Link Gems

(Link Gems is a supposed-to-be weekly round-up of interesting articles and essays from around the web).

Here, then, is the last round-up of 2011:

I know women like Nafissatou Diallo. Women who, like me, are West African but, unlike me, do not have the privilege of education or a middle-class upbringing. On television, she was familiar: the skin tone that suggested cheap bleaching creams, the ambitious hair weave, the melodrama. An American friend of mine thought her interview too theatrical and therefore unbelievable. Instead, I saw a woman speaking a non-native language, and so compensating with gestures; a woman both grateful and intimidated to finally tell her story; a woman whose way of looking at the world is vastly different from that of most of her viewers. Diallo comes from a place where melodrama is not unusual, and often suggests truth as much as lies.

But those first two paragraphs can’t and shouldn’t be ignored. Dove rightly takes her to task for this, effectively unpacking the implications of, for example, dismissing minority writers as being of merely “sociological” interest; suggesting that such writers tend to be valued for their “representative themes,” whereas the major white writers Vendler lists are supposedly notable for their “style;” and asserting that they write poems because they “wouldn’t be able to take on the long-term commitment of a novel.”

My father says I should use a pseudonym. “They won’t publish you if they see your name. They’ll know you’re not one of them. They’ll know you’re one of us.” This has never occurred to me, at least not in a serious way. “No publisher in America’s going to reject my poems because I have a foreign name,” I reply. “Not in 2002.” I argue, “These are educated people. My name won’t be any impediment.” Yet in spite of my faith in the egalitarian attitude of editors and the anonymity of book contests, I understand my father’s angle on the issue.


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