In our workshop, we will explore the advantages of writing from the standpoint of some aspect of Race. That is, we will see how looking at a character in relation to her/his ethnic group lends the possibility for a rich and nuanced exploration of themes such as community, class, family, gender, sexuality, and history. So it is that we want to give thought to ways that we can work through the concrete particulars of experience, time, and place to show the full range of a personality and the varieties of being. As we will discover, playing with language and form is one device that can prove useful to writers who come from a marginalized group. Towards that end, we will do close readings of a wide sampling of representative texts by such authors as Edward P. Jones, Tiphanie Yanique, Jamaica Kincaid, Junot Diaz, Marlon James, Gayl Jones, Mitchell S. Jackson, and John Edgar Wideman, along with lesser known but equally important authors. The readings will serve as the basis for exercises that will generate new work. We will also critique one piece of your work that you bring from home. The class welcomes writers at all levels and work at all stages.
Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Virginia, Jeffery Renard Allen is the author of five books, including the novel Song of the Shank, which is loosely based on the life of Blind Tom, a nineteenth century African American piano virtuoso and composer who was the first African American to perform at The White House. The novel was featured as the front-page review of both The New York Times Book Review and The San Francisco Chronicle. It won the CLMP Firecracker Award, was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award, and was also nominated for the Dublin Literary Prize. Allen is the author of two other works of fiction, the novel Rails Under My Back, which won the Chicago Tribune’s Heartland Prize for Fiction, and the short story collection Holding Pattern, which won The Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence. Allen’s other honors include the Chicago Public Library’s 21st Century Award, a Whiting Writers’ Award, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He was a fellow at New York Public Library’s Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers and a resident at the Bellagio Center. His website is www.jefferyrenardallen.com.