WG: Thanks for the opportunity to interview you regarding your work. Please introduce yourself to our readers and kindly tell them a little bit about yourself and the new book. Much appreciated!
TW-S: My name is Tangela Williams-Spann. I’m the author of Sad, Black, and Fat: Musings from the Intersection. I also write a blog called “Tangela Writes the Things,” where I talk about my mental health and wellness journeys. My book goes deeper into those discussions in a way that makes them more relatable to the average person. Mental health woes are very common and there isn’t enough conversation about them, for me.
WG: Can you kindly tell the readers a bit more about what you hope to convey in the main themes of the book, as well as any additional information about what kinds of conversations you hope to advance with and in your work, with respect to “mental health woes,” as you put it? Thank you, so much.
TW-S: In my book, I delve into my experiences with being sad, black, and fat in America. I talk about depression and anxiety, racial disparity and injustice, as well as chronicling my experiences with weight loss surgery. I know that sounds like a weird combo of topics, but it was my reality. I feel like I’m not alone in that and I wanted to connect with people that may be going through similar situations.
Specifically for mental health, my goal was to share my story as a way to show that depression isn’t the end. I needed to let people like me know that they aren’t broken and alone. I wanted to help people to feel more comfortable in talking about their own pain and suffering. That’s the only way we can finally overcome the huge stigma surrounding mental health. Nothing gets better if people don’t confront it.
WG: Thanks, so much, Tangela. What are your thoughts about mentorship and empowerment, with respect to the intersections that you have addressed in your book? And, do you have any thoughts about the Disability Justice connections with and in your work?
TW-S: I’m a huge believer in having a mentor or a coach to work with you on your life goals. I’m working with a life coach at the moment, and I’ve had a lot of personal growth in the past few months. It has been very refreshing to have someone in your corner to bounce ideas off of. A mentor/mentee relationship is valuable to have, as well. Having that person you respect and look up to guiding you along your path is priceless. Bonus points if you find a mentor that looks like you. That shared life experience can be very beneficial in building that personal relationship.
Disability justice is a huge movement that has been receiving some much needed attention in these COVID times. Things that employers told us that we couldn’t do, like working from home and other accessibility options, are highly feasible. There has been a little progress in these areas, but there is still a lot of work to be done. Mental illnesses are still considered to be invisible because people can suffer in silence much easier than people with physical ailments. There has been a call for people to take care of their mental health, but I think it has been little more than lip service among these huge corporations.
WG: I appreciate your thoughtful responses. Is there anything that you would like to add? And, how can folx find your book, your other work, and you (!) online?
TW-S: In some versions of my online bio, I say that I spend a lot of time talking about “appropriate social behavior” with my kid. I kind of poke fun at myself with that statement. My teenager and I are both on the autism spectrum, and as they have grown up, we have had to have a great amount of discussion about things like “What should you be doing with your face?” and “You might be being honest, but you shouldn’t say that out loud.” These are things I have to remind myself of, at times, and that is kind of a joke between the two of us.
At the same time, my teenager presents as a Black male in America. We have had to have some less pleasant discussions about what to do when they get pulled over or ways to seem like less of a threat to people. Even though my kid is no threat to anyone and is very loving and pleasant to be around, I have to prepare them to live in a world that is not kind to people that look like us. I talk in the book about how scary it is to have to let them grow up and be independent. It’s uncomfortable, but it’s a conversation that lots of Black parents have with their children.
If anyone wants to connect with me online, I am @twillspann across all socials. I spend most of my time on Twitter, so it would be easiest to find me there. Sad, Black, and Fat can be ordered on my website, which includes more information on the book, and links to other things I’ve written, as well. Feel free to read my blog, too. All of this information is on my site: http://twillspannwrites.com
WG: Great! Thanks for taking the time to talk with Wordgathering!
About Tangela Williams-Spann
Tangela Williams-Spann is a mental health and wellness blogger as well as the mother of an autistic person. She has worked in special education for over fifteen years and is currently completing coursework toward a masters degree in Special Education at Grand Canyon University. She began writing poems and short stories in elementary school and continued to let words move her into action throughout her life. Her creative writing has appeared in Limeoncello Magazine, Tangled Locks Journal, and Sledgehammer Literary Journal. Her first book, Sad, Black, and Fat: Musings from the Intersections, was released in August 2021. When not writing, Tangela enjoys reading, crocheting, and playing video games.
About Diane R. Wiener
Diane R. Wiener became Editor-in-Chief of Wordgathering in January 2020. Diane is the author of the full-length poetry collection, The Golem Verses (Nine Mile Press, 2018), the poetry chapbook, Flashes & Specks (Finishing Line Press, 2021), and the forthcoming poetry chapbook, The Golem Returns (swallow::tale press, 2022). Her poems also appear in Nine Mile Magazine, Wordgathering, Tammy, Queerly, The South Carolina Review, Welcome to the Resistance: Poetry as Protest, Diagrams Sketched on the Wind, Jason’s Connection, the Kalonopia Collective’s 2021 Disability Pride Anthology, and elsewhere. Diane’s creative nonfiction appears in Stone Canoe, Mollyhouse, The Abstract Elephant Magazine, and Pop the Culture Pill. Her flash fiction appears in Ordinary Madness; short fiction is published in A Coup of Owls. After serving as Guest Editor for Nine Mile Literary Magazine’s Fall 2019 Special Double Issue on Neurodivergent, Disability, Deaf, Mad, and Crip poetics, Diane was appointed as the magazine’s Assistant Editor. The Founding Director of the Syracuse University Disability Cultural Center (2011-2018), Diane now serves as a Research Professor and as the Associate Director of Interdisciplinary Programs and Outreach at the Burton Blatt Institute (Syracuse University College of Law); she also teaches in the Renée Crown University Honors program. Diane has published widely on disability, pedagogy, and empowerment, among other subjects. She is a proud Neuroqueer, Mad, Crip, Gender Nonconforming, Ashkenazic Jewish Hylozoist Nerd (etc.). Diane blogged for the Huffington Post between May 2016 and January 2018. You can visit Diane online at: https://dianerwiener.com.