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9 Essayists of Color You Should Know About

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Make sure these up-and-coming PoC and Indigenous writers are on your radar

I put this together as a list of essayists of color and indigenous essayists you should follow, since many “people to follow” lists aren’t representative. But in truth, these aren’t simply “racially inclusive” writers I’d strongly suggest people follow; they’re really good writers I’d urge people to follow.

You more than likely already know the Roxane Gays, Ashley Fords, Janet Mocks, Aura Bogados, Kaitlyn Greenidges, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Jeff Changs, and host of others who have risen in the ranks to be more prominent voices and sought opinions when it comes to the goings on of our nation and the arts we savor. And, I do hope if you haven’t read their work already you start doing so. But this isn’t a post about who you may already know but who you may not be aware of yet.

This list is in no way comprehensive. (I could add another 50 names of those widely published and unpublished.) What this list is is representative of a group of artists creating exceptional work on a range of topics in art, (pop) culture, identity, and politics with material that is not only distinctive but informative and thought-provoking.

(Jonnie Taté Walker)

Jonnie Taté Walker

Activist, writer, and visual storyteller Taté Walker served as the editor for Native Peoples magazine and has contributed to sites such as Everyday Feminism. She’s spoken about and written extensively on Indigenous culture and representation, as well as sexuality and poverty & health in communities. On my podcast Taté and I discussed ongoing stereotypes and misconceptions for Native Americans and the necessity for artists of all areas to be compensated for their work rather than be an instrument for “busting stereotypes.” As Taté says, we have opportunities to educate via our experiences, not be tokens.

Recommended Reading: “New Indigenous Superheroes Save the Day”

(Anjali Enjeti)

Anjali Enjeti

Anjali’s writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Brevity, and Lunch Ticket and in regular contributions to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in her hometown. A board member of the National Book Critics Council and Pushcart nominated writer, Anjali’s reviews and reporting have often focused on social justice, given visibility to refugee communities, and lack of representation in the publishing community. From the personal to the political, Anjali injects her writing with her passions on seeing nation-wide progress.

Recommended Reading: “Thoughts of Home: Blueprint for a Baby”

(Morgan Jerkins)

Morgan Jerkins

With her upcoming debut This Will Be My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) America, Morgan is steadily becoming a prominent voice for Black feminism/female identity. Her writing has looked backward and forward, as well as examined the current state of Black people and artists. As associate editor of Catapult, Morgan has also provided a venue for more PoC writers to house their work. Morgan’s interest and dissection of pop culture in particular is also stealthy—just check her Twitter feed.

Recommended Reading: “The Forgotten Work of Jessie Redmon Fauset”

(Gabrielle Bellot)

Gabrielle Bellot

Gabrielle is a staff writer for LitHub. Her essays and reviews can be found in The New York Times, Prairie Schooner, VICE, and The Missouri Review, to name a few. While Gabrielle’s work speaks to politics and racial and gender identity, she also analyzes the literary canon. Looking at world-building to presentations of characters in classics like Invisible Man and Ray Bradbury, Gabrielle provides a refined approach to examining seminal works in current times.

Recommended Reading: “Hollywood’s First Harassment Case, 96 Years Before Weinstein”

(Photo of Bani Amor on street corner)

Bani Amor

If you want to learn more about decolonizing travel writing then Bani is the writer you need to be reading. Bani’s writing covers their own experiences traveling while brown, queer, and disabled, and also engages with the overt influence of the white/cishet/abled/male gaze in covering communities of color in particular and the distinctions that can and should be seen when exploring the world. Bani’s work has appeared in CNN Travel, Nowhere magazine, Bitch magazine, and many other outlets.

Recommended Reading: “Getting Real About Decolonizing Travel Culture”

(Profile photo of John Paul Brammer)

John Paul (JP) Brammer

In JP’s Hola Papi! advice column on Into and previous work in Buzzfeed and NBC Out, he has been outspoken about his experiences from disability to gender/sexual identity to Latinx culture. The discussions broached on Hola Papi! (as well as JP’s personal essays) reflect a specificity that doesn’t sensationalize but personalizes experiences and concerns within the LGBTQ+ community, providing heart and understanding that’s on par with the Dear Sugar columns.

Recommended Reading: “If Public Schools Don’t Survive, Kids Like Me Won’t Either”

(Jenny Zhang)

Jenny Zhang

Cross-genre writer Jenny Zhang gained even more visibility from her Buzzfeed essay “They Pretend to Be Us While Pretending We Don’t Exist,” but Jenny’s been writing fiction, poetry, and essays for a longer duration covering Asian American identity, immigration, art, and dissecting the problematic tropes we see and the people this material truly impacts. Her debut story collection Sour Heart also encompasses similar topics and viewpoints from a more expansive and experimental storytelling style.

