Friday, March 20, 2015

"Mystery," at The Harlequin

My essay "Mystery," about myself, my father and grandfather, has received lovely treatment at The Harlequin.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Pieces in Waxwing

I am honored to have two excerpts of my memoir, tentatively titled "Faces Bright, Voices Loud: Two Years Teaching in the Mississippi Delta," here today at Waxwing:

"Lessons Learned"

"What Remains"

Friday, December 26, 2014

Memoir to be Published!

My memoir of teaching in the rural black public schools of the Delta will be published in Spring 2016 by University Press of Mississippi.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Student I Couldn't Reach, Going Downhill with my Father

At Salon, I'm proud of this piece, which concerns the teaching I do today, which most often is easy and pleasurable, but which can also touch on the more complicated past of my time teaching in the Delta. Patience is something which cannot really be learned, anymore than experience really makes us impervious to new error and folly-- but this story, which is not about success-- did show me that perhaps doing our best to teach well is all we ever really can manage. The piece can be accessed at Salon here: "The Student I Couldn't Reach."

Over at The Goodmen Project, I have an essay about my father and myself: "Going Downhill with my Father."

Friday, August 29, 2014

Links, Miscellany, Musings

Summer is in full swing. After a most lovely two months in Portland, I am some thirteen thousand words into a new project currently titled "La Boheme Portlandia." The work-- potentially its own manuscript, or at least the particularly ambitious anchor to a book of essays-- concerns modern American society and culture and questions of how one is to realize the good life. In particular, I question our education system and its fairness and pedagogy and inequalities, the values and tendencies of our cultural elite in age of rising income inequality, the aggregate influence and role of the wired internet in our lives, and most especially, how the good life for white upper-class bohemians is dependent on gentrification and marginalization of minority communities. Portland is my case study.

As I note early (and complicate, elaborate on, and refute later):

"The good life has been misunderstood as slow growth, small aspiration, feckless meandering, the long slow circular cycle of craft beer and cheap whiskey and ceaselessly refilled bowls or vaporizers, of blurry nights astride fixed gear bikes flashing sleeves of tattoos and admiring them on others for the duration of time it takes to figure out what one should do when one grows up. La Boheme Portlandia is little different than La Boheme Brooklyn, except for the flashing of designer boots and jeans, hand-tailored from distressed fabric, and the stumble home made to finer, better appointed flats as enabled by trust funds and proximity to wealth. La Boheme America in 2014 is less a seeking of truth as it is a flashing of the cultural pastiche of the last three decades, signs and symbols disassociated from referents, the search for meaning replaced with the affirmation of mere presence. Showing up does not have to mean growing up or attempting anything beyond the trivial; one belongs by adopting the cosmetically acceptable enablers of hedonism. Happiness is realized in putting a bird on it, and so being released from any greater responsibilities or ambitions. Just be happy, man. Smoke a bowl, and cue Netflix. The rest will take care of itself."

Portland in the rearview mirror, I'm now fully into wedding season: four weddings in six weeks. A busy time celebrating the happiness of friends!

Over at The Goodmen Project, my essay, "Why I Hate Bullies," has received beautiful treatment.

Over at Triquarterly, my craft essay, "On Retrospection," recently was featured.

UNSAID 7 has just been released, and I am honored to have my nearly ten thousand word story, "In Every Song," included in the issue.

I am also pleased to announce that two excerpts from my memoir of teaching in the Delta have been placed with Waxwing: my essay "Lessons Learned," and an excerpt of the memoir titled "What Remains." Issue 5 of the journal goes live February 15.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Hope in What Work We Do

My essay, Hope in What Work We Do, just went live over at The Goodmen Project:

As I stood at the dim bar examining the dance floor, prepared to be bored, I thought I recognized a Philipino girl with her hair pulled back with clips, and then thought the same of a black girl with her hair in tight, braided rows. And then I saw the two tall young black men with them, six-foot two or three or four, with their baggy pants and backward ball-caps, standing tall and confident with their arms crossed, the sort of young men who might get the Richard Sherman treatment at first glance for their swaggering, brazen otherness, for the way they took up space and occupied it with crossed arms. I recognized these young men, too—or at least, was pretty sure I’d taught them.

And then the girl with her hair in rows saw me, and smiled, and pointed me out to the group, and the Philipino girl, whose name I couldn’t quite remember, was skipping up and embracing me, asking me how I was doing and did I remember her from freshman year, and all I could recall was that she’d been raised by her maternal grandmother, who had told her to find a better life or else fail trying, which she’d written about in her identity essay; that, and how she, and all of them in this group, had been in a particularly rowdy class, a class of performers and clowns and outspoken, silly, loud, enthusiastic kids who had been particularly difficult and particularly fun in the late afternoon in spring years ago, at least three years ago, or hell, was it four? And by then the two young men made it over, towering over me, holding out their broad hands, which enveloped mine, and one of them, whose hair was braided and hung about his face, who I remembered had been the second in his family to take my class, an African immigrant family out of North Portland, a kid who’d written about how basketball had saved his life, whose older sister had written about how she feared for her brother, who was always getting in with the wrong crowd, seized my hand and took me by the arm and then the shoulder and said, “You were a great teacher. Thank you.”