I was raised on the idea that it can, and I believe that. My father, the late Charles L. Black Jr., was a legal scholar who played a role in writing the NAACP Legal Defense Fund’s brief for Brown v. Board of Education. He was also a white Southerner, a Texan born in 1915. In the early 1930s while still a teenager, he saw Louis Armstrong perform at the Driskill Hotel in Austin and was stunned, altered, by the experience of encountering genius for the first time in the form of a black man. As he wrote far more eloquently than I will here, it became evident that everything he’d been told, every assumption woven into the society that surrounded him, was wrong. For him, the moment of insight came in the context of what he called genius, but more generally, I take his experience to be about the realization that a group of people who had been defined for him in very specific, profoundly limited ways, might indeed exist within the full range of human possibility. Art doesn’t feed anyone, usually not even the artists, so in that way it isn’t of concrete help. But what art can and should do is encourage compassion and shore up those aspects of us that are capable of imagining that someone else is as real as we ourselves are.
— Robin Black, started publishing stories at age 46, is giving some real awesome over here. Her debut collection, If I Loved You I Would Tell You This, is just out now, and covers the lives of women in their 60s or 70s, who she calls the most invisible members of society, at least in a being seen and examined way. It’s like The Golden Girls with less satire and more literary prowess, so of course I would encourage you all to check it out.