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August 8, 2017



Revolutionary Hope:

A Conversation


James Baldwin

and Audre Lorde

The Museum of Contemporary African Diaspora Arts
republished this conversation between iconic Black
thinkers James Baldwin and Audre Lorde on their
Tumblr page. The conversation took place at Hampshire
College in Amherst, MA and was was originally
published in ESSENCE in 1984.
The dialogue reveals
the importance of recognizing that shared racial
histories cannot overshadow the divergent gendered
histories between Black men and women.

JB: One of the dangers of being a Black American is being schizophrenic, and I mean ‘schizophrenic’ in the most literal sense. To be a Black American is in some ways to be born with the desire to be white. It’s a part of the price you pay for being born here, and it affects every Black person. We can go back to Vietnam, we can go back to Korea. We can go back for that matter to the First World War. We can go back to W.E.B. Du Bois – an honorable and beautiful man – who campaigned to persuade Black people to fight in the First World War, saying that if we fight in this war to save this country, our right to citizenship can never, never again be questioned – and who can blame him? He really meant it, and if I’d been there at that moment I would have said so too perhaps. Du Bois believed in the American dream. So did Martin. So did Malcolm. So do I. So do you. That’s why we’re sitting here.

AL: I don’t, honey. I’m sorry, I just can’t let that go past.
Deep, deep, deep down I know that dream was never mine.
And I wept and I cried and I fought and I stormed, but I
just knew it. I was Black. I was female. And I was out –
out – by any construct wherever the power lay. So if I had
to claw myself insane, if I lived I was going to have to do
it alone. Nobody was dreaming about me. Nobody was
even studying me except as something to wipe out.

JB: You are saying you do not exist in the American
dream except as a nightmare.

AL: That’s right. And I knew it every time I opened Jet, too. I knew that every time I opened a Kotex box. I knew that every time I went to school. I knew that every time I opened a prayer book. I knew it, I just knew it.

JB: It is difficult to be born in a place where you are despised and also promised that with endeavor – with this, with that, you know – you can accomplish the impossible. You’re trying to deal with the man, the woman, the child – the child of whichever sex – and he or she and your man or your woman has got to deal with the 24-hour-a-day facts of life in this country. We’re not going to fly off someplace else, you know, we’d better get through whatever that day is and still have each other and still raise children – somehow manage all of that. And this is 24 hours of every day, and you’re surrounded by all of the paraphernalia of safety: If you can strike this bargain here. If you can make sure your armpits are odorless. Curl your hair. Be impeccable. Be all the things that the American public says you should do, right? And you do all those things – and nothing happens really. And what is much worse than that, nothing happens to your child either.

AL: Even worse than the nightmare is the blank. And Black women are the blank. I don’t want to break all this down, then have to stop at the wall of male/female division. When we admit and deal with difference; when we deal with the deep bitterness; when we deal with the horror of even our different nightmares; when we turn them and look at them, it’s like looking at death: hard but possible. If you look at it directly without embracing it, then there is much less that you can ever be made to fear.

JB: I agree.

AL: Well, in the same way when we look at our differences and not allow ourselves to be divided, when we own them and are not divided by them, that is when we will be able to move on. But we haven’t reached square one yet.

JB: I’m not sure of that. I think the Black sense of male and female is much more sophisticated than the western idea. I think that Black men and women are much less easily thrown by the question of gender or sexual preference – all that jazz. At least that is true of my experience.

AL: Yea, but let’s remove ourselves from merely a reactive position – i.e., Black men and women reacting to what’s out there. While we are reacting to what’s out there, we’re also dealing between ourselves – and between ourselves there are power differences that come down…

JB: Oh, yes…

AL: Truly dealing with how we live, recognizing each other’s differences, is something that hasn’t happened…

JB: Differences and samenesses.

AL: Differences and samenesses. But in a crunch, when all our asses are in the sling, it looks like it is easier to deal with the samenesses. When we deal with sameness only, we develop weapons that we use against each other when the differences become apparent. And we wipe each other out – Black men and women can wipe each other out – far more effectively than outsiders do.

JB: That’s true enough.

AL: And our blood is high, our furies are up. I mean, it’s what Black women do to each other, Black men do to each other, and Black people do to each other. We are in the business of wiping each other out in one way or the other – and essentially doing our enemy’s work.

JB: That’s quite true.

AL: We need to acknowledge those power differences between us and see where they lead us. An enormous amount of energy is being taken up with either denying the power differences between Black men and women or fighting over power differences between Black men and women or killing each other off behind them. I’m talking about Black women’s blood flowing in the streets – and how do we get a 14-year-old boy to know I am not the legitimate target of his fury? The boot is on both of our necks. Let’s talk about getting it off. My blood will not wash out your horror. That’s what I’m interested in getting across to adolescent Black boys.

There are little Black girl children having babies. But this is not an immaculate conception, so we’ve got little Black boys who are making babies, too. We have little Black children making little Black children. I want to deal with that so our kids will not have to repeat that waste of themselves.

JB: I hear you – but let me backtrack, for better or worse. You know, for whatever reason and whether it’s wrong or right, for generations men have come into the world, either instinctively knowing or believing or being taught that since they were men they in one way or another had to be responsible for the women and children, which means the universe.

AL: Mm-hm.

JB: I don’t think there’s any way around that.

AL: Any way around that now?

JB: I don’t think there’s any way around that fact.

AL: If we can put people on the moon and we can blow this whole planet up, if we can consider digging 18 inches of radioactive dirt off of the Bikini atolls and somehow finding something to do with it – if we can do that, we as Black cultural workers can somehow begin to turn that stuff around – because there’s nobody anymore buying ‘cave politics’ – ‘Kill the mammoth or else the species is extinct.’ We have moved beyond that. Those little scrubby-ass kids in the sixth grade – I want those Black kids to know that brute force is not a legitimate way of dealing across sex difference. I want to set up some different paradigms.

JB: Yea, but there’s a real difference between the way a man looks at the world…

AL: Yes, yes…

JB: And the way a woman looks at the world. A woman does know much more than a man.

AL: And why? For the same reason Black people know what white people are thinking: because we had to do it for our survival…

JB: All right, all right…

AL: We’re finished being bridges. Don’t you see? It’s not Black women who are shedding Black men’s blood on the street – yet. We’re not cleaving your head open with axes. We’re not shooting you down. We’re saying, “Listen, what’s going on between us is related to what’s going on between us and other people,” but we have to solve our own shit at the same time as we’re protecting our Black asses, because if we don’t, we are wasting energy that we need for joint survival.

JB: I’m not even disagreeing – but if you put the argument in that way, you see, a man has a certain story to tell, too, just because he is a man…

AL: Yes, yes, and it’s vital that I be alive and able to listen to it.

JB: Yes. Because we are the only hope we have. A family quarrel is one thing; a public quarrel is another. And you and I, you know – in the kitchen, with the kids, with each other or in bed – we have a lot to deal with, with each other, but we’ve got to know what we’re dealing with. And there is no way around it. There is no way around it. I’m a man. I am not a woman.

AL: That’s right, that’s right.

JB: No one will turn me into a woman. You’re a woman and you’re not a man. No one will turn you into a man. And we are indispensable for each other, and the children depend on us both.

