Longreads is running the text of a talk I presented in January at Pacific University’s MFA in Writing Program’s winter residency. Written in the wake of the 2016 election, the speech is called “Writing Our America.” On November 8, I asked, “Do emergencies go higher than three-alarm?”
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.
As part of the Pacific University MFA in Writing Program I’ll be reading new work tonight with my friends and colleagues Steve Amick and Eduardo Corral. The reading, which starts at 7:30, is open to the public, if you’re in or around Forest Grove, Oregon. Come to Pacific University's campus: McCready Hall in the Taylor-Meade Performing Arts Center.
Day one of this season’s Pacific University MFA in Writing residency is in the books. The day featured talks by Ellen Bass, Chris Abani, and Debra Gwartney. Many, many more to come, including guest lectures by Dan Raeburn, Garth Greenwell, Tyehimba Jess, Willy Vlautin, and others. I’m incredibly happy to be back in Forest Grove, Oregon, with this group. The residency goes through Sunday, June 26. Congratulations to all the graduates!
Last month, I participated in an evening of music and readings to celebrate the release of two wonderful books, Ann Neumann’s The Good Death and Peter Manseau’s Melancholy Accidents. Footage from this event is airing today—and is available here—on C-SPAN2’s Book TV. I emceed the event and read from my lastest essay in Virginia Quarterly Review, “Good for You.”