The current fraught socio-political climate is motivating nonfiction writers to engage with social issues on the page. The personal has become political, and the political has become personal. In truth, the writer has long played a role as a witness, conscience, and predictor of social change.
In this 4-week class for writers of any level, we will consider the following questions. How do we write compellingly yet responsibly about social issues? How do we write about the world as we’d like it to be without coming across as Pollyanna or propaganda? We will investigate these questions through readings and discussions about work by writers which engage social issues; we’ll also workshop student writing with this critical lens. Each participant will have the opportunity to workshop once, either existing or new work, and will have a 15-minute private consultation with the instructor about their writing.
Some of the topics we’ll cover:
- Motivations for and implications of writing about social issues
- Avoiding sensationalism, stereotypes, and bias
- Relationship between writer, reader, and subject
- Different levels of research
- The context versus the narrative
Writers will leave with more grounding in how to write compellingly about complex social issues with nuance and sensitivity.
- Readings that demonstrate a range of approaches to writing about social issues
- How to assess and traverse the relationships between the writer, reader, and subject
- How to avoid sensationalism and stereotypes but also unconscious bias
- How to balance providing context with telling a compelling story
- Understanding different levels of research and resources that inform a story (ex. sensitivity readers)
*No class November 12th
Kavita Das worked in social change for fifteen years and now focuses on writing about culture, race, feminism, social change, and their intersections. Nominated for a 2016 Pushcart Prize, Kavita’s work has been published in Longreads, The Atlantic, Los Angeles Review of Books, The Washington Post, Kenyon Review, NBC News Asian America, Guernica, Quartz, McSweeney’s, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. Her first book, Poignant Song: The Life and Music of Lakshmi Shankar, is forthcoming from Harper Collins India. Kavita is also at work on a collection of personal essays. Her writing can be found here.
“In her work, Kavita explores themes of identity, gender, politics, race, and culture with probing insight and refreshing candor. Her breadth of experience in both the literary arena and the social change sector makes her a multitalented writing teacher and an exceptionally insightful editor.”
"I’ve been a fan of Kavita Das’s work for years. Both her political and literary practices—if the two can even be separated,—demonstrate a compassionate, sensitive, critical, and rigorous approach to the ways we shape meanings, identities, lives, and communities. I read Kavita to discover new, better ways to think, write, and examine the ways we live. "
"Kavita Das' professional resume speaks volumes to her skill and knowledge base on social justice, but her comprehension is further exemplified, and amplified, in her writing. Anyone who has read Kavita Das' contributions to the larger discussion in national periodicals can see her attention to not only speaking out but also listening, a crucial point in any kind of social justice work. In reading her work and personally witnessing how carefully she analyzes and empathizes with others in various situations both in conversation and in action there's no doubt she's one of the strongest voices on social justice issues as well as a steadfast advocate in all aspects of her life."