AL: It’s vital for me to be able to listen to you, to hear what is it that defines you and for you to listen to me, to hear what is it that defines me – because so long as we are operating in that old pattern, it doesn’t serve anybody, and it certainly hasn’t served us.

JB: I know that. What I really think is that neither of us has anything to prove, at least not in the same way, if we weren’t in the North American wilderness. And the inevitable dissension between brother and sister, between man and woman – let’s face it, all those relations which are rooted in love also are involved in this quarrel. Because our real responsibility is to endlessly redefine each other. I cannot live without you, and you cannot live without me – and the children can’t live without us.

AL: But we have to define ourselves for each other. We have to redefine ourselves for each other because no matter what the underpinnings of the distortion are, the fact remains that we have absorbed it. We have all absorbed this sickness and ideas in the same way we absorbed racism. It’s vital that we deal constantly with racism, and with white racism among Black people – that we recognize this as a legitimate area of inquiry. We must also examine the ways that we have absorbed sexism and heterosexism. These are the norms in this dragon we have been born into – and we need to examine these distortions with the same kind of openness and dedication that we examine racism…

JB: You use the word ‘racism’…

AL: The hatred of Black, or color…

JB: – but beneath the word ‘racism’ sleeps the word ‘safety.’ Why is it important to be white or Black?

AL: Why is it important to be a man rather than a woman?

JB: In both cases, it is assumed that it is safer to be white than to be Black. And it’s assumed that it is safer to be a man than to be a woman. These are both masculine assumptions. But those are the assumptions that we’re trying to overcome or to confront…

AL: To confront, yeah. The vulnerability that lies behind
those masculine assumptions is different for me and you,
and we must begin to look at that…

JB: Yes, yes…

AL: And the fury that is engendered in the denial of that vulnerability – we have to break through it because there are children growing up believe that it is legitimate to shed female blood, right? I have to break through it because those boys really think that the sign of their masculinity is impregnating a sixth grader. I have to break through it because of that little sixth-grade girl who believes that the only thing in life she has is what lies between her legs…

JB: Yeah, but we’re not talking now about men and women. We’re talking about a particular society. We’re talking about a particular time and place. You were talking about the shedding of Black blood in the streets, but I don’t understand –

AL: Okay, the cops are killing the men and the men are killing the women. I’m talking about rape. I’m talking about murder.

JB: I’m not disagreeing with you, but I do think you’re barking up the wrong tree. I’m not trying to get the Black man off the hook – or Black women, for that matter – but I am talking about the kingdom in which we live.

AL: Yes, I absolutely agree; the kingdom in which these distortions occur has to be changed.

JB: Something happens to the man who beats up a lady. Something happens to the man who beats up his grandmother. Something happens to the junkie. I know that very well. I walked the streets of Harlem; I grew up there, right? Now you know it is not the Black cat’s fault who sees me and tries to mug me. I got to know that. It’s his responsibility but it’s not his fault. That’s a nuance. UI got to know that it’s not him who is my enemy even when he beats up his grandmother. His grandmother has got to know. I’m trying to say one’s got to see what drove both of us into those streets. We be both from the same track. Do you see what I mean? I’ve come home myself, you know, wanting to beat up anything in sight- but Audre, Audre…

AL: I’m here, I’m here…

JB: I agree with you. I see exactly what you mean and it hurts me at least as much as it hurts you. But how to maneuver oneself past this point – how not to lose him or her who may be in what is in effect occupied territory. That is really what the Black situation is in this country. For the ghetto, all that is lacking is barbed wire, and when you pen people up like animals, the intention is to debase them and you have debased them.

AL: Jimmy, we don’t have an argument

JB: I know we don’t.

AL: But what we do have is a real disagreement about your responsibility not just to me but to my son and to our boys. Your responsibility to him is to get across to him in a way that I never will be able to because he did not come out of my body and has another relationship to me. Your relationship to him as his farther is to tell him I’m not a fit target for his fury.

JB: Okay, okay…

AL: It’s so entrenched in him that it’s part of him as much as his Blackness is.

JB: All right, all right…

AL: I can’t do it. You have to.

JB: All right, I accept – the challenge is there in any case. It never occurred to me that it would be otherwise. That’s absolutely true. I simply want to locate where the danger is…

AL: Yeah, we’re at war…

JB: We are behind the gates of a kingdom which is determined to destroy us.

AL: Yes, exactly so. And I’m interested in seeing that we do not accept terms that will help us destroy each other. And I think one of the ways in which we destroy each other is by being programmed to knee-jerk on our differences. Knee-jerk on sex. Knee-jerk on sexuality…

JB: I don’t quite know what to do about it, but I agree with you. And I understand exactly what you mean. You’re quite right. We get confused with genders – you know, what the western notion of woman is, which is not necessarily what a woman is at all. It’s certainly not the African notion of what a woman is. Or even the European notion of what a woman is. And there’s certainly not standard of masculinity in this country which anybody can respect. Part of the horror of being a Black American is being trapped into being an imitation of an imitation.

AL: I can’t tell you what I wished you would be doing. I can’t redefine masculinity. I can’t redefine Black masculinity certainly. I am in the business of redefining Black womanness. You are in the business of redefining Black masculinity. And I’m saying, ‘Hey, please go on doing it,’ because I don’t know how much longer I can hold this fort, and I really feel that Black women are holding it and we’re beginning to hold it in ways that are making this dialogue less possible.

JB: Really? Why do you say that? I don’t feel that at all. It seems to me you’re blaming the Black man for the trap he’s in.

AL: I’m not blaming the Black man; I’m saying don’t shed my blood. I’m not blaming the Black man. I’m saying if my blood is being shed, at some point I’m gonna have a legitimate reason to take up a knife and cut your damn head off, and I’m not trying to do it.

JB: If you drive a man mad, you’ll turn him into a beast – it has nothing to do with his color.

AL: If you drive a woman insane, she will react like a beast too. There is a larger structure, a society with which we are in total and absolute war. We live in the mouth of a dragon, and we must be able to use each other’s forces to fight it together, because we need each other. I am saying that in our joint battle we have also developed some very real weapons, and when we turn them against each other they are even more bloody, because we know each other in a particular way. When we turn those weapons against each other, the bloodshed is terrible. Even worse, we are doing this in a structure where we are already embattled. I am not denying that. It is a family discussion I’m having now. I’m not laying blame. I do not blame Black men for what they are. I’m asking them to move beyond. I do not blame Black men; what I’m saying is, we have to take a new look at the ways in which we fight our joint oppression because if we don’t, we’re gonna be blowing each other up. We have to begin to redefine the terms of what woman is, what man is, how we relate to each other.

JB: But that demands redefining the terms of the western world…

AL: And both of us have to do it; both of us have to do it…

JB: But you don’t realize that in this republic the only real crime is to be a Black man?

AL: No, I don’t realize that. I realize the only crime is to be Black. I realize the only crime is to be Black, and that includes me too.

JB: A Black man has a prick, they hack it off. A Black man is a ****** when he tries to be a model for his children and he tries to protect his women. That is a principal crime in this republic. And every Black man knows it. And every Black woman pays for it. And every Black child. How can you be so sentimental as to blame the Black man for a situation which has nothing to do with him?

