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Interview: Dare Segun Falowo on “We Are Born”

Tell us a bit about “We Are Born.”

It is a tale of creation and rebirth set in a Realm Within called Ala, which means “dream” in my native Yoruba. It revolves around a sculptor and her creation, a girl of clay that is made alive when it is filled with the spirit of an abiku.


What was the inspiration for this story, or what prompted you to write it?

Being the only son of a very particular type of single mother, I find myself riveted often against my will by mythic ideas of motherhood. This story came to me when I imagined what it would be like to be a mother who brings a child to life using her hands. The scene where she walks out into the rain to make her daughter played in my head for a while before I was able to mold a story around it. The ideas surrounding her daughter’s origins, brief life, and later rebirth came later, followed by ideas of self and queerness and gender.

Writing has always been a way to sort out my subconscious  its symbols and desires and waves, and so when I write, my state of mind has to be one of utmost flow. I string together ideas mentally before I sit down and write, so when I am in the actual process of writing, the ideas meld together much differently than I intended and that’s how I like it. I’m a gardener and not a construction worker when it comes to process.

Inspiration also came from personal experiences of not being masculine enough to walk with the Boys, nor feminine enough to understand the Girls as much. This created a feeling of otherness that writing this story was an exercise in defusing.

One of the areas in life where women seem to be objectified to a horrifying detriment, is the space of carrying, birthing, and rearing children. I believe that the woman is a giver of life, not an object to be used and placed in the background. Parts of this story are about trying to depict this belief, which is one of the great mysteries of being human, as the beauty it is.


Was “We Are Born” personal to you in any way?  If so, how?

I am queer and live in Nigeria, which is notorious for its bile against LGBTQ individuals  there is a 14 year imprisonment for anyone identified as openly queer and a death sentence in the North for sexual liaison between adults of the same-sex. Coming-of-age in this environment brought up a lot of complications regarding my understanding of the body, pure sexuality, how gender can blur within one individual and the place of spirituality beyond religion.

Quite subconsciously, I found myself turning to the traditional Yoruba belief in the abiku to help me come to terms with these ideas using the medium of this particular short story. For me, the abiku is a symbol of middles and even though their middle-ground has been said to be between this world and the next, I imagined it could be a middle between the senses of being embodied in physicality and being bodyless.

After concluding that the society around me had seen it fit to put me (and others like me) in a box that is very one-dimensional, the effects of which are an internal imbalance; I had no option but to go within myself to find some balance between the pieces of me that were rearing their heads up in stark anxiety and the parts that were seemingly dying and hiding. The elements of transience and fragility are a near-direct expression of my being at a certain past point in my life, and in completing the story I was able to come to a new understanding of my place in the world. This is the power that creating stories holds and why I create.


Can you tell us about any research you may have done for this story?

None really. Most of the information concerning Yoruba spirituality, I culled from a soup of memories that I accumulated as a child watching fantasies set in old Yoruba worlds where the impossible and the magical were the commonplace, and the spiritual had its own logic. The twist of gender comes from a thought I still circle, a thought that came to me not long after I was confronted with the idea of transgendered individuals; it had seemed very clear to me then that they were spirits bodied askew who in seeking to amend their bodies or find balance in their ways, were confronting a destiny more cosmic than most.


What would you want a reader to take away from “We Are Born?”

I would want readers to see it as a love letter. It is for anyone who is feeling a sense of imbalance or anxiety as a result of long-held, ignorant public views on private desires and emotional states. It is my wish that it extend hope in the form of a definite universal order that underlies our innermost being, an order that wishes newness for us despite what this blind world, or even we, might think about ourselves.


What are you working on now?

I have just finished a short story called “Ku’gbo” which is set in the same village as “We Are Born.” It is a tale of metamorphosis which attempts to reveal more about (the Realms of) Ayika in which Ala is situated. It is also a very personal story.


Anything else you’d like to add?

A most wondrous future is standing right before us and the only way to birth it into the moment is by a positive unison of humanity regardless of categorical differences.


“We Are Born” appears in the September/October 2017 issue of F&SF.

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