Mariam Williams

Really lucky to get a chance to interview the woman behind “Redbone Afropuff & Black GRITS” today! Mariam has been published on Salon, Calliope, and the Huffington Post (as well as many other outlets) and writes a biweekly column for the National Catholic Reporter.


1.How did you get into blogging?

I ventured into blogging after I was laid off in 2008. The financial crisis hadn’t long started, and I found myself a casualty of it. Going from a regular 9-to-5 to staying in your house all day is hard, and blogging made me feel like I was less alone. Besides, I wanted a place outside of my journal to document what was happening—the long lines at the unemployment office, the changes in my diet due to the cost of food, the rejection letters from potential employers, the feelings of hopelessness, the resentment I felt at always being a straight arrow who did the right thing and usually pursued what was practical, and still ending up in the unemployment line … You know, all that fun stuff.

I was without full-time employment for nearly four years. After about six months of blogging, I decided to I wanted to write in essay form more, but on other topics. Black women’s history, feminism, and family stories were interesting to me, so I began a blog with the intent to publish personal essays—mine and others’—on those topics and to raise the level of black feminist consciousness and the importance of elders among the younger generations subscribing to blogs. Redbone Afropuff & Black GRITS is the result.

2.What are your favorite kinds of topics to tackle?

I’ve gone from black women’s history, feminism, and family stories to the tagline of my blog: faith, family, and feminism. Those topics are broad, but because they’re the main forces that have shaped me, I find a way to put them into a lot of essays and posts about a lot of things. One of the topics within those broader headings I’m writing about more often (but not necessarily publishing) is sex and sexuality among black Christian women, specifically how sex and sexuality are defined for us by history, our families, and by the Black Church.

3.What post are you most proud of, and why?

I’m going to cheat a little here and pat myself on the back for a poem instead of a post. I’m most proud of “Wish Remember, June 2015: An Annotated Lyric.” It was published earlier this year in the online journal, Bozalta. I selected “Wish Remember” because that piece went from a 20+-page essay to a 10-page prose-poem hybrid piece that’s light years better than the original essay was. I think it shows me combining many of the things I love to tackle in my writing—prose, poetry, history, black female sexuality, Christianity, current events, the Movement for Black Lives, social justice—and experimenting with them successfully.

4.Who are your favorite blogs to follow?

Awesomely Luvvie (because who doesn’t love to laugh?), Son of Baldwin (I love analytical people), Very Smart Brothas (another for radically intelligent humor), The Unfit Christian (we blog about similar themes)

5.What’s the weirdest/best/worst interaction you’ve had with a follower?

I also have a blog called “The Intersection,” at National Catholic Reporter, and I sometimes get letters from NCR readers. And I mean, snail mail letters. Sometimes, they’re from other countries. The furthest away so far has been Germany.

6.Best book you’ve read this year?

Another question that necessitates cheating! I have to divide this one into genres.

Nonfiction: Small Fires, by Julie Wade

Fiction: Beloved, by Toni Morrison

Poetry: Kingdom Anamalia, by Aracelis Girmay

7.Favorite track on Lemonade?

Don’t Hurt Yourself

Thanks to Mariam for taking time to answer our questions! Join us on Litsy for the discussion about Americanah starting next week (already!) On Litsy, follow @BookishFeminist, @LitsyFeministBookclub and myself (@rachelm). I have just a few spots let to feature black blogger interviews before then, so contact me on Twitter or Litsy if you’re interested in being interviewed!