AL: You still haven’t come past blame. I’m not interested
in blame, I’m interested in changing…

JB: May I tell you something? May I tell you
something? I might be wrong or right.

AL: I don’t know – tell me.

JB: Do you know what happens to a man-?

AL: How can I know what happens to a man?

JB: Do you know what happens to a man when he’s ashamed of himself when he can’t find a job? When his socks stink? When he can’t protect anybody? When he can’t do anything? Do you know what happens to a man when he can’t face his children because he’s ashamed of himself? It’s not like being a woman…

AL: No, that’s right. Do you know what happens to a woman who gives birth, who puts that child out there and has to go out and hook to feed it? Do you know what happens to a woman who goes crazy and beats her kids across the room because she’s so full of frustration and anger? Do you know what that is? Do you know what happens to a lesbian who sees her woman and her child beaten on the street while six other guys are holding her? Do you know what that feels like?

JB: Mm-hm.

AL: Well then, in the same way you know how a woman feels, I know how a man feels, because it comes down to human beings being frustrated and distorted because we can’t protect the people we love. So now let’s start –

JB: All right, okay…

AL: – let’s start with that and deal.

Essence Magazine, 1984

Kimberly Foster is the founder and editor of For Harriet. Email or @KimberlyNFoster


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October 14, 2015



Come On Up,


James Baldwin’s Letters to his Brother

David Baldwin with James Baldwin in the 1980s. Photo courtesy of Carole Weinstein.






“What’s happening to we?”
—SZA, “Warm Winds” (2015) 

“Incoherence” was James Baldwin’s favorite word to describe Americans’ chronic inability to apprehend their own experience. One finds it scattered across his works. “Because I am an American writer,” he says in “Notes for a Hypothetical Novel” (1960), “my subject and material has to be a handful of incoherent people in an incoherent country.” The term coded the gap between “one’s image of oneself and what one actually is,” and the failure to connect to the lives of loved ones, neighbors, strangers. Often he laid the word like a lace drape across portraits of puzzlement at that vexed and elastic quantity, an American “we.” In a speech at Kalamazoo College in 1960, he sketched the question beneath the transracial skin of American incoherence: “The question is not what we can do now for the hypothetical Mexican, the hypothetical Negro. The question is what we really want out of life, for ourselves, what we think is real.”

Baldwin’s American “we” has been read to mean white people, and it often does; but close attention shows that his sense of an American collective didn’t obey what he called the “artificial walls” of racial division. In the “The Uses of the Blues” (1964) he rejects those walls: “We came from Europe, we came from Africa, we came from all over the world. We brought whatever was in us from China or from France.” “We are part of each other,” he insisted in the Kalamazoo speech. “What is happening to every Negro in the country at any time is also happening to you. There is no way around this.” To white people this may have read as a warning, but it reads just as well as a challenge to all people grappling with the American myth of the individual. Baldwin knew that the truth about “what one actually is” involves many, a plurality. 

In “Paris Letter: A Question of Identity” (1954), Baldwin argued that one obstacle to our coherence was a distinctively “American simplicity,” which was convinced that the search for the real must involve the “imagination not at all” and led to “a total confusion about the nature of experience.” Our “national self-image” of “hard work and good clean fun and chastity and piety and success . . . leaves out of account, of course, most of the people in the country, and most of the facts of life” and “has almost nothing to do with what or who an American really is.” Beneath this “conqueror image” lie “a great many unadmitted despairs and confusions, and anguish and unadmitted crimes and failures.”

Baldwin implored us to imagine the collision between impersonal questions about “what” one is in history and personal ones about “who” one is in private. Without that collision, history’s so-called factual, “what” questions remain abstract and blunt, while the so-called personal, subjective “who” questions are condemned to be “irrelevant details.” Without this texture behind historical events, he explained in “This Nettle Danger” (1964), “we don’t know what the person—or, perhaps in this context, one should rather say the subject—makes of them, what he sees in them, what he takes from them.” “Without knowing this,” he concludes, “we know nothing, experience being less a matter of what happens than to whom: experience is created out of the effort to create oneself.”   

Apart from his published work over four decades, Baldwin left his own copious and conflicted record of his experience creating himself. Between the late 1940s and the mid-1980s, he carried on an increasingly dense and complex correspondence with his youngest brother, David. Many of these letters survive—some 120 of them, amounting to about 70,000 words. They give an unprecedented picture of his life and work, an epistolary autobiography: they bristle and crackle with the trials, dangers, errors, mistakes, and triumphs of one of the most important literary figures of the twentieth century. Yet, as is the case with all of Baldwin’s correspondence and unpublished materials, they are fiercely protected by Baldwin’s family. Hilton Als wrote in 2001 that “there is one great Baldwin masterpiece waiting to be published, one composed in an atmosphere of focused intimacy, and that is a volume of his letters, letters his family does not want published.” The estate disallows even those few who’ve seen the letters from quoting them.

Baldwin’s correspondence with his youngest brother, David, gives an unprecedented picture of his life and work, an epistolary autobiography.

So it was unusual when, in July 2010, Baldwin’s sister and literary executor, Gloria Karefa-Smart, invited me to her house to discuss my request to read these letters and write about the story they tell. One summer morning in D.C., I found myself walking up to her home, nervous, when I heard her call to me out of the window, “Come on up, sweetheart.” Moments later I stood in front of a table—an altar, really—above which was placed a shimmering portrait of Baldwin done by his first artistic mentor, Beauford Delaney. Below were a few candles and photos of generations of Baldwin’s family. Gloria introduced me: “Family, this is Ed, he’s here because he loves Jimmy’s work.” I can’t remember if she told them that she thought I’d “keep the faith” or if she asked me to promise to keep the faith, but whether it was said out loud or spoken silently by my heart, I do remember promising.

Standing in Gloria’s living room, I thought of Hall’s description of Julia’s house from Baldwin’s final novel, Just Above My Head (1979): “Julia’s den is her secret place—in the biblical sense; and no one enters without being asked. . . It’s a meditation room, says Julia, and that’s not bullshit. You feel a concentrated human passion in the room.” Gloria’s own room reflected the “concentrated human passion” her brother had brought into the world. It is possible that she and I both trusted that more than we trusted each other. 

I had a semester off from teaching in Georgia. I’d proposed to Gloria that I’d live with my in-laws in Maryland, drive down to D.C. and spend a few hours each day reading in this room, taking notes on the letters and whatever else she happened to share with me. Yet when I arrived to plan out the routine, Gloria said it’d be easier if I just took the files home with me. So it was that I walked out carrying folders filled with letters that—I’d learn—much of the intellectual world was clamoring to see. I remember Gloria saying, as I left, “go ahead, I haven’t read them, don’t have the soul-stamina, but you can handle it.”

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Back in Georgia I locked my office door and sorted the letters by decade. Many were undated. Some had a month and date but no year; some had a year and a day, but no date or month. Some referred to private or historical events—a birthday, a protest march, a performance.

