Christine Lincoln’s story in our Winter issue, “What’s Necessary to Remember When Telling a Story,” comprises no more than fifteen hundred words, but its length belies its breadth. Braiding enchantment with sorrow and hope, it begins inside a dream, with a man carrying a small woman in his mouth—“a grown woman not much bigger than a bullet”—running from a dark-skinned girl thought to be coming after them. From there, it unfurls into an agonizing, tender portrait of the nameless dreamer, once an abusive partner, who spends the rest of the story musing over the love he ruined years ago. Lincoln, born in the sixties, hails from Baltimore; having endured a period of addiction that briefly left her suicidal, she turned to fiction, which was, she told me, what she needed to save herself. She went on to pursue an M.F.A. and currently lives in York, Pennsylvania, where she is poet laureate emeritus.
I spoke with Lincoln over the phone, her voice gentle and heartening, about “What’s Necessary”; about her debut collection of short stories, Sap Rising; and about her thoughts on race and literature in America, both today and as it was for her growing up one of the only black children in her school. Every so often, she’d pause midsentence—near tears, she’d say, because she hadn’t shared this with anyone before.