My Evolving Feminist Agenda: The Story Behind Love’s Promise
By Opal Palmer Adisa
I ran into William, a friend from my childhood. I did not recognize him, but he recognized me. “Remember, you said we would get married when we grew up. We played house together,” he said, laughing. We were probably eight years old when I promised him my love and now we were several decades older, married, with children, divorced, and looking to start anew. We talked for over an hour and reminisced about our childhood.
After William left I sat over Chai tea and wondered about those childhood promises I made and received, and reflected on whether we could go back to and reconnect with the past. This is the kernel for Love’s Promise, a collection of eleven stories, which primarily examines romantic promises that were made during adolescence. Although a few of the stories were published many years before the idea for the collection came to mind, I seized the opportunity to juxtapose old with modern, as well as to explore these themes of love and promises as connected to spirituality and Caribbean sensibilities. I also conceived Love Promises as a sequel to my very first collection, Bake-Face and Other Guava Stories (Kelsey Street Press, 1985), which is about love and friendship between women – often the first kind of relationship women have outside of familial love.
Love’s Promise is a delicious and delicate proposition that has to do with the heart and how deeply and keenly one is connected to one’s heart when one makes a promise –to pledge an intention. A promise sets up expectations for the receiver, and places an obligation on the one making the promise. When we were children William obviously took my promise to heart, while I must have just been caught up in the moment, and issued that promise without giving thought to my obligation or what such a promise might mean in the future. A promise has emotional weight; it is an agreement that two people make to each other –a commitment. Who among us has not made a promise in the name of love? And once made, how committed are we to that promise? Events and circumstances might cause one to forget or forgo that pledge. I did. On the other hand, there are those who hold fast to their promise despite distance or time.
In writing Love’s Promise the questions I posed for myself were: Is love a lasting thing? Can one truly fall out of love? What circumstances causes one to renege on their promise? What if someone deliberately, deceptively makes a promise to elicit a desired effect from the recipient? Because I want readers, especially women, to identify with each of the diverse women characters, I deliberately avoided mentioning several of the characters’ names, referring to them throughout as only “she.” Also, because I believe our childhood/adolescent crushes greatly inform the relationships and bonds we form as adults, at least three of the stories trace the genesis of the characters life from these early formations. But also, because I don’t believe we can experience a meaningful life, without confronting some hard decisions which push our moral buttons, and cause us to question if love is “right” regardless of the circumstance, we have stories such as “Conscience is the Same as Do Right,” and “Trio,” to allow readers to suspend their judgment and step into the shoes of some other women, whose decisions are at best questionable.
I want readers to reflect on their own lives and choices long after they have closed the book. I want them to reconnect and recommit to some of the promises they made and may have forgotten about or have allowed to remain unhinged. Mostly though I want readers to focus on their loves and the importance of their promises to others, so as to not speak lightly like Lynton, the character from “Soup Bones”, who makes a promise which he does not keep and reaps the wrath of his wife.
Love’s Promise is great for everyone who is interested in love and the promises we make in the name of love.
From the story, “Bus-stop:”
“Sweetheart, tell Wayne your name again; he is obviously overwhelmed.”
“Bake-Face, you know that Natasha says is yu matrimony juice why Ivan propose to her. She say she gwane mek him come and buy some every week just to keep the love strong.”
From “Love’s Promise:”
“Danny, is me,” was all she could say, with her hands on his shoulders, feeling relieved, feeling finally as if that piece of herself that he had been missing had been reattached.
6.FLYER love promise 6-1-17