Q&A with Clinician Turned Novelist, John Vercher ’16MFA

Posted in Articles, Arts, Interviews, Media Archive, United States on 2019-08-18 21:50Z by Steven

Q&A with Clinician Turned Novelist, John Vercher ’16MFA

Southern New Hampshire University

Rebecca LeBoeuf, Staff Writer

John Vercher and the text John Vercher '16MFA, Mountainview Low-Residency MFA in Fiction.

John Vercher ’16MFA didn’t think he had what it takes to make a career out of writing, so he went to school to be a clinician instead. After spending more than a decade feeling unhappy in his role, he decided to revisit his passion for writing.

Since Vercher hadn’t written regularly in a while, he knew going back to school was a smart move. Not only would it immerse him in the discipline and craft again, but it could even result in a publishable book.

And it did. Three years after Vercher graduated from Southern New Hampshire University’s (SNHU) Mountainview Low-Residency MFA program, he published his thesis and debut novel, “Three-Fifths,” out this September…

Read the entire interview here.

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Natasha Díaz on Turning Her Black Jewish Childhood Into a YA Novel

Posted in Articles, Interviews, Judaism, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2019-08-15 17:41Z by Steven

Natasha Díaz on Turning Her Black Jewish Childhood Into a YA Novel


Emily Burack, Associate Editor

Natasha Díaz was 9 years old when she and her mom went on Oprah to talk about the experience of being a multiracial family. Díaz, who has a Jewish father and a Liberian and Brazilian mom, had recently been featured in a documentary called Between Black & White. When Oprah asked her a question, young Natasha froze up (you can watch the video here).

Well, she is freezing up no longer — Díaz’s debut YA novel, Color Me In, fictionalizes her childhood and tells the coming-of-age story of Navaeh Levitz. Navaeh is a Black Jewish teenager whose father forces her to have a belated bat mitzvah at age 16. Navaeh’s parents are in the midst of a divorce, and the bat mitzvah is her father’s way of having her stay connected to his family. Meanwhile, Navaeh is struggling to figure out her identity, her relationship to her blackness, her privilege, a blossoming relationship, and her family. It’s a compelling and timely read.

We had the chance to chat with Díaz about writing Color Me In, #OwnVoices in young adult literature, and connecting with her Jewish identity.

How close does the protagonist Naveah’s experience as a Black Jewish teenager mirror your own?

I would say in a lot of ways it’s similar, and in a lot of ways it’s very different.

We have very similar backgrounds, racially and religiously. I am multiracial, she’s biracial. I’m Brazilian, Liberian, and Jewish, where she’s just half-Black and half-Jewish. And my parents separated, similar to her, although mine separated when I was much younger than she was. And, as a result of my parents’ divorce, it was literally in the divorce papers that I had to be raised Jewish.

Aside from that, I would say we’re completely different. I was raised very immersed in my culture, especially on my mom’s side, which is where the Black and Brazilian side is. My parents had split custody [over me], so I spent time with both families, but I’m closer to my mom’s family because a lot of my dad’s family doesn’t live in New York City. Where Naveah was sheltered from her identity, I was very immersed in mine.

It doesn’t mean that we haven’t, at times, shared a lot of the same insecurities, like feeling you don’t really fit in in either world, or you’re not really sure what part of yourself you have a right to claim or own. I’ve never had an extremely religious connection to Judaism. Culturally, though, especially growing up in New York City, there’s a lot of Jewish cultural things that I connect to on a personal level…

Read the entire interview here.

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Makaya McCraven Isn’t Interested in Saving Jazz

Posted in Articles, Arts, Interviews, Media Archive, United States on 2019-08-11 02:01Z by Steven

Makaya McCraven Isn’t Interested in Saving Jazz

Rolling Stone

Natalie Weiner, Reporter

Makaya McCraven in Chicago in October.
Makaya McCraven in Chicago in October.
Lyndon French for RollingStone.com

Chicago-based drummer and bandleader on how he’s marrying the energy of intimate club performances with 21st-century electronic thinking

“‘Is jazz dead?’ is a stupid question,” says drummer and bandleader Makaya McCraven over beers at a Lower East Side bar that is, fittingly, playing a selection of 1930s and ’40s-era jazz cuts. “If you have to ask the same question for 50 years, it becomes a rhetorical question. When did it die?”

