I had the pleasure of meeting Cole Lavalais, a fellow Chicagoan, down in Memphis during the Mid-South Book Festival of 2016. Her responses to panel questions really struck me, and I became interested in her work.
Below is an excerpt from her The Toast interview, in which she discusses black spaces, magical realism in black women’s fiction, and mental illness. I recommend reading the whole thing and getting Cole’s Book, Summer of the Cicadas.
There’s a thing about mental health. It almost seems as if it’s the last frontier of where we don’t feel bad about teasing and making fun of folks that are going through mental illness. We still get memes of people or videos — “oh, look at this person! She’s crazy!” When we see someone unraveling, as a society, it seems like it’s still okay for us to poke fun, in ways we would never do if the person had cancer or some other disease. What I really hoped to do is to start that conversation so you can truly understand that this is truly a mental illness. Just because it can’t be cut away and you can’t get a shot and it’s fixed, it’s not that easy, it doesn’t make it any less.
Photo of Cole Lavalais from her website.