I’d read all of Baldwin’s published work, collected and uncollected. In order to cross-reference, I read and reread the major studies. Still, I was unprepared for this intensely private encounter with Baldwin’s experience. His voice on the page can produce a uniquely electrical sense of connection with his reader. Some love it; others recoil from it. Others simply say, “It saved my life.” But encountering the letters was different. I was typing the real-time record of Baldwin’s attempts to save his own life and then risk it again and again by flinging himself into the next work he thought might resonate within and radiate between people. Himself, and his youngest brother, but also people he’d never meet, like me.

When we first began corresponding, I’d mailed Gloria copies of all my books of poems and the one scholarly work I’d done. When we met in person, I remember her intoning, “well, maybe it takes a poet?” Poets amplify nuance and focus on details others pass by. Maybe my sense of the pressure recorded in Baldwin’s letters owed to their turbulent, amplified clarity, the coherence of poetry. Or maybe it was the secrecy, the privacy. Maybe it was the fact that they were written in love, and demonstrate, in ways unlike anything I’d encountered, the active craft of love, between brothers, among family. They’d been held in secrecy by the love of their sister. In them, David was told things in confidence: I haven’t told mama yet so don’t you tell her, his older brother would instruct. A few letters concluded with the thought that it might be best if the pages were promptly burned.

Yet they weren’t, and I typed my way through the decades. I crossed the early ’50s when, living in Switzerland and France on meager fees for essays and articles, Baldwin still avoided sharing with his brother the details of his “private” or “lonely” life. Most of these letters were about nascent successes and money troubles. He told himself he’d gone to Paris to make it as an artist and save his family from poverty, but more than half of these early letters included thanks to David for sending money—cash in carbon paper sent to American Express in Paris—or requests for $20 or $50 more, and quick. In May 1953, with his first novel, Go Tell It On the Mountain, accepted but not yet published and the meager advance spent, he wrote from Paris to say that Time had photographed him; he’d had to borrow money to get to the photographer’s office.

In November 1955, he wrote David from London, broke. His second novel, Giovanni’s Room, was done, unpublished, and viewed as offensive by his agent. Baldwin was thirty-one. David was almost twenty-four. He offered David a way to back off from their intensifying relationship, and, by implication, from the impending controversy over a novel that featured erotic relationships between men. He was no longer the big brother to a boy; they were now both men and, possibly, David wasn’t enamored of him as he had been when he was little. But that didn’t happen. The two would grow closer throughout the decades until Baldwin’s death in 1987, in France, with his brother by his side.

He told his brother he’d promised their ancestors he would keep the faith: he knew personal success wasn’t the measure of the experience he was creating.

He returned to the United States in the summer of 1957 and toured the South. On October 11, he wrote David from Tuskegee in a panic, unable to sleep. He’d toured Montgomery and had ridden the recently desegregated buses, with armed, hostile white drivers. He described white hatred steaming out of the pavement. A week later, from Birmingham, in even worse shape, he’d write his friend Mary Painter in D.C., saying that the American South was the saddest place he’d ever been in, even sadder than Germany and Spain after World War II. Then, thinking of a mass meeting led by Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ralph Abernathy that he’d attended, he thought he probably hadn’t met the European counterparts of these southerners because, by the time he’d arrived in Europe in 1948, they’d already been exterminated. Wondering if that impression was too extreme, he affirmed that it would be impossible to overstate the pain and peril he was witnessing. Closing the letter, he said that the dishwasher at the A.G. Gaston Motel, where he was staying, was taking him to interview a man, “Judge” Aaron Edwards, who’d been castrated by a white mob on Labor Day. Both to his brother and to his close friend in D.C., Baldwin stressed his unsettling feeling that he shouldn’t stay in the Deep South for long. And, somehow, he postponed his breakdown until he arrived back in New York City. Nonetheless, over the coming years, as the violence mounted, he’d make several return trips.

By 1959 he was stymied again in his progress on Another Country. I typed his letter from Stockholm on October 3, 1959, explaining the novel had come back into focus while he interviewed Ingmar Bergman at his studios outside the city. Envying the efficiency, for men, of the heterosexual domestic arrangement, or maybe just envying Bergman, the letter rehearsed the possibility of getting married but concluded it would be best to restrict the number of lies in his life to those that really couldn’t be helped. He was looking for a way, an artistic method, to join who he was to an emerging politics in the American South and in the anti-colonial movements around the world. He sensed those forces could draw him beyond the era’s confining, individual model of artistic craft. In the late ’50s, most would have already called Baldwin’s career a success. For his part, he knew that the structure of such success could only reinforce “the prison of [his] egocentricity.” He told his brother he’d promised their ancestors he would keep the faith: he knew personal success wasn’t the measure of the experience he was creating.

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Among the letters was a postcard Baldwin sent to David in 1962 while he traveled in Sénégal with Gloria. In “The White Problem” (1964), Baldwin would remember standing in the slave fort on Gorée Island. He looked over the Atlantic from an opening in the stone wall and “tried to imagine what it must have felt like to find yourself chained and speechless, speechless in the most total sense of the word, on your way where?” While based in Turkey, in June 1965, he sent another postcard, from Vienna, where his play, The Amen Corner, had been a hit. There had been over thirty curtain calls. He told David the city hadn’t seen anything like it since the Ottomans were at the gates in the seventeenth century. On July 7, 1966, David wrote Baldwin—one of the rare letters of David’s I saw—telling him that the new word was “Black Power” and that the established leaders (Roy Wilkins, Martin Luther King, Jr.) and organizations (SNCC and CORE) were running for cover. In responses written that summer, Baldwin explained to his youngest brother what he considered the hopeless and self-destructive limitations of the new politics as it emerged. Despite his reservations—or, really, because of them—he would engage the younger activists personally and politically over the coming years.

I paused on a letter from March 10, 1968. King was still alive. In fact, Baldwin would see him in Los Angeles the next week at a fundraiser for The Washington Poor People’s Campaign hosted by Marlon Brando. In the letter, addressed to David and his sister Paula, both living in London at the time, Baldwin listed titles of Aretha Franklin songs as they played on the record player. It was 3 a.m. in Palm Springs; he was poolside and running out of cigarettes. He’d taken a break from his work on the script for a film about Malcolm X for Columbia Studios. From the titles and their order, I realized he was playing Side 2 of Aretha Arrives (1967). I played the album myself. Listening over Baldwin’s shoulder, I heard a response to “speechlessness in the most total sense of the word,” to the view west from Gorée Island, the historical view Baldwin had imagined over the Atlantic in 1962. Baldwin marveled at Aretha’s ability to voice a condition at once historical and personal. What she sang was artistic and private, but also revolutionary and public. This was coherence. He wanted to learn to write like that, he told David and Paula.

Baldwin marveled at Aretha’s ability to voice a condition at once historical and personal. This was coherence.

Amid flashes of fear, promise, murder and despair, I moved through the tangle of accumulating commitments, F.B.I. surveillance, and lethal threats from the late ’60s and early ’70s. Eldridge Cleaver, Amiri Baraka, and other nationalist figures derided Baldwin publicly but privately appealed to him for support, which he often gave. Faced with the reality that what he—and many others—were attempting to do was beyond the realm of the reasonable, likely beyond that of the possible, Baldwin told his brother that he’d rearrange—almost reinvent—himself around the necessary. If what people were was being rounded up for slaughter, jailed and imprisoned in unprecedented fashion, he thought, the somewhat more subtle question of who they were would be killed, too. It was a tactical and temporary re-orientation of priorities.