Those who know McCraven’s work would likely reach a similar conclusion. Critically acclaimed releases like In the Moment (2015) and Highly Rare (2017) — both made up entirely of live material — put the heat and vitality of an intimate jazz club into a distinctly 21st century mode of brainy beat music, edited down to their searching, abstract highlights. They gave McCraven the kind of jazz-vanguard cred also recently assigned to artists like Robert Glasper, Kamasi Washington and Shabaka Hutchings, all of whom have earned some degree of crossover success over the past decade thanks in part to their ability to tap into hip-hop and R&B audiences. Despite the fact that these artists emerged at different times and with different aesthetics, each has been presented as the face of a jazz “revival” or “resurgence” — a necessary spark to an otherwise moribund genre. But McCraven, 35, would prefer that listeners don’t call it a comeback…

..In many ways, global jazz culture is the story of McCraven’s life. His father, jazz drummer Stephen McCraven — a Connecticut native who was mentored by avant-gardists Marion Brown, Archie Shepp, Yusef Lateef and Sam Rivers — and his mother, Hungarian folk singer Ágnes Zsigmondi, met in Paris, where McCraven was born. The family later moved to Amherst, Massachusetts, finding an intimate artistic community in the college town…

Read the entire interview here.

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Is ‘Race Science’ Making A Comeback?

Posted in Articles, Audio, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Interviews, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2019-07-16 00:43Z by Steven

Is ‘Race Science’ Making A Comeback?

Code Switch: Race and Identity Remixed
National Public Radio

Shereen Marisol Meraji, Host/Correspondent

Gene Demby, Lead Blogger

Jess Kung, Intern

Angela Saini, author of Superior: The Return of Race Science.
Henrietta Garden

When Angela Saini was 10 years old, her family moved from what she called “a very multicultural area” in East London to the almost exclusively white Southeast London. Suddenly her brown skin stood out, making her a target. She couldn’t avoid the harassment coming from two boys who lived around the corner. One day, they pelted her and her sister with rocks. She remembers one hit her on the head. She remembers bleeding.

There had been racist comments before that, she says, “but that was the first time that someone around my own age had decided to physically hurt me. And it was tough.”

It was also one of the first stories she reported, writing about the incident and reading it out for class. She says that’s what made her a journalist.

Saini is now an award-winning science journalist, often reporting on the intersection of science, race and gender. Her latest book, Superior: The Return of Race Science, tracks the history and ideology of race science up to its current resurgence…

Read the story here. Download the story (00:22:14) here.

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Chinyere K. Osuji

Posted in Anthropology, Audio, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Family/Parenting, Interviews, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2019-07-12 12:09Z by Steven

Chinyere K. Osuji

New Books Network

Reighan Gillam, Host and Assistant Professor of Anthropology
University of Southern California

Chinyere K. Osuji, Boundaries of Love: Interracial Marriage and the Meaning of Race (New York: New York University Press, 2019)

The increasing presence of interracial relationships is often read as an antidote to racism or as an indicator of the decreasing significance of race. In her book, Boundaries of Love: Interracial Marriage and the Meaning of Race (NYU Press, 2019), Chinyere K. Osuji examines how interracial couples push against, navigate, and often maintain racial boundaries. In-depth interviews with black-white couples in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Los Angeles demonstrate how couples negotiate racial difference with their spouses, within their families, and during public encounters. This comparative study of interracial couples in Brazil and in the United States shows just how race can be constructed differently, while racial hierarchies persist. This book would be of interest to those in fields such as racial and ethnic studies, family and kinship studies, gender studies, and Latin American studies.

Listen to the interview (00:52:56) here. Download the interview here.

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How this theoretical physicist is advocating for women of colour in STEM

Posted in Articles, Gay & Lesbian, Interviews, Media Archive, Videos, Women on 2019-07-11 19:17Z by Steven

How this theoretical physicist is advocating for women of colour in STEM

Toronto, Canada

Carla Lucchetta

Nam Kiwanuka and Chanda Prescod-Weinstein
Nam Kiwanuka interviews theoretical physicist Chanda Prescod-Weinstein

Chanda Prescod-Weinstein talks to The Agenda in the Summer about her identity as a queer Black woman, the importance of mentorship, and why advocacy is a vital component of her work

What makes a person dream of becoming a theoretical physicist? In Chanda Prescod-Weinstein’s case, it was growing up with activist parents. Her mother, Margaret Prescod, has headed up various advocacy groups, including International Black Women for Wages for Housework, and is the host and producer of Sojourner Truth, a public-affairs radio show in Los Angeles. Her father, Sam Weinstein, is a labour organizer.

