Cultural critic Hilton Als did an interview with Lambda Literary recently in which he talks about his new collection of essays, "White Girls." What stands out to be about the interview, and the book, is the delicate way that Als writes about platonic and romantic love between black men. From his interview with Frederick McKindra:
It was really heartening to see your description of a powerful love existing between two black men-one gay and the other straight [a character only referenced by the initials SL] I didn’t realize how unique that experience would be until reading the essay "Triste Tropique."
I think it’s just the feeling of connection. One of the things that’s happened recently with gay rights is that people can get married and all of that, but I don’t know how much that’s really going to solve the sense of being outside of things that gay people feel in general. I just think that gay marriage, outside of the Civil Rights which is a great, great thing, it’s not really a Band-Aid on the profound sense of isolation that gay people, particularly gay people of color, can feel. And how much we have to improvise around the gay status quo. When I met SL (and I also want to stress that half of that stuff is fictionalized), he had this great capacity to love and also to be loved, but it’s not without complications, which I also wanted to show. I also wanted to show how two men of color together can be very upsetting to the status quo in general.
Also also addressed the book’s title, which has will certainly get you some strange looks on the train.
Can we begin by discussing how this particular project came together, especially under this title?
I think for years I avoided the idea of a collection of essays. I had been working on a project for a while and in between trying to make a living and avoiding that essay collection the title came to me. The title came to me because years ago, when I worked in fashion, they would always refer to black models as the "black girl." They would never say "white girl," they would never point to the white model and say "white girl." So in thinking about it, I wanted to know what a "white girl" was in my head. I wanted to write about what that means not only in terms of society but what it means in terms of identification with men of color. So there was the title first, and then when the title came, I was able to really kind of narrow it down. I wanted the book to read as a whole, not as a collection. It was really important to me that it read deep thematically, so unified you would just think of it as a book and not a collection of essays.