This week in Guernica I have an essay about kissing, Misskiss. In it, I make reference to some of my son’s early attempts to write and I look ahead to when we might stop kissing—and then when we might start again. This piece will be collected in a book forthcoming by W.W. Norton, and edited by Brian Turner and Ed Winstead.
This week’s episode of the pocast Tell Me Something I Don't Know, hosted by Stephen Dubner, features a question from me for the show’s panelists about Zaytuna College, the subject of my book Light Without Fire. I'm joined on stage by Zaytuna graduate Omar Bayramoglu. Panelists include John Fugelsang, Tami Sagher, and Aman Ali.
This week, as part of their joint-series on resistance literature, Literary Hub and Critical Mass, the National Book Critics Circle’s blog, are both running a short essay I wrote about Harriet Jacobs’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Jonathan Lethem began the series with reflections on Philip K. Dick’s The Penultimate Truth. Other essays have appeared by T.J. Stiles, Meg Waite Clayton, and today, Sarah K. Stephens.
Today at Guernica I have a new essay about teaching James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time throughout Obama’s presidency. Here is a little of what I conclude:
It only became clear to me as I taught the book over the past few years ... following the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, as we discussed the protests in Ferguson and the renewed vigor and revolutionary moment captured by Black Lives Matter, that Obama is not the key figure in this country. I had been wrong: the American future is precisely not as bright or as dark as his. And my students, who have paid attention to a chokehold on Staten Island and a shooting in greater St. Louis, and who remembered a black teenager killed in Sanford, Florida, and who are reckoning with recent killings in Tulsa and Charlotte and Los Angeles, now know what Baldwin was talking about. They’ve seen the private fears of white Americans projected onto American blacks. We see it every day. This is our ongoing crisis; there is serious evil in the world, and hardship and pain. And my students know this now. They’ve seen anger in the world, and it makes sense to them, and now it seems right to see it on the page.
Bookforum’s Daily Review is running a piece from me about William Giraldi’s new memoir, The Hero’s Body.
This month sees the release of Pacific University Press’s first book, When the Rewards Can Be So Great: Essays on Writing and the Writing Life, edited by the poet Kwame Dawes. I’m proud to have a craft lecture included there alongside those of my colleagues Sanda Alcosser, Steve Amick, Ellen Bass, Marvin Bell, Carolyn Coman, Claire Davis, Debra Gwartney, Laura Hendrie, Pam Houston, Valerie Laken, Dorianne Laux, David Long, Mike Magnuson, John McNally, Benjamin Percy, and Mary Helen Stefaniak.