A Long Curving Scar Where the Heart Should Be

Artist Statement

A Long Curving Scar Where the Heart Should Be unfolds on the unruly, mixed-race margins of a conservative 1930s Southern town. In the wake of abandonment by her husband, an impoverished young midwife and her twin daughters—Sweet Marie and Whitey—create a hospice and sanctuary for the town’s outcasts within a deserted antebellum plantation house. The twins inhabit a fantastical world of macabre births, glorious deaths, ravenous love affairs, clandestine sorceries, and secret madnesses—a site where the legacies of catastrophic injustice, brutality, and grief contend with unquenchable desires for restitution, wholeness, sexual liberty, and lives of freedom outside the chokeholds of bigotry and constraint.

Overshadowed by lingering scandals of miscegenation, the persistence of searing endemic violence, and a troubling secrecy surrounding their father’s disappearance, the women begin to walk into the discomforting limitations of their myths and wounds, and create their own new maps of sexual and personal fulfillment, resilience, and transformation. When the town claims that he is closer than they think, the women must decide whether his reappearance would offer wholeness, or unbearable consequences to their own hard-fought, courageous journeys towards existential insurrection.

Intergenerational memory is stored in stories, but those rarely add up to a coherent narrative. The four-generational family legacy of my childhood was willfully obscured. I knew it from hiding behind curtains, by eavesdropping on half-spoken anecdotes, most of which were whispered by a phalanx of aunts and great aunts and cousins in apocryphal asides church-side or grave-side. Most of the stories were whispered because they were trying to simultaneous speak and not speak about the family unspeakable: out of wedlock babies, miscarriages, miscegenation, family violence, nervous breakdowns, insanity, institutionalization, prostitution, sexually transmitted diseases, addictions… 

Every attempt I made to verify one story met with a different contradiction or denial, until each version of every event was nested in a thousand alternative interpretations – some scandalous, some sanitized. As I grew from a little girl into a teenager, and as my own place in the family structure shifted, lies and truths would emerge, disappear, and reappear radically changed. The stories were buried again and again, but never died. We were haunted by them.

When I set out to create this project, I knew that the narrative would be fractured – like our family’s history itself. Today, two of the four generations of our family have died, taking with them many mysteries. In many ways, this memoir is a séance not only of my own past, but that of many Southern women who traversed the epic Old South forces of poverty, bigotry, repressive religion, and autocratic old white patriarchs with their battles unsung and their losses unspoken, fighting for a promised land that, for them, never quite arrived.

Credits

A LONG CURVING SCAR WHERE THE HEART SHOULD BE was created with special thanks to support from the the National Endowment for the Arts, Yaddo,  the Lynchburg Old City Cemetery, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, as well as Catalysis Projects, Ragdale Corporation, the Ucross Foundation, Millay Colony, and the Dorland Mountain Arts Center.

Selections from the novel have appeared or are forthcoming in Tin House, Conjunctions, Denver Quarterly, Alaska Quarterly Review, New American Writing, Mississippi Review, Folio, Catalysis Projects, and many others.

Performances, exhibitions and presentations include: The Museum of Jurassic Technology (Los Angeles) and 610 Isis (Los Angeles).