Recommended Reading: “The Importance of Angsty Art”

(Keah Brown)

Keah Brown

A recently announced book deal with Atria Books means we have more to look forward to from Keah. She is the creator of the hashtag #DisabledandCute and has been a keen voice in pop culture, disability politics, and dating & relationships. She’s interviewed Roxane Gay and is a vocal fan of The Ellen Show. Keah’s Twitter presence is as welcoming and honest as her writing when it comes to weaving personal anecdotes to break down the ableist nature of representations in the arts while also reflecting on the need for more intersectional discourse.

Recommended Reading: “Disabled and Empowered: Why I’m Championing Strong Black Female Athletes”

(Adrienne Keene)

Dr. Adrienne Keene

Professor and researcher Adrienne Keene maintains the Native Appropriations blog where her discussions and analyses don’t solely focus on Native American erasure. She has also written about misogyny (in light of the Weinstein case), the ongoing effects of colonialism and its inextricability from the American psyche, and cultural appropriation. Adrienne’s work persists to push the conversation forward with a better understanding of the numerous issues Native/Indigenous communities face while dissecting it with a factual approach.

Recommended Reading: “Why Tonto Matters”

9 Essayists of Color You Should Know About was originally published in Electric Literature on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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18 hours ago
Washington DC
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Viewer Beware: We Need More LGBTQ TV Role Models for Kids

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By Erik McIntosh Disney introduced for the first time a storyline for a gay character on the fan favorite tween TV show, Andi Mack. Not everyone is happy. One Million Moms recently released a warning to parents, saying Disney has abandoned its “family-friendly entertainment” and sacrificed “children’s innocence.” Rev. Franklin Graham stated Andi Mack was […]

The post Viewer Beware: We Need More LGBTQ TV Role Models for Kids appeared first on BLARB.

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2 days ago
Washington DC
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Surviving Our Questions

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we learn from those who help us survive our questions by inviting us into their own

— from Gila Ashtor, “Two Girls2″




I think maybe my whole life as an academic has revolved around asking questions, or trying to ask the right questions. But, until I read Gila Ashtor’s essay, I don’t think I realized that there is also, always, the question of surviving my questions. I didn’t know that my questions — the ones I wanted to ask and the ones I was afraid to ask and the ones I finally got the guts to ask — were something that I had to live through, endure, move past.

I knew that asking a good question, the right question, could disturb, unsettle, intervene. I worked hard at doing that. I tell my students that they should try to ask good questions. That such questions can make a real mark whether they are posed at the end of a lecture or whether the are the beginning of what will be a doctoral project or book or lifelong intellectual investigation. In this sense, I thought of questions, my good ones anyways, as something unambiguously good. And if they unsettled or disturbed people or fields of study, then good.

But I never stopped to think that such questions exact a cost and demand that a burden be borne. I did not understand that asking a question was also about testing my own ability to survive the act of asking.

I love the turn that Ashtor takes in this densely beautiful essay on relationality, Mary Gaitskill’s novel Two Girls, Fat and Thin, and Lauren Berlant’s essay on that novel, queer affect, pedagogy, and so much else. It is a turn that finds solace in a kind of doubled questioning: we survive our questions by learning from those who invite us into their own. Surviving our questions is all about finding a way into the questions of others. And those others need to be generous enough to invite us into their own questions.

Reading Ashtor somewhat out of context, I have been thinking about how to survive the questions that have been unleashed in the wake of the deeply complex waves of recognition and sadness and awfulness and solidarity that is #metoo and everything that came before and everything that will come.

What now? You too? Can we say the names? Are you scared? How can we stop being scared? When do I stop being so enraged and exhausted?

Who will invite us into their questions so that we can learn how to survive these questions? I thought a lot about this and, because I work in an institutional context, I immediately thought about feminist leaders, senior academic allies, women who will know stuff. But then I realized, yes, them (and how lucky we are to have them), BUT also: us. We have turn, more than ever, to each other. We have to invite each other into our questions.

And it is going to be hard and we will only survive if we can find what is transformable and be ourselves transformed:

To the extent that “history” is not only what “hurts,” it is also in no small part a result of whom we meet and what, because of who they are, we find transformable, and transformed, about ourselves. (Ashtor)

Let’s keep asking our questions and do it knowing that we can survive them because we have to keep inviting each other in.

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6 days ago
Washington DC
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'Chan Is Missing' star Wood Moy dies at 99

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He played the cab driver in Wayne Wang's acclaimed indie film 'Chan Is Missing.'

From The Hollywood Reporter: Wood Moy, who starred as the cab driver in the acclaimed Wayne Wang noir film Chan Is Missing (1982), died November 8, his family announced. He was 99.

Moy portrayed Jo, who is out to buy a taxi license with his nephew, Steve (Marc Hayashi). When Steve's friend Chan disappears with the cash they need to purchase their license, he and his uncle become amateur detectives as they set about San Francisco's Chinatown trying to locate the missing man and their money.

