A&E

Essayist discusses nonfiction writing and research

On Wednesday, April 17, author Aisha Sabatini Sloan read selected works in Founders Hall.

Sloan was brought in as part of this year’s Voices in the Valley. She has authored of two books of essays, “The Fluency of Light” and “Dreaming of Ramadi in Detroit.”

Sloan normally reads essays from her second book, “Dreaming of Ramadi in Detroit,” because they are shorter. However, at this event, she chose to read “The Strong Man and a Clown,” an essay from her first book.

This essay detailed her trips to Italy both as a kid and an adult. Her maternal grandfather was from Italy, but she never got to meet him since he had disowned her mother for moving out before she was married, something Italian women weren’t supposed to do.

She detailed one fight her mother and grandfather had before her mother moved out.

“Kill me! Kill me! You’re going to have to pay for the funeral,” Sloan read.

The majority of the essay tied back to her grandfather, who helped build the Empire State Building and the Golden Gate Bridge.

A recurring theme in the essay was the Disney animated film “Pinocchio.” Sloan talked about the whale and how she felt a natural emotional connection to it.

She hopes readers will be able to see that the whale is a running metaphor for a story that she says isn’t hers to tell.

“I don’t see a monster like Maestro does,” Sloan said. “I wonder about the whale’s own fears and loneliness.”

After Sloan finished reading her essay, she answered questions.

She talked about the process of writing essays and how it takes her about a year to do all of the research. The long research process is why she switched to shorter essays in her second book, as they require less research and time.

She encourages writers to be creative with how they do research.

“Unusual paths for research are exciting,” Sloan said. “Follow where curiosity takes you.”

English professor Arra Ross, who introduced Sloan, said she has been personally moved by her work.

“I don’t know how to define what she’s doing in her essays,” Ross said. “I don’t want to. I just want them to move me.”

Alyssa McMillan

Reporter | Psychology | anmcmill@svsu.edu
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