Essential Reading


At this critical juncture of reckoning and change, as we look inward and ask ourselves and each other the difficult and necessary questions regarding racism, oppression, and injustice, we turn to the stories, poems, and essays that are, as ever, our incandescent guides. Here, with each of you, we revisit the work of Narrative writers whose art informs, inspires, questions, dissents, and calls us into action.

You Remember the Pin Mill
A Story by David Bradley
In Raystown, you never stand for just you.


The Tradition
A Poem by Jericho Brown
John Crawford. Eric Garner. Mike Brown.


won’t you celebrate with me
A Poem by Lucille Clifton
what did i see to be except myself?


Avoiding the Spirits
A Poem by Kwame Dawes
He is alone on the road, and all he’s got is his story.


By Land
A Poem by Tyree Daye
The road we kissed on is gone, rich folks buying up the city.


Sambo, or: The Last of the Gibson Girls
A Story by Rita Dove
Chile, don’t you recognize an insult when you see one?


A Journey along the Atlantic Slave Route
An essay by Saidiya Hartman
Black lives are still imperiled and devalued.


John Redding Goes to Sea
A Story by Zora Neale Hurston
John Redding grew to manhood, studying and dreaming.


Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
Excerpts from a novel by Harriet Jacobs
Strange incongruity in a State called free!


The Story of a Scar
A Story by James Alan McPherson
“An accident of passion,” I told her.


Hysterical Strength
A Poem by Nicole Sealey
Black people—the strength we must possess to survive.


If America Doesn’t Want You Dead
A Poem by Danez Smith
I’m alive & somebody mad about it.


Prayer on the Subdivision
A Poem by Marcus Wicker
Guilt by association at the homeowners’ meeting.