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In this episode of The Turn On, Erica and Kenrya talk to play cousin Sheree L. Greer about her book "Let the Lover Be," who gets to be an activist, the importance of being vulnerable, and the virtues of Black women being our whole selves both on and off the page.
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Kenrya: Come here. Get off.
Kenrya: Today we're talking to Sheree L. Greer, pronouns she and her. Sheree is a text-based artist and educator living in Tampa, Florida. She's a Yaddo and Ragdale Rubin Fellow, Astraea Lesbian Foundation grantee, and is the author of two novels, “Let the Lover Be,” a Rainbow Award Finalist, and the Black Lives Matter-inspired “A Return To Arms.” She also created a short story collection, “Once and Future Lovers,” and a student writing guide called “Stop Writing Wack Essays.” Love it. Sheree is the founding director of Kitchen Table Literary Arts, and her work has been featured in literary journals, magazines, and anthologies. Her most recent work, “Bars,” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. That's big shit. Hey, Sheree.
Kenrya: Thanks for joining us.
Sheree: It is my pleasure.
Kenrya: First, before we even get into all this other book shit, we got to talk about something that's not in your bio, but that's hella important to us.
Kenrya: That is the fact that you are from the Midwest.
Sheree: Milwaukee, stand up. Brew City.
Erica: Land of casseroles.
Sheree: Where you at?
Erica: Get us a carb, get us a cream of something.
Erica: Get us a protein and some cheese, bacon, you got a casserole.
Sheree: Cheesehead. Let's do it.
Erica: I'm sorry, I get so excited about casseroles.
Sheree: There are Black people in Wisconsin. They all live in Milwaukee, but we in that bitch, we in here, we in there.
Kenrya: Yes. There's three of us Midwestern bitches here on this call.
Sheree: That's so amazing.
Kenrya: It's beautiful.
Sheree: I love it.
Kenrya: Yes, we had to take a minute to celebrate. I'm wondering, how do you think that being born and raised in Milwaukee has impacted the way that you move through the world?
Sheree: That is a really great question. It's interesting because the funny thing about Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is that the Black folks that are there, it's like everybody's part of that Great Migration tradition, that's how we all got up there. And so my grandparents are from the South, but everybody had moved up north, so I didn't get summers in Mississippi or summers in Arkansas, where my dad is from, or anything like that. What's been interesting about being specifically from Milwaukee is how it's super segregated, but also a lot of my experiences were very diverse in a way, like going to school and things like that. And so it's been interesting to see how that plays out, now that I live in the South, and this concept of there weren't very many places in Milwaukee where I felt like not necessarily that I didn't always feel welcome, but I was never made to feel like I didn't belong. And I feel that in certain parts in Florida, in the South sometimes, like I can feel in people's looks that they're like, "Who the fuck let you in here?"
Kenrya: Which is some shit for anybody from Florida to say, especially right now.
Erica: Who let y'all in here?
Sheree: Yeah. And that was a foreign feeling to me, thankfully, because I had really great neighborhoods growing up in Milwaukee, we had lawns and backyards and lots of parks. I just remember being around a lot of different kind of people almost all of the time. I don't know, it's probably helped and harmed me in a lot of different ways, but I'm here.
Erica: Okay. So, something else we got to talk about. We were doing an interview with another writer, and she was like, "Yeah, I talked to my writing partner bestie," and we were like, "What?" So, the Fiona Zedde, we interviewed, and we absolutely love her.
Erica: We've learned, doing this show, that there are little packs of bad bitches that write together and support one another, so I'm happy we got linked in on your pod. She was dope as shit and we love her. We wanted to ask, how does your relationship with her impact your work? I don't want to be too nosy, but at the same time, it's dope that two writers are good friends.
Sheree: Thank you. It's strange because it's not something that I knew I needed and it wasn't something that I was looking for, it's like we met a couple times in passing at conferences and whatnot, and then end up being in the same city together for a little while, and just really connecting creatively. And this was after my master's program, and after you finish school, you just out there.
Erica: Girl. So, I got to do something now.
Sheree: You got all kind of cute cohorts and shit while you're in school, and then as soon as it's over, especially for being a writer, it's like, "Okay, now what?" So, finding her at that time, it was just really awesome for me. She pushes me and encourages me when I need it most and sees strengths in my writing where sometimes I feel doubt. That's just been really, really important. It gets on my nerves sometimes, too, but what friend/cheerleader/homegirl don't get on your nerves sometimes? Especially when they know that you not shining like you can be shining. They know it, they done seen you shine, and they're like, "I done seen you shine, girl. What is this? What the fuck's going on?" And then you got to be like, "You right."
Erica: "Okay, okay, okay."
