White guy shares his advice on diversifying a CW syllabus


At least he’s trying? It’s certainly a thing all us colonial, white, straight, cis, etc., men who teach writing should be thinking about. It’s very fraught, though. I would need to do a lot of reading, and have friends to advise me. I find it much easier to include BIPOC poets on my list than prose writers, for sure.

Putting together a reading list for a new creative writing program, I saw an opportunity to diversify and decolonize. As allies to writers of color, we white guys can tackle the privilege of “longform patriarchs,” as Bernardine Evaristo calls them. A reading list is part of that work, but not the whole story—often, it won’t be assimilated by white colleagues crying identity politics. My hope, though, is that when a person of color learns from a writer who looks like her, it makes her desired writing career more possible. And for white writers, it shows us we exist in a panoply of talent. We need not simply read black, indigenous, non-cisgendered writers, but learn from them. Let’s change the names we go to as a matter of course. Not McKee, but Shawl. Not King, but Unigwe. Not for ally points, but in order to write better.

There aren’t as many as there should be, no doubt due to publishing’s bias toward whiteness. These books below are some of those I’ve come to draw upon in asking who gets to produce knowledge, to direct how we learn the craft. Let’s make some room on the shelf for these and others that, hopefully, will follow them.

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