“Why did he use a pseudonym?”
“ ‘cause the REAL one wasn’t suitn’ him”
I love lilies. The flower, and the name in all of its forms (Lily, Lilly, Lillian, Lillian etc.). You see, my Grandmother’s name was Lily and she was a vibrant storyteller. After she passed, I became slightly obsessed with all things Lily. The “O” stands for Ohio and represents, to me, a part of the Midwest. A few years ago, on the first day of class one of my History professors (African American Migrations) asked us to introduce ourselves based on our geographic roots. It was a concept that I was unfamiliar with until that time. I never realized how important it was for me to note my Midwestern roots, especially as an African American woman. I am descendent of two people who left the land nurtured by their ancestors to move north.
Both of my parents moved to the north during their youth, my mother was ten, my father sixteen. My parent’s story is not one that is old, as I am still relatively young (heading into my mid-twenties) and numerous others have similar stories. When they arrived, they each clung to family that came before them. My father stayed with one of his sisters, my mother’s family moved into the projects where her aunts lived nearby. They clung to old traditions while navigating their new, Northern territory creating a sort of hybrid culture. A culture where Friday Fish Frys and eating Black-Eye Peas on New Year’s Eve are expected. Where Brat Fest and Juneteenth are welcomed with similar jubilance.
As I gain confidence in writing, I find it comforting to focus on what inspires me to write rather than solely myself. Placing two things I love as a part of my name reminds me that each time I write, I am not only influenced by my experiences but of the world I live in and those who came before me. While I have no problem with my given name, writing under Lily O. provides me with a healthy dose of perspective.