Sheree: "Okay, fine."
Erica: That's dope. That is so great. So, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Sheree: I wanted to be a magician or a mechanic.
Kenrya: Okay, you got to-
Erica: I mean the first thing that popped in my head was that video of that magician that turned a dove into a Popeye chicken sandwich, and I was like, yo, that is exactly who you would be as a magician. Sorry if you weren't, but that totally seems like some shit you'd do.
Sheree: Yes, that would be me. That would be me. I'd change my coconut La Croix into some whiskey with magic. I'd make some school loan debt disappear, that'd be my first trick.
Erica: Bitch. Do you need my social? Do you need the account number? My login? What you need?
Sheree: When I was a kid, I loved joke books and I loved learning magic tricks, and I used to do little magic shows for my family. Then I liked working with my hands and shit, so I thought maybe I'd be a mechanic or something like that. I was always writing, but I didn't think writing could be a career and I don't know why, I just didn't.
Erica: But you thought being a magician could?
Sheree: Damn, true. No, that's true.
Erica: So, if we get you drunk, you'll do magic tricks? Do you remember them, enough to be showing off?
Sheree: I remember two or three, and they're not very impressive.
Erica: I mean, shit, they're better than ... Look, I can't do nothing. You could be pulling that same quarter from behind my ear and I'll be like, "She is amazing."
Kenrya: I mean I think that's interesting because I think a lot of folks don't necessarily see writing as a career, especially when you're young. I know I didn't think I was going to be a writer. I thought I was just going to work at magazines and I was going to edit things, which at least is in that sphere, but I always, I don't know, thought that I had to be somebody who worked at a company and did this thing, as opposed to somebody who sat at home and wrote shit, until I got to a certain point in my career when I was like, "This is what I would much rather do." I don't think you're alone, I think a lot of people don't necessarily think of writing as a viable career. I didn't. I thought that I was just going to be a magazine editor and that was going to be the thing, and it never occurred to me that that would also involve writing or that I could change my career to the point where I could be somebody who sits at home and writes. It's not really presented as a viable sound financial decision, maybe?
Sheree: I feel like that's part of it, because my mom never explicitly said, "No, you can't be a writer. You can't major in English," but as first-generation college student, there was this-
Erica: What are you going to ... doctor, lawyer, teacher?
Sheree: You had just so many options as to what was going to be a viable career. I don't blame my mom in any kind of way. Our parents don't want us to suffer, and being an artist of any kind is still aligned with poverty and suffering and all that stuff.
Kenrya: Yeah, that starving artist thing is a very real stereotype and real reality for some folks.
Sheree: Yeah. So, it's hard to see, especially if you have so few examples where you're at. The internet and the explosion of technology has been helpful, but as a little girl in Milwaukee, I knew that Black people wrote books, but I didn't meet an author until I was in college, I think, I met my first author. How do you even know what that looks like or what that could be?
Kenrya: So then what did bring you to being a writer?
Sheree: When I was a kid, I would write stories and poems, especially when I got in trouble, because I used to get in trouble a lot, so I wrote a lot of apology, "I love you, Mom" poems. A lot of flower metaphors about forgiveness and things like that. And then I kept going, but, again, I took the backseat. I minored in English. I'm a Virgo, so if I'm going to put my mind to something, I'm going to do it, I'm going to do that shit. So, I majored in Information Technology and Human Resources and, goddammit, I was going to get an Information Technology and Human Resources career, and that's what I did for a couple years. And then I met a writer friend when I moved to Florida, and I was still working as a consultant then, and she was a journalist at the St. Pete Times. And so we had a writing group of two, and when we exchanged stories for the first time, she was just like, "What the fuck is you doing?" I was like, "What you mean?" She's like, "What is you doing? Why are you not doing this?" She encouraged me to think about going to grad school and getting a degree in writing and making a run at it, and so I'm really glad she did.
Erica: Thank you, friend, right?
Sheree: Yeah. Benita. She passed away right before I went into grad school, suddenly. It was crazy. She with me every time. There's not a time when I'm writing that I don't think about her and how she pushed me into this part of this version of myself.
Erica: That's dope as hell. Black woman?
Sheree: Benita Newton. I speak her name.
Erica: I didn't want to assume that she was Black, but when you said, "Benita," I saw a very specific hairstyle and a "ness" to her. I love it.
Kenrya: That she's us.
Sheree: Yeah, she's so us.
Erica: I love it. Okay. Benita Newton, we speak your name.
Sheree: Right on.
Kenrya: Well, I was going to ask who or what inspires you to write, and I feel like Benita is at the top of the list. What else?
Sheree: Lately, it's been vulnerability and truth telling.
