What Starts Bad a Mornin' May End Good Come Evening

What Starts Bad a Mornin' May End Good Come Evening

This essay is inspired by my interview with Carol Mitchell, the author of What Start Bad a Mornin'

You can read the interview here.

 

The morning I start reading What Start Bad A Mornin' is the same morning I cut my hair off. Cutting it was not something I had ever thought about doing. Prior to this, I had been growing out my locs for seven years. They were tightly coiled and woven, reaching down to my waist in a cascade of dark, earthy strands. On many nights, I had spent hours nurturing them, feeding them with essential oils and love. I spoke to my hair, the same way people spoke to their children or their plants, coaxing it gently to grow.  

The morning had been a seemingly quiet one, until a sudden urge overtook me. I abandoned my tea and chapter 5 of What Start Bad a Mornin‘. With shaky hands, I grabbed a pair of scissors and mercilessly hacked off clumps of hair, each snip echoing like a loud shot in the otherwise silent room.

 As I look back, I realize that it was a reflective ritual, I was drawn into a haunting meditation on loss and renewal, what once was and what might have been. There is a primal intimacy in the act of cutting hair, a shedding of skin that echoes throughout stories from Delilah to Joan of Arc. When I catch a glimpse of my reflection in the mirror - this unfamiliar version of myself - and I understand why Delilah cut Samson's hair while he slept. Some transformations cannot be witnessed. I had only ever cut my hair twice before, and on both occasions, it coincided with difficult times in my life. Cutting my hair was an act of mourning, a severing of the past to make way for an uncertain future.  

The following days after, I lost myself between the pages of What Start Bad a Mornin’ while my locs remained on a pile in a far corner of my room, the sweet scent of lavender and rosemary oils lingering in a corner I consciously avoided. I found myself drawn to the book for various reasons; the writing style of the author was simply mesmerizing, each sentence flowed seamlessly into the next, creating a lyrical rhythm that pulled me in and kept me captivated, plot of the book was intriguing and complex, the characters in the book were well-developed and multi-dimensional. There were qualities in the main character, Amaya, I could relate to, we were both struggling, very poorly, with our mental health. Me, because I just started living in a new country and missed my home terribly. Amaya, because she started living in a new country but had unfinished business back home. And similar to me, it is through difficult reflective rituals that she come to find herself.  

I find that I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of interviewing Carol Mitchell. The interplay between her professional acumen, academic pursuits, and creative impulses added layers of depth to how she sees the world, infusing her answers to my questions with a maturity and perspective that can only be honed through years of lived experience. As she spoke about her journey from an IT person with an MBA to a writer, driven by her desire to provide authentic Caribbean literature for her children, I was captivated. Her willingness and mastery in reinventing herself at different points in her life and following her passions is commendable. 

In What Start Bad a Mornin’, a probing exploration of mental health and its intersectionality with race unfolds in a manner that is both poignant and provocative. Carol deftly navigates the complexities of mental illness through the lens of diverse characters, painting a vivid portrait of Caribbean sensibilities that will undoubtedly strike a chord with readers attuned to the nuances of cultural identity. The thematic resonance of grappling with mental health issues within minority communities harkens back to a tradition of socially conscious literature, echoing the fervor of Baldwin's introspective musings or Morrison's incisive narratives on trauma and resilience. Yet, what distinguishes this work is its unflinching gaze at the insidious dismissiveness often directed towards those struggling with mental health challenges, a societal blind spot laid bare with searing clarity by the author's pen. With a narrative that skillfully weaves personal anecdotes with broader social critiques, she beckons us to ponder the ways in which we engage—or fail to engage—with those wrestling silently with their inner demons.

Carol tells me that her choice to write a lot about mental health in What Start Bad a Mornin’ was a little bit deliberate because in the Caribbean or in Africa, we tend to deal with mental health or trauma in a way that is often dismissive. She adds that she wonders what we are losing, what hurt are we perpetuating by not dealing with mental health and taking care of our elderly people in a way that makes them have the most comfortable life. She had this very traumatic event happen to teenage Amaya, the main character in What Start a Bad Mornin’, and nobody said “Oh my gosh, this is so awful. What can we do to help you?” She didn't get any of that. It was just like, just keep it moving.

We talk about how much of a role being a reader plays in being a good writer (a lot) and the types of books she read while growing up. She talks about being influenced by Caribbean writing and British writing which tends to lean towards being didactic and always having a moral lesson. Now, Carol tries to work out that influence–the all-too-prevalent trope of reformation through punishment in traditional narratives– from her own writing. She champions the nuanced portrayal of flawed characters who need not undergo a complete metamorphosis to validate their existence, a narrative terrain where imperfections are not merely tolerated but embraced as emblematic of authentic human experience.

Navigating through landscapes scarred by strife, I question whether silence can ever truly be an option for those whose words hold the power to illuminate silenced histories. As a Nigerian writer, I think a lot about how to tackle writing about my home, my language and my experiences for a global audience, the line between authorial obligation and creative autonomy, and beckoning readers into a realm where storytelling becomes not only a craft but a conduit for societal reckoning. With a nuanced understanding of geopolitical complexities, historical gravitas and personal narratives, Carol masterfully underscores the necessity of diverse experiences in enriching our collective consciousness. In an era where borders blur and histories intermingle, her narrative stance in What Start Bad a Morning prompts introspection on the varied hues of storytelling—shaping not just individual tales but contributing to the collective human experience. As we navigate a world rife with discord and dissent, perhaps it is in embracing diverse voices and multifaceted narratives that we glean a sliver of understanding.

The sheer force of literature lies in its ability to shatter the illusion of isolation. As a reader delves into a story, they may find themselves confronted with experiences that mirror their own, whether from the past or future. And for those who suffer and struggle alone, this realization can be powerful, a sudden illumination of solidarity in a world that often feels desolate. This is what a book like What Start Bad a Mornin’ does for me.