The air in Margate is fresher. It really is, and we know why: a sea view that just keeps going, less cars, slower pace, seaside soft life. As much as I love Stratford, I would trade that canal and everything around it for this beach.
Liv and I are good friends––no, like, deeply good friends––so coming to visit her feels natural. Having in-depth conversations is also normal for us. When we were neighbours we used to take walks along the canal near our houses, talking about all the things we were feeling.
This time is, of course, different. We're coming together to discuss her book and our thoughts on resilience. Our conversation isn't just for us, as friends, to lament, to better understand each other or to simply share. This time it's to have a meaningful impression on you.
Rosewater is Liv Little's debut novel, it took her about a year to write but it contains her many years of experience. Years of being in relationships with people: her partner, parents, friends, colleagues and collaborators. Years of work: as an audio producer, screenwriter, founder, journalist, commissioner, podcast producer; this list is rather extensive, and even though I've known Liv for years, I had no idea just how deep her own story goes.
She wrote Rosewater because she felt the need to create a body of work that exists beyond a single moment. Her book is about exploring: why do people show up in the world the way they do? Why do they choose one action over another perceivably more sensible action? Why does this thing mean so much? Often... moments, the moments we get, the moment where we meet someone, are the way we come to know them, but this is still informed by the generations before them, their ancestry, their environment and the things they've seen and experienced. How often do we remember that?
Speaking with Liv, I'm reminded why I do the work that I do with PRIM. For us, storytelling is an insight into someone else's world, there's so much to learn and understand. This is resistance and resilience. We say no to invisibility, we say nah ta to tokenism and we say no to misrepresentation, mis-truths and erasure by creating work. Work that shows that our stories are expansive, that they can be captured in a variety of ways, from photography, to three-minute films, or a 328 page book like Rosewater.
Hearing the audiobook of Rosewater almost brought Liv to tears. It is read by her partner Suhailya Shukwura, who brings all 17 characters in the book to life. It makes the book and the process deeply personal, a process that has brought them both even closer together. For me, all I can think about is the fact that we now have, for the first time in my lifetime, a novel written by a queer Black artist, centred on a queer, Black, South London poet, with the audiobook read by a queer Black woman and an upcoming short film produced with a variety of queer Black folk. It's rare, but this is exactly what we need. Like all of them, Rosewater’s Elsie is, in Liv’s words, “uncompromising, sure of her Blackness, and her queerness...and how she chooses to move through the world.”
Authentically existing is standing in resilience to all the structures that are put in place to reduce and subjugate communities. However, cultivating a sense of purpose and believing in oneself is how we keep going. For Liv, through art and through her work, she can change things, she can contribute some light to this world and that's extremely important to her. This sentiment resonated with me, it's why so many of us do what we do; that's the purpose.
"We all have our moments: ‘I'm not going to survive this…’ but deep within my core I do feel hopeful”, Liv says, speaking on resilience, and stating that she's often resisting herself. When dealing with heartbreaking life events, like the recent loss of her father, the closure of gal-dem and the battles we don't and won't see, she notes that we all have to say: 'I choose me'. In resisting the expectation of labour placed on women, Black women in particular, she takes solace in simple, sage advice from her mother: 'pace yourself'.
Throughout our conversation, I'm reminded of the beauty in her storytelling; it is impactful in its focus, playful in its style and creative through its typesetting and font. I felt warm watching Liv speak in her cosy home office. I also feel proud of her. In that space, I feel like I can see into our collective futures, and they are regenerative, full, authentic and free.