Sylvia Arthur is a narrative nonfiction writer from the U.K. She has written for Clutch magazine, The Guardian, the BBC and News Africa magazine. She is currently working on a book of interconnected essays called African and Other Curse Words.
Fem: In the reading you gave for your upcoming work African, & Other Curse Words, you talk about your experience as a black woman from the U.K. living in Brussels. You say, “If I said I was British, they would say I was African. If I said I was African, they would question why I spoke English, why I spoke it with an English accent, and why I spoke it so fluently.” Can you talk a little bit about that feeling of not really belonging to any of the categories people had for you?
Sylvia Arthur: It’s not so much about not belonging as not being accepted. I think they’re two interrelated but slightly different things. I belong to all of those categories, but people wanted to pigeonhole me into one, reducing me to something they could easily understand rather than trying to comprehend the complexity of who I am. But belonging has as much to do with the internal as the external. I know what I am, who I am, and where I belong, yet it’s so frustrating to tell the truth and be consistently interrogated, which is when you start doubting yourself and what you know to be true. It’s not only frustrating, it’s disorientating, infuriating, and nauseating. It’s like emotional waterboarding. I am Black British, or British Ghanaian, or Ghanaian British. I see no contradiction in that, but the Europeans I encountered just wouldn’t, or couldn’t, accept that. Continue reading “Featured Fem | Meet Sylvia Arthur”