Writing a Riot
Wanda Coleman, Los Angeles’ “word-warrior queen,” is full of sound and fury in her incisive new book of essays, memoirs, and epistles, The Riot Inside Me.
BY KATHERINE TURMAN
She hung out with Charles Manson, shook Robert F. Kennedy’s hand, had a gun held to her head – twice, once courtesy of the LAPD – and invoked both the wrath and praise of the literary community by doling out, in black and white, a drubbing of untouchable Maya Angelou’s A Song Flung Up to Heaven in an L.A. Times book review. In many cases Wanda Coleman was in the right place at the wrong time, and the reverse is often true as well. Her L.A. life is fascinating, her experiences all catalyst and fodder for her prolific printed work – 17 tomes since 1977 – and insightful readings of the aforementioned. Her most recent Black Sparrow Press book, The Riot Inside Me: More Trials & Tremors follows up the aptly titled 1996 Native in a Strange Land: Trials & Tremors. She has been pegged with many titles by her audience, including “Poet Laureate of Los Angeles” and “The High Priestess of Word,” but Coleman notes, “my current image of myself is as a word-warrior queen.”