I wrote a short story that’s kind of about names and how they affect identity and perception called Caller ID that’s available to read here. It’s pretty lighthearted. But today’s post really isn’t all the way lighthearted.
My real name is exceptionally common. There are a lot of people with my same name. (Okay, this first anecdote is lighthearted.) So I once had a friend tell me someone he knew from another area of his life was talking about someone with my same name (first and surname) around him and they were saying terrible things about her. Mean. Bitchy. Back-stabbing. Selfish. Just a generally nasty, horrible person his friend didn’t want to be around, and couldn’t imagine any other people wanting to be around her either. So my friend said, ‘<My actual full name>?! Really?! You HAVE to be talking about somebody else. She’s not like that AT ALL.’ It was nice to have my friend defend me. It’s always nice to hear what someone you care about thinks about you…that they think highly of you and care about you back. Anyway… His acquaintance insisted he had the right name and he couldn’t forget it because of how awful <my actual full name> was. So my friend said, ‘What does she look like?’ And his acquaintance led with ‘tall.’ (I’m 5’1.) My friend then laughed out loud with relief. ‘Nope! I was right. Different <my actual full name>! Hahahahahaha!’
And several years ago, J’s company was doing work for a certain contractor that required J to be run through background checks for security clearance, and he found out that someone with his same first and last name AND birthday had a pretty serious criminal past. But J’s middle name saved him from extra scrutiny.
Things like this fascinate me. How many other people with varied pasts and personalities have our same name? Our same birthday? Our same general geography? Our name AND birthday and/or geography? How different are we? How alike? Would certain decisions or chance encounters or luck make us more alike or more different? What if we were them or they were us instead? What would it take for our lives to be more parallel and less perpendicular or totally separated? Why do we feel some strange connection and kinship to people who share our name? Our birthday? Our geography? Some combination of that?
Well, because it’s still February, I wanted to promote another writer’s work that readers waiting on my next novel to come out could maybe read in the mean time. It’s a memoir and interview-styled biography in one. It’s The Other Wes Moore by…well…Wes Moore.
I loved this book. The author’s take on how small differences can make big impacts and how easily just a small difference could change a person’s life circumstances is quite powerful. It’s about how two boys with the same name could be born in the same time and place, but end up taking two totally different paths…and how easy it would have been for both of them to be on the same path. It’s a great read and an eye-opening one.
If you’re looking for something to read, read a book by a black author. I have a lot more to recommend besides the ones I’ve already suggested. Or better yet? Find some black creators on your own and read their work.