“I think we carry our history with us. It’s a burden. It’s a celebration.”
One of the things about this job (one of the many things) is that you don’t really notice what you’ve got until you start to edit the interview.
It’s like Michelangelo’s definition of sculpture – cutting off from the rock whatever doesn’t look like a statue until all you’re left with is what does.
(It may not have been Michelangelo who said that, but I prefer to believe it was.)
So as you sit and listen and re-listen to SuAndi, and you tap away at the charming indiscretions and provocative digressions (for the woman is a diverting, natural storyteller), you realise that this is more than just the tale of a black girl with a white mother in Manchester, or of Irish and Nigerian diasporas.
Though it is those things as well.
It’s a story of belonging and rejection, of achievement and regret, of lucky breaks, of the universe providing, of singular endeavours and “other buggers’ efforts.” But it’s only later, tapping away with the edit keys, that you realise that. It takes some time for the rock to reveal the statue.
It doesn’t help that, during the interview, you’ve been taken with SuAndi’s anger and compassion running side by side, or with the moments of Eartha Kitt and Laurence Olivier dispensing advice, or with her delighted giggle as, on being asked when her parents met, she tells you: “Before I was born…”
Like I say. Natural. Diverting.
SuAndi’s tale exists like so many of ours do: in a land of contradictions. She can be funny and outspoken, hopeful and bleak, sensitive and sharp. But at all times she maintains a singular sense of herself (“I’m black. You’re stupid.”) and a belief in the power of ordinary people’s lives to outstrip history books with their truth.
“The best story in the world is your own story,” she says, quoting an ex-partner quoting Olivier.
The words may be someone else’s but the story is hers. That said, it’s also ours – achievement, rejection, belonging, regret – and it’s one that will last longer than a history book.
Longer than a statue.
Photo (c) Julian Kronfi