Ep.1 “Mama’s House” by Camara Aaron

Season 3, Episode 1: "Mama's House" -- Camara Aaron, who shares a personal story of family loss, structural resilience, and survival in an era of climate change.

Ep.1 “Mama’s House” by Camara Aaron

In the Season 3 premiere of Inherited, host shaylyn martos introduces us to storyteller Camara Aaron, who shares a personal story of family loss, structural resilience, and survival in an era of climate change. 

Camara, now 25, was only a child when she visited her grandmother’s unique house on the island of Dominica, in the West Indies. But, when Hurricane Maria devastated the Caribbean in 2017, her grandmother died in the storm, leaving Camara to sift through her own hazy memories and reconcile a way forward. 

And, in the first of a series of behind-the-scenes bonus episodes, Inherited’s Season 3 host shaylyn martos sits down with storyteller Camara Aaron, the creative force behind Season 3, Episode 1, “Mama’s House.” Together, they talk about her creative process, growth, and next steps.

Inherited is a critically acclaimed climate storytelling show made by, for, and about young people. We’re a production of YR Media and distributed by Critical Frequency. 

For more information about our podcast, head to our website at yr.media/inherited, and follow us on the socials @inheritedpod. 

Episode Transcript

[heavy rain]

[intense music, low] 

shaylyn martos: How does an island, a family, rebuild after a climate disaster? In Dominica, an island nation in the West Indies, the aftermath of Hurricane Maria left many families to grieve for their homes, for their family members. And for members of the Dominican diaspora, the distance can make processing that grief really complicated. 

Håfa adai, and welcome to Inherited — we share the work of young audio storytellers, hoping to uplift a new generation of climate advocacy. I’m your season host, shaylyn martos. This is season 3, episode one: “Mama’s House”.

[Inherited theme music] 

When Camara Aaron visited her grandmother in Dominica, she was a child, too young to fully connect through deep conversations about the culture and history of their island. When Hurricane Maria made landfall in 2017, Camara’s family lost their matriarch, and her home. Today, Camara shares a personal piece on how she and her family are still dealing with that loss.

Without further ado, here’s Camara Aaron with “Mama’s House”.

[host theme music]


Camara Aaron: My memories of my grandmother’s house start at a gas station. We’re in Upper Wallhouse, in the southwest of Dominica and my parents are handing me off. My mom gets Christmas, my dad the days after. 

[sound of car ambiance, faint beats] 

My dad is driving me north to Lagon, the town where he grew up. My step-mother’s in the passenger seat, I’m in the back, Beyoncé on the radio.  

[wave sounds, city ambiance] 

The road we take is just two lanes along the west side of the island. To my left, the Caribbean sea, crystal blue-green. To my right, the stone face of mountains, pale pink and dry. 

The drive is an hour, maybe two. We wind through Portsmouth on a road that hugs Prince Rupert’s Bay. Further down this road is Purple Turtle, my favorite beach with black sand and dark water, but first we visit Mama. 

[background noise fades out, watery music starts] 

My dad pulls over. There’s a rooster crowing, waves lapping the shore behind me, neighbors calling as they pass. The sun is hot on the back of my neck. It’s cooler as we take the alley, slipping off the main road. Over the gutter, maybe three or four houses back, is my grandmother’s. 

There’s one squarish hut, painted sea blue. It’s one level but raised on cinder blocks; they’re stairs outfront with a bright white railing. She has a second rectangular structure, this one made of bare brown-gray wood, to the right. Between them is a concrete courtyard, with a raised bed. 

I think my grandmother’s inside the blue house but I don’t go in. This is just a memory and I can’t remember the way. For now, this is as close as I can get. 

[waves and synths fade in, then out]

[text message ding] 

September 19, 2017 8:18am. “Thinking of you this morning. I am concerned for you and your family. Stay safe, and you’re in my prayers.” 

When Hurricane Maria hit Dominica, I was 2000 miles away in my first month of college. The weeks before the storm, my dad and I had been in touch here and there: about his new baby, about my grandmother’s failing heart, about the classes I was starting. 

[text message ding] 

September 19, 4:24pm: “Thinking of you as I leave sociology. It’s a really cool class, you’d really like it.” 

I didn’t hear from him for five days. 

