Non-fiction is hot right now. Essays, memoirs, biographies, travelogues - as readers, we want just the facts, ma'am. Drs. Dustin and Neesha Navare Michael exemplify the archetypical Savannah storyteller within a tapestry of truth.
Instructors of English at Savannah State University, Dustin and Neesha are doting parents to a delightful little girl, whose stories star in multiple social media platforms. Is there competition for such material?
"Dustin's an essayist and I'm a memoirist, which means he interrogates situations, applies literature and theory to them, and discovers some incredible insight and answers. I, on the other hand, pluck an experience or series of experiences out and highlight those aspects necessary to convey what they meant," says Neesha.
"Take how we met, for instance," adds Dustin, "The truth, according to me, starts out like I was Hemingway - total badass writer drinking and writing and not taking any [crap] in a Hilton Head bar. According to Neesha, it starts off like, she walked in and thought, what's that loser doing - homework?"
As their work narrativizes both memory and facts, prismatic storytelling angles abound.
"I've never seen so versatile a writer," says Dustin, "Neesha always credits her readers' intelligence and never dumbs down [her work]. Her writing is a meaning-mining endeavorâ€¦" That is chiefly what readers appreciate most about nonfiction - how a story about someone else can illuminate truths within ourselves.
As one might hope for a young couple in love, the feeling of admiration is mutual. "Dustin's writing is so, so smart. It's absolutely dripping with wit." Such respect is as helpful for domestic accord, in the case of the Michaels, as it is for the development of imaginative writing.
Whether you're reading his essays on the "brass tacks" of creative nonfiction, or Neesha's memoirs of, "an old, now-razed mansion an ex-boyfriend and I broke into," you are sure to be guided on a totally excellent adventure.
Seek them out on the SSU campus or at Florida Institute of Technology's Creative Writing Institute in June, as the world waits for the completion of their next project - a collaborative graphic memoir of life in the Coastal Empire. Watch your step, or you could be included in their literary portrait!
In the meantime, Dustin's essays can be found at www.creativenonfiction.org and some of Neesha's work is at http://mrbellersneighborhood.com.
Erika Jo Brown is a writer and editor, and B.J. Love teaches at Savannah State University. They co-host monthly Seersucker Shots poetry readings.