LaToya Watkins Interview, plus links to author biography, book summaries, excerpts and reviews

LaToya Watkins
Photo: © Chanel Mitchell

LaToya Watkins

An interview with LaToya Watkins

A letter to readers by LaToya Watkins about her novel Perish

Dear Reader

When I was a young girl, I'd sneak my mother's mass market paperbacks after she was done reading them. I didn't grow up in a home with lots of books, but my mother was a reader. She was also a factory laborer, which meant that time to read was a rare luxury for her. I always noticed when she'd found time because there was always a new book for me to sneak. The stories I'd find were often written by writers who created characters and worlds I was happy to escape to but couldn't identify with or see myself in. I found writers like Danielle Steel, Jackie Collins, John Grisham, and Stephen King, among so many others.

I'll never quite forget running across Pat Conroy's The Prince of Tides. It was the first story that stayed with me long after I closed the book. It was the first novel I ever reread. When I was older, I realized that despite not seeing myself or anyone who looked like me in the work, despite the heaviness of the story, and despite those times I wanted to turn away from the world Conroy had created, the Wingo family's suffering and their audacious attempt to survive it was the most relatable thing I'd ever read. I wanted to experience more of that. I wanted to see more of that from writers who looked like me. It was then, as a girl, that I was inspired to write a story about family—about suffering, silence, and love.

Essentially, Perish is a story about a family's attempt to survive generational lack of access to healthy ways of coping with what's been done to them and what's been done by them. In part, it's a story about what this family's love looks like when the members haven't experienced love or been taught to love. The ways in which the family reach for and pull away from one another are all rooted in experiences that they've chosen to bury; the growth from these buried things is painful and messy. Nonetheless, working at the roots is the only way they can promote healthy growth, to move forward.

I created Helen Jean because I wanted to explore the journey of a character who is both powerful and powerless, who yearns to grow in productive ways but is rooted in an environment that isn't conducive to that kind of growth. Her grandchildren have similar yearnings; however, unlike Helen Jean, they are willing to rattle their hearts, minds, and bodies, to do the root-work for the sake of growth. For the sake of change.

I am grateful to all who are willing to take the journey with this family. My hope for Perish is that we may all realize the type of growth our roots are producing. That, if needed, we might be brave enough to dig past the tangled pain and nourish those roots. That we might all make way for healthy, productive growth and continue that practice throughout our lives.

LaToya

Unless otherwise stated, this interview was conducted at the time the book was first published, and is reproduced with permission of the publisher. This interview may not be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the copyright holder.

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Books by this Author

Books by LaToya Watkins at BookBrowse
Perish jacket
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Readalikes

All the books below are recommended as readalikes for LaToya Watkins but some maybe more relevant to you than others depending on which books by the author you have read and enjoyed. So look for the suggested read-alikes by title linked on the right.
How we choose readalikes

  • Edwidge Danticat

    Edwidge Danticat

    Since the publication of her debut work Breath, Eyes, Memory in 1994, Edwidge Danticat has won praise as one of America's brightest, most graceful and vibrant young writers. In this novel, and in her National Book ... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    Perish

    Try:
    Breath, Eyes, Memory
    by Edwidge Danticat

  • Wally Lamb

    Wally Lamb

    Wally Lamb is the author of the New York Times and national bestseller The Hour I First Believed, as well as the novels She's Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True, both #1 New York Times bestsellers and Oprah's Book Club ... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    Perish

    Try:
    I Know This Much Is True
    by Wally Lamb

We recommend 4 similar authors

View all 4 Readalikes

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