Maurice Carlos Ruffin Recommends...

“When I have writer’s block, I feel trapped in a small, airless box. When I watch movies, I feel free, so it only makes sense that I run to movies when I’m stuck. A few years ago, I decided to watch more classic and foreign films. I haven’t suffered significant writer’s block since. Sure, I get temporarily jammed from time to time. Who knows why? I suppose the blank page can be terrifying, and sometimes I don’t feel particularly brave. But great movies remind me that storytelling can be incredibly fun. Having fun is liberating. Liberation is freedom. The 1959 version of Imitation of Life, an adaptation of Fannie Hurst’s 1933 novel, is one example of a film that unstuck me. I had been working on my novel for months by then and had trouble determining my protagonist’s stakes. Imitation of Life helped me step out of myself for a few hours. It’s such a passionate and tightly constructed story about women supporting each other against racism and sexism. The final tear-inducing scene is an all-time wonder. I couldn’t help but feel inspired. I found the core of my own book soon after watching the film. Movie magic helped me soar.”
—Maurice Carlos Ruffin, author of We Cast a Shadow (One World, 2019)