[hurricane winds fade in] 

Philbert Aaron: We were watching news of the storm, the hurricane… they were pretty alarmed, because they were saying they had not seen a hurricane build up speed that quickly. That is, not as forward movement, but the speed of the, of its winds. They had never seen that.

[low, ominous tone]

Camara: My dad, Philbert, is remembering the night of September 18, 2017, when Maria made landfall as a category 5 storm. He was at home in Dominica with my step-mother and their month-old baby, Oluchi.  

Philbert: And so they were expressing alarm. And at that point, a gust of wind took out our service. So it went dark.

[wind howling stops abruptly] 

And all night, we spent actually bailing out water as if it were a boat. 

[wind, water dripping sound effects] 

The wind was so strong, and the rain was so heavy, that water was coming into the house. We couldn’t tell from what crevices or openings and water was actually spilling into the house as if it were a faucet. 

Camara: All night, they moved the baby, Oluchi, from room to room, to keep him from getting wet. Somehow, he slept through it all. 

[hurricane noises fade out] 

The next morning, my dad joined the other men in his neighborhood to take stock of the damage. It was tradition, to see what needed to be done and who could help. 

Philbert: We live on a paved road. And that road was now paved with roofs, other people’s roofs. So you could not walk on that road because roofs of different colors. Some of them, like, almost intact, had fallen onto the road, as if they were paving stones.

We didn’t know everything that had happened on the island. But you know, we knew that was a big one.

Camara: Since power was down across the island, my dad wasn’t receiving my messages over WhatsApp. I was still sending them.

[text message ding] 

September 20 9:01am: “Waking up thinking of you. Praying for you and your family.”

[text message ding] 

September 21 8:19am: “Hopefully you’ll be online soon and the island will receive aid. I’ve been following the damage on the news and praying you are ok. I miss you.”

He wasn’t receiving any messages from me or anyone else until a few days after the storm, when he managed to get a phone call from a colleague. 

Philbert: He was talking real cool, as in, you know, Hey, comrade, I’ve called you just to check on you. And I was just listening. And then he mentioned my mom. And I must have had a certain response. And that is when he realized I did not know my mother was dead. 

[slow, synthy music]

Camara: My dad and step-mother sped north to Lagon. It was the same drive we made when I visited, except now the roads were cluttered with debris from the storm and bridges were washed away. 

My dad first drove to his mother’s house. 


But, no one was there. So, he tried the homes of his brothers Addison and Aldrick. They too were empty. Then in the cemetery, across the street from Addison’s house, he noticed a small funeral.

Philbert: So I ran to see if it was my mother being buried… And it was my family. And they were lowering my mother into the grave. 

Camara: Mama had passed earlier that day. Without power on the island, there was no refrigeration; she had to be buried immediately. My uncles had made a small window in the casket in the hopes my dad would come in time to pay his respects. 

Philbert: He unscrewed the flap so that I could talk to my mom and touch her. And her she was still warm. And so I touched her. … And they lowered her body back into the, into the grave and we all covered her.

Camara: My dad’s really frank. Before this interview, he waved off my concern that it would be painful for him to discuss Maria. But recounting these moments, he went quiet. 

Philbert: Ah it’s, it’s emotional, but it’s bearable. It’s, you know, it’s something I’ve reflected on and remember, you know, so it’s, it’s, it’s absolutely bearable. It’s not  – it’s not unbearable. If I feel lucky that you know, I mean, it was really, really luck. 

Camara: I finally heard back from him on September 24, five days after my first text.

[text message ding] 

Philbert: “We are okay, my dear. Mama passed peacefully in her sleep today. I got to the burial in the nick of time. Love you. We must share on sociology and all your classes.” 

Camara: I was sad, I’m sure. I can’t remember what I felt. Mama was my only remaining grandparent. I had spent the most time with her of any of them, but I didn’t know her super well. I only saw her once a year, in those days after Christmas. 

I let myself get swept into the tide of my freshman year. I didn’t think of her much.

[slow, synthy music] 

Maria would travel up the islands, killing around 3000 people in Puerto Rico, which caught the brunt of the hurricane. In Dominica, 65 people died in the storm, which cost the country about $1.3B in damages. 

I couldn’t go back until a year later, in 2018, when I returned to Dominica for the first time since the storm. 

My mom took me to Lagon to say goodbye. When we got there, we pulled over, went through the alley and over the gutter. 


We went about three or four houses back. But there was no blue house, just a few cinder blocks that had once held it up. There was no plain structure, just a bare concrete bed. 

