In this episode of Life Stories, the podcast series where I talk to memoir writers about their lives and the art of writing memoir, I spoke to MK Asante about Buck, his account of his teenage years in “Killadelphia, Pistolvania,” and how he pivoted from the life of an adolescent drug dealer to a career as a poet, filmmaker, and now memoirist. One of the first things we discussed is the freshness of the book’s voice; Buck doesn’t feel like a 30-year-old man trying to recapture his 15-year-old voice, but like an authentic 15-year-old talking about life on the edge. Here’s what he told me about that:
“I had to rediscover [that voice], unearth it, to write this book, because that’s one of the things I didn’t want to do when I wrote this memoir… I didn’t want to write a book that was an older guy reminiscing about his childhood or reflecting back on it. I wanted to write it in the present tense. I wanted you to feel what I felt when I felt it, how I felt it. I wanted you to have the epiphanies when I had the epiphanies, I wanted you to fall when I fell… and so the only way to do that, in my mind, was to write it in the first person present tense… Once I found that voice again, it really just flowed.”
We also talk about, among other things, using his mother’s journal’s in the memoir, growing up at the forefront of the Afrocentric movement in the 1980s and ’90s, and the influences of the Beats and hip-hop on Asante’s writing… in all its various forms.
Listen to Life Stories #39: MK Asante (MP3 file); or download this file directly by right-clicking (Mac users, option-click). You can also subscribe to Life Stories in iTunes, where you can catch up with earlier episodes and be alerted whenever a new one is released.