One night soon after the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation fight in 2018, Amber Sparks was, as she puts it, pissed. While her husband and daughter slept, the writer paced her living room, unsure how to channel her anger. Eventually, she slumped down on her sofa, opened the Notes app on her iPhone, and over the next two hours tapped out a short story. A “revenge,” as she now describes it, a new spin on the tale of the abduction of the Sabine women. “That one I vomited out because I was so mad.”
It’s one of 22 stories that make up her dark and witty new collection, And I Do Not Forgive You. “I don’t care if men read it or not,” Sparks said when we met at a downtown Bourbon Coffee. “I hope they do, but ultimately it’s a book for women.”
A labor-union digital strategist by day, Sparks often writes on the Metro or at the coffee shop inside Politics and Prose on Connecticut Avenue. She lives in Cleveland Park with her husband and four-year-old daughter. Originally from the Midwest, she came here to study politics at George Washington University, then ended up staying. “When I first moved here, I hated it,” Sparks said. “I felt like everything was political—and I moved here for politics. But I discovered, oh, yes, there is this vibrant literary community. There are a whole bunch of people who are creating and making and doing things that have nothing to do with the DC stereotype. You just sort of have to find your people.”
Once Sparks did that, her writing career started to blossom. (It doesn’t hurt that she’s a big presence in Twitter’s literary community.) “I can’t emphasize enough what a difference it’s made to live in a city that’s so supportive of literature,” she said, mentioning her admiration for area writers such as Tyrese Coleman, Rion Amilcar Scott, and Tara Laskowski. “I’m not sure if I would have ever become a published writer if I hadn’t been in DC. Which is funny because I would never have thought that when I was younger.”
Sparks wrote her new book for her daughter, but she also very much had in mind her mother, an English teacher who died recently. Sparks credits her mom with teaching her about the feminism that animates And I Do Not Forgive You: “This book is in so many ways coming back to that—to where I’d started, to where she’d anchored me. I wish she’d had a chance to read it.”
This article appears in the March 2020 issue of Washingtonian.