FRUIT, a reading series at Literati Bookstore described as a, “Literary reclamation for the unseen,” fosters reading and dialogue to center marginalized voices.
Founded by three poets at U-M’s MFA poetry program, Inam Kang, Tariq Luthun, and Nadine Marshall, the series’ pilot event in August, and one event per month since, have had impressive attendance and engagement. Current talked to the three founders about the series.
What was the impetus to start FRUIT?
Kang: Over the summer we competed at a poetry slam in Columbus, Ohio. We really appreciated the space there, where a lot of queer voices and people of color voices (marginalized voices) were treated as privileged with their stories able to be told. On our drive back we discussed the absence of that inclusiveness in our own communities. We really wanted to create a space where our voices were privileged. There are still marginalized people even in something as liberal as literary arts.
What has been the community response?
Kang: Amazing. Better than we could have even expected. It’s been so positive. I always leave feeling very warm in my chest. I really, really enjoy seeing that space grow and thrive. I like looking out into the audience and seeing unflinching focus and, when the poem is finished, you almost see a sigh-slash-epiphany. It is like stories from the margins.
Marshall: On Facebook, people have been telling stories of how they’ve changed after engaging with the stories. It’s not just a space where people are getting up to perform their work, but that the work is doing something to change someone. For me that has been the most illuminating thing.
Explain the goals of FRUIT?
Marshall: We want FRUIT to continue to be an inclusive environment for literary arts for Ann Arbor. And ultimately to use that space, and the conversation, to build a literary community that values people of color and different voices.
Luthun: For us, it’s all about the intersection of craft and identity; it’s about identifying the space between the creator and the creation as it pertains to people of color. Ultimately, we’re trying to build a community that can transcend the physical space and live on digitally as well.
So you are looking into publishing?
Kang: We’ve had conversations with the Neutral Zone and Redbeard Press (among others), looking to create a publication or anthology of the artists that we feature. We do want it to be a community and to contribute to the Southeastern Michigan literary community being more inclusive. We want youth to come in and engage with the space.
How do you feel about non-PoC individuals attending?
Luthun: We are a PoC-dedicated space, meaning that we’re open to anyone coming, but we’d like to privilege those historically unheard. In fact, we encourage non-PoC to come, listen, and learn from these stories.
Marshall: The overarching goal is to create a more inclusive space. Anyone is welcome to attend. The main thing about allyship is to create spaces where dialogue can exist.
Kang: Storytelling is the one way to build empathy. Whatever our privileges are, it’s really important to listen and to be sure that we are really hearing the people and not just waiting for our turn to speak.
Marshall: It’s very easy to feel defensive. We want people to engage with the space, but we don’t want tension where people feel like they have to defend themselves. We want to honor the experiences that are being shared.
FRUIT takes place Saturday, November 12
at 7:30pm at Literati Bookstore