Sheree: That's what I've been on, begrudgingly, but I'm on it.
Kenrya: That is hard.
Erica: It's going to be good.
Sheree: I'm on it. I started this new project, kicking and fucking screaming, and it's only now, and I'm four essays in, that I'm like, "You know what? This might be the best writing of my life." But just being vulnerable and asking the tough questions, that's what's pushing me right now. And it's interesting that, for Let the Lover Be, it's almost bringing me full circle because, in Let the Lover Be, the main character is an alcoholic, and in my memoir work right now, I'm coming to terms in real life, in real time, with alcohol abuse and addiction in my family and a bunch of other stuff. It's been really difficult, but it's been really good.
Erica: Okay, so, what do your workdays look like?
Sheree: Man, these punk-ass workdays.
Kenrya: Bitch-ass work day.
Sheree: These work days are ... I don't know. I start back to the day job on Monday, I teach at a college in St. Pete, but I'm teaching all online, so I'm thankful for that.
Kenrya: Thank God.
Sheree: But, most days, I like to get up and get my day started, not too early though, a good 7:30, 8:00.
Kenrya: Oh my God. Ugh. Sorry. I'm like, "That's early."
Sheree: You get up at 5:00?
Kenrya: No, Erica gets up ... What time you get up now, E?
Sheree: What time you get up?
Erica: Well, what had happened was I wake up at about 5:45, 6:00. But I lay in bed, scrolling TikTok for, easily, 45 minutes before I get up and-
Sheree: You're still up though. Your eyes is open.
Kenrya: I don't wake up before 9:00.
Kenrya: No, bitch. When you all be texting me, that's why I don't answer your texts 'till like 9:30, I be asleep.
Sheree: That's the sweet spot though.
Kenrya: I've been up until like 2:00, 2:30 every night this week, working, so a bitch is tired. I'm doing my best.
Sheree: Okay. I can't stay up super late like that no more. That used to be my shit. I used to stay up late, writing, reading, bullshitting, and now I be like, "It's 10:30, I got to go lay down." And it probably has a lot to do with getting up at 7:00, 7:30, and turning 40 soon, but that shit's real.
Kenrya: It's very real.
Erica: My body has been so sore and I'm like, "This must be all the meds I'm on." I'm blaming it on everything else, except for the fact that a bitch ... I look down the street and I'm like, "Who's that? Is that you, 40, coming over here?"
Sheree: It's coming. I turn 40 next month.
Kenrya: Shit, happy early birthday.
Sheree: Thank you. I think it was last year sometime, I was at the grocery and these teenagers were having a good time, talking, fucking with each other, stuff like this, and then one of them said something, and then the other dude was like, "Don't be cussing in front of that lady," and I turned around, like, "Who?"
Erica: "Don't do that to me."
Sheree: "Where the elder at?" Bitch, it's you. It is you.
Erica: Little fuckers, I would have tripped them.
Sheree: Get ready.
Erica: "Don't be cursing." "Fuck you," and then push them down.
Sheree: For real.
Sheree: The workday is easy, it's reading, it's writing, it's going outside a lot to take breaks, watching a little TV, a little too much Netflix and things like that. I don't know how people are supposed to get shit done with all this.
Kenrya: Netflix is right there.
Sheree: And how people be watching all this shit, too? When I get on Twitter, people like, "God, this is so great," I'm like, "You watched all seven episodes already? That shit came out yesterday."
Erica: I don't need you judging us.
Sheree: That was like seven hours of TV.
Erica: I don't need you judging us.
Sheree: I aspire. I aspire, man.
Kenrya: I do, too. I love TV, but I just never have enough time to watch it.
Sheree: I want to watch it.
Kenrya: All right, so, let's see. So, you told us about your days, which actually sound pretty damn good. I didn't hear no "Neighbors is getting on my nerves."
Sheree: No. I live in East Tampa, that is very slowly gentrifying, but we watching it happen. I got a loud-ass dog, he's a wiener dog, but he bark like he's a damn Doberman Pinscher or some shit. He barks a lot, so I had to make sure I put him away for this. Other than folks on dirt bikes and shit and the occasional vintage Chevy rolling down the street, playing a chopped and screwed version of ...
Erica: I love it.
Sheree: It's all good. It's really all good. It's been interesting because I didn't teach at all this summer at the day job, and when I post online lately, people have been like, "Man, Sheree, you look so great. Man, what's going on? You look so good." And it's because I ain't been at work, I ain't been at that job. What's interesting is when you all had Mahogany Browne on, she was talking about that shit, how people don't realize just how much you're pouring into other things, and it's not until you make the decision to stop, or stop, that you actually get to almost go outside of that regular life and say, "Oh my God, I've been stressed, I've been tired, I'm running around doing this, that, and the third." It really makes you want to take stock and figure out how can I make the thing that I love the most the thing that I do most?
