Fiona Zedde and I have traded blog days this month in order to post our question and answer conversation in its proper sequence.
I first met Fiona Zedde years ago within the pages of her novel, Bliss. It was a while ago, when black gay and lesbian readers were clamoring to devour stories that reflected and affirmed our existence. I knew black gay and lesbian writers had stories roiling in our souls, stories that needed to be written.
About that same time, an enterprising young woman, Rena Scott, established Sistahs on the Shelf, an invaluable monthly online review of new books written by black lesbians. Ms. Scott’s review of Bliss convinced me to make my way to the book and consequently to Fiona Zedde.
Over the years I’ve followed Fiona’s literary career and read her newsletters, many of which she composed during her travels. Traipsing on foreign soil and stopping to really appreciate the different surroundings seemed to be as necessary to Fiona as writing her many books.
Having been exposed to international travel early on, I share Fiona’s enthusiasm for and curiosity about distant places. I figure I’m not alone when I visualize myself in the Paris of Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, Josephine Baker, and Lois Mailou Jones, seated at Aux Deux Magots or Café Procope sipping drinks and chatting about books and politics with other LGBT ex-pats.
Because I continue to harbor these fantasies, I thought it would be enlightening to chat with Fiona about her experiences abroad.
What follows is Part One of our exchange. Part Two will appear in Fiona’s next blog post, the 26th of this month, at Women and Words.
Fiona, what pulls you to foreign travel?
My endless reading as a child started my obsession with visiting far away places. Back then – which is not so different from now – I’d rather be reading than doing my chores. In those books I read, the characters swam in crystalline Bali waters, climbed the sand dunes in Namibia, had intense conversations over coffee in Zanzibar. I hungered for experiences like that.
What countries have you visited and in which have you stayed for a protracted amount of time?
This question makes me want to pull up a map to double-check my memory, but let’s see… I’ve been to:
Croatia, Armenia, Romania, Italy, France, Monaco, Malta, Germany, Spain, The Netherlands, Sweden, England, Wales, Tanzania, Namibia, South Africa, Morocco, Thailand, Malaysia, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Belize, Mexico, Aruba, The Cayman Islands, Jamaica (I was born there but still counts, right?), Cuba, and Honduras. That may or may not be it.
I’ve only lived for months at a time in Spain, France, and England. In South Africa, I was there for nearly a month and the same for Thailand.
That’s an impressively long list of countries, Fiona. I had no idea that you’d traveled so extensively. When you’re in residence abroad, do you set writing as well as touristic goals for yourself or do you lead a less structured life?
As my best friend will tell anyone, structure and I don’t do well together. That’s why I usually just take things as they come whenever I’m traveling. I fit my writing deadlines in with my travel plans and work at not letting my hunger for new experiences get in the way of my writing. Some days I’m more successful than others.
During our day-to-day lives here in the U.S. we’re always aware of our gender and racial identities. Do you experience that same existential awareness while you’re living in Spain or France?
I do, to some extent. It’s difficult to completely escape that, especially when people with more privilege because of their own gender and race identities, constantly throw that privilege around. Sometimes, though, it’s possible to find a respite from that.
Do people who are natives of the country where you’re living now express in any way (verbal or non-verbal) an awareness of your nationality or race?
Absolutely. When they find out I’m American, they usually bring up Trump or say how much they love President Obama. When I’m in small villages, some children stare. Once, a confronting anal-opening of a person started debating with me, in Spanish, about Spanish colonial history versus that of Belgium. Unlike the beautiful rumors of how life might have been for Baldwin and company in Paris and other parts of Europe, I usually feel my race wherever I am.
What are the two most pronounced differences between life in the U.S. and life where you are at present?
1 – Siestas are embraced and encouraged. Although I’m not usually a napper, I’ve found that a 15-minute rest can be a help getting through the rest of the day.
2 – People don’t treat bread like it’s filth to be set on fire and launched into the sun. They love it here. A lot.
|Writer. Traveler. Eater of all things delicious. Also author of lesbian/queer fiction and seductive romance. Check out my “Fiona Zedde” books here – http://www.FionaZedde.com/novels – and my “Lindsay Evans” novels here – http://www.LindsayEvansWrites.com. Take a look and love all over them. View all posts by Fiona Zedde.|
Renée Bess is the author of five novels and with Lee Lynch, the Goldie Award winning anthology, OUR HAPPY HOURS, LGBT VOICES FROM THE GAY BARS. She is one of four winners of the 2019 Alice B. Readers Awards. She continues to entertain daydreams of sharing a meal with Josephine Baker at Paris’ Chez Haynes on Rue Clauzel. http://www.reneebess.com
© Renée Bess, 2019