Interview by Kyla Jamieson.
Hey, hi, come in, meet Kia Miakka Natisse, a writer and artist from Buffalo, New York, whose nonfiction piece, “I Have a Brother Named Jamaal,” about growing up alongside her autistic brother “before [autism] was a movement, before it was a puzzle-patterned bumper sticker and spectrum of disorders,” you can find in our Liminal issue, PRISM international 56.1 (but read an excerpt here).
Kia Miakka Natisse studied journalism at Howard University, where she earned her BA, and went on to get her Master’s in transmedia studies from NYU. Now based in Chicago, Illinois, she self-publishes text-based works through her website, kiamiakkanatisse.com. She was recently part of a group show titled “Front & Center” at the Hyde Park Art Center in Chicago and is working on completing a chapbook titled American.
1. What’s happening around you—either right around you or outside of where you are?
I’m sitting on my couch, listening to Frank Ocean (I’ve been obsessing over him lately). There are piles of folded laundry to my left, and a bag of week-old-laundered clothes to my right, at my feet.
2. Why do you live where you live?
I live in Chicago because I fell in love.
And I needed to get out of Buffalo, NY.
3. What are you looking forward to this week?
The weekend. (Isn’t that sad?)
4. What advice would you give an aspiring or emerging writer?
Keep a journal. Force yourself to be honest. Get to know the voices in your head, figure out which ones are worth listening to and which one’s are better off ignored. (Hint: wisdom is usually quiet.)
5. What’s the first story or poem you remember writing, and how does it relate to your current work?
The first short story I published was in first grade, an illustrated short story called “There’s a Mouse in My House.” As you might have guessed, the plot involved a mouse in a house.
I suppose it relates to my current work in that I recently rediscovered my appreciation for illustration, and thematically my work continues to question the nature of home and belonging. Plus, I still have an affinity for rodents.
6. What are you most proud of?
My intelligence. I can be pretty annoying about it, actually.
As such, my second-most source of pride is developing self-knowledge and wisdom… and I guess humility.
7. Is there any advice you like ignoring?
I mix dark and light liquor and idgaf. (But not in the same cup, I’m not suicidal.)
8. Is there a public space you’re fond of? Describe it.
Suburbia, with its orderly strip malls. It carries such a patina of idealistic American perfection. My ideal plaza includes an Olive Garden, a Barnes and Noble, and a Media Play. No matter that all of the aforementioned either a. is actually really gross, b. doesn’t really exist anymore, or c. seriously doesn’t exist anymore; I really just enjoy being in spaces that remind me of my suburban childhood.
9. Do you have a favourite word? Or a least favourite word? What is it and why do you like/dislike it?
I have many favourite words, but the one that comes to mind now is “superior.” I had a co-worker who once mocked another’s clothing by sarcastically remarking that their taste was “superior.” It’s made me laugh ever since. It’s such a haughty word, it really cuts in its condescension.
10. Do you have any “vices”? What’s the relationship between your vices and your writing?
Ugh, being liked. I have to face the fact that I care deeply about the “liking” and approval of others. It can definitely be a hindrance to my writing; if I start to think about what other people think it can really inhibit my ability to be honest and also share my work. In fact, the piece that I have in PRISM is the first time I’ve published my work (on a large scale) since 2014. I think I needed to go back into my little writer’s hole and rediscover my writing voice, because I had evolved to a place where people were paying me to write things that weren’t “me.”
That’s why I impress upon myself to be honest in my writing, because regardless of whether or not someone “likes” what I write, at least I will have told my truth.
Pssst: If you have work that risks being unlikable, it might be a fit for our “BAD” issue. Call closes Nov. 15th. Find more details here.