Kenrya: Well, I'm glad you got that space to breathe this summer-
Sheree: Me too.
Kenrya: And I hope you get more of it-
Sheree: I'm working on it.
Kenrya: In the way that works for you.
Sheree: I am working on it.
Kenrya: So, your book “A Return to Arms” centers the Black Lives Matter movement, as we said in your bio. I'm wondering, what lessons do you think it holds for us right now in this moment?
Sheree: It was really interesting, watching this moment unfold because, this time, we saw more white people getting in on the situation, and part of what my novel wrestles with is who gets to protest, who gets to be an activist, who gets to be a part of what efforts and in what capacity? And what drove the book primarily was me sitting at the intersection of being Black and queer.
Sheree: There was a lot of Pan-African-type groups and things like that, locally grassroot, that I could go because I was Black, but if I brought up any concerns about Black trans women being murdered or anything like that, you would see people's faces change, you would see a different kind of judgment, a different kind of energy enter the room. And so what the book deals with probably more than anything else is all of those intersecting identities and how do you find a place that fits for to do whatever you're being called to do in a particular moment?
Sheree: There's a scene in the book where a white person walked through one of the protests and wants to be involved and is discouraged, and there's another part in the book where you have to shut down certain parts of white conversation that aren't conducive to our ends or our goals. And so it's been interesting to see the posturing, it's been interesting to see just already a lot of the energy has been drained. It was commercials, it was statements, it was emails, it was banners, everywhere, but what do you have in you for the long haul? What is beyond this moment? So, that's what I've been thinking about mostly. And I wrote that book in 2016. It was shortly after Trayvon Martin.
Sheree: It's inspired by a similar shooting in South St. Petersburg, in Florida, Tyron Lewis was shot and killed by a police officer who was not fired, was not charged. Part of what made that book so difficult was that case happened in '96, so we're looking at 20 years, and then another 10, another 20, and then 30, and then 50 years ago, and you can go back and back and back. It can be depressing and demoralizing, when you start looking at the cases and you start stringing them together and they make this tapestry of Black pain, and we got to find a way to wrap ourselves in something more hopeful and something that actually reckons with the moment right now, I think.
Kenrya: Well said.
Erica: So, side note, we won't include this in the thing, but when we're looking for books, Kenrya kept saying, "I found this really great book," and for whatever reason, we didn't use it. And so then I'm like, "Hey, I found this book for Season 3, ‘Let the Lover Be,’" was like, "Let me shoot it to you." And she was like, "Oh shit, this is the same author." So, you've been on my radar for a minute.
Kenrya: The only reason we didn't, because-
Sheree: I'm glad I'm here.
Kenrya: I was looking at ‘Return to Arms,’ but it didn't have a long enough sex scene, that's the only reason why-
Sheree: Yeah, it's not as sexy. My wife said, of both books, she's like, "Why your main character always got to have a jumpoff in the book?" And I was like, "What?" And she's like, "In both novels, it's always a jumpoff, other than the main bitch," and I was like, "No, it's not." And then I was like, "Oh, yeah."
Erica: "Oops. My bad."
Sheree: Jumpoffs keep you young, man.
Erica: Or they put extra miles on you.
Erica: Depending on how problematic said jumpoff is.
Sheree: That's true.
Erica: But the problematic ones be the good ones-
Sheree: You got to qualify that.
Erica: Okay, all right, anyway. Back to [inaudible 00:28:30]. Okay, so, tell us about your latest work, “Bars.”
Sheree: “Bars” is quite literally about bars. I started it while I was at Ragdale and finished it up at Yaddo, those are two very, very ... they were just great for my creative process as a writer residencies.
I’m happy that’s your phone and not you. ‘Cause…
Kenrya: Right, because my initial reaction was like, "Oh shit."
Sheree: "There goes sis, she fell out."
Kenrya: And then I realized it was just the phone.
Sheree: I wrote “Bars,” it was one of my first times I just trusting the process and trusting my voice, which I'm not always the best at, that I'm getting better at, thankfully. I was just having all these memories about bars and how they've been formative fixtures in my life. I start the piece with the first bar that I went to with my dad, I used to go with my dad when he used to go cash his check, and he'd buy me burgers and have his drinks or whatever. And then I just started doing this timeline of bars, literal bars, and thinking, trying to remember what they looked like and doing a little research to see if they're still standing, what do they look like now? And then putting myself in that place again, almost like tick marks on a timeline of me going from being that shy, uncertain kid through my teenage years through young adulthood till my 30s, where I slowed down a little bit and began to think about my relationships with others and my relationships with lovers and my relationships to alcohol, and the piece just wrote itself after that, I think.