As she tells Nam Kiwanuka on The Agenda in the Summer, “I spent my entire childhood being confronted with things that weren’t going right in the world and things that needed to be better about the world. And I think part of what was attractive to me about doing cosmology and particle physics was here was a thing that was beyond these human concerns … something that was bigger than all of us but interested all of us. Where do we come from: Why are we here? These really big esoteric questions.”

a couple and their child
Chanda at age four with her parents Sam Weinstein and Margaret Prescod
​​​​​​​(Los Angeles Times/ucla.edu)

Now a physics professor at the University of New Hampshire, Chanda Prescod-Weinstein has conducted research on such topics as axions, dark matter, and quantum fields. She’s also an advocate for Black women, and LGBTQ people in STEM

Read the entire article here.

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Biologically, We Are All Far More Alike Than Different

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Interviews, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy on 2019-06-06 14:59Z by Steven

Biologically, We Are All Far More Alike Than Different

Beacon Broadside: A Project of Beacon Press
Boston, Massachusetts

Christian Coleman, Associate Digital Marketing Manager

A Q&A with Angela Saini

Why are we seeing a resurgence of race science in the twenty-first century? Weren’t we supposed to be over this after World War II? The notion of “race” has been debunked in the world of science and is understood to be a social construct, but the idea of research-based racial differences is still with us—and has been with us since The Enlightenment. Science journalist Angela Saini tells this disturbing history in Superior: The Return of Race Science. Our blog editor Christian Coleman caught up with her to ask her about her book, the inspiration for it, and how to recognize the subtle signs of race science today.

Christian Coleman: Tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind writing Superior.

Angela Saini: For me, this is a book that has been bubbling since I was a child. I became a journalist in the first place because I became involved in antiracism movements at university while studying Engineering. But the time for this book was now, with the rise of the far-right and ethnic nationalism around the world. I wanted to put the rise of intellectual racism in historical and scientific context…

CC: What are some subtle examples of how we buy into the belief of biological racial differences today?

AS: I think it happens most clearly in medicine and DNA ancestry testing. When doctors tell us that certain groups are more susceptible to certain illnesses, without making clear that this may sometimes just be for cultural or socioeconomic reasons, it suggests we are biologically different. When firms say they can tell us where we are from by analysing our spit, without explaining how they do this or what it actually means, they also reinforce the idea of biological race…

Read the entire interview here.

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The Singular Power of Writing: A Conversation with Thomas Chatterton Williams

Posted in Articles, Interviews, Media Archive on 2019-06-04 19:50Z by Steven

The Singular Power of Writing: A Conversation with Thomas Chatterton Williams

Los Angeles Review of Books

Otis Houston
Portland, Oregon

Otis Houston interviews Thomas Chatterton Williams

THOMAS CHATTERTON WILLIAMS is the author of Losing My Cool, a memoir chronicling his experiences growing up in New Jersey as the son of a black father and a white mother and constructing an identity in the space between his love for hip-hop and for literature. His new book, Self-Portrait in Black and White: Unlearning Race, forthcoming from Norton in October, explores a further complication in the author’s already fraught self-conception, and the often-contradictory ways in which society views and reifies racial categorization.

The author spoke to me by Skype from his home in Paris, France, where he lives with his wife and two children.

OTIS HOUSTON: You’ve been critical of the ways in which writers conceptualize their identity on the page, and about different ways of thinking about identity in relation to society. I thought we could start by talking about some of these themes in your upcoming book, Self-Portrait in Black and White: Unlearning Race, which questions some of the metrics by which we understand race in the 21st century.

THOMAS CHATTERTON WILLIAMS: The book started for me in 2013 when my daughter, Marlow, was born. Prior to that, in 2012, I had written an op-ed in The New York Times kind of glibly and really confidently making the case that my kids would be black no matter what they looked like because it’s a kind of political stance more than a genetic identity.

