Count on Twitter to keep it lit.
And by lit I mean, literary. It might be hard to envision the 140-character limit spurring the kind of prose that moves a reader, in the same way that a novel can, or even a short story. But it can be done. Once upon a time when Teju Cole was still active on Twitter, he wrote the first Twitter story complete with dialogues.
From A Piece of the Wall:
He wrote Hafiz earlier in 2014, a story that emerged out of curated tweets from Teju’s followers. This is storytelling that transcends not just technical limits but format as well.
Teju’s last story was a collaborative effort between strangers, something that is not as easily possible if it weren’t for Twitter. Last month, Beyoncé released her sixth studio album Lemonade which simultaneously awed, inspired, broke and touched so many, including myself.
Naturally, Twitter exploded with ferocity. Although there have been so many critiques, like bell hooks’s most recent piece, I am infinitely grateful to writer and educator Candice Benbow for creating the #LemonadeSyllabus.
The genesis of #LemonadeSyllabus was of course, on Twitter:
The result is a compendium of “scripture to lit to art to self-help guides to music and everything in between” with 200 references from 60 contributors. Benbow states that “the essence of Black Girl Magic [a phrase created to celebrate the power, beauty and resilience of black women]. Black women, spanning generations and class dynamics, used social media to suggest books, films, songs and poetry – primarily by black women – that they believe best accompanied Lemonade and spoke to the essence of black womanhood in its historical and contemporary manifestations.”
The syllabus was released on May 6, and it can be downloaded here.
Talk about the power of social media to foster a learning tool that is completely relevant, in line with both popular and political culture. The infusion of these elements, popular and political, recently led to a raunchy, queer, political satire by Filipinos: #RP69fanfic
Sandro Marcos is the son of Vice President candidate Bonging Marcos, and the grandson of the country’s former dictator of 20 years (yes, you read that right). Sebastian Duerte on the other hand is the son of Rodrigo Duterte, who just won the presidential election.
What transpired on May 10 was unprecedented, but given Filipinos’ propensity to inject humor in the most tension-wrought situations — it wasn’t too impossible.
The result was a series of tweets, tagged #RP69fanfic, which altogether can be an anthology of its own. Sandro and Baste embodied their paternal Kim’s politics: the former indicating the terror and brutality of his grandfather’s (Ferdinand Marcos, Sr.) martial law reign, the latter his father’s staunch, death-squad style, hard-line approach to crime.
Integral to its each raunchy tweet is a kernel of truth about history, political leadership and the tweeter’s own view of the “change” that is about to come (pun intended). This went on for awhile, until Dy masterfully switched the conversation to a somber storytelling about Martial Law: #RPNonfiction.
No matter what format, I think that what Teju, #LemonadeSyllabus, #RP69fanfic and #RPNonfiction reveal is the need for stories to be told continuously, for our voices to be amplified — truthfully, with our communities, whether raunchy or not.
Pia Cortez is a writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She runs a book blog called Libromance where she reviews books and publishes literary features with a queer Filipino immigrant lens. She is a contributor at Hella Pinay, an online magazine for Filipino-American women and at New Life Quarterly, a literary magazine based in Oakland, California. She is currently working on her first novel.