All that remained of my grandmother’s house were the stairs leading up to her front door – but now they led to nowhere. 

I remember standing there and just crying.

[somber music] 

I’m trying to remember my grandmother’s house. Please, be patient with me. 

I enter in the west into the front room of the blue house. There’s exposed wooden planks in the walls. She served me tea here at the dining table covered in a pale tablecloth.

[sounds of spoon stirring in teacup]

 I’m drinking mostly milk and sugar with a tea bag somewhere in there. In my memory, my feet don’t touch the ground so I must be young. I can’t see my grandmother, but I feel her behind me. 

Walking east, there’s a sitting room, where I’d visit with my dad. There’s sofa benches flush on the wall making the room like a corridor. 

[wind chimes clicking] 

But it’s not claustrophobic; it’s cozy. Beads hang in the doorway leading out back. They click in the breeze; there’s always a breeze. 

[tv chatter joins wind chims]

I see Mama in profile, catching the bottom curve of her jaw. Her skin is red-brown. Her face thin, with apple cheeks. She is frowning, though not in displeasure. It’s just the way her face falls. 

She’s speaking to my dad and watching TV in the back left corner. I’m beside her, half-listening, half-watching and telling her yes, I am listening to my mother. 

I think to the north of us there’s a bedroom, where I remember moonlight coming in, cool blue as I sleep with my grandmother. And a bathroom. I can’t remember where it is, but I see a bar of bone white soap. 

Out the front stairs, across the yard, and up a step, there’s the second structure, the kitchen and dining room. I can remember sitting over a bowl of soup and chicken, beads of oil orange in the broth. There’s a refrigerator here, and more beads tinkling.

Somewhere, there’s Mama selling ice pop. I can’t taste the soup, but I can taste this: sweet, creamy, cold. The same color as her tea. 

I’m trying to rebuild my grandmother’s house, if only in my mind.


But I don’t remember enough. There’s so much I’m missing, that I failed to account for. I need more memory. I need help.  

[somber healing music] 

Philbert: So now I consider myself the memory of my family. I try to remember as much as possible, and I try to find out as much as possible from – from them.

Camara: To recover my grandmother and her house, I called my dad. He remembers her so differently than I do. In my memory, she’s always seated. For him, she’s in perpetual motion. 

Philbert: My memory of her, I see her, you know, now, as moving, moving very swiftly, wearing a floral skirt… and something in her hands, some kind of ladle, some kind of spoon, some kind of – a cutlass, a knife, because she was always doing that.

Camara: One of his most significant memories in his home and of his mother is of a pig being slaughtered. It’s Christmas in Lagon. The men who work my father’s father’s boat are gathered at their family home. 

Philbert: There’s the smell of you know the pig being scraped. The smell of raw meat, the smell of blood, there’s the sound, that sound is something you don’t forget – the sound, the sound of a pig being butchered, is is really ear piercing, ear splitting.  

[pig screeches faintly] 

And it’s also the sound of festivities. 


Camara: One of his brothers, Alvin, is collecting blood from the pig in a bowl with spices and peppers. They’re in the lakou, the courtyard, between two huts where there are raised beds of veggies and fowl coops and this hanging, bleeding pig. 

[fire crackling] 

Meanwhile, Mama is in the separate kitchen, waiting for the blood and spices and peppers from Alvin to make boudin, or blood pudding, for her Christmas feast. 

From listening to my dad, I realized there was a utility and beauty of the space I hadn’t recognized as a child. I never thought about how unique my grandmother’s house was. Now I wanted to know more, to recover the structure. So I called someone I thought could help. 

Adom Philogene Heron is a lecturer in visual anthropology at Bristol University. He never met my grandmother, but he literally wrote a book on houses like hers: ti kais, as they’re called in Creole, small huts. 

Adom Philogene Heron: The dimensions of the ti kai are small. And what you find is that when people have extended their ti kai, rather than building a much bigger structure, what they’ll tend to do is they’ll tend to use that same small footprint and place several houses side by side. 

Camara: He’s explaining to me that the layout of Mama’s house, the court and the two huts, are classic ti kai. Having the separate kitchen could protect the home from a cooking fire spreading. But it protected them from larger threats, too.  

[musical shift] 

Dominica has always had storms, and they’re bracing for more in the future. It’s a tropical island in the hurricane belt with nine active volcanoes. It’s battered by earth, wind, and sea. The houses are built to endure it all. In the case of strong wind, separate smaller houses had less of a chance of lifting. So you could have more space without putting yourself at more risk. 

Adom: And so the ti kai is an amazing formation because it brings in elements of indigenous dwelling styles – thatched A frame huts, moyina huts as may be referred to in the Kalinago context. 

Camara: While there’s no single point of origin to the ti kai, they reflect the communities that made their home in Dominica in the 1800s: the indigenous Kalinago, the European colonists, and the Africans they imported and enslaved. 

In the 1830s, the Africans were emancipated and forced off the estates they’d lived on. They settled on the thin stretch of public land around the island’s shoreline, the King’s Three Chains. The newly freed brought with them their dwellings. These communities would become places like Lagon, where my dad grew up. 

[sizzling returns]

On this Christmas, when Mama’s done preparing the feast, the men will go eat at the blue house. 

[dishes clink, dogs bark ] 

They go up the stairs, the only piece that survived. Back then, it was painted with leftover supplies from Portsmouth Secondary School for Dominica’s independence celebration. 

They will all eat in the front room, called la salle, or the hall. They’ll pull chairs from where they’re lined up out of the way because this room is only used for special occasions. 

[dishes clink, chairs scrape] 

After the food is done, the men will go home, and my grandparents and my dad’s two sisters will retire to their bedrooms, or, la sham. The brothers, all five including my dad, will clear the front room to put down their bedding. 

I remember Christmas with my grandmother as quieter, less chaotic, less jam-packed. I remember the house feeling bigger than my dad does, but then again, I never had to share it. 

I learned from Adom so many details about my grandmother’s house. I thought climate resilient design would look high-tech: chrome, and glass. Instead, it was simple, wooden. 

Adom: Others have talked about houses now, concrete houses built against the wind. But people who lived in the ti kai and who designed the ti kai, they built them with the wind. So the idea is they’ll move with and allow the wind to pass through at various different points. 

Camara: There’s the orientation of the house, which was angled to catch the sea breeze and cool the dwelling, which was why I always heard those beads always clicking in the wind. 

There was the composition. The houses are made out of hard local woods. That explains the beautiful wooden planks I saw. 

There were those pillars. While the blue house was raised, it likely wasn’t fixed to its foundation. This allowed floods– of which there were many–to pass under the house without damaging the structure. And in the case of a major storm, the house could bend, shift, and move.  

Adom: And it was not uncommon that we’d hear examples from Hurricane David of folks whose houses had moved entirely from one location to another. And we’ve got this incredible photo in Pottersville of a house that lays intact across the middle of the main road. With onlookers on one side, watching, almost it appears as though they’re kind of marveling at the fact that this house is still standing, but it’s been shifted entirely from its foundation.  

[slow, synthy music] 


Camara: In August 1979, Hurricane David hit Dominica as a category 3 storm.

[winds whistle] 

 My dad was a teenager at the time and a wild child with scars up and down his legs from all the trouble he’d get into. At first, he enjoyed the storm. It was his first hurricane. He went outside, to be a part of it.

Philbert: And we were just having fun. You know, just having fun eating fruits, drinking, you know, coconuts and just having fun. Every now and again, we would help an elderly person. We saw a few galvanized sheets fly, we saw trees break, we saw rivers swelling, but we still stayed out.

Camara: But by midday, his fun soured. 

Philbert: We realized that the storm was bad enough that life was going to change. And we shifted from having fun to now collecting fruits, coconuts, and you know, avocado, pears and oranges and so forth, because we realize, now it was a tragedy. And our family would have to, would need food after that.  

Camara: That night, my dad and his family sheltered in their house. His brother Alvin – the one who had collected the pig’s blood – was working as a sailor at the time. He had invited a passenger from Guadeloupe to stay with the family. My dad remembered her praying all night. 

The next morning, they took stock of the damage. 

[wind fades out] 

Philbert: People were missing, The agricultural crop was destroyed. Boats had had wrecked, trees down, roofs out, and so forth. And that started almost a year of real bad misery.

Camara: Hurricane David’s wind reached about 140 MPH before it ripped up the West Indies. It killed about 60 people, and left about 60,000 people on the island without homes. And amidst all that destruction, my dad’s home was largely untouched. 

Philbert: Our house had very little damage, very little. A large Julie mango tree close to our house, it broke, but I don’t think there was one sheet of galvanized or zinc that came off. So largely our house was unscathed. So it survived Hurricane David, unscathed.

Camara: There were a few factors that protected them: the storm came from the south east. My dad in the northwest didn’t face the brunt of it. There’s a spine of mountains up the island north to south that protect the west, the leeward side, from storms. But that alone doesn’t explain why his house fared better than other homes in Lagon, larger homes, nicer homes. 

Philbert: There was this middle class person who had an upstairs and downstairs modern, concrete and steel house. His roof was lifted, complete and intact, and taken, and dropped into Prince Rupert’s Bay.

Camara: Flat roofs, like those on modern houses, act like an airplane wing. Air gathers underneath them building upward pressure, lifting them. Ti kai roofs are sloped, shaped like a mountain made with your hands. They create downward pressure; they stay put.

Adom: These houses often fared much better than nearby concrete homes that had roofs that didn’t have a kind of steep pitch of the ti kai and would fly away and leave the house wide open, grinning, as people would say, with the rafters looking like teeth facing up to the sky.

Camara: When working on his book “Still Standing”, Adom conducted oral histories with families living in surviving ti kais. As part of his process, he asked about their experience through hurricanes like David and Maria. 

Adom: Many folks who have this kind of common refrain that people repeated over and over which was, yeah, man, I just, I just lost. I just lost one, two, galvanized, it was just one, two, galvanized that, that flew away. And two or three sheets of galvanized, typically no more than that. 

Camara: The ti kais are disappearing now. In part, because there’s a trend towards more modern concrete and steel houses. And, in part because some are old, and nothing natural lasts forever. 

Adom’s book ends with plans for readers who choose to build their own ti kais. With SHAPE, a Dominican preservation society, Adom’s pushing for some ti kais to be conserved instead of leveled. The ti kai is a window into history, and elements of it could represent a way forward. 

Adom: So on the face of it, it seems like a simple small house, it seems like a kind of a quaint kind of timeless picture. And then you realize the layers to it, you realize the stories that inhabit this place, and you realize that there’s a strong ethic of survival that’s kind of woven into the materiality of these spaces, right?

[somber healing music] 

Camara: That phrase, ‘ethic of survival’ touched me. Climate change is the end of the world as we know it. But, the peoples that built ti kais were enduring their own apocalypse, the end of plantation slavery. They managed to survive, and so did their homes.

In the years before Maria that my dad lived in Dominica, he visited his mother often. They didn’t talk much in his childhood. But as adults, they’d sit in the hall with my stepmother, and gossip. 

[wind chimes tinkle] 

Philbert: I would ask her “ku mah yea, saca fet?” That is, how are you, what’s going on? And, you know, so she might she might say, you know, “mwa la ma ka kooty sah mon caddy,” which means “I listen – I’m just listening to what’s been said, listening to what’s going on.” Or sometimes I will literally tease her by telling her, you know, give me the you know, tell me the rumors that are going about, you know, “ba mwa be fla”.  

Camara: He’d ask about her life, her childhood, her marriage, collecting all the details he didn’t know when he was a kid.

[dreamy synths] 

I wish I had that time with her too. When I originally pitched this story, I was preoccupied with that lack, with those stairs that now went nowhere, what I had lost. I felt like as surely as climate change was taking my future, it was robbing me of my past as well. 

On its face, this was a simple story, but in reporting it, less so. Speaking to my dad, and Adom, delving into my own memory, showed me how much of my grandmother I still had. It also showed me intricacies in my grandmother, in her house, in my heritage. 

My history is more enduring, more complicated, more hopeful than I could’ve imagined. I can’t tell you what that means for my future. But I think it means I can’t just write it off.

That as much as I lack, I have. That loss is painful, but it’s not a full picture. That I’m taking my grandmother, my past, my “ethic of survival,” all into the future, with me. 

[mysterious chords synthy music] 


Shaylyn: Hey there, it’s shaylyn again.

[watery music] 

 Thank you so much for listening to Mama’s House, by Camara Aaron. 

That’s all for this episode of Inherited, we’ll return next week with an all-new episode featuring another impactful climate storyteller. We’re also starting something new for our show — interviews with season 3 storytellers on their process, their growth and their next steps. Look out for those BTS bonus episodes every Friday. 

Camara: I don’t think that I thought of it as like Inherited is going to be my opportunity to do personal storytelling. That kind of happened, and kept happening.

Shaylyn: We’ll hear about Camara’s most moving moments from “Mama’s House,” and her new short story, soon to be published in a YA Black Horror anthology. 

Saina Ma’ase’ for joining us for episode 1! There is so much more in store for season 3 of Inherited, so make sure to tune in Wednesdays, wherever you get your podcasts.

[Inherited outro theme] 


Shaylyn: Inherited is brought to you by YR Media, a national network of young journalists and artists creating content for this generation. We’re distributed by Critical Frequency, a women-run podcast network founded by journalists. 

The story “Mama’s House,”  featured in today’s episode, was written, produced, and voiced by Camara Aaron, an Inherited season 3 storyteller.

Our season 3 host and producer is Shaylyn Martos. Our co-creators and senior producers are Georgia Wright and Jules Bradley. Our Executive Editor is Amy Westervelt, and our audio engineer is James Riley. Our audio engineering fellow is Christian Romo, and our Director of Podcasting is Sam Choo. Our intern is Esther Omolola. 

Original music for this episode created by these young musicians at YR Media: 

Christian Romo, Anders Knutstad, Noah Holt, Jacob Armenta, Chaz Whitley, Michael Diaz, Sean Luciano Galarza, Jay Mejia Cuenca. 

Music direction by Oliver “Kuya” Rodriguez. Other music by APM. 

Art for this episode created by YR’s Marjerrie Masicat. Art direction by Brigido Bautista. Creative direction by Pedro Vega, Jr. 

Special thanks to Rebecca Martin, Maggie Taylor, Kyra Kyles, and Eli Arbreton. 

Also to Olive Bell, Makalya Laronde-King, and Zeth Stedman; Adom Philogene Heron and Philbert Aaron;  

For the work of Still Standing, thanks again to Adom Philogene Heron and to the Ti Kai Collective: Olive Bell, Marika Honeychurch, Jeanna Royer, Metsi Didier, Zeth Steadman, Amie Victor, Jahiem Nelson, Polly Patullo, and Dr. Annabel Wilson. 

Please throw us a rating or maybe even a review on the Apple Podcast app – it goes a LONG way towards getting these stories out there! You can also follow us on Instagram and Twitter @inheritedpod. 

If you want to learn more about our show and this season’s cohort of storytellers, head to our website at yr.media/inherited. 

Thanks for listening! 

S3E1 BONUS: Interview with Camara (7/21)

[Inherited theme]


Shaylyn Martos:  Hey everybody, you’re listening to Inherited, a sound-rich, solutions-focused youth storytelling podcast about the climate crisis. I’m shaylyn martos, your season 3 host. 

Our goal here at Inherited is to give young climate storytellers the opportunity to produce their work, but it’s even more important for us to provide them with the tools and support they need to grow in a harsh environment.

So, here’s something new for our show — bonus interviews with storytellers on their process, growth, and next steps. Maybe hearing them talk about their craft will inspire you to tell your own climate story. 


In Episode 1, Camara Aaron shared with us her story “Mama’s House,” about her grandmother’s house in Dominica. If you haven’t listened to it, you’ll definitely want to go back and do that now before we dive into this interview. Trust me, you’re going to want the context!

I met with Camara during the last edits of her piece, and we talked about her journey through production.  


Camara: My name is Camara. I use she/her pronouns, and I’m a writer and a researcher in New York.
Shaylyn: So I wanted to personally congratulate you for being included in the upcoming YA horror anthology The Black Girl Survives in This One! How does it feel being recognized as a young writer, young Black author in the publishing community?
Camara: It feels really incredible and a little surreal. I feel like every opportunity I get, I have to like, thank my friends for pushing me to submit. So I have to thank my friend Irene for pushing me to submit, for even just being like, actually put yourself forward. And I’m excited to be in such good company and to be in a real book and to be in a library. I love the library. So I just want people to read this in the YA section of a library. So that’s like, a dream come true.  

Shaylyn: I love that! [Camara: Yeah.] So, why did you choose to utilize this space, your episode with Inherited, to do something that was such a deeply personal piece? 

