Many scholars, teachers, and readers mourned the death of author and activist bell hooks. I first read bell hooks’ work in a graduate course. We were fortunate to be assigned an excerpt from Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom, which informs much of my teaching to this day.
With all of the recent events including the country’s reckoning with Black killings, the pandemic, and the anti-Asian racism that followed, I found myself thinking a lot about bell hooks and very generous and forthright approach to compassion.
I began reflecting on this in a form of an op-ed for my work with the Public Voices Fellowship (more info here). But then I got an e-mail from Dr. Ayesha Hardison, one of our fearless leaders of our NEH Institute workshop, Hurston on the Horizon. She invited everyone to submit writings for a special issue of Women, Gender, and Families of Color entitled “Honoring bell hooks’s Legacy: Humanist, Feminist, Public Intellectual, Social Critic, and Educator.” It was nice to have the opportunity to think more deeply about hooks’s thoughts on compassion in the company of fellow scholars, readers, and fans. We even had a kickoff on Zoom to celebrate the issue’s completion.
The special issue’s guest editors Cécile Accilien, Manisha Desai, and Luz María Gordillo also serve as members of the journal’s editorial board. In place of a traditional preface, they created a trailer of their conversation about the issue. You can view it here:
Just before it was published, I was able to give a talk on it for one of my favorite organizations, The Circle of Asian American Literary Studies (or CAALS); I do a brief recap of that talk at this link.
A bit later on January 2022, I got some still-amazing-to-me news: Novel Subjects won the Midwest Modern Language Association Book Award.
Most recently, I gave a #USSOBookHour talk about Novel Subjects to US Studies Online, an organization that bills itself as “the Postgraduate and Early Career Researcher webspace of the British Association for American Studies (BAAS).”
My first experience with this organization was way back in 2015, when I was still a graduate student UNCG. My advisor and mentor, the great Dr. María Carla Sánchez, was (and remains) very actively involved in the Society for the Study of American Women Writers (SSAWW). She encouraged me to write a short article for this thing they were doing–a series of articles they were doing in collaboration with US Studies Online. From that resulted one of my first online articles, “(In)Visibility, Race, and Ethnicity in American Women’s Writing throughout the Twentieth Century.” (I remain proud of the fact that it sports a picture of Mindy Kaling and a book by Gina Apostol.)
A few months later, US Studies Online invited me to lead a USSO Book Hour. Back then, these events were public, moderated book-group-style discussions. I definitely dealt with imposter syndrome while leading an online discussion about Toni Morrison’s novel God Help the Child along with Justine Baillie, Michelle Green, and Susan N. Mayberry, but it was a lot of fun.
I ended up talking about Morrison’s novel again in my talk last week. In the current format of USSOBookHour, a scholar gives a talk about their book, and then takes questions from attendees. Organizer Aija Oksman from The University of Edinburgh informed me that a number of the early career and graduate student attendees wanted to know about how Novel Subjects went from dissertation-to-book, so I included that in my talk as well. You can find more about the event at the below link, and a recording below
In this episode of Code Switch from NPR, the amazing historian Erika Lee (author of The Making of Asian America: A History) breaks down the connections between xenophobia and the coronavirus known as COVID-19. By the way, that’s me speaking in the first 12 seconds of the episode.
Issues of contagion and concealment go hand-in-hand, especially when the contagion involves viruses unseeable by the naked human eye, or what one author who I won’t name referred to as the “the faceless brown mass” of those entering the US from Mexico. Associating contagion with a particular group of people allows some to place blame without taking on responsibility.