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Every year it was the same. The then Milwaukee Sentinel printed the pictures of all their summer interns who worked at the paper. The pictures were divided into two categories: Interns Minority Interns Each year, my picture, with the worst lighting imaginable, was displayed under the minority banner. I hated that term: minority intern. It […]

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Several years ago during my first semester in graduate school, some of my classmates and I went out to a local watering hole after a rather tedious writing workshop. Which, by the way, was nothing new. I found my graduate writing workshops consistently difficult, not because I couldn’t take critique, but the focus of the […]

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Disclaimer One: The intended audience for this talk is mainly white writers, so I use the dreaded royal ‘We’. I understand none of the We in this room are a monolith, but pronouns save time—and time is short. Disclaimer Two: While these remarks focus on race specifically, many of the same or similar points could […]

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There has never been a consensus or even a plurality agreement among writers who identify as Black about the aesthetics of our creative work. Or, whether there is such a thing as black writing. Or what makes the African American literary canon cohere. Or what constitutes pandering to an audience. We have never agreed on […]

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In 2014, I spoke on a panel called “Crossing (Imagined) Borders: Research, Writing, and the Challenges of the 21st Century,” at the Writing Research Across Borders annual conference in Paris. My paper concerned the ways I’d heard and seen English used while I taught in Liberia – everything from conversations with palm-wine tappers and

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When I was 10 in 1969, without permission, I went and had my hot combed hair washed and cut into a round, nappy afro. When I arrived home in the afternoon, allegedly coming from a friend’s house around the corner, my mother slapped her hand over her mouth and cried. She was horrified. I left […]

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When I was a kid growing up in a white (and cis and straight) suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, my mom worked hard to raise us with sensitivity and intelligence around issues of race, class, physical ability, and discrimination. Not an easy task in a community like that. Even though the combined income of my parents […]

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My ex-husband suffered bipolar disorder. We lived among the facts of his illness. Trips to the emergency room, where he sought relief from migraine pain. Nests of paper scraps littering the futon where he had fallen asleep — finally — mid-collage-making, open scissors in hand, pointing up toward his sleeping face. Frenzied letters to friends,

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My graduate reading was supposed to be fifteen minutes, which is a hard number to hit. It’s too much time for a short piece and not enough time for a long one, so I spent the night before furiously editing my piece to fit. I took a chance and read something that, for a change, […]

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Of all the gifts a poet can be given, epilepsy is the richest. I fell when I was four. It was kept hidden by my family; my father had it scrubbed from my medical records. But my life was already deeply private, because I was a child poet and followed up an old, rusted way […]

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