Monday, January 21, 2013

Rebecca Wells

From a Q & A with Rebecca Wells, author of Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood and Ya-Yas in Bloom:

You grew up in Louisiana, and ... your books have dealt with that state and the Walker family and friends. What first prompted you to create the Ya-Yas? Are they based on real women you knew or your own childhood?

I grew up in a tiny kingdom of bayous and cotton fields, a big extended family, with tons of relatives, with parents whose friends were too numerous to count. My family has been in that part of Central Louisiana since the 1750s or thereabout. You'd go anywhere and they'd know "she's a Wells girl." All around me were these utterly original characters, honorary aunts and uncles; African American women who helped raise me. I lived in a gumbo of stories, tales, histories. I saw friendships that last lifetimes. I knew who everyone was and everyone knew who I was, or at least that is how it felt. My parents loved to celebrate. They'd throw a party for anything. That's how Louisiana was then. My grandfather used to hire this country band to play music on Sunday afternoons and we'd dance together — all ages, little kids with grandparents, you name it. I was infused with a love of life, with a sense of being not so much a part of the United States of America as being a part of the Sovereign Stage of Half-Crazy, Half-Holy State of Louisiana. How could I not be influenced by such rich characters, food, music, the beauty of the flat land stretching out forever, dotted like snow with cotton. How could I not let the Ya-Yas emerge from my unconscious and start telling their stories.

Did I know people like the Ya-Yas? Of course. I was surrounded by women who were the most beautiful, funniest, most original, and sometimes most wounded goddesses I can imagine. Let me make it clear, however, that the Ya-Yas are not factually real. They are an amalgam of memory, research, and imagination. Vivi is not my mother. Vivi is Sidda's mother. I am Rebecca; Sidda is Sidda. It has been difficult for me when these distinctions get confused. We live in such a literal world. We seem to always want a writer to claim that her fiction is actually her autobiography. My work is not my autobiography. It contains elements of my life, but those elements are imagined — emotional truth, not factual truth.

The tiny kingdom I grew up in has...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue