Naima Coster Recommends...

“My favorite endings in fiction are the ones that bring us to a precipice. We feel keenly that we have reached some edge in the character’s life, and we know the story will continue on without us. The ending of Their Eyes Were Watching God (Lippincott, 1937) lives perfectly in the borderlands between past, present, and future. Zora Neale Hurston’s Janie returns home and she moves alone, content, through her sunlit house. The past lays heavily over these final moments, Janie’s mind thick with memory and ghosts. But the ending also gestures at the life yet to come. In the final paragraph, Hurston writes that Janie looked out her window and ‘pulled in her horizon like a great fish-net,’ dragging the future itself into this end. The events aren’t enumerated, but we know that the whole of life is in Janie’s grasp. This ending contains the seeds of an entire story, across time, and I reread it for inspiration when I need to find a place to begin. When I write, I imagine a particular precipice and then work backwards. I ask myself: What kind of journey would find its meaningful end here? Who would find herself in such a place? It might seem counterintuitive to start with the end, but it’s a good trick to keep working. The ending becomes a thing to earn.”
—Naima Coster, author of Halsey Street (Little A, 2018)