Monday Reading: MFA vs. POC, LGBT Bookstores, and a Different Tonks

"Hey, look at that!" "No. I'm writing."

“Hey, look at that!” “No. I’m writing.”

1) Junot Diaz writes in the New Yorker about “MFA vs. POC.” It’s a thought-provoking essay, and I look forward to reading the forthcoming book from which it was condensed (Dismantle: An Anthology from the VONA/Voices Writing Workshop). The story he tells is appalling, if unsurprising. MFA programs are as susceptible to myopia, unexamined privilege, and racism as any nook of academia. I’m glad he made it out alive, and writing. It’s problematic to be in a place where all of the teachers are white and talk about white things without acknowledging the fact that they are talking about whiteness. All well and good, as long as it’s OK to talk about things other than white things, and Diaz argues that he couldn’t.

The essay has some strange flaws, though. He says, for instance, that “[f]rom what I saw the plurality of students and faculty had been educated exclusively in the tradition of writers like William Gaddis, Francine Prose, or Alice Munro—and not at all in the traditions of Toni Morrison, Cherrie Moraga, Maxine Hong-Kingston, Arundhati Roy, Edwidge Danticat, Alice Walker, or Jamaica Kincaid.” I do buy that, but most MFA students take some lit classes along the way, and Morrison et al. take up a chunk of the English Department playing field these days, though the individual size of that chunk varies. I think there are some things beneath the surface of the situation that he didn’t focus on (because they aren’t his concern in the essay) in terms of what life is actually like 20 years later. As to the problem of encountering students and faculty who don’t read what you read, and are fundamentally unsympathetic to your aims… yeah. Sounds familiar.

In this instance, you might want to read the comments. There are all the usual suspects, but it’s actually more of a conversation than you might expect.

2) Steve Berman over at Salon on “The Slow, Tragic, Death of the LGBT Publishing Industry.” Heartbreaking, and pointing to an upcoming gap for readers who want more than David Sedaris or LGBT erotica. Some libraries will have more context, of course, as well as librarians who can point readers in useful directions, though that gets more at the matter of reading what’s already published than the gap in publishing itself. Anyone with a connection at their library might want to try resources like Fiction Connection or NoveList for advice on what to read next.

3) If the only Tonks you know is Nymphadora, check out Rosemary Tonks‘ obituary. A writer whose work I’ll be trying in 3… 2…

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