17 October 2018
Meet the 2018 Scribe Nonfiction Prize Shortlist – Ana Maria Gomides
In the lead up to announcing The 2018 Scribe Nonfiction Prize for Young Writers, we’re introducing you to every name and face on the shortlist. These are some of the brightest nonfiction minds in the country and they’re all aged 30 and under. Read their profiles on the Express Media blog to learn more about their writing journeys, love of nonfiction and their tips and tricks to writing the best real-life stories.
Ana Maria Gomides, 27
What luck, what a fucking curse: on looking and being looked at in my light skin
Photo credit Rebecca-Marian Irene
I write from Naarm, also known as Melbourne, Victoria. I live on stolen land that rightfully belongs to the Wurundjeri and Boon Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation. Sovereignty has not been ceded but this will always be Aboriginal land.
How did you begin writing?
My tio Tunico runs a poetry newspaper back in Brazil and I remember he published a poem I wrote in fourth grade. I got to read it at a soiree in a room full of grown-ups. It was pretty
special. When we got our first family computer, still in Brazil – a boxy, slow, old thing that my older sister tended to hog – I spent a lot of my free time dreaming up novels about young witches. So, at the risk of sounding cliché, I really have been writing my whole life.
During my first years living in Australia, a couple of friends and I would write these story chapters, full of adolescent angst and drama, then share them with each other. This is awesome in retrospect because English was a second language to all of us. Then there was this teacher in year 10 who, quite publicly, questioned my presence in his advanced English class. That year, to prove him wrong and to fuck with him, I read and wrote about everything and anything. In the process, I fell in love with a language that was not my own. I haven’t stopped writing in English since.
I started pursuing writing more seriously a couple of years ago, when a friend offered to mentor me. I admire this person’s own work a great deal so, in addition to being pleasantly surprise by the offer, it felt like a huge compliment. My ‘friendor’ has provided ongoing, nurturing encouragement and support. Most importantly they have instilled in me the idea that my voice is something that deserves and needs to be heard.
Why do you write nonfiction?
I think the line between fiction and nonfiction is pretty flawed. Everything I write has elements of nonfiction to it and to claim otherwise would be dishonest. I guess when I write something that is explicitly non-fiction, I do so because I want the reader to not be able to dismiss what I have to say. A lot of the time fiction has the potential to be more ‘real’ than nonfiction but, because it’s hidden under the guise of pretence, people have to option to not take it seriously.
Tell us a bit about your submission to the Scribe Prize:
‘What luck, what a fucking curse’ explores the complexity of my experience as a light-skinned First Nations, Black and Brown woman. Partly narrative non-fiction, partly essay, it is a personal piece that draws on the lives of my ancestors as well as my own.
Why did you choose to write on this subject?
I have been working and reworking ‘What luck, what a fucking curse’ for over a year now and I don’t think I will ever truly finish it. Every day I come up with something else to add or to change.
Honestly, I still feel quite anxious about it because I know I am not the person who cops the brunt of racial discrimination. My light skin protects me from the kind of overt and violent racism that First Nations people in this country and people who are more visibly of colour than I endure. I’m writing it because I’m trying to figure out what my place is and how I can live in the world without taking things from people who need them more than me. I believe that kind of learning is ongoing.
The piece begins with looking in the mirror and seeing my colonisers’ features staring back at me. It’s about my complexion reminding me what the women in my family have been put through in order for my skin to reach its lightness. Light skinned People of Colour are often expected to be quiet about their race, so I see claiming my own Blackness as an act of subversion. I think to be silent is allowing colonisers to succeed in their project to destroy us.
I don’t want to fight over the scraps white supremacy throws us, I just want there to be more space. And in every step I take forward, I’m determined to make space for others.
What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
“Allow yourself to be terrible.” I think this is particularly important for People of Colour because we are expected to be nothing less than exceptional. We don’t have access to the same privileges as white people, so we have to work ten times as hard to get the same things they are granted. This is a huge amount of pressure to bear. Being average shouldn’t be a luxury. By allowing myself to be terrible, I give myself the chance to write more and worry less, which is beneficial to the quality of my work in the end.