Camara: Well, I’m currently working on a documentary and I’m working on an environmental project, and working on it has just really made me curious about what kind of environmental storytelling would speak to me. And I really like personal writing, I don’t do personal writing, but a personal essay – I’ll just eat that up, any moment ever. 
So originally, the personal was just an onramp to a bigger story about Maria and, you know, some things I was seeing in Dominica, where my family is from. [Shaylyn: Mhm.] I don’t think I thought of it as like, Inherited is going to be my opportunity to do personal storytelling. That just kind of happened and kept happening. Obviously, in a respectful way, but also in a sort of a, sort of a surprising and a little freaky way because I don’t like – you know, allowing yourself to say like, I actually miss this woman and I didn’t know her that well in some ways. 
In the short story that I wrote in the collection, there’s a reference to a blue house in it that’s like the setting of the character’s visit to Dominica. And that blue house is my grandmother’s house. And at that time it’s called a hut because I didn’t know the language for it; I learned a lot about Dominican like history and architecture from even doing this project. But like there are those personal touches. Like, I don’t think about it that way, but it’s there. That’s it. 
Shaylyn: Aw, well I think that’s wonderful that you kind of grew to understand your own culture and your family’s home more. Does the line between newsy reality and fiction blur in this piece? Do you feel a little bit of that, because, you know, you’re a multimedia storyteller, and I’m wondering how that has affected the way your story developed. 
Camara: I studied film in college, as I said I work in documentary now, so I think I’m thinking sometimes really in those kind of scenes. And I can picture the story even though it’s, you know, an audio medium. 
I think the biggest challenge with this was like, going inside myself to be honest? As I said when I pitched this, it was more like the personal was an onramp to something else. I was sort of thinking of myself as like, would I make a good character, you know, like this moment? And then when I worked on the story, I had to be more honest. I had to sit down with my memory. And I was really afraid I didn’t remember anything, or like that I didn’t really know enough. I think I had to make my peace with what I had of my grandmother. 
I think I wanted to be the kind of character in my story who, like, had all these anecdotes and all these memories, and all these conversations. And really, when I visited her, like I loved her, she loved me. And I would kind of just sit there and be a fly on the wall, you know, and like we, we talked as well. But I think making my peace with what our relationship was and what I had and like looking into myself and the feelings that I had in losing her and then also interviewing my dad about what it meant to lose his mother. Yeah, it was really intimate and something that I think was, it was a new moment in our relationship.

Shaylyn: Wow. So at this iteration of your script. You don’t include a really important interview, at least important to me. And I feel like, to yourself. With your best friend, Mikayla. Whose family is also from Dominica. So what was that like kind of sharing this, this space with her? 
Camara: With Mikayla, important context is that me and Mikayla both lost grandparents in Maria and at the time we were both freshman in college, actually in the same dorm, and we didn’t find out that we had shared this loss until like a couple of months later. And I don’t think we really dove deep on it in college. Like as I mentioned in the piece, I kind of– sometimes with difficult emotion like that, to be honest, I’m just kind of like, I’m going to deal with this later. And I, I kind of put it away.
But having a shared heritage with Mikayla is really special to me. And I think the thing that was deep was not necessarily the loss, but a big part of this story for me was the interview I got to do with Adom Philogene Heron, who’s like a visual anthropologist, he studies architecture, and he told me about all this history, and I got to share that with Mikayla and like, show her pictures and kind of walk her through his work. And she didn’t know any of that either. This isn’t like history that we’ve been taught or stuff that our parents had shared with us. And I think, to get to deepen both of our, kind of, appreciations for Dominican culture. I think that was really special and felt really intimate. 
Shaylyn: Overall, we’ve been talking a lot about storytelling and going deep into yourself and and kind of facing those – not demons, but facing those, those roadblocks that your mind puts up. Do you feel like you’ve grown in your storytelling capabilities through this process? And where do you feel you have room to grow?
Camara: I pitched Inherited because I had this question, but also because I wanted, I really wanted to learn. And I have been kind of looking for environments that are going to like give me a chance to do my thing and and support me and like, um, I really appreciated, especially the support I got from Georgia, who is one of the editors who would just meet with me really regularly, talk through things with me and kind of talk me off the ledge. Because I’m often on the ledge. I’m kind of an on-the-ledge kind of person. I definitely think I grew in, I think really in a lot of aspects, especially learning to embrace the personal. I think I’ve got a really helpful like not to get to the nitty gritty. I got a really helpful structural edit that I think like really I was like, Ooh, okay, I’m learning how to take revision. I definitely feel like I grew and was supported in that growing, which was exactly what I was looking for. 

