Interview with author Alice Doyle

Tom Léger and Red Durkin interviewed Alice shortly after hurricane Isaac tumbled through her life on the 7th anniversary of Katrina.

“Rose met Tony in the dark. It was mid-August and the power had been out for a week. She first spied him visiting her neighbors, a gay couple with uncomfortably mismatched ages whose only meaningful communications were their frequent shouting matches. Tony told her that he came from Brooklyn but never why he’d landed in Mississippi or why he’d stayed. Everyone else who had somewhere safe to go had left town before Katrina. His voice was clear but so low, inaudible from across the room even with the entire city quiet around them. She would lean close to him, put her face near his and breathe in. She was only 19, and Tony smelled like soap. He called her Baja Rosa after a strawberry liqueur he loved and never tried to give her an orgasm. Rose was charmed by Tony.”
Excerpt from Two Girls
Alice Doyle, Hattiesburg, MS

Can you tell us about your short story?
Two Girls is about a young trans woman finding herself in the wake of Katrina, and deciding whether to stay in her destroyed hometown or leave the chaos. Katrina is the catalyst of course, but we really see her forced to make this life-altering decision through her relationship with a man she meets and starts a relationship with.

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Was this story based on your own experiences with the hurricane?
In many ways, yes. When Katrina hit, I was 18, and living with my mother in Biloxi, Mississippi and just beginning to transition. Since everything shut down–our power was out for a week and the town was messed up for a long time after that–it made me really deal with myself. It was like meditation. Rose is dealing with decisions about who she is at the deepest roots of herself, even though it looks like she’s just having sex with some man.

Can you explain how Katrina made you deal with yourself?
Well, I could no longer worry about the things I had been worrying about, like finding a job, or going to school, because everything was broken. I couldn’t even worry about putting on make-up and going out, because there was nowhere to go and no way to get there. There’s a profound isolation that comes with not being able to turn on the lights or even get gasoline. So all that was left was introspection. And for Rose, fucking.

Most people probably don’t think of Katrina as a particularly trans event, but for your protagonist Rose, it certainly is. How did you make that choice as an author?
Katrina was a major crisis, much larger than just one person, but for Rose, the hurricane was intense in many ways–it becomes intellectual, and lusty. And it forces her to make a choice about her transition, how she wants it to go down, and also coming out to this man she meets. Like any very intense experience, it forced to the surface the things we try to bury, maybe because there’s nothing left to with which to bury them.

Tony, the guy she meets, is leaving Biloxi because everything is destroyed, and he wants her to move to New York with him. And I won’t spoil the ending for readers, but I wonder what this decision represents to Rose.
Well, on one hand New York has promise because it hasn’t been destroyed, and Tony will be there, and he seems to like her. But on the other hand, Biloxi is her home. I think her main struggle is defining, in her own mind, what progress looks like, and what kind of woman she wants to grow to become.

You just experienced Isaac, on the exact 7th anniversary. What was that like for you?
It’s impossible not to draw parallels between the two, but Isaac was obviously not nearly as bad as Katrina. We’re away from the coast now so the physical ramifications didn’t really hit us but emotionally it took me back to a lot of the feelings I was having then. Outside, the sky became the same color, which was kind of terrifying, but then nothing happened. Nothing stopped.

You’re 25 now–age 18 to 25 is a pretty significant chunk of development for a person.
The hurricanes really bookended that period for me, and maybe make me realize how much I have changed. It took me until just a couple years ago to really understand how much Katrina affected me. Since Isaac, I moved out of my mother’s house and in with my boyfriend, and this semester I’ll graduate from college.

So things have changed a lot for you since then.
Yes, for a lot of reasons, but I think I haven’t even really processed Isaac and the way it brought up a lot of those old things. As we were moving out of Biloxi in December [2005] after Katrina, our apartment was looted so I don’t really have photos or stuff from that time. I lost a novel I was working on, too. It was a tough time.

What are you working on now?
I am putting together my senior show, a multi-media photos and text show called “Ten Songs About the Same Girl” which is a series of, well, mostly self-portraits. And of course, I’m excited about this book coming out. My mother keeps telling people I have a book coming out and I have to correct her all the time and tell her I’m in a book with other people. But she’s happy for me, which is nice.

Alice Doyle is one of 28 authors featured in The Collection, available now.
Order the book today at the TopsideBookstore for just $19.95 (paperback) or $12.95 (ebook).

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