Then, another abrupt turn: his departure in July 1969 from Hollywood. He moved back to Istanbul where he lived with his lover Alain and, for a time, again, with Beauford Delaney. Still, he was far from disengaged. In September 1969, in fact on the day before the trial against the Chicago 8 began, he sent David a copy of a letter (and a check) he’d sent to Susan Sontag, who served with Kathleen Cleaver as national treasurer of The Committee to Defend the Conspiracy, a campaign to defend the men on trial. Baldwin asked that they consider him part of the movement to free the activists. In Istanbul, he was directing John Herbert’s play, Fortune In Men’s Eyes, and described standing backstage watching the cleaning woman in the theater as she watched the actors rehearsing.Wondering what she would think of the street language and homoerotic energy of the play, he half-jokingly feared she would tell her brothers and he’d be confronted one day after rehearsal by a mob who’d stone him and chop off his head. He told David that the old woman eventually greeted him back stage with great respect and with tears in her eyes.

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Entering the 1970s, I encountered thousand-word paragraphs recounting the years-long, quasi-legal financial battle Baldwin fought—often with the alarmed, half-consent of his family—with his publishers. While the Dial Press limited his income and allocated him stipends minus (considerable) expenses, he needed a quarter million in cash to buy his house in France. When the press refused to renegotiate, he eventually got the down payment by selling—most likely athwart his contracts in the States—an unwritten novel to a French publisher for $50,000. As publishers threatened him and his agents in the United States, Baldwin, who often enough claimed he couldn’t add, played out the role of the anti-paternalistic, black-power-inflected and by-any-means-necessary businessman. Finally, when Baldwin stopped taking their calls, Dial sent a new editor, Richard Marek, to France to deal with the enraged and intransigent star author. Marek made his way to Nice to meet Baldwin for lunch at the Hotel Negresco. It was June 28, 1972, a Wednesday. Baldwin arrived, took a seat, and announced, “This nigger ain’t going to pick another bale of cotton.” After which, Marek recalled to Bill Weatherby, “We talked about Dostoevsky, politics—everything. . . By the end of that lunch I had a ‘pass’ from him which guaranteed me safe passage when blacks took over New York. ‘If you get it out of your wallet in time, you may be alright,’ he told me.” And, in short order, Baldwin had a new, two-book deal that paid him what he’d thought his books were worth in the first place.

In June 1973, Baldwin found himself in what he called a marriage to a married Italian painter, Yoran Cazac, whose youngest son had been christened, that Easter, as Baldwin’s godson. The relationship transformed Baldwin’s sense of intimacy. Meanwhile, as international fugitive Eldridge Cleaver made contact, eventually sending an envoy with tape-recorded messages asking for help and for money, Baldwin planned his trip to Los Angeles, where he’d meet Ray Charles to finalize the script for their performance of “The Hallelujah Chorus” in Carnegie Hall as part of the Newport Jazz Fest on July 1. From the stage, he’d tell the packed house that in order to get to Hallelujah, one must first accept life’s risks and contradictions and say Amen to all of it: “Amen is the price.” Redacting any part of life led to incoherence.

The story turned again and I found him writing, in May 1974, to tell David to inform the family that death threats wouldn’t dissuade him from returning to the States to tour with his fifth novel, If Beale Street Could Talk. In a deeply personal note that took him several drafts to complete, he said that amid the mounting perils of the post–civil rights era, he’d sooner expose himself to the possibility of betrayal than embrace paranoia; if assassinated, he held, at least it would be a reality inflicted upon him by a real person. He regretted the pain this would cause them, but this was a possibility they’d have to accept, even embrace. He’d sooner be physically dead than endure a spiritual death by populating his life with ghosts and scurrying about in fear of their shadows. He told David that the pact he had made with their ancestors impelled upon him this way of being. As he’d say years later, one struggled against incoherence by walking toward one’s terrors.

There are fewer letters from the late ’70s and ’80s. By then Baldwin had spent time living and traveling with David. His house in St. Paul de Vence was now a center of gravity unlike any he’d known in his life. Yet even amid his community of friends, helpers, family, and lovers, the turbulent collisions between who and what people were persisted. In the face of the world at its worst, and with episodes of hideous violence in South Africa, Iran, and at home in Harlem, and in ways he thought maybe only a black Westerner might at that time be able to sense, he affirmed that hell was notother people. One long letter from October 1975 describes the deeply affirming and yet troubling connections between his family and the characters in Just Above My Head, a connection he’d never attempted before. He also recounts a long dinner with two famous friends, Harry Belafonte and French actor Yves Montand. The three ate at Baldwin’s favorite haunt in St. Paul de Vence, La Colombe d’Or, and discussed the unlikelihood of their successes, but Baldwin privately wondered at the long route they’d each had to travel to be his friends. Montand had become a brother, Baldwin told David, after treating him for years with terrified reverence, a distanced and possibly outraged awe, as if Baldwin had somehow always just escaped a lynch mob. And he considered privately the long distance he felt Belafonte must have had to travel in order to overcome his visceral aversion to Baldwin’s sexuality.

The late letters were meditations on Baldwin’s deepening sense that human peace could never be pursued through divisions.

These late letters were meditations on Baldwin’s deepening sense that human peace could never be pursued through divisions; human freedom, however pressurized and perilous, was a function of essential connections. Personally, he queried the distinctions between love and envy, pride and vanity, the insidious ways that personal devotion destroyed the alchemy of parity and contest that love needed to remain challenging, dangerous, and alive. Politically, while he worked on “RE/member This House,” a memoir he wouldn’t live to complete about his friendships and collaborations with Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr., he mused upon the end of what he considered the abstract and mathematical cruelty of revolutions. As he wrote in one of his last published pieces, “To Crush the Serpent” (1987), the final, lyrical code of Baldwin’s career was that “Complexity is our only safety and love is the only key to our maturity.” Sweeping away all orthodoxies in a single phrase, he concluded: “And love is where you find it.”

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When I began working with the letters, I thought I was searching for the story that matched the personal Jimmy to the public James. That distinction was familiar to many, and the letters certainly show the complex relationship between those two facets of his life and work.

Yet I discovered that the question of who Baldwin was had at least two other answers, beyond Jimmy and James. Over the years, he described his work alone at the keys to David. He worked from midnight to dawn, ice gone to water in a neglected glass of scotch and often enough in the midst of music playing in his study—in what he called his “dungeon”—and in his memory and imagination. Again and again, he maintained that everything was in question in that space; during those hours, even he didn’t know his name. The radically open-ended quality of his solitude at work was a route toward rather than away from other people. Baldwin describes this space, its terrors and its importance, in his letters to David in ways unlike anything I’d seen.

I also noticed that he signed almost all of the 120 letters “Jamie.” I’d never seen that name referring to Baldwin before, though he does use it to name a character in the short story “The Man Child” (1965). It also served as a kind inside joke. After my work with the letters, when I encountered the character Jaime in If Beale Street Could Talk, immediately I saw it as Jamie. Jaime,—“I love” in French—appears to drive Sharon Rivers from the airport. The origin of the name becomes clear enough in light of a letter written in June 1972, as he was writing Beale Street, telling David that he was taking driving lessons (soon aborted after a minor crash) for the sole purpose of picking David up from the airport in Nice and driving him up the mountain to St. Paul de Vence. After that, Baldwin said, he’d go back to driving his typewriter.

