Diary of a Creative Writing PhD Student: On Keeping Secrets

As an adult, I have used silence as both a shield and a sword.

Growing up, many people learn that what happens at home stays there. At some point we learned that discussions about family problems were not to leave the family table.  

Domestic violence, financial problems, mental health illness and a myriad of other issues were solved (or not) at home.  Sharing information with “the streets” was viewed as wrong—perhaps even more wrong than whatever the problem was.

The idea of what happens at home stays at home extended to the community so that what happened in the community did not go beyond that. As a community we needed to appear strong, united.

Where did we learn this?

As part of my research as a PhD student I’m exploring the premise that the Black community has become well versed at keeping secrets and hiding pain; sometimes to our own detriment. I don’t know that this is a Black/ African American phenomenon, a gender experience or if silence is something that affects households and communities regardless of race, gender, etc… and I would like to find out.

I’m also interested in the conversations that we don’t have; the information women don’t share with other women regardless of color and conversations that don’t cross gender and/or color lines.

I know I have read fiction and seen films where the topic of silences and secrets in communities was touched on but can remember the titles of barely a few. On my list I have Beloved, Dessa Rose and The Long Song. What books and/or films, plays, etc…am I missing?

Where did you learn to keep secrets?


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