Kenrya: Wow. That sounds amazing.
Erica: That's beautiful.
Sheree: Thank you.
Kenrya: Yeah, I'm-
Erica: Also, let's note, you were a kid being taken into bars.
Sheree: Yes, I was.
Erica: That was a while back.
Sheree: Start them early.
Kenrya: I had zero idea what “Bars” was going to be about, but I'm like, "I'm such a nigga," because when I heard Bars, I was like, "Oh bars."
Kenrya: Like rapping.
Erica: Dylan, dylan, dylan, dylan.
Kenrya: Exactly. That's my own issue.
Sheree: I don't know, the piece got some lyricism to it. I could probably get a beat. I can get a beat.
Erica: I would give you one, but you all would laugh.
Kenrya: And it would be great. So, speaking of Bars, the book that we read on the show, Let the Lover Be, stars Kiana, who is a woman whose addiction and demons often push her to make less-than-lovely decisions.
Kenrya: Why was it important for you to tackle addiction in this book?
Sheree: I started writing the book, it's not my first novel, it's my first published novel, and so my first novel, I shopped it around, it kept getting, "No. No. No," and so finally somebody was like, "Well, do you have something else?" And I was like, "No," and then Fiona was like, "Yes, you do. Remember that stuff you was writing when we were in New Orleans?" See, I told you she be getting on my nerves. So, I was like, "What stuff?" And so she had pointed out some things that ... because we went to a conference in New Orleans together, and we were just doing writing prompts throughout the day to take breaks and shit like this, and so she's like, "Some of that stuff you wrote, that could be a book."
Sheree: And so I sat down and I started writing it, and as Kiana was coming to me, I was like, "Man, what a fucking asshole." As I was writing her, I was like, "She's got some issues." She's mean, she drinks too much, she's irresponsible. So, she's not me exactly, but in writing some of her scenes, I recognize pieces of myself, and it was in writing that book that I began to think about whether or not I was an alcoholic and if I had an abusive relationship with alcohol.
Sheree: So, I stopped drinking because there was a scene that I was writing and I couldn't write it, I was having trouble with it, and so I went to go look at some journals about it, because I journal all the time, and it was in that moment that I realized I be drunk more often than not. And so I stopped drinking and I wrote the rest of the book sober. I knew that there was something ... Kiana is not an asshole because she's just a terrible person, she's got some shit going on, some things that she refuses to deal with, some ways in which she doesn't treat herself well and doesn't love herself, and it affects everyone around her.
Sheree: She's oblivious to the people who do love her and do care for her. As I was writing, I just got really obsessed with figuring out what her deal is, what's up with you? And so then she started telling me and I got sad for her as I was writing, but she didn't want my pity, she wanted to try to come out on the other side. And so I just kind of let her have the run of the pages.
Erica: So, what I loved about the book is that Kiana was a hot mess, but I think we all saw the hot mess in ourselves in her.
Erica: Some parts of it were very difficult to read because, like you said, she didn't want your pity, and I think we've all been there, where we're like, "I got shit I'm dealing with. Let me deal with it, I don't need your help." Something about that character stuck with me. I picked it up and just could not put it down because I wanted to see how this developed.
Kenrya: And it was nice, too, to be able to have a Black woman who is, quite frankly, an unlikeable protagonist. That is a thing that is pushed on us all the time and white men get the privilege of being in that space. You got your Tony Sopranos, your Don Drapers, your fucking Walter Hartwell White who get to because complete fucking assholes to everyone-
Erica: Who's Walter?
Kenrya: “Breaking Bad.”
Kenrya: Who get to be complete fucking assholes to everybody, but we're still supposed to love them at the end of the day, and we do because that's what we're conditioned to do. But Black women never really get that space. How often do we see projects in popular culture where Black women get to be assholes and not be dismissed as bitches or get their comeuppance or whatever the hell, and actually get to have some growth and some love for themselves?
Sheree: That's one of the reasons I loved and I'm going to miss “How to Get Away with Murder” so much. Annalise Keating, to me, was this flawed, powerful, beautiful character and she did do things that might have cut some folks deep or even cut herself deep, but at the end of the day, we found ourselves following her and cheering for her and wanting her to make it. And I do, I agree with you, I hope that we continue to see more complex characters like that. Give us a chance to have those moments. I'm watching “I May Destroy You,” that same kind of deal, where it's like play with those lines of good and bad or love and hate, blur those lines a little bit because life is messy as fuck. You said it best, when you see your kind of mess on the screen or on the pages, you're not alone, we're all messy as fuck, just trying to do the best we can.
