Thank you for the opportunity to share about my debut book, The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop: How to Decolonize the Creative Classroom (Haymarket Books, Fall 2020). In the tradition of June Jordan’s Poetry for the People and Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, my book combines personal story with tried and true teaching strategies to help creative writing workshop leaders transcend a posturing of diversity and achieve authentically inclusive communities.
Two years ago, I traveled to Reykjavik, Iceland to read a speech about how racial bias affected my graduate school experience at the University of Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Workshop. I stood at the podium and openly sobbed. It was a total loss of emotional control. I’d practiced that speech over and over, and yet in the moment, I was overcome with such intense vulnerability, like I was committing an act of betrayal for speaking my experience out loud.
There was something to that moment, that shared intimacy, that elicited an outpouring from audience members. Writers of color reached out to me afterwards to talk about their own toxic MFA programs. White ally educators wanted to know how to avoid replicating harm, so much so that one year later, a consortium of twenty liberal arts educators convened at Rhodes College for a follow-up workshop to brainstorm strategies for inclusivity in their undergraduate writing programs. I knew then that I’d arrived at a pivotal juncture in my artistic practice. I had to write The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop, a clear guide for a necessary step forward.
The book is deeply personal. It’s my life story as well as my life’s work. In my writing, I share intimate details I’ve never told anyone before, the sort that catch in my throat when I read them aloud. But the impetus – my voice is power, my art is activism – sustains me. I aim to turn on my power and craft stories that are crucial to this country’s collective narrative.
Funded by Louisville, KY (August 2020)