My wife is French and she’s white, and it occurred to me that perhaps our kids would be kind of white-looking. But the reality of our daughter’s birth really struck me, and I realized that I couldn’t just send her out into the world with this antiquated logic of hypo-descent, which is really the slave master’s logic and reinforces some really bad stuff if you think about it for a minute, even though it has allowed the black community to have a lot of solidarity when they needed it.

We had this very Scandinavian-looking child, and for the first time in my life what I now call the fiction of race was thrust into my consciousness. It’s an experience that most people, black or white, don’t have to have because most people don’t live on the racial margins and don’t see how ridiculous it is to say something like, “My father is black, and my daughter is white, but they have the same smile.” And my daughter is blond-haired and has blue eyes and white skin, but she’s of 20 percent West African descent. Most people don’t actually have these kinds of contradictions. So, her birth really set me down this path. I wrote an essay about it for the Virginia Quarterly Review called “Black and Blue and Blond” about questioning and reassessing things I’d taken for granted, and Jonathan Franzen was kind enough to include it in the Best American Essays, which he edited in 2016…

Read the entire interview here.

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Do Women Have Superpowers? Gugu Mbatha-Raw Says Yes

Posted in Articles, Arts, Interviews, Media Archive, United States on 2019-06-03 19:18Z by Steven

Do Women Have Superpowers? Gugu Mbatha-Raw Says Yes

The New York Times

Kathryn Shattuck

Emily Berl for The New York Times

When Gugu Mbatha-Raw signed up to be a superhero, little did she know she’d be squaring off against Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and the rest of the Marvel universe.

But two years later, “Fast Color” has found itself in theaters at the same time as “Avengers: Endgame” — and heralded as the antidote to men destroying the world to save it.

“It’s quite an interesting journey that it’s being compared and contrasted to a huge Marvel juggernaut, which was never our intention,” she said. “But I have to say I’m interested in the conversation. I haven’t always seen myself represented in those kinds of movies, as a lot of people haven’t.”

Mbatha-Raw is herself a fighter: In 2014, she broke through with Amma Asante’sBelle,” about the mixed-race daughter of an 18th-century British naval captain raised among the white aristocracy — a role she pursued for eight years. Months later, she transformed herself into a flailing pop superstar who divines peace through the music of Nina Simone in Gina Prince-Bythewood’sBeyond the Lights.”…

Read the entire interview here.

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Black, White and Red All Over: Genevieve Gaignard

Posted in Articles, Arts, Interviews, Media Archive, United States on 2019-06-02 00:39Z by Steven

Black, White and Red All Over: Genevieve Gaignard

Musée: Vanguard of Photography Culture

Ashley Yu

Genevieve Gaignard This American Beauty , 2019. Vintage magazine cutouts, clear acrylic, on panel, 48 x 36 x 2.5 in. (121.9 x 91.4 x 6.3 cm). Courtesy the artist and Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago.
Genevieve Gaignard
This American Beauty, 2019. Vintage magazine cutouts, clear acrylic, on panel, 48 x 36 x 2.5 in. (121.9 x 91.4 x 6.3 cm). Courtesy the artist and Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago.

Genevieve Gaignard’s first solo show “Black White and Red All Over” is currently exhibited at the Monique Meloche Gallery in Chicago from April 5th-May 24th. The exhibition showcases Gaignard’s new body of mixed media artwork and a new site-specific installation. In this exhibition, the artist speaks on the intersecting representational issues of race, femininity and class in modern American society.

Ashley Yu: Why do you use photo collages of magazine cutouts as your medium of choice?

Genevieve Gaignard: I wouldn’t say this is my medium of choice per se. It’s more that I’m an artist that works in various mediums (photography, installation, sculpture and collage) in order to address the topics of gender, class and racial injustice in America. For me, it’s very instinctual to work with magazine images. I grew up collaging my bedroom walls as a teenager. I feel like, in a way, I’m taking from that memory and applying it to my practice…

Ashley: You often refer to the “invisibility” of growing up mixed-race in America. Would you explain that to us?

Genevieve: Sure. My particular experience growing up in a predominately white town and looking white to most people felt like I wasn’t really seen at all…

Read the entire interview here.

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