Erica: Trying to figure this shit out.
Kenrya: And we all deserve redemption.
Erica: Okay, so speaking of hot mess, when we meet Kiana, she is just reeling from heartbreak, I'm like, "Girlfriend, put on some fucking boots and bounce back," she's not a fucking boot-type of character, we know. Well, she might have some fucking boots, but not the kind I'm ... Anyway. So, what do you do when you're trying to pick up pieces and moving on? What's your bounceback? And it could be something profound or just something like, "I listen to Jeezy and ride out on these hoes."
Sheree: Man. I don't feel like I've had my heart broken that many times, and I don't say it to be like ... it's not because I'm strong, it's because I don't let people in, which is a different kind of problem, you know what I'm saying?
Kenrya: That vulnerability wall.
Sheree: Right. So, I'm not often vulnerable, and so I've always been the kind of I'm-out-before-you-can-hurt-me-type person.
Sheree: Or you hurt me, so guess what, you no longer exist in my universe. And I'm done-done. When people talk about being friends with all their exes and all that, I don't have a lot of that. I don't even call many people my exes because I'll also be quick to be like, "We was just fucking."
Erica: They be like, "Now, is this you in the Christmas photo?"
Sheree: You know what I'm saying? So, romantically, I haven't let enough people in to have a process, I think. But in the times that I have been hurt, it's mostly drinking something and doing somebody, that had always been my go-to. I mean now, when I think about disappointment or let down, rejection, things like that, just trying to find the healthier way to deal with it that doesn't involve three bottles of wine and some stranger. That's not healthy, that's not what you do.
Kenrya: And I'm sure your wife would be like, "Word."
Sheree: Yeah, true.
Kenrya: [inaudible 00:40:33].
Sheree: "I was just so upset," I think she'd ride with that, "I was just so upset, I needed to do somebody." That wouldn't roll. That won't roll no more. Kiana was on one though.
Erica: She was.
Sheree: She was on one.
Kenrya: Yeah, but we were with her the whole way.
Erica: The way you wrote it, I could feel her just grasping for that relationship, not even that relationship, just closure, like, "What the fuck happened? I don't get it." It was a beauty. It was a beaut.
Sheree: You know what's interesting? And you all can speak on this a little bit. I was also thinking about, after having written the book and read it back through drafts and stuff like that, the whole concept of closure, I don't feel like Kiana got closure from her situation. The closure is internal and not external.
Kenrya: And I don't know that you ever really can. I don't know, for me, the idea of closure has always seemed kind of [inaudible 00:42:06], partly because, like you, I've always had trouble with the vulnerability thing, so I'm like, "Fuck you, block you, I'm done," but also kind of like, all right, there's something that led us to this place where we have some fundamental disconnect that makes it so that we are not together, and the likelihood of us being able to come to some, I don't know, eye-to-eye moment, to do some autopsy of what happened and have it come out-
Erica: We wouldn't be together if that was [crosstalk 00:42:38].
Kenrya: Yeah, it just doesn't feel like it's something that I want to put the energy into, and so it has really come down to, especially with therapy and getting my own shit together, dissecting that stuff for myself, like what role did I play? What role could I have played? What am I going to take from this as I move forward and what am I going to leave behind? And I don't think that somebody else can give me that, but that's what closure feels like to me.
Sheree: I like that.
Erica: For me, it's more of a reconciliation, it's not even a ... In the past, I have been in relationships where I was like, "Okay, I'm going to seek closure." It was more just I just wanted to see him and fuck him another time or something. It's bullshit, because real closure is just me reconciling that this ain't work, it ain't your fault, or it was your fault, just doing, like Kenrya said, just a personal autopsy of this is what happened, come to grips with it, what do I do differently, if anything, and move forward?
Sheree: You close it. Like, "I'm looking for closure," no, you close it.
Kenrya: Yeah. We try not to spoil books because we want folks to read them, so without giving too much away, I don't think she was going to get that at all.
Sheree: Yeah, I don't think so either.
Erica: Okay, I want to talk about the end of the book, but we'll talk once we've stopped recording.
Sheree: Number one question be like, "Where the fuck is Michelle?" That'd be the question.
Erica: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Okay, so I don't want to-
Kenrya: Y’all read the book. Okay. So, another thing that happens in this book is that there's a character who really goes out of their way to save Kiana. But Kiana don't wanna be saved.
Sheree: Don't save them, they don't want to be saved.
Erica: Don't save her, she don't want to be saved. Don't save her.
Kenrya: Exactly. Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you were trying to save hoes that didn't wanna be saved?
