Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Writing as a Solitary Profession

BOND: I wonder how this -- this inner-directedness has it caused problems like the Fisk problem in your life before that or since? I mean, I'm not saying that you're the kind of person who is going to screw up. I don't mean that.

GIOVANNI: I screw up a lot.

BOND: But -- everybody does. But does this inner-directedness, this feeling of being compelled to do things in a certain kind of way, has it caused some bumps along the way?

GIOVANNI: I think I'm impossible to live with, yeah. But I think most writers are and I know all actors are. So I'm just going to take it like that. I think that --

BOND: Why is that? Why is that true about writers?

GIOVANNI: Because you have to have your space to think.

BOND: Because it's a solitary profession?

GIOVANNI: It is a solitary profession. What's lucky for people like me is that I'm in a solitary profession, but the other half of it is that I get to share to more people what I do in solitude.

BOND: Are you in a solitary profession because you're a solitary person, or are you a solitary person and therefore sought a solitary career?

GIOVANNI: I'm the baby in the family so -- and we grew up poor. It's like what Marvin Gaye says, "I come up hard, baby." So I think being poor means really one thing. Even though in the black community you were considered middle-class because you have a job, even if you are poor. It means you have restricted space. So, in having restricted space, you have to find your own way.

You know, I think I could live in Japan. I think I could live in Tokyo because you have an impacted city, right, that you have so many people. And so the Japanese have to find a way to peace, to an inner peace despite all of the -- that's why I love New York. Because now I'm living in the country. But I think that -- no, I don't think. I like to think. And I grew up with a lot of respiratory problems. Ultimately I'm having -- you know, I had a lung cancer. And so if you're having colds and things like I was having, then you're home from school. And what do you do? You read. You can look at TV but I was also -- and I don't know why, Julian, I -- it seems to me like you have eyes and you're supposed to use them.

And so the days that I was home if I wasn't -- I was too sick to go to school but not dying. So I would do the ironing or I would do the dusting. You know you want to help your mother or things like that. It's not taking that much time. It still leaves you a lot of time to read and we had always had a nice library. My mom did. My father used to give her books. I don't remember him reading that much though. He was a mathematician and quite smart. But you know you'd read from -- I could read from my mother's library because I was also a responsible kid so I didn't mess with her books or anything like that, and so I could do that. She would also get me the books that I wanted to read. So you know you're home. You get up because it's eight o'clock. You have your breakfast. You dust the house or whatever you're doing. And then you pile up and read. I think I'm a solitary person because I'm a solitary person. But we're of a generation -- we had responsibilities, our generation. I think we did good. I'm very proud of us.