Black Gay Web Series Pioneer Drops New Book 'Shoulda! Coulda! Woulda!'
With foundational blueprints laid by the late James Baldwin, Essex Hemphill and E. Lynn Harris, Black gay men are taking control of their own narrative and publishing work to reflect the diverse experience of Black gay men in America, and Dwight Allen O'Neal is no exception. In fact, he's been at the forefront of Black gay storytelling for over a decade, having created "Christopher Street," one of the first Black gay web series. Now he's adding author to his long list of credentials with the release of his debut novel/memoir, "Shoulda! Coulda! Woulda!."
With a podcast by the same name, O'Neal explores some of his own missteps, and reflects on how they have affected his personal journey. In a series of vignettes ranging from lighthearted to traumatic, he lets you know what happened, what he was thinking, and how each experience changed his life.
O'Neal spoke to Living Out Loud 2.0 about why writing "Shoulda! Coulda! Woulda!" was necessary and how the process has been therapeutic.
"I have wanted to write a book many many times. With the success of my podcast, I learned that a companion piece was needed for topics that deserved a deeper conversation," said O'Neal.
"If deciding to write was like jumping into a swimming pool—this is my way of testing the waters. I take my readers into many of my life learned lessons and personal experiences that have shaped me into the man that I am today," he added.
One of those personal experiences that O'Neal teases and explores deeply in the book is a 2012 scandal that he endured, but luckily, was never associated with publicly. He has never addressed the scandal— until now.
"I kept silent out of fear and judgement," said O'Neal. "Now I am coming forward and standing up for myself. I was far too afraid of hurting someone who I thought loved me, and far too concerned with what [you] would think. Now I am using my voice to support victims who have yet to realize that they are actually victorious."
O'Neal also tells Living Out Loud 2.0 that his new book was written in the midst of terrible grief and served as healing throughout the process.
"I wrote my book grieving the loss of my mentor and a close friend, while mending a broken heart. Shoulda! Coulda! Woulda! helped me find Dwight again. This book was definitely my way of healing," said O'Neal.
O'Neal says he hopes readers will learn from his mistakes after reading "Shoulda! Coulda! Woulda!," but above all, "embrace and learn from their mistakes and be kind to themselves and to each other."
"Shoulda! Coulda! Woulda!" is available for purchase on Amazon.
Watch Dwight Allen O'Neal talk more about his literary debut in the video below.