Today, we are continuing our talk with Kola Boof…
Kola, you’ve been called many things… Not all of them nice or even true. One label I know you use is “Womanist.”
Alice Walker is my favorite Woman and Toni Morrison is my favorite Writer. It’s because of the message in their work that I call myself a Womanist. And the other mother of Kola was Gloria Steinem. Those three. I am a Womanist-Feminist proudly.
Speaking of strong and passionate women ~ who often experience anger and attacks… You’ve worked on a project with Roseanne. Tell us a bit about that?
Oh my God…Roseanne Barr has changed my entire view of White Feminists. I think it’s because she understands rituals, clannish tribalism and foreign women’s issues. Getting to know Roseanne has been one of the happiest events in my life. She is like George Carlin, Richard Pryor and Lenny Bruce–a social commentator masquerading as a comedian! She is a genius. I filmed a new talk show pilot with her. I don’t have permission to give too many details. I don’t have any idea if or when it will air. Most pilots never reach the air, unfortunately. But she told me that we are now friends, not just associates, and that means a lot to me. I really love who she is and what she stands for. Neither one of us agrees totally with everything the other one says…that needs to be mentioned….but I feel that every woman should read her autobiography, Roseannearchy.
When Roseanne works her humor (stand-up or when she had her sitcom), her biting commentary is far more accepted than when she just speaks her mind. Do you find this is somewhat true for you as well? For example, when you write a book, are those opinions more accepted than when you speak your mind in person or on Twitter?
Oh yes. When I write my books, people acknowledge my great craftsmanship, my naturally poetic storytelling, my softness and my compassion even in the most fiery scenes. They have a context to put everything into. But when I speak in sound bites on Twitter, I come off as a vulgar man-hating, possibly racist Wicked Witch to them. Haha!
Truth is, I need to stay off of social media. But then the publishers don’t want you if you don’t cultivate and sell yourself. I have almost 20,000 followers. It’s a terrible catch 22. And with these Arab corporations openly offering publishers bribes not to publish me and offering reporters money to invent terrible stories about me, it’s very scary not to have that platform. But even my Twitter platform has been hacked 7 times. My computers, my photos and my Youtube videos are constantly hacked. The Police stay monitoring them on my behalf. It’s really terrible, Gracie. They feel they have to discredit me because I’m too loud, too fearless.
The nail that stands the tallest takes the greatest hammering. …One reason to be glad I am not that sort of legend.
Speaking of legends… You got to know Whitney Houston before she died. What was she like?
She was the sweetest, most misunderstood…just an angel trapped in the expectations that society places on women…what her religion wanted her to be; what her parents wanted her to be. She was not on drugs any of the times that I met with her. She was beautiful, kind, hilariously funny and the true embodiment of sisterhood and unconditional love. I miss Nippy so much.
Who were the authors that inspired you to become a writer?
There’s so many. Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Gloria Naylor, Sylvia Plath and Gayl Jones were the main inspirations. I loved Wanda Coleman, the genius poet. Sherwood Anderson, Richard Wright, Wallace Thurman, James Baldwin and of course Zora. I deeply loved Nigeria’s great Chinweizu, Buchi Emecheta, Senegal’s Mariama Ba and Egypt’s Nawal el Sadaawi. But I was raised in a Black American home with mostly Black American authors. I am African-born, an African author…but when I’m dead, I want the Black Americans to get the credit for my contribution as an artist. They saved my life and made me who I am.
I owe everything to Professor Derrick Bell, Carl Nelson, Molefi Kete Asante and Joe Madison. Recently, I’ve been able to become comrades with one of the most legendary black women in publishing history, Malaika Adero. I got to hug and kiss Marva Allen, another Mother of the word. That makes me cry realizing how blessed I am to actually meet the women who inspired me not to commit suicide, not to become a drug addict when I was young and dumb. I had such a tragic, tormented start. But now I’m a productive artist who has a voice. I also want to mention Terry McMillan. I don’t know her. But it’s because of the success of that black woman writer that a precedent was created where black authors could regularly be published. I loved her books as a teenager and I’m grateful she blew the doors open for us. Terry McMillan doesn’t get the credit or praise she deserves.
Out of the younger writers, your peers today, who do you admire?
Oh God. Let’s stick to the women and watch me forget to mention someone. But I have to say Z.Z. Packer is my favorite new writer. Chimamanda Adichie is my hero and sister of fire. I love her. I am blown away by Tayari Jones, Tsitsi Dangarembga and the new genius of Sci-Fi, Nnedi Okorofor. Loren Kleinman is my new favorite poet. I love Rebecca Walker so deeply. She is like a really smart woman who came through pure hell yet somehow isn’t as damaged as I am. Joan Morgan, Jamilah Lemieux and dream hampton (spelled lower case) are literal oxygen cleaners. I feel so empowered by Janet Mock, she’s the answer to everyone’s prayer in my opinion. I have a very high opinion of Jessica Care Moore, Helen Oyeyemi, Morowa Yejidé, Shirley Sherrod…and I am so impressed by this rapper Azealia Banks. She’s not a writer, she’s a rapper but I feel her music has literary merit. I hate that I’m leaving so many out. I hope they forgive me.
Your publisher, Johnny Temple and his outfit Akashic Books, is steadily becoming one of the most acclaimed flagship labels in what the New York Times calls a renaissance for Brooklyn publishers. What is it like to work with him?
I live on the West Coast and almost never get see my bosses at Akashic, but I adore them. Johnny Temple deserves all the credit for Kola Boof when Historians someday recollect this era in African literature. Johnny gave me my big break based solely on raw talent. And my editor, Ibrahim Ahmad, is very dear to me. He did everything to make The Sexy Part of the Bible the big hit that it was. There’s also Joanna Ingalls who I love a lot just because she’s so accepting and non-judgmental. I’m extremely lucky to be at Akashic Books because it really is the most important house in publishing right now.
What are your plans for the future?
I have some amazing novels coming out. I Am My Own Daughter will be the first one. It deals with suicide among Blacks and features a Black American woman named Eyelet March who flies airplanes delivering furniture for a living. In real life, that’s what my husband Jason does. And I have another novel finished, She Wiped It On the Wall. It’s about a Black American female reporter traveling to Sudan to save an Atheist Dinka girl from being stoned for witchcraft. I’m planning a novel about the nature of shame entitled KOOL because I don’t understand people that are always ashamed of trivial things. And I’m planning a story collection about Transsexuals called The Beach Is At the Ocean and a novel set in Nigeria, The African Mafia. I’ve also promised my fans a complete cook book–cooking is my passion.
So my future is writing. I’m a writer booked up until death. Haha!