Edit Spaudo is a young writer who was sponsored by CHEERIO – an eclectic new publishing imprint and media company launched in partnership with The Estate of Francis Bacon – to study on our online Writing a Memoir course earlier this year. She is currently writing a memoir about her life and what happened to her mother who was tragically murdered after being trafficked as a sex worker from Nigeria to Italy.
Maude Martel (writer and current Media & Communications student at Goldsmiths University) spoke to Edit about rediscovering her roots, healing from generational trauma and how the course helped her find her voice.
Maude Martel: When did you start writing and what inspired you to tell your life story?
Edit Spaudo: I used to do a bit of spoken word and I always kept a diary growing up, but that's really it. The course is the first thing I've done properly. The idea for my memoir came about over lockdown. I'm a carer and I was living in with my client. We ended up telling each other's life stories and she said that I have to write a book about my life. She put me in touch with Clare Conville, which is how CHEERIO ended up sponsoring me to go on the course. I’m so thankful for that.
MM: Would you mind briefly explaining what happened to your mother?
ES: My mum was trafficked from Nigeria to Turin, Italy in the 80s as a sex worker. She met my dad, who was Italian, and they fell in love and had me. He was then disowned by his Italian family because of being with a black woman. My mum stopped sex work after she met my dad.
They split up when I was very young. Later, my mother was fatally stabbed because of an argument over a television - or so it was reported. Now we know the other side of the story, it’s a lot more likely that it was in fact to do with the ring of people she was previously involved with – her traffickers – and them finding her.
After her death, I grew up with my grandparents in Italy. I want to write about growing up in a predominantly white area where I didn't see anyone who looked like me. I was never a part of my own culture and it was shameful to be black. My grandparents didn't even want to come to the hospital to see me when I was born.
I eventually moved to England with my dad and step-mum, and it was a huge change moving to a foreign country. I was so thankful for my step-mum because she did the best she could to teach me about black culture. She took me to London and to hair shops. Growing up, I would never look in the mirror and think, 'My skin is beautiful, my hair is beautiful'. So that was sort of the start of me embracing my blackness and not carrying so much shame with it.
My stepmother passed away when I was 16 and I fell into sex work not long after. I think I have always had a romantic idea of it because of what I've been told about my biological mum. It was definitely a journey and I met some amazing people. A lot of the women I worked with came from a similar background and had gone through a lot of trauma, so there was a sort of unity. There's a sense of mutual respect just from being there. We are just women going about our lives. The job isn't conventional, but it is still just work. My memoir focusses on the power of the matriarch and of sisterhood, which is something that's always come through in my life.
MM: What made you decide that now was the time to write your memoir?
ES: The lockdown and Black Lives Matter movement last year made me feel it was time to speak my truth. My mum was buried under a different name, given to her by her traffickers, and that's still the name on her gravestone. I hope to have it changed someday. There was recently a documentary about women who were trafficked from Nigeria and West Africa over to Italy. There's also a movement to shed light on all the women who tragically died through sex work and trafficking, and who were buried under false names. A lot of people are trying to have their family's names changed.
MM: What is the main message you want people to take from reading it?
ES: Speak your truth. Also, the importance of knowing your history and roots, especially when a lot of people’s histories have been erased. I encourage people to go on the same journey that I did. In telling mine and my mother’s story, I'm telling the story of the thousands of other women whose bloodlines were cut short in the search of freedom and a better life. I see it as healing the past so we can have a better tomorrow.
MM: What did you learn from the Writing a Memoir course?
ES: So much. It’s really accessible and digestible. When the idea for the book came to me I was excited but the thought of writing it felt painful and overwhelming. The course really helped me get started. Learning you don’t need to sound like anyone else when you write, just yourself, was when I really started to enjoy the writing process. In terms of structure, thinking about using particular places, people, smells or music as a starting point for a scene was also really helpful. I feel I can look back at times in my life through songs.
The Forum was another really helpful aspect of the course. Each week we read other people's work and gave feedback. I got a lot of inspiration from other people’s stories, and encountering different writing styles was really interesting. I could really tell reading through my pieces from Week One to Week Six how different my writing was, and I could see that with the other people who were on the course as well.
MM: Do you have any tips for aspiring writers or people who want to write a memoir?
ES: If you’re able to, definitely go on a course. I was so lucky and grateful to have gone on this memoir writing course. It’s easy to get into your own head and think 'I'm not good enough. No one's going to want to listen to my story.' But whatever you write, if you're speaking your truth, will resonate with others out there. People will read what you have to say, they will feel it and they will hopefully take something from it.