Cheryl Diane Parkinson is a British-Caribbean writer living in Norfolk. Her publishing history includes the fictional story The Revolving Door. Her debut novella Maya is due for release early 2022. Her piece, “Monica”, can be found in EPOCH Issue 03: Roots, available to purchase here.
Why do you write CNF, and do you explore other genres in your work?
I am Caribbean British. I am a descendent of African slavery, and as such I find there are historical gaps when I try to research my roots. This has resulted in gaps in a personal and collective identity. I am (and people like me) have been written out of history. And so, I like to use memories from my mother in Jamaica, and my own experience and knowledge of Jamaica and Britain, and weave them into creative stories that hold elements of truth. Jamaica is visually stunning. The lyrical language swells and sweeps when spoken, much like music. Even cussing can flow of the tongue in a superfluous and stylish grace completely contradictory to the content! It has a lyrical quality that I never tire of listening to. It’s comfort. It’s family. And it gives way to the most humorous scenes. It’s what I aim to share with all those willing to listen. Sharing these things within my writing does a couple things. Firstly, it honours my mother. My mother Monica taught me more than I think she realises. I feel incredibly grateful for how she brought me and my siblings up. She instilled in me determination and self-belief as a black woman. She taught me that not only was my voice valid, it was needed. But I was under no illusion how difficult it would be to be successful in any area I chose. She prepared me for the long fight. ‘Passed on the baton’, and at the same time, she showed me how strong I was by demonstrating her own strength. I was her child and so of course, I had her strength and more.
Also, it’s no secret that my mother was very naughty as a child! So, in using her memories I feel I pay tribute to that mischievous little Monica, (that I would love to visit in a time machine!) as well as add to the legacy that my mother, one day, will leave.
Secondly, I find that Creative Non Fiction helps to ground me. It gives me that understanding of my own past that I struggle to find anywhere else, that personal historical reference that is important for identity. The issue of identity is still one that is prevalent today among African slavery descendents – myself included.
I have written non fiction and have written articles for The Fem Magazine, The Voice Online as well as Byline Times. I write about institutional racism within schools as well as topical events of the time, usually linked with the role of the black female. In terms of fictional writing, I have written short stories published by various online magazines, and have a novella, Maya, being published early next year by LR Price Publications.
Did you have a piece already written when you learned about Epoch’s theme, or did you write a new piece? If so, how did you approach the theme of Roots in the creation of your work?
I already had the piece written. In fact, it is part of a larger novel called Berthas which is essentially about what it means to be a Black British woman, how black women are stereotyped and the effect of this in their everyday lives. I am aiming at getting published in due course.
What is the biggest challenge when writing CNF?
I think the biggest challenge is historical accuracy. I need to put myself into the position of the protagonist and although it is creative, there needs to be some truth in the writing. I only write CNF when writing about the Black British female experience. Because of the gaps in the collective identity I feel this topic’s importance and to some extent, the pressure to get it right- for me and for all those who are like me. And so when writing, I am thinking of my grandmothers, my mother, my sisters and my daughters. I am very aware that I do not write just for myself. It does take some drafting and redrafting before I can polish the writing to make it as accurate as I can.
What’s your favourite piece of art in your home?
I have an oil painting that I painted some years ago. It is of the view of the surrounding countryside at my late maternal grandmother’s house in St Elizabeth, Jamaica. It is this view that my mother grew up with before she came to the UK aged 10. It is also the view I remember from visiting my late grandmother when I was young, and the same house/view that my own children see when they stay in my grandmother’s home. It is all the more special because my late grandmother Ivorene, is buried there in the family grounds.