The low-budget, black-and-white Chan Is Missing, believed to be the first Asian American indie film, was named for inclusion into the Library of Congress' National Film Registry in 1995 for its cultural, historical or aesthetic significance.

More here: Wood Moy, Star of 'Chan Is Missing,' Dies at 99
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14 days ago
Washington DC
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The Only Thing Better Than Dostoevsky is Pumpkin Spice Dostoevsky

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Can anything improve on great Russian literature? You’re damn right something can

After a long weird summer, it’s finally, finally fall—season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, season of lying on the floor crying because the sun set at 6 p.m., season of Halloween candy and decorative gourds and that dancing jack o’lantern guy. And most importantly, season of pumpkin spice.

Oh, you think pumpkin spice is basic? Well, tell that to prominent Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky! (You can’t. He’s dead, which is also very seasonally appropriate.) Snuggle up in a cozy sweater and enjoy these classics made more autumnal, more nutmeg-scented, and somehow even whiter than before.

Crime and Pumpkin Spice

Before committing his crime, Raskolnikov believes that murder is permissible; afterwards, he comes to believe that murder is monstrous. But what happens when he believes that murder is delicious?

Notes from Underground and The Double Pumpkin Spice Latte

Are you capable of enjoying a cup of tea with sugar in it? Then imagine how much more you’ll enjoy a double pumpkin spice latte.

Poor Folk Without Pumpkin Spice

In Dostoevsky’s first pumpkin spice novel, two cousins mail a Starbucks punch card back and forth and discuss whether they can afford to buy pumpkin spice Pop Tarts at Trader Joe’s.

The Gambler and Nasty Business and Pumpkin Spice

The man wrote a lot of novellas. It’s fine. We can’t all write War and Peace. Anyway, there’s jamming two novellas into one book and then there’s jamming two novellas into one book with a swirl of pumpkin spice and we know which one’s better.

White Nights of Pumpkin Spice

A short story about unrequited love that can only be soothed by eating a dozen pumpkin spice Milanos.

A Raw Youth (Now in Pumpkin Spice)

A son rebels against his father by scolding the old man that “actually, there’s no pumpkin in so-called ‘pumpkin spice’ flavoring.”

The Brothers Karamazov (Autumn Edition)

Mitya, Vanya, and Alyosha put on light jackets.

Pumpkin Spice Notes from the House of the Dead

A personal memoir of the grueling and inhumane conditions in Siberian labor camps, but with pumpkin spice notes.

Pumpkin Spice Demons

An unassuming town becomes the nexus for a pumpkin spice revolution.

The Orange Idiot

It’s Dostoevsky’s epic novel about a good, kind, compassionate leader, but with pumpkin spice. What did you think it was?

The Only Thing Better Than Dostoevsky is Pumpkin Spice Dostoevsky was originally published in Electric Literature on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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42 days ago
Washington DC
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In the Classroom: Good White Teaching

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Many of us good white teachers have been in the profession for a long, long time. We’ve stayed in it because we love teaching and feel we are good at it. Our identities are wrapped tightly up in this. And now we are having to rethink who we are professionally as we navigate difficult and necessary conversations and situations in our classrooms involving race. While we veteran white teachers may have successfully resolved conflicts, dealt with festering situations of non-race-based social aggression, and led sound social emotional learning activities with our classes, these experiences may very well not be models for us as we engage in work with our classes on race.

While I have been teaching about Sierra Leone, about the Transatlantic Slave Trade, about Civil Rights, and more for a very long time I have not done nearly enough of direct and frank work with my 4th graders and race. But I have to and I will even though it feels challenging and –hardest of all — one that I’m not going to do well. Something I will probably fail at and have to try to do better the next time. And that last is probably the toughest of all for me, a teacher in her fourth decade as a classroom teacher. To fail in this sort of thing is difficult and disturbing. And I say this because I suspect that is the case for many of my older white teacher colleagues. We are so proud of our work as teachers, our reputations as smart and caring, and we are doing the work to be better when considering race. But in our own classrooms? Changing what we do there is probably way harder.

We tell our students that taking risks is good. That they need to be ready to fail and try again. But are we veteran good white teachers doing that when it comes to race conversations? We need to be prepared for that. We are not experienced in this at all, at all. We are no better and probably worse than those just entering the profession. We need to do all the learning we can, we need to take advantage of POCs around us who are interested in helping us, do a whole lot of listening, read, go to workshops and the like, and we need to try, understand where things went poorly, and try again.

We veteran white teachers still dominate our country’s classrooms even though the children in them are more and more POCs. Considering how to acknowledge this and have necessary conversations from kindergarten to twelfth grade is something we must do. But we also have to be aware of ourselves and that we need to not assume we know how to do this as well as we do so much else.

Avoidance is not an option. Failing and picking yourself up, thinking about what went wrong, doing more listening and learning, and trying again is.

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58 days ago
Washington DC
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