The Proust Questionnaire, popularized by the French essayist and novelist Marcel Proust, is said to reveal a person’s true nature through a series of probing, soul-searching questions. In the hot seat today: Alicia D. Williams, author of the MG debut, GENESIS BEGINS AGAIN (Atheneum/S&S, 2019).
What is your idea of perfect happiness? No bills. And no debt. Being able to travel when I want, write without burden, and hearing my daughter’s laughter.
What is your greatest fear? Growing old alone. I don’t want to be eighty or ninety without being able to roll over and and greet someone with a sweet, “Good morning, honey.” Well, minus the morning breath. Oh, and I don’t want to not be able to roll over on my own at that age.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? Not always speaking my truth. I had no problem saying what was on my mind in my twenties. When I became a single parent, I swallowed a lot of words to make sure that I could provide for my daughter. I hate that because I still sometimes hold back, and it blocks my throat chakra.
Which living person do you most admire? Without a doubt, Michelle Obama. She’s so graceful. So intelligent. And she managed to keep her composure in the midst of evil attacks, while going about living her best life of changing lives and leaving a legacy of kindness.
What is your greatest extravagance? I wish I can say the theater, but since I haven’t seen Hamilton yet I can’t feel good about that one. Buuuutttt… I’ll tell you what my greatest extravagance will be: a blue velvet couch. I already have a whole living room picked out on Pinterest, and it has a beautiful blue velvet couch.
What is your current state of mind? Grateful, but guilty for feeling overwhelmed. My book recently came out and, whew… I’m so grateful for the attention and the love. But I didn’t see it coming. I’m quite a loner and my phone never rings and email is usually full of marketing subscriptions; it all changed in a matter of days. And all the while, my students are like, “Yeah, did you grade our tests yet?” and “What are we doing tomorrow?”
What do you consider the most overrated virtue? Prudence. Why do we have to be like anything that sounds like a prude? Besides, I think it’s a term that suggests that women have toned down behavior, but maybe that’s only how my family used it.
On what occasion do you lie? If I admit this, then the secret will be out, right? Okay, here goes. I’m a private person, so when I don’t want folks knowing all of my business then, yeah, those are the occasions. Can we just agree to label it, “withholding the truth”?
Which words or phrases do you most overuse? Hmm. Wow. Really?
Besides writing which talent would you most like to have? Singing. I don’t know why God refuses to allow me to just flow like Beyoncé. Seriously, Genesis singing in front of the mirror, that’s all me. Even in my twenties, my roomie and I used to give full-blown concerts in our living room. I even performed to sold-out arenas, in my bedroom, throughout my entire pregnancy.
What do you consider your greatest achievement? Becoming a mother. I mean, my daughter is brilliant. Sometimes I stand back and watch her in awe and think to myself, “I did that?” Wow, I’m bad.
If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be? A rich lady’s cat.
What is your most treasured possession? My books. Some I’ve had for years, some marked up in the margins, and some still waiting to be read. How would I replace them if something happened, because they aren’t even catalogued? I wouldn’t remember every single title; I just know that I need to possess them.
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? Loneliness.
What do you most value in your friends? Humor.
Who are your favorite writers? J. California Cooper. Toni Morrison. Maya Angelou. Edwidge Danticat. Jesmyn Ward.
Who is your hero of fiction? Cassie Logan in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. Any girl who can handle herself in a family of boys, especially during that time period, is a hero. While keeping a “child’s voice,” Cassie still speaks her truth.
Which historical figure do you most identify with? Zora Neale Hurston. She loved folklore, dancing, and telling stories, and so do I.
What is your motto? “Don’t worry about what other people are doing, just worry about what you’re doing.”
ALICIA D. WILLIAMS is a graduate of the MFA program at Hamline University. An oral storyteller in the African-American tradition, she is also a middle-school teacher who lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. Genesis Begins Again is her debut novel. Learn more about Alicia on her website and follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.