To the Guy in My MFA Class* Who Believes Art “Has Nothing to Do with Race”

Since the 1930s Formalism has positioned literary art as independent of author, era, and even possibly meaning. It promises that if readers would just focus on structure, symbols, and tensions within the text itself, all will be clear. Although this approach still holds sway in literature and creative writing classes, Critical Race Theory has challengedContinue reading “To the Guy in My MFA Class* Who Believes Art “Has Nothing to Do with Race””

And Then, Poverty

In 2016, one out of eight women age 18 and older lived in poverty. Currently, millions of women in the United States live below the poverty line, and nearly 50% of women on government aid give domestic violence as a reason they require financial assistance. In 2002, I was just another statistic. Another woman tryingContinue reading “And Then, Poverty”

How Rage Is Shutting Down American Politics

As a high school and college student, I aspired to change the world. I binge-watched The West Wing before binge-watching was a thing. I talked with friends about becoming a lobbyist and engaged in passionate debates about American and global politics. I idolized the Supreme Court and read its decisions with finger-tingling excitement. I evenContinue reading “How Rage Is Shutting Down American Politics”

23 Quotes That Perfectly Explain Racism (To People Who Don’t “See Color”)

When I was in college, I got a job bussing tables. In a Thai restaurant. Several white American customers expressed their objections to my working at an “ethnic” restaurant. I was disrupting their experience of “otherness”. This struck me as incongruent with their expressed desire to “respect” the foreign culture they were “patronizing”. In theirContinue reading “23 Quotes That Perfectly Explain Racism (To People Who Don’t “See Color”)”

Trust the Not-Knowing

Because sometimes the honest place is the empty place. The place of uncertainty. I’ve been talking a lot with my brother lately–this skinny white guy from a West Coast suburb who now works as an engineer on the East Coast. We’ve been talking about privilege, race, gender, social class, and orientation. I love my brother. AndContinue reading “Trust the Not-Knowing”

Why Mandela Still Matters

Along with most of you readers out there, I was saddened to read the headlines today about the death of Nelson Mandela at the age of 95. Being 32, I had never known a world without Mandela, and although I had read of his ill health for years, I must have assumed his immortality—as mostContinue reading “Why Mandela Still Matters”

Responsible Fiction: Toe to Toe with Difference

Writers have to get outside their own skin. But sometimes I get overeager to inhabit differences. And I write about characters I have no chance of understanding. So I just finished revisions on a short story about an Ethiopian immigrant who runs into his past. At the grocery store, he comes across a woman who witnessed anContinue reading “Responsible Fiction: Toe to Toe with Difference”