Erica: I want to be saved. Should I save her? I want to be saved. I'm sorry, you all done took me back to-
Sheree: Don't apologize.
Erica: Dancing at the skating rink.
Sheree: Don't apologize.
Kenrya: This is what happens when you put three 39-year-old bitches from the Midwest together.
Sheree: Exactly. That's what you're going to get. That is what you're going to get. I don't think so, because I was never into project relationships either. If I can see from afar that you fucked up, I'm not signing up for that, you know what I'm saying? I'm not. I was thinking, let's say I had met Kiana. Hanging out with her a couple one, two times, you can see she got some shit going on, and if it was a date and you're not involved and there's no ... I mean you could slide her an AA card or something like that, but I wouldn't find myself getting involved with somebody that needed saving.
Sheree: I'm pretty sure that has to do with my own trauma and things like that, like I'm trying to get shit right myself, I don't really feel like I'm in the position to be trying to ... I'm just holding onto the life raft myself, I don't know that I could be throwing life vests out. If I got a life vest, I need to wear that shit because I be drowning sometimes, you know what I mean? No, I'm not a save-a-hoe, that ain't really been my thing.
Erica: Yeah. Well, good. Okay, so, question. You set “Let the Lover Be in New Orleans,” which, in my mind, is my favorite city, I've never stepped foot there once, but I love food, and so New Orleans is where I belong, and reading your book just made me fall in love with it even more. So, my question to you is: what's your favorite city?
Sheree: That's tricky because I kept feeling ... When I left Milwaukee in 2002, I have not been back to live; I've been to visit, but I hadn't been back to live. And what's crazy is I had this idea that I was going to go to different cities and when I got to one that felt like, "This is the shit, I love this fucking city, I don't want to leave," that I would move to that city that made me feel like that. But what's happened is I go to a new city and I'm like, "This place is cool, I like it, I could live here," and that's always my thing is "I could live here," but I haven't been to a place yet where I've been like, "I want to live here. This place is off the chain." So, it's like, "I could." I didn't envision myself landing in Tampa, really, but I've been here a decade now. You meet a wife and buy a house, you're planting some damn roots at this point.
Erica: You're like, "Oh, this is where we are."
Sheree: But the cost of living is low, it's an international airport, you can do it. I think, though, it would have to be a tie between Chicago and New Orleans. I really, really love New Orleans, I really do, and every time I go there, I love it again for a different reason. I was nervous about setting the book there though because I didn't want it to be ... like, I don't live there, so I didn't want to make ...
Sheree: Even Genevieve, the character who is from there, she had been gone and been back, because I wanted to try to be as authentic as possible, and when I talk to people from New Orleans, they be like, "First of all, ain't nobody in the Quarter like that. That's for tourists," and so I was like, "Okay. Well, what if my character is a tourist? What if my character is there for the reasons you go to New Orleans, which is to be in the Quarter and to eat and to party and all those things?" I really love New Orleans, but I really love Chicago. Chicago is another great city, too, if you love food.
Kenrya: It is.
Sheree: If you love food, that's ...
Kenrya: It's just that fucking hawk.
Sheree: Yeah, which I clearly remember my last winter in Chicago, that's where I went to graduate school, and I was on the bus stop, and the water main had burst along South Shore, that's the street that I lived on, and the bus was going to be delayed. I felt, in my memory, I burst into tears, but I don't know that I did, but when I think back on it, I burst into tears. It was just so cold, and it felt like I was being punished, and it wasn't fair. It was 2007, that was my last Chicago winter, and I'm like, "I just can't do it. This feels like a personal attack at this point."
Erica: Like, "What did I do to you?"
Sheree: Yeah. But if you go in the summer, Chicago in the summer and the spring, stop, just stop.
Erica: Yeah, Chicago's summer and springs make you feel so good that they're like, "I'm about to beat your ass," and you forget about it. It's kind of like when women go through childbirth and they say it's so painful, but once you have the baby, you forget. That's what Chicago's winters are.
Kenrya: That's awful.
Erica: I mean, look, I love a good analogy.
Sheree: It is like that. It's real. You'll fall in love, and then I guess that love has to sustain you through the winter because then it's not nice at all.
Erica: Ain't enough love for me.
Sheree: I don't want to do it. I don't want to shovel no snow, nothing.
Erica: One of our girlfriends, her birthday is in February and she wanted us to come to Chicago-
Sheree: In February?
Erica: And our dumbasses went. Our stupid asses went. And we was young thots, so we had little tiny dresses on, thinking we cute-
Kenrya: Fuck, I forgot about that.
Erica: It was the fucking worst. I tell her all the time, like, "Look, bitch, you know I love you because I did this shit."