I decided Jamie was a name for a particular dimension of his life and love, his role as elder brother, almost surrogate father, uncle, and son. As I read back and forth across the decades, I could see that that role had lain like a foundational loam beneath everything else. Somewhere he’d had to decide that he’d do it all for them; despite his constant mobility, his need for fame and an unnamed solitude in which to work, the truth was that he’d done much of it with them. In 1979, he’d tell an audience in Berkeley, “we’ve never been alone, that’s the mystery.” Though famously and intensely social as Jimmy, Baldwin would find the primary evidence for the mutuality of human experience in his role as Jamie with his family. It was work done as brother to his sisters and brothers, as son to his mother, and to his father, and as uncle to his nieces and nephews.

These letters enlarge our sense of the man and deepen our sense of possible human courage, commitment, and cooperation. The coherent story of who James Baldwin was is the story of at least four selves: James Baldwin, public figure; Jimmy Baldwin, friend and lover; Jamie Baldwin, son and brother; and an unnamed writer who, in his work, translated himself into a kind of universal human kin. Which is to say that who James Baldwin was was a person dedicated to us all. We.






Aug 14, 2017





Race and Terror

On Saturday hundreds of white nationalists, alt-righters, and neo-Nazis traveled to Charlottesville, Virginia to participate in the “Unite the Right” rally. By Saturday evening three people were dead – one protester, and two police officers – and many more injured. 

“VICE News Tonight” correspondent Elle Reeve went behind the scenes with white nationalist leaders, including Christopher Cantwell, Robert Ray, David Duke, and Matthew Heimbach — as well as counter-protesters. VICE News Tonight also spoke with residents of Charlottesville, members of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the Charlottesville Police.

From the neo-Nazi protests at Emancipation Park to Cantwell’s hideaway outside of Virginia, “VICE News Tonight” provides viewers with exclusive, up close and personal access inside the unrest.

This episode of VICE News Tonight aired August 14, 2017 on HBO.






Wednesday, Aug 16th 2017



‘He saved me, then

he was under the car’

EXCLUSIVE: ‘He saved me, then he was under the car’:
Heroic moment man pushes fiancee out of the path of
white supremacist’s car at Charlottesville rally,
breaking his leg – as bride-to-be pays tribute to friend
who died

  • Marcus Martin was a counter-protester at the Charlottesville rally on Saturday 
  • He pushed his fiancee Marissa Blair out of the way when a Dodge Challenger rammed into the crowd 
  • A photograph captured Martin seconds after he saved the life of Blair, flying through the air after he was hit 
  • Martin sustained a broken leg in the horrifying incident and is in the hospital 
  • Blair happened to be live-streaming the event when Martin was hit 
  • She later revealed Heather Heyer was her friend who died in the crash 
  • The two worked at the same law firm in Virginia, for the past three years  



A man was photographed seconds after he heroically pushed his fiancée out of the way of a white supremacist’s car in Charlottesville Saturday.

Marcus Martin, 26, was a counter-protester at the tragic day’s events, marching the streets with his fiancée Marissa Blair, 27, and their friends.

When a Dodge Challenger suddenly rammed into the crowd, Martin didn’t hesitate to push his bride-to-be out of the way, resulting in him being hit by the accelerating vehicle.

Martin was photographed in mid-air seconds after he saved Blair’s life, and other photos reveal that when the car backed up over him, his shoe was dragged off.

Amazingly, Martin survived the ‘intentional’ car crash but sustained a broken leg in the horrific incident, as Blair live-streamed the entire event on Facebook.

Speaking exclusively to the, Blair revealed the moment Martin pushed her out of the way, saying: ‘He saved me then he was under the car.’

Marcus Martin, of Lovingston, Virginia, was a counter-protester in Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday. He heroically saved his fiancee’s life when he pushed her out of the way of a speeding Dodge Challenger and was photographed, flying through the air (pictured)

Martin was marching through the streets with his fiancee Marissa Blair and their friends. He survived the 'intentional' car smash but sustained a broken leg in the horrific incident

Pictured: Martin before the accident with Blair

Moments before Martin was struck, Blair said they had been walking through the streets, chanting and laughing.

She added to the ‘We were saying, “Whose streets? Our streets!” and just having a good time. We were right at the intersection, deciding to go right or left. We went left.

‘We hear a commotion from the top of the street. It happened so fast. I felt myself shoved out of the way. [Martin] had pushed me out of the way.

‘It was so fast. All he could think was to push me. He saved me then he was under the car. I checked myself and then immediately thought, where’s Marcus? 

‘I started looking where the car had hit people. I saw his hat had blood all over it but he wasn’t there. I found him with no blood on him.

‘We were taken to the hospital and I overheard someone say that the heavyset woman who they were doing CPR on had died. 

‘I started asking around but I knew that it was my friend Heather. She had been standing right in front of Marcus.’ 

Blair continued: ‘It was senseless. People said we were wrong for being there but it was that guy [driver] who was wrong. Why would anyone think that it’s okay to do this? He rammed into us.’ 

Blair wrote on Facebook: ‘A car intentionally ran through a crowd of peaceful counter protesters. This is right when it happened. My fiancé pushed me out the way. He got hit, his leg is broke. We’re alive’

Blair said she attended the Charlottesville rally in protest of the alt-right groups that were gathered there.

She said she drove the 50 minutes from Lovingston, Virginia, with Martin and Heather Heyer, 32, who was killed in the ‘senseless’ car crash.

Heyer’s family set up a GoFundMe page for her, with her mother writing: ‘She died doing what was right. My heart is broken, but I am forever proud of her.’

Blair added: ‘I’m still numb. My friend is dead. Heather was with us because this is what Heather believed in. She died standing up for what she believed in.

‘We had been witnessing everything that was going on. We’ve been here for it. 

‘We couldn’t have hate groups walking around our city with no peaceful opposition.

‘We knew the risk we were taking. But we said they aren’t going to do this anymore.’

The woman who was mowed down and killed at an anti-fascist rally in Virginia has been identified as Heather Heyer
The woman who was mowed down and killed at
an anti-fascist rally in Virginia has been identified
as Heather Heyer, 32 (above)

Blair had live-streamed to Facebook the moment James Alex Fields Jr allegedly drove through a line of innocent counter-protesters.

She later informed her Facebook followers that she and Martin were safe following the tragic events.

The video shows people screaming ‘look out’ and a commotion ensues.

Blair is shoved away from the street and onto the sidewalk. The videos shakes while the crowd runs for safety.

Blair realizes that Martin isn’t with her and begins screaming out his name, trying to find him. In a panic, she says to a friend, ‘Where is he, Marcus?’

Blair begins moving through the throngs of injured people, looking for Martin when the video suddenly cuts off.

She returned to Facebook to post an update later that day. She wrote: ‘A car intentionally ran through a crowd of peaceful counter protesters. This is right when it happened.’ 

