Confession: I haven’t read The Canon

Yes, I hold a BA in English but haven’t read much of “the canon”. One of the things about not coming from a very literate family, culture or class is that I wasn’t read to much growing up, and most of what was read to me was written in short form (published in the newspaper…

Race and politics: A race to the bottom in NH

Race and politics: A race to the bottom in NH Some of my good friends call me “Wholesome” and I don’t complain. There’s no secret that I idealize my small-town New Hampshire upbringing, where the farm, the woods, and the baseball field were my primary occupations after school. Eating porridge around the breakfast table as…

Just another day in (post-apartheid?) South Africa…

Julia is her “good name”. The name she gives to white people. It’s how she introduces herself to us, half out of breath, as she runs up and climbs into the cramped back seat of our car to catch a lift over the mountain and to the next town. When she sees Sindiso, she smiles…

Is it because I’m white?

Not long ago, I received a call from a man inviting me to give a talk at a conference. As friends can no doubt attest, I have a healthy dose of pride and don’t mind being asked to speak in public. So I was happy to receive his call. Trouble was, I really had no…

I love you, you’re perfect, now where’s your PhD?

Athol Fugard (b. 1932) was a man ahead of his time. The celebrated South African playwright and novelist (of Tsotsi, among many others) had the balls to take on such testy topics as institutionalized racism, township violence, and the color line in daily life–different sides of the same bitter coin in apartheid South Africa. And…

To come from such a place…

Last weekend, I witnessed a young man from the most unlikely of backgrounds being awarded a Rhodes Scholarship – a harbinger of radical change in his story. It moved me, almost to tears, and reminded me of the power that that single moment (building on many prior moments of ever-increasingly revealed significance) had had in…