Shanta Lee Gander, author of the forthcoming debut full-length collection Ghettoclaustrophobia: Dreamin of Mama While Trying to Speak Woman in Woke Tongues, shares her current reading list.
Right now, [I'm reading] so many good things. I am ingesting The Dawning Moon of the Mind: Unlocking the Pyramid Texts by Susan Brind Morrow. It is not only an amazing book but it was suggested to me my dear friend for the fact that it is among our earliest poetry.
Jorge Luis Borges’s Collected Fictions translated by Andrew Hurley is an ongoing read and is there anything more to say about the way Borges twists or bends a story in such magical and thrilling ways?
I have been digging in the salt mines in terms of continued thinking and research as it relates to the topic of the critical thesis I completed this past spring, which was focused on how memory is connected and transferred within the African American and African Diaspora when it has been lost, stolen, or displaced. This has taken me to all sorts of places for my poetry, and learning, which includes an ongoing visitation with books like Harold Scheub’s A Dictionary of African Mythology: The Mythmaker as Storyteller.
A friend recently suggested yet another good piece of reading, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series. I have always flirted with Neil Gaiman’s work, but what drew me into this series is the idea of Dream, or Metamorphosis being captured and held captive. There are so many layers of mythology, pop culture, literature, and many other things. It's not surprising, given that a number of both graphic novels and comics pull quite a well, especially relating to mythology.
“This time, I teach myself to say gimme. This time,
I am fluent in No. Mines. You can’t have.”
from "Lessons in Development from a Butterfly"
What does it mean to move away from the shadow of one’s mother, parents, or family in order to come into being within this world? As collective memory within the Black diaspora has been ruptured, GHETTOCLAUSTROPHOBIA time travels by creating and recapturing memory from a fractured past to survive in the present and envision a future. In her first full-length collection GHETTOCLAUSTROPHOBIA: Dreamin of Mama While Trying to Speak Woman in Woke Tongues, Shanta Lee Gander navigates between formal and vernacular styles to introduce the reader to a myriad of subjects such as scientific facts that link butterflies to female sexuality and vulnerability; whispers of classical Greek myth; H.P. Lovecraft’s fantastical creature, Cthulhu; and the traces of African mythmaking and telling. Beneath the intensity, longing, seeking, wondering, and the ‘tell-it-like-it-is’ voice that sometimes tussles with sadness, there is a movement of sass and a will that refuses to say that it has been broken. Gander leaves a door ajar in this ongoing conversation of the Black female body that walks the spaces of the individual within a collective; the tensions between inherited and hidden narratives; and the present within a history and future that is still being imagined.
Shanta Lee Gander is an artist and multi-faceted professional. Her endeavors include writing and photography with work that has been featured in PRISM, ITERANT Literary Magazine, Palette Poetry, BLAVITY, DAME Magazine, The Crisis Magazine, Rebelle Society, on the Ms. Magazine Blog, and on a former radio segment Ponder This. Shanta Lee’s photojournalism has been featured on Vermont Public Radio (VPR.org) and her investigative reporting has been in The Commons weekly newspaper covering Windham County, VT. Shanta Lee is the 2020 recipient of the Arthur Williams Award for Meritorious Service to the Arts and 2020. Her contributing work on an investigative journalism piece for The Commons received a New England Newspaper & Press Association (NENPA) 2019 award. Shanta Lee gives lectures on the life of Lucy Terry Prince, considered the first known African-American poet in English literature, as a member of the Vermont Humanities Council Speakers Bureau and is the 2020 gubernatorial appointee to their board of directors.
Shanta Lee is an MFA candidate in Creative Non-Fiction and Poetry at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has an MBA from the University of Hartford and an undergraduate degree in Women, Gender and Sexuality from Trinity College. To see more of Shanta Lee’s work, visit Shantaleegander.com.