The Felonious PhD: Interview with Cassandra D. Little
“Even with all of the talk about mass incarceration right now, some experiences are missing,” says Cassandra Little. “Stories about women, queer women, and mothers are minimal.” Cassandra D. Little, Ph.D, blogged as The Felonious PhD throughout her own experience in the system and now plans to turn her story into a book. In this interview, we discussed pen-and-paper writing, drinking wine while writing, and how writing saved her life.
Kristy Lin Billuni: Besides the forthcoming book, you have several projects going on at once. Can you talk about the uniting theme?
Cassandra D. Little: I’m focused on the experience of women who were incarcerated and how they re-enter their community, family, and self.
KLB: And this is personal for you.
CDL: Yes, I have always lived my life on the margins, and now, with this incredibly oppressive status of felon, I have entered a new, more visceral and dehumanizing zone, one that is similar to that of my ancestors who were forced to be slaves.
KLB: Will you say a little more about how these forms of oppression intersect in your life?
CDL: I am a Black, lesbian woman, a mother, and now, a felon who is determined to speak on these issues from her own consciousness of truth.
KLB: And you have a conference appearance coming up?
CDL: Yes, I am going to be presenting at the University of Tennessee Knoxville at a conference on Mass Incarceration and the Issues of the Invisible Inmate: Women.
KLB: Can you tell us a little about what you’re going to say?
CDL: I am planning to integrate my research into the issues as well as my personal experience within the prison camp.
KLB: —Which brings us to your writing. Is writing important to you?
CDL: Writing has saved my life! Not once but several times.
KLB: How so?
CDL: As a young girl I wrote poetry and stories. I always visualized myself being exactly who I am today.
KLB: But you couldn’t have predicted how the system would affect you as a writer.
CDL: I feel that I have a unique perspective now. As a writer, I’ve always cultivated the ability to put myself in another person’s shoes, but it transformed me to actually, physically, emotionally, and spiritually endure the criminal justice process.
KLB: What is it about writing?
CDL: I love words. I mean, I am passionate about how I can put one word next to the other and create something so powerful that someone would want to cry, laugh, or simply curse.
KLB: What else do you love about it?
CDL: I love to use a nice fine pen on paper.
KLB: Oh yes, I am a pen-and-paper writer too.
CDL: As long as I can remember, I have been a doodler, so I keep a pen and notebook with me at all times. This allows me to write down my thoughts as they come as well as doodle when I am bored in meetings.
KLB: But you probably use a computer too.
CDL: Yes, I also love to write in bed on my laptop when I am home. I get this tingly feeling and the words just one by one soar from my brain into the front of me so I can see them. But I must sit still.
KLB: Writing in bed sounds luxurious. How else do you treat yourself?
CDL: I indulge myself as a writer by purchasing a bottle of wine and just sitting still with my laptop. I love to drink wine when I write. It relaxes me and the words just flow.
KLB: I’m glad you indulge yourself as a writer now. You’ve been through so much!
CDL: I am no accident! [Laughs.] I always say I was born and raised to be who and where I am at any given moment.
KLB: Do you write every day?
CDL: I write whenever the mood hits me. My mind is constantly moving, so ideas constantly flow.
KLB: How do you capture ideas on the fly?
CDL: I write them down or type them into my phone. I love my iPhone. Thoughts come to me, and if I don't document them immediately they are gone. With the phone, I can document them immediately and return to them and go from there.
KLB: What are you reading?
CDL: I love political writers. My favorite writers at this moment are James Baldwin and Angela Davis, but I love Audre Lorde and June Jordan too. I am partial to poets and essayists.
KLB: Anyone else?
CDL: Another one of my favorite writers is my sister, Mooneyes Shakti. She is incredible. She has a new book of poems completed.
KLB: Do you think writing is sexy?
CDL: Yes! Writing is passionate, and honestly, you cannot truly make love with someone without passion. I love writing as much as I love making love. So I take them both very, very seriously and enjoy both acts tremendously.
I love to talk to writers like Cassandra Little about the process of writing. Trace back through Cassandra’s story on her blog.To meet more writers in social media, follow me, The Sexy Grammarian, on Twitter or share books with me on GoodReads. Yearning to jump into the writer’s life yourself? My free ebook, Arouse Your Writer Self, will get you going. Want more? Private sessions with me are more affordable than you think, and the first one’s free.