A Question and Answer with Sister Souljah: A New “Midnight”
By Joy Childs
Sentinel Contributing Writer
When you Google her name, you might be inclined to think it’s spelled colloquially, i.e., “Sistuh” or “Sista Soldier.” But you’d be wrong. As Sister Souljah explained in a recent phone interview, she came up with that particular spelling “because ‘soldier,’ as it’s spelled in the regular dictionary, is a masculine word, with a masculine feeling and a masculine sound. So when I want to call myself a ‘soldier’-because I am a fighter [but] I want to have a feminine presence, I spell ‘sol,’ ‘soul,’ which means “the essence of …” and ‘jah,’ which means ‘God.’ “
Put it all together and you get the full meaning of her name: “Sister Souljah, fighting to bring back the essence of God-fighting to arouse the essence of God in you.”
But not just any sister. Souljah is a wife and a mother, an educator of the young and a student of life-and a New York Times best-selling author of “The Coldest Winter Ever” (entering at No. 7) and “Midnight.” In her third novel, “Midnight and the Meaning of Love”-which came out this past April, entering at No. 15-protagonist Midnight, a ninja warrior, devoted Muslim and protector of his family, falls passionately in love with and marries a younger, Japanese teenager, Akemi, in Japan. The couple settles in Brooklyn, where their idyllic life abruptly ends when her own father kidnaps her and takes her back to Japan. Midnight’s quest to reunite with his wife lies at the heart of the story.
Asked what kinds of feedback she’s gotten about the interracial relationship of her novel, Souljah says:
“The overwhelmingly majority of people who have responded . . . have given me a positive response. She [Akemi]’s so creative. I think her expression of her art makes people love her. It kind of shows her soul through her eyes and through her creation of beautiful artwork. I think are people are fascinated with the fact that she’s Japanese and [about] Japanese culture and the country itself, which kind of mirrors reality in the sense that a lot of people are fascinated with Japan and with what that small island has been able to accomplish in the world … Some people are upset that the character is not an African American female but they were definitely in the minority.”
LAS: What’s up next for you?
SS: The next novel that I’ll put out will be the Porsche Santiaga story. And I’m also writing the next “Midnight” story simultaneously … When I finished “Midnight and the Meaning of Love,” I found that to be such a powerful story that the characters continued talking even after I put my pen down. So when my characters continue talking-continue living in my mind-it’s important for me to write it down.
LAS: Do you have any TV appearances coming up?
SS: Not now … Maybe in the fall, in September, October, you may see me on television but right now I’m just doing the book tour. I did the Livestream, and a lot of people saw that on the Internet across the world.
LAS: Do you presently teach anywhere? Are you sharing your craft with young writers?
SS: No, the teaching that I do is mostly in the format of lectures. I lecture regularly at colleges and universities, and I’ve been offered a couple of professorships at a few universities and I’m considering that. But that would have to be woven in between my travel schedule, which is pretty extensive, and my writing schedule and then my research schedule … I might find myself at a university some time in the future, God willing.
LAS: Thirty to 40 years ago, there were only a few ways to do a book tour. Nowadays there are the actual book tours, virtual book tours, etc. So you have all of these avenues available to you nowadays to promote and market your book. Is there one of those media forms that you really prefer?
SS: I’m on Twitter and that’s something that I do on a daily basis. Also, I like the setting that is the most attractive because I don’t wanna just talk and have everybody listen. I kind of enjoy more a meaningful conversation. When I do my in-person events, I’m looking to read to the audience or speak to the audience but I’m really listening to their responses, to their questions and interacting with them, even when I’m being challenged or debated. That’s really the most exciting part of the whole thing.
LAS: Where are you based?
SS: I’m in Manhattan.
LAS: Do you find that being in Manhattan as opposed to, e.g., The Bronx [where she was raised] or Brooklyn or Long Island, there’s an atmosphere of added creativity that assists you in your writing?
SS: Well, it really is difficult for me to say that I live in one particular place because I move around a lot. Wherever I am, I’m always writing and thinking and reading. So I can’t really say that one place more than another place is the best place because I’m always moving. That’s when I’m happiest, when it’s been a continuous flow of life.
LAS: What brings you joy?
SS: Actually, learning. Learning is a very joyful thing for me. When I’m traveling the world, I’m being introduced to all of the different languages, culture and people that God created. I’m amazed constantly by the expressions of our creator-all of the wonderful things and people and creatures. So I just love exploration and I love learning. And that’s what brings me joy.
LAS: Tell me about your upbringing, especially your early upbringing.
SS: The first book I wrote was “No Disrespect.” It told the whole story of my childhood of living in the projects, and so people who want to know about my background [should read that.] … I think everything that happens is everyone’s life has an effect on them, leaves an impression on them, has some kind of impact on them. So my living in the projects in the Bronx in the early part of my life, you know, definitely gave me certain insights.
LAS: Of course.
To glean more insights about this sister, you can reach out to her at:
Facebook: The official Sister Souljah and the Sister Souljah fan page: firstname.lastname@example.org
And don’t forget the ‘h’-or you’ll never find her!