Shaylyn: Amazing. 

Camara: Audio to me is maybe a little bit between – like fiction to me is can be very interior, like you’re in a character’s head or at least you’re very close to them. And so you get you can get that internal monologue. Film I think is a lot of gesture and surfaces, not in a superficial way, but you want to be able to read from action, right? [Shaylyn: Mm hmm.]
And I would say for me, audio had this, like, opportunity in the piece where I have these memory sections that are internal, that are, you know, voiceover and me and my own mind, and then I have like these scenes of hurricanes that to me are like very similar, like cinematic in a way. Like you’re, you’re, you’re getting a lot of action – it kind of to me pulled together both those things, like for the hurricanes, I was thinking, okay, like, you know what I mean? Like, I love action movies. So like what? Like what is happening where people where are they going?
And then for the memory, it was kind of leaning into that more fiction-prose-mode of like, you know, I want this to flow. Like, I don’t really have to have the – I can be a little more spacious with this. Like this can is, can be a little more again, I don’t use the word indulgent, but like I can sit here for a little longer. 

Shaylyn: For other storytellers, for other climate folks in particular, do you have any advice, anything you feel you’d like to share, some wisdom you’d like to drop on us?

Camara: Oh, yeah. I mean. I think before this project – I had some really good friends who do really wonderful thinking and writing about the environment and climate change. One of them was a storyteller last season, Kenia [Shaylyn: Yeah!] Hale, who, I sent her the pitch and then she did the story and then she sent me it back and was like, you know, and like, read my pitch before I did it. So that’s like a nice moment. And then my friend who I mentioned at the beginning, Irene, is also a really talented writer – Irina Vasquez, who is very talented writer, and I think for a long time I thought they’re the climate writers. You know? Like, I don’t have anything to say about the environment. I don’t litter, but I don’t really care, you know? 
And I think working on this project and working in other elements of my life on environmental storytelling made me just realize how I had so accepted this. The vision of like, there are climate people, there are non-climate people, the environment is somewhere out there, climate is somewhere out there. And I don’t know, I got this advice from Georgia where she or she was just often like every story is a climate story, especially when I was like trying to twist myself to not to like. You know, kind of make this like my grandmother, dot dot dot, climate, you know?
Shaylyn: Yeah, yeah yeah. 
Camara: So I think just embracing that like. There are going to be other avenues to talk climate stories in that we are all affected by climate. We all have a relationship to the natural world, whether we appreciate it or not. And there are going to be things that you see, even if you don’t feel like a capital-C climate person, that are going to be valuable.
Shaylyn: Beautiful. So thinking about how climate can affect everybody and maybe in the future you want to include more climate stuff in your work. And speaking of your work, I’m just wondering what you’ve got going on other than the anthology, the collection that you’re in. Is there anything else that you’d like to plug for us?
Camara: That’s really sweet. I just worked on a podcast with my mom, who’s like, not in this story, but my favorite person ever, and she was interviewing black women about justice. And I think that her approach really inspires me. Just everyday people with everyday actions that are advancing justice. So that podcast is called Griotte’s Beat, on Spotify and Apple Podcasts. Other than that, no, I’m just. I’m j chillin you know I’m doing this. I hope to keep cooking up more stories that include West Indian history and folklore, but, yeah!

Shaylyn: Fantastic! I appreciate your time. And I can’t wait to hear this – I can’t wait to see this season. It’s gonna be so good. 

Camara: I’m really excited! Thank you so much for listening, and Shaylyn thanks for your time. This was really lovely to get to share this with you. 


Shaylyn: Thank you for joining us for this bonus episode! Season 3 of Inherited continues Wednesdays, wherever you get your podcasts. Next week, we’ll dive into some Latinx folklore:

Paloma Moreno Jiménez: “In the soil, I was a seed in the third space – a place where the beginning and the end come together and the living and the dead meet. I felt a spirit’s hand reach up and hold me from underground. My mother brought her forehead to the wet ground and whispered to me and the spirit, ‘Maíz es vida.’”

Shaylyn: See you Wednesday!


Inherited is brought to you by YR Media, a national network of young journalists and artists creating content for this generation. We’re distributed by Critical Frequency, a podcast network founded by women journalists. 

For more information about our show, team, and storytellers, visit our website at yr.media/inherited. 

See you next week! 

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