Leslie T. Grover is the author of the new novella The Benefits of Eating White Folks. She is the president and founder of the nonprofit Assisi House, Inc., and is a community-based participatory research expert.
Q: What inspired you to write The Benefits of Eating White Folks?
A: I was inspired to write this book based on research about medical testing on enslaved women and children. Many of the myths around Black bodies and how they differ from white bodies have influenced how medicine is practiced today.
Q: The book is told in verse and in prose, with illustrations--how did you decide on its structure?
A: The truth is the structure presented itself to me. As I was writing the story, those moments of needing to fuse the present with the past seemed necessary to the story. The verses are an attempt to pull the reader into this world where time and space melded into a lived experience of Perpetua, the main character.
Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?
A: The idea for the title came from one of the characters in the book. It also came from understanding that the whiteness inherent in white folks isn't the same as race. It's about status, oppression, and positionality.
Q: What do you hope readers take away from the book?
A: I want readers to take away a sense of understanding that Black people descended from enslaved Africans are people who not only carry the trauma from enslavement but that we need to have an honest conversation about enslavement in this country.
Too often we talk about race as a political topic, but in reality, it's one that transcends politics.
This book is categorized as fiction, but what happened to the main character in the book wasn't far-fetched in the least. Until we open our hearts and minds and really listen to each other's stories, we're going to continue to miss out on the opportunity to learn from each other.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I'm working on getting my short story collection published and I'm also in the process of writing another novel.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I just want to say that I am in love with writing and storytelling. The voices of Black women are important and a crucial part of the American experience.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb