Craft Studio: I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You by David Chariandy
What I Was Reading
I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You is a letter written by David Chariandy to his daughter a decade after they were faced with a racist comment on an outing together. The author had taken his then 3-year-old on an outing and was confronted by a woman who told them “I was born here. I belong here.” After a decade of reflection, he writes to his daughter about it, opening with:
“Once, when you were three, we made a trip out for lunch. We bussed west in our city, to one of those grocery-store buffets serving the type of food my own parents would scorn. Those over-priced organics laid out thinly in brushed-steel trays, the glass sneeze guard just high enough for you, dearest daughter, to dip your head beneath it in assessing, suspiciously, the ‘browned rice’ and ‘free-range carrots.’ And in that moment, I could imagine myself a father long beyond the grasp of history, and now caring for his loved one through kale, and quinoa, and a soda boasting ‘real cane sugar.’”
What Moves I Notice the Writer Making
These opening lines immediately set the tone as a letter written by a father to his daughter. The first words, “Once, when you were three…” introduce the memory of a shared experience from a decade prior and the author recreates the event through details that his daughter might not remember because of her age. This serves a second purpose, which is to bring the reader into the event and establish the context for why the letter has been written. He refers to her directly, as “you” and “dearest daughter” creating a tone of intimacy. I felt the authenticity in the message. The writing is heartfelt and honest.
Possibilities for Writers
* Describe a vivid memory of an event you shared with someone by writing directly to that person about the experience.
* Consider options for the kinds of writing that might have an increased impact if they are addressed directly to the audience.
* Revise a draft in your notebook by rewriting it to address your intended audience.
* Find examples of other places where the writer directs their message to the audience and reflect on the impact of this craft choice.