Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

On being a problem

with one comment

Being a problem is a strange experience—peculiar even for one who has never been anything else, save perhaps in babyhood and in Europe. It is in the early days of rollicking boyhood that the revelation first bursts upon one, all in a day, as it were. I remember well when the shadow swept across me. I was a little thing, away up in the hills of New England, where the dark Housatonic winds between Hoosac and Taghkanic to the sea. In a wee wooden schoolhouse, something put it into the boys’ and girls’ heads to buy gorgeous visiting cards—ten cents a package—and exchange. The exchange was merry, till one girl, a tall newcomer, refused my card—refused it peremptorily, with a glance. Then it dawned upon me with a certain suddenness that I was different from the others; or like, mayhap, in heart and life and longing, but shut out from their world by a vast veil. I had thereafter no desire to tear down that veil, to creep through; I held all beyond it in common contempt, and lived above it in a region of blue sky and great wandering shadows. That sky was bluest when I could beat my mates at examination time, or beat them at a foot race, or even beat their stringy heads. Alas, with the years all this fine contempt began to fade; for the worlds I longed for, and all their dazzling opportunities, were theirs, not mine. But they should not keep these prizes, I said; some, all, I would wrest from them.

W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk

Written by nevalalee

November 10, 2018 at 7:30 am

One Response

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  1. A lot of African Americans of Du Bois’s time will write about the moment “they first noticed,” and it always breaks my heart. Du Bois, I think, did in best when he wrote here about the veil, and it is a good metaphor he comes back to in a lot of his writing. This is so concise and meaningful — great quote.

    Jeff

    November 10, 2018 at 9:49 am


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