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This white straight male default was of course not biased in any way by its white straight maleness—no way!Race was the unfortunate condition of nonwhite people that had nothing to do with white people and as such was not a natural part of the Universal of Literature, and anyone that tried to introduce racial consciousness to the Great (White) Universal of Literature would be seen as politicizing the Pure Art and betraying the (White) Universal (no race) ideal of True Literature.
Where our contributions were not an adjunct to Literature but its core.
We’re on our fourteenth year now and the workshop has become a lot of things. We’re a space of learning, of personal growth and yes, at times, of healing. For me it’s an attempt to do over that lousy MFA I had.
Part of it was that my body was getting worn out from delivering pool tables.
Part of it was a worrying sense I had that I was going to need a lot more sophistication if I was ever going to be any good at writing.
Something right out of my wildest MFA dreams, where writers of colors could gather to develop our art in a safe supportive environment.
Where our ideas, critiques, concerns, our craft and, above all, would be privileged rather than marginalized; encouraged rather than ignored; discussed intelligently rather than trivialized.And part of it was I didn’t know I had other options.These days there are all sorts of writing workshops: part-time, full-time, low-residency, and more resources online than you can shake a stick at.Never got any kind of instruction in that area—at all.Shit, in my workshop we never talked about race except on the rare occasion someone wanted to argue that “race discussions” were exactly the discussion a serious writer should be having.I should have known better but hey I was young; I was naïve.2I didn’t have a great workshop experience. In fact by the start of my second year I was like: … Too white as in Cornell had almost no POC—no people of color—in it.Too white as in the MFA had no faculty of color in the fiction program—like none—and neither the faculty nor the administration saw that lack of color as a big problem.I went after it with about the same amount of foresight that my parents brought to their immigration—which from my perspective seemed to be none. Six programs, and out of some strange pocket of luck that the Universe reserves for total fools I got into one: Cornell.The plan was to spend two years in workshop, learning all I could about fiction in what I assumed was going to be a supportive environment.In my workshop what was defended was not the writing of people of color but the right of the white writer to write about people of color without considering the critiques of people of color. I could write pages on the unbearable too-whiteness of my workshop—I could write folio, octavo and duodecimo on its terrible whiteness—but you get the idea.Simply put: I was a person of color in a workshop whose theory of reality did not include my most fundamental experiences as a person of color—that did not in other words include . No wonder me and some of the other Calibans in the program—my Diné buddy, who I’ll call Ichabod, and this Caribbean-American sister, who I’ll call Athena—talked constantly about the workshop’s race problem, about the shit our peers said to us (shit like: Why is there even Spanish in this story? Maybe it was characterlogical—I was just a stubborn fuck.