“Angie felt like a throwback to another era, like she hadn’t evolved at the same rate as her classmates and friends.”
Bridgett M. Davis spoke these words Tuesday night as she read from the first chapter of her second novel, Into the Go-Slow (The Feminist Press at CUNY, 2014). Davis’ sophomore publication tells the story of Angie, the college-aged protagonist, as she investigates the traces left by her mercurial older sister who died mysteriously while on vacation in Lagos, Nigeria. The more readers learn of Ella, the ill-fated sister, the more apparent her influence on Angie becomes. Into the Go-Slow is a story of Pan-Africanism in the 70’s, 80’s, and beyond, a story about pursuing your roots, no matter where they might take you.
At WORD Bookstore in Jersey City, Davis read before a modest crowd, bathed in the amber glow of overhead lights. The audience made up for its size by proffering a series of passionate, though deferential questions. This was a group of engaged readers with whom the book clearly resonated.
Tayari Jones, the acclaimed author of Leaving Atlanta and Silver Sparrow (not to mention a resident of Jersey City), served as interlocutor during the Q&A session afterward. Jones encouraged audience participation by offering her own impressions as a reader of the novel’s early drafts, coaxing a few noteworthy admissions from Davis in the process.
“I was doing a lot of rewriting,” Davis said. “The first draft was the ‘…and then’ draft. Then I rewrote it in first person.”
“Each draft felt wiser,” Jones added. “You never start over. You just have to be patient until you get your best book.”
On the role of Africa and the legacy of the slave trade in the consciousness of the main characters, Davis mentioned that she had traveled to Nigeria after college, though she could have gone anywhere in the world. “People believed [Nigeria] was the beacon of the continent,” she said. “There was this excitement about it. Once I got there I was enthralled. It gets under your skin, and it held me. Years later I thought that was the story to tell. And yes, I wanted to talk about how African Americans are also ex pats. They are citizens of the world, like anyone else.”
To wrap up a night of introspection and honesty, Davis and Jones invited the audience up to the podium for a group photo. Now this is what we mean by literary community.