Essays and Articles

2015Between the World and Me: Black American Motherhood

“Black motherhood is not only relentless, I believe, it also engenders a split-screen view of the world that makes it possible for me to sit in my living room and placidly put together a cupcake jigsaw puzzle while listening to my daughter Isabella’s sweet, soothing voice as she reads to me from Little Women, and at the same time think thoughts that Marmee, the novel’s matriarch, surely never thought, such as: Whoever hurts her, I will destroy.”

2014Useful- American Scholar

“When I’m writing well, it’s because I’m convinced that there is someone out there who can use what I’m offering, that my writing has the potential to make my reader feel less alone.”

2013What Happens Next – Ploughshares, guest edited by Major Jackson

“Not long ago, Mrs. Holtzmann had stood in her doorway with Mrs. Abernathy, the Social Studies teacher, and said in Audrey’s direction: ‘I hope she’s not going to prom with that boy. She’d be better off with one of the retarded kids.’ That boy was Marshall; he was ‘different,’ like Audrey. They were the only black students in the honors classes…”

2013Michelle Obama: Overexposed, or Committed to Women’s Work?

“Michelle Obama faces criticism that she is overexposed in a world where everyone is overexposed. Our public (and some we thought were private) deeds and misdeeds are available for view at any time; the line between past and present seems no longer to exist”

2013 – “Django Unchained” Represents a Triumph of Style and Substance

“For months, I avoided “Django Unchained,” assuming that it would be another big picture history lesson, a sober and handwringing treatment of slavery, like “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” which I teach at the University of Vermont.  But “Django” doesn’t contain solutions to the problem of how we represent this shameful period in American’s past as much as it poses a question: Can a story about slavery also be a story about style?”

2013The Color Purple Continues to Inspire

“I remember the controversy over the book when it came out. I was 16 and dreaming of becoming a writer myself.”

2012 – The Refuge of the Classroom

Notable Essay in Best American Essays 2012, guest edited by David Brooks

“I simply grew up and came to accept the fact that silence was not a refuge, it was just a way of saying nothing.”

2011 – Scar Tissue – American Scholar

Reprinted in “Ten from Ten: Ten Great Essays from the Past Decade of The American Scholar

“When I was stabbed 17 years ago in a New Haven coffee shop, the wounds did not only come from the knife.”

Michelle Obama: The Essence of Cool – Avalon Magazine for Women

“A Google search for ‘Michelle Obama’ yields fifteen million hits.  What does it feel like to scroll through those pages and see headlines that compare you to Marie Antoinette, and images of your face distorted to look like an animal’s?”

2007 – Fired – American Scholar

“On a Saturday morning at 10:00 a.m., Beverly and I planned a trip to Long Island, just us girls, to celebrate my upcoming marriage. By that evening, Beverly and I were no longer friends. But I didn’t know that yet. At 7:00 p.m. I was sure there had been some mistake, some misunderstanding, some bizarre but absolutely explainable crossing of wires—she hadn’t gotten my messages, she had fallen into bed with some new boy, she had been kidnapped. I would continue to turn various scenarios over in my head for the next several months until finally I had to accept the truth—I had been fired.”

2005 – Teaching the N-Word – American Scholar

“Eric is crazy about queer theory. I think it is safe to say that Eve Sedgwick, Judith Butler, and Lee Edelman have changed his life. Every week, he comes to my office to report on the connections he is making between the works of these writers and the books he is reading for the class he is taking with me, African-American autobiography.”


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