Returning to Saybrook College ten years after her graduation, Erica Turnipseed ’93 brought with her more than a steady salary and a graduate degree. She came clutching a copy of her freshly published novel.
Turnipseed, the author of “A Love Noire,” spoke at a Saybrook College Master’s Tea Thursday afternoon about her various post-graduation experiences. Describing her own experiences as the “circuitous roots we all use to find what we want to do,” she described her Columbia graduate school experience, her various projects with non-profit groups, and her present job working for the Twenty-First Century Foundation, a black philanthropic organization.
She also discussed “A Love Noire,” a fiction work about the unusual love that develops between Noire — a bohemian comparative literature graduate student — and Innocent Pokou, an investment banker from Ivory Coast. The story follows their roller-coaster love affair and the socio-cultural issues that arise, she said.
Turnipseed said in her novel, she used these characters to display “issues that are relevant to all people.” She said many people resemble Noire and Innocent’s quest to find their place in society.
“Everyone today is struggling to identify themselves and see where they fit in in the world,” Turnipseed said.
She attributed much of the novel’s development to her experiences at Yale ten years ago. She specifically cited the English class, “Daily Themes” as helping her understand the “economy of words” that is essential in novel writing.
Turnipseed also discussed how being a black woman at Yale influenced her understanding of identity. Through her novel, Turnipseed said she is attempting to portray the “shifting sands of identity” that everyone encounters.
“These characters exhibit the same insecurities, backgrounds and baggages that each of us in the real world do,” she said.
Turnipseed also discussed her extensive philanthropy work over the past ten years. Turnipseed described how much “A Love Noire” was impacted by the people she met through the Twenty-First Century Foundation. As a result of this influence, Turnipseed said she will donate a portion of the novel’s proceeds to the foundation.