Sheree: In Milwaukee and in Chicago, especially when I was in undergrad, me and my best friend, Adela, she's Jamaican, and so she would always have Wray & Nephew, and so we would do two shots of Wray & Nephew before we went out. We called it our overproof coat because it just warms you from the inside out, and then you can wear your thot outfit and it's all good.
Kenrya: That was actually my strategy when I lived in New York, we went out in the winter and as soon as I would hit the club, I would get some Southern Comfort at the time.
Kenrya: And it just warms you up.
Erica: Wait, didn't Kiana drink Southern Comfort?
Sheree: She sure did.
Kenrya: Shit works.
Erica: Shit warms you.
Kenrya: It does.
Kenrya: I hate that we're at the end of this, this has been lovely.
Sheree: Yeah, it's been fun. Really great time.
Kenrya: Thanks for coming on.
Sheree: You all feel like cousins, man.
Erica: We are, because we Black from the Midwest. My family just stopped in St. Louis and kept on going to Milwaukee.
Kenrya: When will the people be able to read “Bars”?
Sheree: “Bars” is in a literary journal called “Fourth Genre.”
Sheree: So, you can order that. I think they have a copy of it online as well. But it's in Fourth Genre magazine.
Kenrya: Dope. Okay, so we'll put a link to that. Do you have anything else coming up that you want folks to know about?
Sheree: Yeah. When I was in Chicago, I was part of a storytelling company there, called 2nd Story, and they have a storytelling event coming up on September 12th, and I'm one of the featured storytellers, so that's at 2nd Story, Chicago. But because of COVID, we get to be virtual, so I get a chance to read with my Chicago peeps from down here in Florida. So, that's September 12th. I also got to plug Kitchen Table, which is the Literary Arts Center I run here in Tampa. We have some virtual events coming up. We read “How to Love a Jamaican” and we're talking about that this Saturday, and you can get all that information at Kitchen-Table.org.
Kenrya: Okay, I meant to ask you about Kitchen Table. Can you just tell us about it a bit?
Sheree: Yeah. I started it in 2014. Like I mentioned, you leave school or you leave a literary city like Chicago, and then you find yourself maybe in this pocket that you got to kind of be like, "Well, where are all the writers at?" And then I found the writers, but then I was like, "Well, damn, where are all the Black writers at?" And so creating Kitchen Table was a chance to call them out, just under this belief that what I was searching for was searching for me and that happened to be the case. And so named it Kitchen Table to be homage to Kitchen Table Press, which was founded in 1980 and publishing Black women and women of color for the first time, and so we carry that tradition at Kitchen Table, which we do creative writing classes and workshops all geared toward supporting and showcasing Black women and women of color writers.
Sheree: Because of coronavirus, we've been putting a lot more of our workshops and things online. We were just able to offer free online creative writing classes to 40 Black women writers, about a month ago, and so that was a beautiful experience. Just trying to find ways to ... my writing is me at the desk or with my journal or at the keyboard; Kitchen Table is me out in the world with my people, with my family, with my community. I receive so much from them and I just try to pour that back out. That's what we're doing down here.
Kenrya: So fucking dope. Thank you for that. And that's Kitchen-Table.org, and your website is ShereeLGreer.com, which is S-H-E-R-E-E-L-G-R-E-E-R.com. Where are you on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook? How can folks get you?
Sheree: @ShereeLGreer on all the socials.
Kenrya: Yes, consistency.
Sheree: Keep it simple.
Kenrya: Dope. Well, thanks again for coming on.
Sheree: Thank you all so much.
Kenrya: You've been awesome.
Sheree: It's been really wonderful. Thank you all so much.
Kenrya: Yay. And that's it for this week's episode of The Turn On. Thank you all for joining us and we'll be back next week.
Kenrya: This episode was produced by us, Kenrya and Erica and edited by B'Lystic. The theme music is from Brazy. Now you can support The Turn On and get off. Subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast app and then drop us a five-star review and you'll be entered to win one of the things that's turning us on. To enter, just post your review and email a screenshot of it to TheTurnonPodcast@gmail.com. Our Patreon page is also live. Become a supporter today and you'll access lots of goodies including The Turn On Book Club and two-for-one raffle entries. Don't forget to send us your book recommendations and sex and related questions and follow us on Twitter @TheTurnOnPod and Instagram @TheTurnOnPodcast. You can find links to books, merch, transcripts, guest info and other fun stuff at TheTurnOnPodcast.com. Thanks for listening and we'll see you soon. Bye.
The Turn On
The Turn On is a podcast for Black people who want to get off. To open their minds. To learn. To be part of a community. To show that we love and fuck too, and it doesn't have to be political or scandalous or dirty. Unless we want it to be.