friends' and a bit of it, you know with the back, West Indian back ground, a West Indian child going into New York and the, the life style, what happens. That might be slightly autobiographical.
Q: Would you like to share some of these experiences with us.
RG: Well the whole question, when you're young and you're different, you know you have a very hard time in the United States. Everyone is looking, always looking for someone to feel superior to . And if you have any kind of spunk they're very angry with you and they beat you up. I use to run home every night beaten up, everyday I should say and it was pretty hard.
Q: So you've always been outspoken.
Q: As a West Indian writer with West Indian roots, do you address issues concerning blacks in general and women.
RG: I certainly, the issues are people issues but and all my books are sort of integrated in what happens to people living in the society. But I think that being black and being a woman, of course it has to, you know, I have the issues that belong to us and us alone, and that I sort of try to grapple with it.
Q: How has your work been influenced by your development from childhood to adulthood.
RG: Well I think that in my development, you know, everyone develops and as I grow I try to make sure that I become aware. I am aware of the world issues and the things that are affecting most peoples in the world. I, I don't feel that one always has to be autobiographical and the, events that affect everyone in the world have to be important. The most important thing is the lives of people at that time for instance, I think right now, the lives of people in Africa, the freedom struggle affects us all and I, I try to see what I can do in my work to point out the fact that if, that, that we all have a responsibility to seeing that this liberation movement in Africa comes to fruition. How we do it, these things I have to think out.
Q: Are you working on any new works at the moment.
RG: Yes, well I'm working on a book entitled, the working title is 'Time Out in Haiti' and I'm dealing with some of those issues that I found to be crucial in Haiti, and how it affects us as a people too.
Q: Us, people in the general sense, Trinidad people or...
RG: Well I think in the general sense because, I'm, I'm very concerned about people. I'm concerned about Trinidadians and Haitians and Americans and the things that have happened to us since slavery and what has helped to form us all since slavery, even though we, some of us we, believe, we think that it hasn't mattered in our life and every generation has to find its own truth but then you, you come to the feeling, or the idea that, what is truth. Truth is not encompassing one person alone. Your mother's truth becomes a part of yours, so generational truths you know, have a way of sifting down because any how it forms you, and so you have to deal with some of these issues that form you in order to clear your mind, even you know of, of pressures that you don't know are there.
Q: Rosa what do you think the responsibility of a woman writer.
RG: The full responsibility of writers I believe should be trying to make the world a better place for us all to live in.