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For Editors Ana-Maurine Lara and drea brown, ‘Teaching Black’ Is a Love Letter
Ruth Joffre interviews Ana-Maurine Lara and drea brown about their anthology ‘Teaching Black,’ the process of putting the book together, and what it means to be in conversation with authors included in its pages.
Teaching Black: The Craft of Teaching on Black Life and Literature
Ruth Joffre: I love hearing about the genesis of projects, so I’ll start by asking what the initial spark of this book was. How did the two of you come together to bring this vision into the world?
Playing in the DarkPoetry for the PeopleThe Norton Anthology of African American Literature
RJ: I first heard about this book from poet Anastacia-Reneé, who gave a talk about anti-racist pedagogy for Hugo House instructors in summer of 2020, and they mentioned that their thinking on this subject would be collected in a book. That was probably a year and a quarter before the book’s publication, which, given publication timelines, was probably already pretty deep into the process of putting this book together. Can you talk about the process and timeline of putting this book together?
Black Poets in America
RJ: When I was reading, I was reminded of the book , the letters of Pat Parker and Audre Lorde. In that book, as the two incredible queer Black writers are talking back and forth, this phrase emerges: “one long conversation.” How their letters and bibliographies all connected to the greater rivers of Black literatures and queer literatures and were not isolated. I had that same feeling when reading , where the book had this intertextual layer of pieces speaking to each other, writers being included early on and then quoted later in other people’s essays. When you were putting together the book, did you think of it in this way, as one long conversation? How did you conceptualize it?
What are some of the threads we are getting from all of these pieces?
RJ: Structurally, this book is broken up into four sections (“The Roux,” “What Is Black? Who’s Afraid?,” “Bearing Witness,” and “Into the Cypher”), each of them with their own organizing principle or logic. Can you talk about how you came to define the sections and how you intended these to work for the reader?
RJ: You include a number of kinds of writing in this book: poems, personal essays, academic essays, hybrid pieces, and more. For me, the experience of reading these different pieces in one book was like a kaleidoscope or a gem, where you get multiple facets and views of the same or similar topics, and that enhances your understanding of each piece in succession. When you were editing the book, why did you choose to include all different genres, and how did you select individual pieces?
RJ: was published a little over a year ago, in December 2021. What has your experience of publishing it been? What has it meant to you to have this conversation expand beyond the pages?
RJ: What’s next for you?
Ruth Joffre is the author of the story collection Night Beast. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Lightspeed, Nightmare, Pleiades, khōréō, The Florida Review Online, Wigleaf, Baffling Magazine, and the anthologies Best Microfiction 2021 & 2022, Unfettered Hexes: Queer Tales of Insatiable Darkness, and Evergreen: Grim Tales & Verses from the Gloomy Northwest. She co-organized the performance series Fight for Our Lives and served as the 2020-2022 Prose Writer-in-Residence at Hugo House. In 2023, she will be a visiting writer at University of Washington Bothell.
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