Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

Reaching for Joy

Poet Toi Derricotte discusses isolation, community, and taking risks

Toi Derricotte’s “I”: New and Selected Poems spans over four decades of work by a poet unparalleled in the tenderness and honesty with which she writes about the self, trauma, and memory. She unpacks race, gender, sexuality, class, violence, motherhood, and more, with rich detail and incantatory music.

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Go Tell It in the Valley

Wrestling with God and a three-letter word

I cannot recall now whether it was by some serendipitous search or opportune recommendation, but Go Tell It on the Mountain was soon in my hands. I had never read James Baldwin, but judging by the forlorn Black boy on the cover, I knew that the book was for and about me. The opening lines confirmed my thoughts: “Everyone had always said that John would be a preacher when he grew up, just like his father.” I was there, in Cleveland, and in seminary, to answer just that call — or threat. For when the saints marked you as a preacher, you could run, but you could never really hide.

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Poetic Borders and Landscapes

Khaled Mattawa’s lyrical cartography of human migration remembers, inspires

In his fifth collection, Fugitive Atlas, poet Khaled Mattawa — a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga — issues a timely invitation to examine our many migrations, gently calling us out of ourselves and into the world. In a series of imaginative and provocative poems, he asks us to consider the borders that exist off the map and apply meaning to our real lives.

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Taming the Cruelest Animal

Ernest Freeberg tells how animal rights became part of the 19th-century reform movement

In A Traitor to His Species: Henry Bergh and the Birth of the Animal Rights Movement, award-winning historian Ernest Freeberg tells the story of the founding father of the ASPCA and how Americans rallied to alleviate the needless suffering of animals.

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In Between One Thing and Another

Alexander Chee illuminates the writing life in How To Write An Autobiographical Novel

In his powerful essay collection, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel, Alexander Chee charts his own history as a writer and invites readers into a close engagement with the process of writing a novel from personal materials. Chee will appear at a virtual event hosted by Vanderbilt University on November 12.

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Alone and Never Touched

A lonely young woman becomes a murder suspect in R.J. Jacobs’ Somewhere in the Dark

In his second psychological thriller, Somewhere in the Dark, Nashville writer R.J. Jacobs sends his troubled young protagonist on a quest to find a killer and exonerate herself.

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