Trying to answer what it means to belong, Tiphanie Yanique has created a love story.
“Monster in the middle”, the latest novel by the award-winning associate professor of English and creative writing at Emory College of Arts and Sciences, comes out today (October 19), when she also delivers the Phillis Wheatley reading in the Cox Ballroom.
The novel explores identity, religion, class and more through the story of Fly, a black musician, and Stela, a Caribbean science teacher. They carry, like all of us, the experiences of their ancestors in addition to their own when they meet at the start of pandemic containment.
“It’s a meditation, perhaps, on the concept that even our most private things don’t belong to us alone,” Yanique says. “Even something as private as the person you fall in love with comes to you in historical terms.”
Yanique has earned praise for her storytelling art and rich detail in language and structure since being named one of the National Book Awards 2010 “5 under 35” for his first collection of stories, “How to escape from a leper colony”.
She infused magical realism through three generations of a family saga in her native Virgin Islands with her first novel, “Land of Love and Drowning”.
Although she has once again created a multigenerational tale in her new book, Yanique uses historical touchstones, such as the historic appointment of Sandra Day O’Connor to the Supreme Court of the United States, to tell the story of Fly and the story of Stela.
“I tell my students all the time, you need to know everything about your character,” she said. “What do they eat for breakfast?” When did they break their arm? It helps you write them down in a specific and true way.
This detail and context allowed her to take on a new challenge in her writing: finding a way to explore both emotional and intellectual questions about sex, love, and romance – the sort of thing often ridiculed in writing. literary circles and in society in general.
“What is more serious than the job you do to fall in love?” It’s one of the things that defines our humanity, ”says Yanique. “It could be a glaring error that we do not give serious intellectual attention to this very important endeavor, romantic love, through which we all struggle.”
Love, however, isn’t the only intimacy Yanique examines. Working backwards from how we fall in love, she also shows how what we believe, both in terms of religion and sanity, shapes our understanding of the world in a search for love.
The novel may be about Fly and Stela falling in love, but the story is as much about how they belong to each other as it is about how they belong to society.
“As a political writer, I want to show that what happened to you is not all of you,” Yanique says. “What happens in the culture is also part of you. I would say that our love belongs to our culture, to our families, to our time. Who you fall in love with is a socio-historical act.