2015 National Book Award Longlist, Fiction
National Book Foundation: In the process of writing your book, what did you discover, what, if anything, surprised you?
Zink: I remember another thing from during the writing process (or rather, immediately after it) that really surprised me. (I didn't mention it because I feel like I've said it in a million interviews.) It was how many things I got right. I remembered black classmates speaking a dialect I couldn't make head or tail of, and it turned out I may have been in the first class to be integrated starting with first grade. Which is SCARY, because I was born in 1964, the last year of the baby boom. That means most white Southerners are older than I am and grew up in a world where you could go for weeks and not see a black person, and that's what they told me when I asked them. Segregation totally worked. My recollections of the various legal stratagems used to dispossess black landowners were all too true. (There's a nice Wikipedia article on the formerly black town of Grove, Virginia that lays out the basics. I named the housing project in MISLAID after the historically black town of Centerville, near Williamsburg, where they moved the black population of downtown into a housing prjoect while I was a student at W&M. It's still there, unincorporated and nonexistent, if tellingly located at the end of Centerville Road, just so you know it's been there since the 18th Century. Without existing, because if people have addresses you have to do boring administrative shit like count them in the census.)
ABOUT THE BOOK
A sharply observed, mordantly funny, and startlingly original debut from an exciting, unconventional new voice, about the making and unmaking of the American family, which lays bare all of our assumptions about race and racism, sexuality and desire.
About The Author
Nell Zink grew up in rural Virginia. She has worked at a variety of trades, including masonry and technical writing. In the early 1990s, she edited an indie rock fanzine. Her writing has also appeared in n+1. Her debut novel The Wallcreeper was published in 2014. She lives near Berlin, Germany.
Get THE BOOK