Martin's shoe was dragged off when the Challenger backed up over him again
Martin's shoe was dragged off when the Challenger backed up over him again
Martin’s shoe was dragged off when the
Challenger backed up over him again (above)

Blair continued: ‘My fiancé pushed me out the way. He got hit, his leg is broke. We’re alive. I lost a good friend today. 

‘Everyone has an opinion, but we were out there spreading love and not allowing hate groups to terrorize our city! Our country!! 

‘The only person is wrong is the person behind that wheel. Feel what you do, but spread LOVE today. Spread LOVE everyday. Promote LOVE. Send LOVE out to the universe.’ 

The couple got engaged in February after dating a little more than a year.

Blair also shared that it was her friend, Heyer who died
after the alleged ‘intentional’ act by Fields, who is from
Maumee, Ohio.

The couple got engaged in February after dating a little more than a year, according to their Facebook profiles

The couple got engaged in February after dating a little more than a year, according to their Facebook profiles.

Martin didn’t hesitate to push his bride-to-be out of the way, resulting in him being hit by the accelerating vehicle.

Blair added: ‘I lost one of my good friends today, killed for peacefully standing up for what she believed in. Rest In Peace you sweet sweet soul.’

Heyer had worked with Blair at the Miller Law Group PC in Virginia for the past three years.

Charlottesville Police Chief Alfred Thomas Jr. told reporters Heyer was killed while crossing the street after Fields Jr plowed his Dodge Challenger into the protesters.

Despite the efforts of those on the scene to revive her, she died.  

Video of the Dodge Challenger, which is registered to Fields, showed the driver accelerating into the crowd, throwing bodies into the air as people scream, before reversing at high speed. 

Fields was charged with second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding and failing to stop at the scene of a crash that resulted in a death, according to police.

James Alex Fields Jr, of Maumee, Ohio, was arrested on Saturday after he allegedly drove his vehicle into a crowd of anti-fascists at white nationalist rally, killing Heyer and injuring 19

James Alex Fields Jr, of Maumee, Ohio, was arrested on Saturday after he allegedly drove his vehicle into a crowd of anti-fascists at white nationalist rally, killing Heyer and injuring 19.

Video of the Dodge Challenger, which is registered to Fields, showed the driver accelerating into the crowd throwing bodies into the air as people scream before reversing at high speed

The deadly crash came after violent clashes erupted as hundreds of white supremacists including armed militias marched into Charlottesville.

Police cleared the scene with tear gas but the violence continued. Charlottesville Police Chief Al Thomas said a total of 35 people had been treated for injuries, 14 of those were from individual engagements on the streets. 

Horrifying video from the scene of the car attack showed the silver muscle car speeding towards a group of fleeing anti-fascist counter-protesters.

Another clip showed the vehicle ramming into the crowd at high speed and victims crying out in pain as they desperately sought medical help.

Witnesses said the car was traveling up to 40mph when it hit and reversed before ramming into the crowd again and speeding off with Martin’s shoe attached to its bumper. 

Fields  was apprehended and is currently in police custody. He was arrested a few blocks away from the bloody scene

Charlottesville Police Chief Al Thomas said a total of 35 people had been treated for injuries, 14 of those were from individual engagements on the streets

Charlottesville Police Chief Al Thomas said a total of 35 people had been treated for injuries, 14 of those were from individual engagements on the streets.






July 31, 2017




yet nowhere:

How the

convict labor

of Black women

built the new South

Historian Talitha LeFlouria examines the incarcerated labor of Black women in Reconstruction-era Georgia – work that rebuilt the South’s infrastructure and industrial economy under brutal conditions, enabled by the social language and legal mechanisms around Black lives that persist in America’s modern mass incarceration complex.

Talitha is author of the book Chained in Silence: Black Women and Convict Labor in the New South from UNC Press:…ined-in-silence/








This year, we have increased our funding and will make awards of $5,000 each to twenty artists and writers. Additionally, we will name ten award finalists.

Our awards offer unrestricted cash, and recipients can use the funds as they see fit.

Our program is an award program that rewards excellence in a creative field (note that this is different from a grant program, in which the application is focused on a proposal for new work).

Our selection process is focused almost entirely on the strength of the submitted portfolio.


To be eligible, the applicant must have at least one child under the age of 18.

Who Should Apply

Artists and writers with at least one child and a strong portfolio of polished work are welcome to apply.

We are inspired by anyone who is making creative work while raising a family. Given the intense demand for these awards (in 2016 we received 5,000 applications for our program), and the fact that the awards are based on demonstrated excellence in your discipline, we don’t recommend that artists or writers who are just starting out in their creative careers apply to this program.

While we don’t require that applicants have published or exhibited their work, the rigor and critique involved in that process can certainly benefit the portfolio. Portfolios of writing or artwork created in a more personal vein for sharing with friends and family are not suitable.

We invite you to view our list of previous awardees and follow the links to their work to get a feel for their level of craft.

Racial Equity

As of Fall 2016, we will make half our awards to applicants of color. You can read more about this decision on our website.


Writers may apply in one of the following categories:

  • Creative Nonfiction
  • Early and Middle Grade Fiction
  • Fiction
  • Graphic Novels
  • Long Form Journalism
  • Picture Books
  • Playwriting
  • Poetry
  • Young Adult Fiction

We do not accept portfolios of self-help books, motivational writing, travel and/or other kinds of guidebooks.

Visual artists may apply in one of the following categories:

  • Book Arts
  • Drawing
  • Fiber Arts and Textiles
  • Illustration
  • Installation
  • Mixed Media
  • Painting
  • Photography
  • Printmaking
  • Sculpture

At this time we are not accepting applications in the performing arts, film/video/tv (including screenplays), music, jewelry, pottery, and other crafts.

Please see our FAQ for more information about disciplines.


We seek to reward excellence. Your portfolio–which may (but need not) allude to your parenting–will assist us in evaluating your work. We’re also interested in hearing what your plans are, and how this award might assist you in attaining your goals.

The application consists of 3 major parts:

Personal Information

We need your contact information so we can keep you posted on the status of your application.

Artistic Information

This is your chance to tell us who you are as a person, an artist, and a parent. We’ve organized this into four questions:

Who I Am: Biography

Please tell us about yourself. Remember that the Sustainable Arts Foundation’s unique trait is our focus on artists and writers who are also parents. If it’s relevant, we’d like to hear how your family life inspires or challenges your artistic career.

What I Do: Artist Statement

Please give us a concise description of your work and goals as an artist.

What I’ve Done: Curriculum Vitae

We’d like to know about the public presentation of your work. Please paste in (or attach on the next screen) your current CV or resume, noting especially, if applicable, any grants, awards, or fellowships, plus your exhibitions or publications.

What I’d Like to Do: How I Would Use this Award

If you have specific needs that would be met by this award — child care, workspace, new equipment, research, travel, etc. — please outline them here. If you have a budget for a specific project, let us know. The more we know about you and your work, the easier it is for us to envision how this award would succeed.

We don’t enforce a strict word or page count, but typical answers to the essay questions range between a paragraph and two pages (100-500 words).If you already have nicely-formatted versions of any of the above, please feel free to attach them as PDFs.


Please supply samples of work created within the last 2-3 years. While you’re welcome to make reference to older works, please know that you should only submit work produced since having children.

