by Yolanda Baruch
Raqiyah Mays is every bit a renaissance woman: she is a mother, a journalist, radio and television personality, stage actress, and activist. Now she can add newly minted published author to her resume. As the author of “The Man Curse,” she tells the fictional story of a young woman named Meena, who spends her life trying to break the man curse and become the first woman in her family to marry.
Raqiyah is determined to show how multi-faceted are working moms. In addition to her book tour, she is also traveling with the Limited clothing stores as part of their “New Look of Leadership” campaign. Mommynoire had the pleasure to catch up with Raqiyah to talk about her new novel.
Did you always desire to be a mother and a writer?
Both have been goals and desires of mine. I think coming into being a mother, for me, didn’t come as I planned, but I embraced it, and I am thankful. Being a writer didn’t come as planned. I wanted to be a writer since the fourth grade. It took me a little longer to get to [being] an author. The ways these things in my life are unfolding is pretty amazing. I’m excited.
How do you find the balance between crafting your art and being a mother?
Being a mother, you do what it takes. You do what needs to be done. That probably sounds cliché, but you just make it happen. For my book release party, it was a busy day, obviously. I had to get my hair done, but I also had parent-teacher conferences, so I had to figure out how to work everything, and I had an interview with Sirius satellite radio (laughs). Then the appointment got switched up but I still went and got my hair done. Then I went to the school in Brooklyn and the whole time I am looking at the clock while talking to the teachers because I am involved in [my child’s] schooling. It was difficult, but you just do it because you have to.
What are the challenges you face being a mother and a writer?
I think when you have a personal life, [people] that depend on you, and then you also have your art, it can be difficult because you want to be there for everybody, including yourself. An artist who isn’t working on [her] art is a miserable artist. I am miserable when I say I am going to write something, and I don’t. I need to write. My son knows that when I am writing it is not a time to bother me. It’s all about scheduling and knowing ahead of time. It’s even more difficult because I am on my book tour. So I have my family involved, it is a family affair, and it is all about the schedule.
As a writer of color and a mother, do you ever feel that you are breaking any barriers?
I do, I think being a writer of color, being a woman, and you are always breaking barriers. It was important to me to create content that showed a character of color in a multitude of ways: she is vulnerable, she embraces her sexuality, but she is not the extreme level of sexuality that you see with some Black women in the mainstream. She likes to be in a relationship, and when she is in [one], she is very open about her sexuality. That’s real, that is not just being a Black woman, that’s women all around. What I have worked to do is create a character that she just happens to be Black. We as women period, no matter our color, go through hurdles in love, it is not a Black thing, and it’s a woman thing. What I have learned and what is unfortunate in the publishing world is Black authors, Black leading characters, African-American fiction–and I am proud to be Black, don’t get me wrong–but if you are putting me in a box, then you are already creating a narrative and telling others that this isn’t for you.
Have you any advice to share with mother-writers who are seeking to be published?
It can be difficult, but no doesn’t mean no, no just means that particular publisher or agent isn’t the right one for you. There are many success stories of best-selling authors now who were turned down and rejected 30, 40, 50 times. Rejection is part of the game, but the other big part of getting past that rejection is the confidence and facing those fears. This is a marathon, not a race, so everyone’s path takes longer than others.
What is the fundamental truth you want your readers to take from your novel?
I like to say that is about the power of the mind. You attract, you manifest, what you think. At the end of the day, we are in control of our destinies. Sometimes what we think about ourselves and what we think we deserve is not necessarily coming from us but what we were told growing up. As we grow, it becomes our responsibility to be mindful of what we are saying about ourselves. I would like for my readers [of my book] to take away how important it is to be conscious of every moment. Take time with yourself to sit, think of what you are doing, and feel those feelings no matter how difficult.