Dhonielle Clayton appears on Saturday at the Hanesbrand Theatre for “Monsters, Magic, and Warrior Women” at 10:30 a.m., and at the Reynolds Place Theatre for “Urgency of Now: Why the World Needs Diverse Books,” at 1 p.m. She also has Saturday book signings at 11:45 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Kiran Ahluwalia performs Friday at 6:45 and Sunday at 6 p.m. on the Lawn Stage, and Saturday at 3:15 on the CityStage. She also will take part in Raising Her Voice: Women Songwriters in the Round on Saturday at 1:15 on the Lee Wrangler Stage.
Both Kiran Ahluwalia and Dhonielle Clayton find their experiences as women of color affecting their creative careers. Composer and songwriter Kiran Ahluwalia strings together the cultural influences of being born in India but raised Canada using her music. Meanwhile author Dhonielle Clayton draws from a childhood of searching for more African American literature to guide both her creative and administrative work.
“I am what I am,” Kiran Ahluwalia says, “and I want to be truthful to that.”
Ahluwalia performs at the North Carolina Folk Festival in Greensboro with a sound that draws from each step in her personal life. The musician began learning Indian music at the age of five, and from there continued to merge Indian music with Western influences she gathered living in Canada.
“I wanted my music to be a reflection of my identity, and I am a hyphenated individual,” she says. “I am an Indo-Canadian.”
Having released seven albums, Ahluwalia says that drawing from jazz, classical music and R&B, along with desert blues from the Sahara, has helped her build a sound that represents her life experiences sonically. Her latest album, Seven Billion, is a culmination, exploring social issues such as the need for feminism and cultural acceptance.
“There’s 7 billion of us on the planet,” she says, “and so there are 7 billion different and relevant ways of looking at things.”
For Dhonielle Clayton, representation can be addressed in her own creative process, and her administrative work.
The author, who appears at the Bookmarks Festival to discuss fantasy and diversity in literature, fills her schedule as the co-founder of Cake Literary and the chief operating officer of We Need Diverse Books. Clayton says the drive came from her own childhood want of a greater variety of books representing herself.
“Even though I come from such a great literary tradition, that I am proud of that I love — the greats of Toni Morrison and Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston and Alice Walker,” she says, “I wanted to read all of their things, but I was also looking for more. More versions.”
She compares her childhood self to Matilda, stacking up library books, searching for some type of fantasy world where she could find herself. Now, from working as a schoolteacher to writing to administrative work, she finds she can ease the search, promoting fun in books for children of marginalized backgrounds.
“We’re just asking and looking for balance,” Clayton says. “That’s all.”