Every week on Thursday I invite a faculty member to tea at our college. It started as a way to get faculty members into the common room for informal, less structured conversations, but along the way, I've enjoyed meeting them, too, and with every passing week, I feel a little more envious of my students.
This week I'd invited a prolific novelist to join us. She settled back into her chair, crossed her legs demurelty, and began to talk about disguises. About growing up in South Africa, in a place where the world was turned upside down, but yet everyone pretended it was perfectly normal, and about running away from there to Europe, to the place where writers painted tantalizing portraits of a more civilized life. She found she didn't fit in there, either. She wrote, and was rejected. Her voice was too angry, they told her. Too raw. Too close to her subjects.
Finally, one editor advised her to rewrite her book from the perspective of an onlooker. That was it: the magic door, the way in. She discovered her voice behind the veil.
I loved listening to her talk, because of the layers of voice and voicelessness, disguise and revelation. She would put on the literary personae of people she didn't like very much, in order to say the things that she never could have said, were she her own narrator. And yes, the disguise made the truth more possible, gave her the ability to allow other silenced people to speak.
Wednesday's prompt at BlogHer invited us to "find our authentic voice," listening to our writing to see if we can find ourselves in it, rather than trying to be someone else. And yet, sometimes, it's also in the disguise that we are more ourselves, isn't it?
Does authenticity need to be the same as identity? Can we be authentic even if we have adopted a writer's persona to inhabit?
What would your story look like if it was written from someone else's perspective? Have you ever worn a writer's disguise?