“Young black fiction writers in the U.S. often face a strange obstacle as they try to figure out who they are — it’s called American literature. A high number of pre-civil-rights-era novels by white American writers are likely to include tossed-off racial slurs and/or stock black characters, some of which make racially conscious readers want to hurl the book across the room, even if the wooly-headed pickaninnies are only peeking around a doorjamb on one page out of 400. There are exceptions, but shockingly few. You always have to brace yourself — always.” James Hannaham writes about growing up in Yonkers but finding himself in Southern literature.
The Millions is thrilled to welcome Kirstin Butler as our new Social Media Manager. Kirstin got her start in books at the Harvard Book Store and has worked on projects for Slate, MTV Networks, and a variety of other outlets. She’s a writer with bylines at places like The Atlantic and The New Republic, and a novel is in the works. Find her online here, and of course, on The Millions‘ feeds.
You’ll have to read this Curiosity to believe it! The surprise bestselling Time-Life series was wildly popular in the late 80s–but why? The answer is a bit less mysterious than one might have hoped. As a consolation, here’s a related essay from The Millions on conspiracy literature.
“[Emily] Dickinson is often portrayed as some white gossamer recluse, completely divorced from the world outside her bedroom—but that is not really true. The physical circumference of her adult life was small, but its psychological terrain was boundless.” This piece explores the ways in which Emily Dickinson’s work was shaped by her skills as a gardener and naturalist.
Remember that story you were going to write about your neighbor’s dog but never did? When you’re a writer, you have to know when to ditch both the bad and good ideas. At The Atlantic, Bob Brody laments all the stories he’ll never write and concludes: “It’s taken me a long time to learn this—that sometimes the best course of action is inaction.”