Way back in January, era of cold snowy misery, I read The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne, and it blew me away. You may remember me flailing about it here. Well, it seems I’m getting kinda good at this being-a-working-writer thing, this leaning-in, pitching-like-a-shark thing, because when I learned that one of my friends, Laura, actually grew up in the same town, instead of feeling awed and shying away, I said “Hey! I’d love to interview her.”
And, readers, I did.
Rumpus: The genuineness of Meena—the way her sexuality was hers, and ferociously so—is something that I hadn’t read before and certainly isn’t a way that bisexual characters are commonly portrayed (instead they’re more likely to be promiscuous, or confused, or their sexuality is performative rather than genuine).
Meena’s brashness really resonated with me. Let’s be real: It filled me with glee. Was her “this is who I am, it isn’t for you” attitude a conscious choice in writing a bisexual protagonist? Or, I guess, more generally, where did Meena come from?
Byrne: Ha, she comes from me! I just grew up very comfortable with my sexuality. And I was always in full ownership of it, which sadly, in this society, is not necessarily a common experience for a woman. I didn’t get it from school—on the contrary, my high school was conservative Catholic—but from a really progressive, supportive family and women’s college.
It also comes from reading interviews with Meshell Ndegeocello, my favorite singer-songwriter on whom Meena is partially based. Meshell was openly bi back in the ’90s. In fact, she’s the first public figure I remember being bi—that that was a thing one could be. Her songs are also incredibly sexual. Listen to “Barry Farms”: “Can’t nobody eat my pussy the way that you do”—gah.
I think Meena does use sex as an escape, but that doesn’t have to do with her being bisexual; it has to do with her having a troubled family background. I think she also just genuinely loves sex and has a high sex drive. It’s her creative medium. She doesn’t perform it except for her lovers, though of course, that careless attitude is part of what makes her so hot. Now that I write that, I’m realizing there’s a good deal of my college crush in Meena.
Monica, it will surprise no one, is amazing. She’s friendly and funny and so incredibly smart. Not only did we get to talk about all the parts of her novel that resonated so strongly with me, but we also joked about the boys on OKC (they amuse) and the hotties of Game of Thrones (Jaqen H’ghar or bust, don’t even try to argue.) I am so honored that I got to interview her.
Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a big ol’ celebratory bottle of wine I need to drink.