Author Amina Gautier discusses literary technique at online event
Award-winning author Amina Gautier virtually spoke to students and faculty at Ramapo College on Thursday, February 11 via WebEx. Professor Hugh Sheehy of the Creative Writing Program facilitated the reading and question-and-answer session.
Gautier has published three collections of short stories: “At-Risk”, “Now We Will Be Happy” and, most recently, “The Loss of All Lost Things”. During his career, Gautier won prestigious literary awards such as the Prairie Schooner Book Prize, the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction and the 2018 PEN / Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story.
During the reading portion of the event, Gautier read two stories from his most recent collection. “Lost and Found” was the first story she read, which followed a boy who was kidnapped by an older man. He calls the man “this man” throughout the story because he does not know the name of his captor.
“Things that are lost can be found,” the boy tells the reader of the story. The character does not see himself as something stolen, but rather something lost. Gautier reads the boy’s voice poetically, flowing through each line with ease even with the sensitive subject at hand.
When Gautier finished reading “Lost and Found”, the audience applauded her and filled the cat with praise.
“I am blown away by [Lost and Found]Writes Dean Susan Hangen of the School of Humanities and Global Studies in the WebEx chat. “My day will not be the same.
Gautier seemed reluctant to read another story due to time constraints, but viewers begged to hear more. It was then that she started reading the title story of The Loss of All Things Lost.
Before starting the reading, Gautier explains that the second story is in the same universe as the first, as it presents the parents’ perspective of the days, weeks, and months after their son was kidnapped.
In the story, the mother blames pornography and perversion for kidnapping her child until she fabricates a more positive narrative: a desperate woman who couldn’t have a son of her own takes care of him. .
The mother in this story is an alcoholic, and there is a heartbreaking scene that Gautier pointed out in her reading where she is drunk and yells at her youngest son for touching her missing son’s toy. She tries to put it back exactly where it was left in her room before, intact since he left.
It took Gautier five to six years of active research to accurately describe the retelling of these stories from both perspectives. Due to the extensive research into child abduction cases, Gautier was very overwhelmed. She would have to devote two to three week intervals to research because she would get too upset if she spent too much time on it.
“I will probably never write about the boy again,” Gautier said.
Regarding the time it took her to write this news, student Natasha Driscoll asked for advice.
“How did you manage to go on and write this story for years, and not give up on the idea?” Driscoll said.
Gautier had a more casual answer to this question. While it is difficult for many writers to write stories between other projects, Gautier swears by this technique.
“I’m going to write some drafts, and if I don’t like where it’s going, I’ll save it for later,” she said. “Just because you think the story is over doesn’t mean it is.”
While child abduction stories have been told many times before, the varied perspectives and gender of the child are things that make Gautier’s story unique. This is something Rachael Ruszkowski, a major in Literary and English Studies, highlighted during the question-and-answer session.
“I just find it interesting to consider that when trafficking is brought up, however rare it may be initially, it usually concerns girls,” Ruszkowski said after asking why Gautier chose the child to be a boy.
In response, Gautier explained that while it is more common for girls to be abducted, it always happens to boys for the same reasons.
“Right away, if you know it’s a girl that’s been kidnapped, you’re already assuming a sexual aspect,” Gautier said. “But it is also a reality for young boys.”
Along with his record, his work has appeared in reputable literary magazines such as “Kenyon Review”, “Crazyhorse” and “Iowa Review”. Gautier has also appeared in numerous anthologies, including “Best African-American Fiction”.