“I ask: what’s been left out of the historical record of my South and my nation? What is the danger in not knowing?”
When I was three years old, I nearly drowned in a hotel pool in Mexico. My earliest memory is of what seemed a long moment, as if I were suspended there, looking up through a ceiling of water, the high sun barely visible overhead. I do not recall being afraid as I sank, only that I was enthralled by what I could see through that strange and wavering lens: my mother, who could not swim, leaning over the edge—arms outstretched—reaching for me. She was in the line of the sun and what she did not block radiated around her head, her face like an annular eclipse, dark and ringed with light.