And speaking of people who emphatically have found out what they are:
“When I was coming up, I was like, ‘Ntozake Shange’s great.’ Also Edward Albee is great. Shakespeare’s great. Sophocles is great. August Wilson’s great…. The list goes on and on. I was looking up to the awesome ones. Those are the footsteps I want to walk in. They could be Black or Asian or Latino or Greek or dead or whatever. I don’t care. Certainly when you find some ‘like you,’ that might be helpful, but ultimately, at the end of the day, who is like you really? Then you suddenly realize, ‘Oh, gee, I’m me’.”
Playwright Suzan-Lori Parks, in The Play That Changed My Life, ed. Ben Hodges, 2009, p. 114
It took Parks a while to find her “me.”
As a schoolgirl she grew up partly in Germany, where she attended German schools. She learned basic German, but more importantly, learned “what it feels like to be neither white nor black, but simply foreign.”
In 1985 she graduated from one of what were once the Seven Sisters, exclusive Ivy League equivalent colleges for women, before coeducation made serious inroads in the 1970’s and 80’s. (Mt. Holyoke, like Wellesley and Smith and Bryn Mawr, remains an all-women’s college.) At Holyoke, Parks was inspired by teacher James Baldwin and alumna playwright Wendy Wasserstein.
In 2002 Suzan-Lori Parks won the Pulitzer Prize in Drama for Topdog/Underdog. Now plenty of people know what and who she is: the New Yorker’s profiled her, she’s been on TV and radio and the stage, and so has her work —
Ultimately, at the end of the day, however — for Parks, and for us, the question remains: Who is like you REALLY?