Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Creating Realities through Language

BOND: How did you choose your career? I saw in some of the research we did for you that you had begun a novel in the 2nd grade.

DOVE: I did.

BOND: Did you ever finish it?

DOVE: Well, it wasn't that kind of novel. [laughs] What happened was this — we had these spelling lessons. I don't know if they still do it the way they used to do it, but you got 20 words a week. You had to learn how to spell them. The last three were always kind of the same word, but the past participle and some kind of verb that changed and our teacher would make us do the homework in class so that we would do it actually, so I would finish it early and I was just sitting there twiddling my thumbs so I started writing each week a little chapter of a novel using all 20 words from the spelling list and it was a game I was playing with myself. The last three words were particularly challenging because they were all the same word, just different verb tenses, but because of that I actually began to look forward to my spelling homework because I wanted to finish it quickly so I could write this chapter so it was about robots taking over the earth. I called it "Chaos" because that's exactly what it was, [laughs] truly chaos, but it was fun. And I think that I started writing at that point. The idea that the language itself could lead you along just as well as a prescribed plot, was thrilling, I think, to me. It was thrilling. And I had had such examples from relatives, from the community, from my minister, all of these examples of the power of language, that if language used — If you get the right word with the right inflection, how you can persuade and create realities through language, that the idea of being able to write language that way and to create a story was just immensely exciting to me.