The pain of the watermelon joke

The pain of the watermelon joke

As a child in South Carolina, I spent summers like so many children — sitting on my grandparents’ back porch with my siblings, spitting watermelon seeds into the garden….

But by the time I was 11 years old, even the smell of watermelon was enough to send me running to the bathroom with my most recent meal returning to my throat. It seemed I had grown violently allergic to the fruit.

Perhaps my allergy was actually a deep physical revulsion that came from the psychological impression and weight of the association. Whatever it was, I could no longer eat watermelon.

In the midst of observing the world and coming to consciousness, I was becoming a writer, and what I wanted to put on the page were the stories of people who looked like me…. Just this month, I received the National Book Award in the young-adult category for my memoir, “Brown Girl Dreaming.”

As I walked away from the stage to a standing ovation after my acceptance speech, it was the last place in the world I thought I’d hear the watermelon joke….

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