Submission Requirements for Writers

Prose Writers
15 double-spaced pages, maximum (you may submit a
single long sample or multiple shorter samples)
10 poems, not to exceed 15 pages total, in a single PDF
25 pages maximum

All writing samples must:

  • be written in English
  • have page numbers
  • use a 11- or 12-point standard serif font (for example, Times, Palatino, or Cambria)
  • be in PDF format only; Microsoft Word documents will not be accepted.
  • have no identifying information. Please ensure that your portfolio attachment does not contain your name: no name on a cover page, no name in the header/footer, no scanned copies of published work with your name visible. Autobiographical works that may reference your name in the body of the submission are acceptable. Our application asks for a title for each submitted piece. Please do not use your name in the title.

Portfolios that do not meet these requirements will not be considered.

Special instructions for Creative Nonfiction
Creative nonfiction (also known as literary nonfiction or
narrative nonfiction) is a genre of writing that uses
literary styles and techniques to create factually accurate
narratives. If this describes your work, then you should
feel welcome to apply in this category.
Please note that
we do not accept general nonfiction submissions, and we
specifically do not accept submissions of self-help books,
motivational writing, travel or other guidebooks.
Special instructions for Graphic Novels
If you write and illustrate your works, you may submit
samples of 1-2 works, not to exceed 20 pages in a single
Please follow our guidelines about keeping
portfolio submissions anonymous. Do not include the
cover of your book if it has your name on it.

The general guidelines for writers regarding fonts and page numbering do not apply to graphic novels.

If you illustrate graphic novels, but don’t write the text, we advise that you submit an application as a visual arts illustrator.

If you write the text for graphic novels, but don’t illustrate them yourself, you have two options:

  • You may apply collaboratively with your illustrator only if the illustrator is also eligible for our awards (is a parent of a child under 18)
  • You may apply with just the text of up to 3 works, not to exceed 15 pages.

We recognize that a single PDF with images and text will exceed our standard maximum file size of 5MB. Graphic novelists may submit PDFs as large as 30MB. If you have questions about file size, please contact us.Please read our guidelines regarding collaborations carefully.

Special instructions for Picture Books
If you write and illustrate your works, you may submit PDFs
of 2 complete books.
We are not able to accept physical
hardcopy books.
The general guidelines for writers regarding fonts and page numbering do not apply to picture books.

Please follow our guidelines about keeping portfolio submissions anonymous. Do not include the cover of your book if it has your name on it.

If you illustrate picture books, but don’t write the text, we advise that you submit an application as a visual arts illustrator.

If you write the text for picture books, but don’t illustrate them yourself, you have two options:

  • You may apply collaboratively with your illustrator only if the illustrator is also eligible for our awards (is a parent of a child under 18)
  • You may apply with just the text of up to 3 books, not to exceed 15 pages.

Please read our guidelines regarding collaborations carefully.

Submission Requirements for Visual Artists

  • Submit images of 10 works of art.
  • Each image should be uploaded individually as a JPG or PNG file.
  • You may submit additional images (up to 20 total) to include detail and installation shots, if appropriate.
  • You must submit high resolution images (1,000 – 3,000 pixels per side). We want to see your work at its best.
  • Each individual image should be no more than 5MB.

Descriptions should be strictly limited to the following:

  • Date created
  • Medium/materials
  • Dimensions

Do not tell us what each piece means or provide a narrative about its creation. If you’d like to talk about how your art is made or what you think it means, you can do so in your artist statement (the essay question titled “What I Do.”)

It is not acceptable to direct us to your website to view your portfolio. The process of editing and curating one’s work is extremely important and it is up to you to select the images that best represent your work. We do, on occasion, after our blind review is complete, visit an applicant’s website to get a feel for the breadth of his/her work. But our review is based on the strength of the work submitted with your application.

Portfolios that do not meet these requirements will not be considered.

Special instructions for Book Arts
Book arts is a genre involving making unique (or limited
edition) artistic or literary books by hand. It may involve
papermaking, printmaking, letterpress, calligraphy,
binding, paper marbling, paste papers, and the like. 
your work does not involve physically making or altering
books by hand, you should not apply in this genre.
Special instructions for Installation
We understand that installation pieces can sometimes
be much larger, and more time-consuming to produce,
than other types of work. If you are an installation artist,
you need not submit 10 unique works of art, but you
may submit multiple images/views from one or more
installation pieces to satisfy our portfolio requirements.
Your portfolio should include a minimum of 10 images.

Application Fee

Our application fee is $15. 100% of this fee goes to our jurors, who are past award winners. Charging this fee insures that at least two jurors will review each application and be compensated for their work.

Our fee is a modest one, but we’re aware that you may be applying for many awards and grants and these costs can add up. Please contact us if you need assistance with the fee, or if you would like to contribute to a fund to cover other applicants’ fees.








Write A True Story


Wednesday, August 23, 2017


Entry Fees

$9.95 to enter this and all contests at FanStory. Over 50 every month.


$100 cash prize


We all have a story to tell. This is your chance to tell a true story from your life. It doesn’t have to be a profound or earth shattering story. Just tell a story that happens to be true.

Contact Information








Hearst Poetry Prize

Contest Information

All winners and finalists will be published in the Spring 2018 issue.
First Prize: $1000
Second Prize: $100
Third Prize: $50

2018 Hearst Judge:
Eduardo C. Corral

Deadline: October 31st, 2017
Entry fee: $20.00

All entry fees include a one-year subscription. This year, all submissions to the James Hearst Poetry Prize will be handled through our online submission system.

If you are unable to upload your submission, please call us at 319-273-3026 for other entry options.

Rules: You may enter up to five poems in one file. No names on manuscripts, please. Your poems will be “read blind.” Simultaneous submission to other journals or competitions is not allowed.

If you wish to receive the list of winners, please state this in your cover letter and be sure to supply an email address. Winners will also be announced in writers’ trade magazines and on this website.

Tips: We have noticed that long poems rarely do well—too much can go wrong in a large space. Poems that have reached the finalist stage in our competition in the past are typically one to two pages (often much shorter). Winning poems always balance interesting subject matter and consummate poetic craft. We value both free verse and formal poems in rhyme and meter—both open and closed forms.

Questions? email • phone 319-273-6455 • fax 319-273-4326







Dubwise Selections

from Bob Marley’s

Legend Remixed

Dubwise Selections from Bob Marley’s Legend Remixed – Pick up the release on 6-25…

1. Waiting In Vain (Jim James Remix)
2. Stir It Up (Ziggy Marley Remix)
3. Could You Be Loved (RAC Remix)
4. Get Up, Stand Up (Thievery Corporation Remix)
5. Redemption Song (Ziggy Marley Remix)
6. Punky Reggae Party (Z-Trip Remix featuring Lee “Scratch” Perry)
7. Buffalo Soldier (Stephen Marley Remix)









The transcendent Sara Tavares trafficked in some serious beauty, and some serious truth, on that last Sunday in October. We can only hope that she received, in return, some small part of the love and energy that she brought to us.

Sara Tavares (voice and guitar)
Kid Gomez (keyboards)
Hugo Aly (bass)
Marcos Alves (drums/ percussion)