The New Jersey City University (NJCU) Center for the Arts Presents

A Conversation with Emily Bernard

Author of Black Is the Body: Stories from My Grandmother’s Time, My Mother’s Time, and Mine

Moderated by Edvige Giunta and Meilli Ellis-Tingle

Tuesday, April 20, 6 p.m.

Emily Bernard is the author of Black is the Body: Stories from My Mother’s Time and Mine, which was named one of the best books of 2019 by Kirkus Reviews and National Public Radio. Black is the Body won the 2020 Los Angeles Times Christopher Isherwood Prize for autobiographical prose. Emily’s previous works include: Remember Me to Harlem: The Letters of Langston Hughes and Carl Van Vechten, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year; and Some of My Best Friends: Writings on Interracial Friendship, which was chosen by the New York Public Library as a Book for the Teen Age; and, with Deborah Willis, Michelle Obama: The First Lady in Photographs, which received a 2010 NAACP Image Award. Her work has appeared in: O the Oprah Magazine, Harper’s, The New Republic, newyorker.com, Best American Essays, Best African American Essays, and Best of Creative Nonfiction. She has received fellowships from the Alphonse A. Fletcher Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the MacDowell Colony, the Vermont Arts Council, and the W. E. B. DuBois Institute at Harvard University. Emily was the James Weldon Johnson Senior Research Fellow in African American Studies at Yale University. She is the Julian Lindsay Green and Gold Professor of English at the University of Vermont, and a 2020 Andrew Carnegie Fellow. Emily lives in South Burlington, Vermont with her husband and twin daughters.

Free with RSVP.

What To Read Next

2020 Reads: The List So Far

The books below took her through a tumultuous year. Books are listed in the order in which she read them:

  • Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion, by Jia Tolentino
  • Stories of Your Life and Others, by Ted Chiang
  • Someone Who Will Love You In All Your Damaged Glory, by Rafael Bob-Waksberg
  • The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison
  • I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith
  • The Run of His Life: The People vs OJ Simpson, by Jeffrey Toobin
  • TheChildren of Time, by Adrian Tchaikovsky
  • Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh
  • Big Little Lies, by Liane Moriarty
  • Leviathan Wakes, by James S. A. Corey
  • Mama’s Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us, by Frans de Waal
  • Caliban’s War, by James S. A. Corey
  • Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family, by Robert Kolker
  • Abaddon’s Gate, by James S. A. Corey
  • The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming, by David Wallace-Wells
  • Cibola Burn, by James S. A. Corey
  • Her Protector’s Pleasure, by Grace Calloway
  • The Snakes, by Sadie Jones
  • The Shadow King, by Maaza Mengiste
  • First: Sandra Day O’Connor, by Evan Thomas
  • Colonel Chabert, by Honorée de Balzac
  • The Charterhouse of Parma, by Stendhal
  • In West Mills, by De’Shawn Charles Winslow
  • Demagogue: The Life and Long Shadow of Senator Joe McCarthy, by Larry Tye
  • Your House Will Pay, by Stephanie Cha
  • Heaven, My Home, by Attica Locke
  • Bread and Salt: Stories, by Valerie Miner
  • The Prince of Mournful Thoughts, by Caroline Kim (Winner of the Drue Heinz Literature Prize)
  • Life of a Klansman: A Family History in White Supremacy, by Edward Ball

Doreen G. Fernandez, Food Writer, Queen

From Hometown Foods: Essays on Filipino Food:

Quiet, bucolic Silay used to have a lot of gambling for high stakes going on behind the walls of those gracious houses. Some, I was told (I never saw them) had sophisticated warning, hiding and escape systems built into them in case of an unlikely raid — unlikely because of pakikisama, because important officials were among the gamblers, because it was an important part of the community lifestyle. Tales were told and zarzuelas were written about jewelry, land titles and car registrations flung on the gambling table; of haciendas lost in a night of gaming; of marriages sacrificed at the mahjong, panguingue or monte tables, or at the cockpit.

For these gamblers, I was told, were developed for kalan-unon (kakanin) for which Silay is famous, and the accompanying institution, the manug-libud (accent on ug and ud). The kalan-unon are portable — they can be eaten without getting up from the gambling table, and they used to be made by the best cooks in Silay — maiden aunts, young wives, mothers, girls, many from the best families. The food was taken around by the manug-libud (“libud” means to take from place to place, usually to sell) to homes with or without gambling, to restaurants and schools, in large round baskets covered with cloth and carried on their heads.

Are there any chefs from Silay in the Bay Area? Are there any Filipino restaurants in Redwood City? How about Half Moon Bay? Just wondering.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

 

 

Emily Bernard, Winner of the 2020 Christopher Isherwood Prize for Autobiographical Prose

The Prize was announced by the L. A. Times on April 17.

Read about other prizes in the full article here.

What the judges had to say about Emily Bernard’s book:

  • In 12 connected essays, Bernard captured her experience with race in Black Is the Body: Stories From My Grandmother’s Time, My Mother’s Time and Mine. The panel of judges that awarded Bernard the Christopher Isherwood Prize for Autobiographical Prose said: “With deceptively simple and luminous prose, Emily Bernard invites us to inhabit her life as she poses perilous questions seemingly as simple as ‘when is a doll just a doll,’ and pushes ever deeper refusing easy solutions. This is a beautiful, important collection of essays.”

Kudos to this beautiful writer, as well as to the other nominees and winners, including the great Walter Mosley, winner of the Robert Kirsch Award for Lifetime Achievement. Mosley, who now resides in New York City, is the “author of more than 43 books.” He is best known “for his mystery series featuring detective Easy Rawlins, a private detective in south-central Los Angeles.”

Stay safe, dear blog readers. And buy books.

 

Self-Regard

Since finishing The Hobbit, a week and a half ago, self has read two books by women: The Haunting of the Mexican Border, by Kathryn Ferguson (University of New Mexico Press, 2015) and Trick Mirror, by Jia Tolentino (Random House, 2019).

Ferguson undertakes an exploration of the southern border, with a vague hope of making a documentary: she doesn’t have funds, doesn’t know anyone, but stumbles around, talking to whoever will talk to her. And she IS lucky: nothing bad happens to her.

Jia Tolentino is lucky. The daughter of Philippine parents who became Canadian citizens, she is smart as a whip, in-your-face, and funny. Her style is to sit back and analyze everything that happens to her, and everything she does.

In Essay # 2 of Trick Mirror, she recounts her time as a reality TV contestant (She was 16. Never one to miss an advantage, she packs a lot of pocket-sized mini-skirts. Points!). After analyzing her fellow castmates (one was “a sweet guy,” another was “the all-American girl,” still another was “the wacko,” etc.), she asks her castmates what they thought she’d been cast as:

Though I’m sure they would’ve answered differently if someone else had been asking, my castmates guessed I was the smart one, or the sweet one, or the “fun Southern one,” or the prude.

(It is amazing that someone would ever think she’d been cast as “the prude,” given the pocket-sized minis!)

But then she writes, disarmingly, that reality TV “is a narcissist’s fantasy come true . . . everyone likes to have an audience. Everyone thinks they deserve one.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Quote of the Day: Jia Tolentino

White nationalists have brought white people together through the idea that white people are endangered, specifically white men — this at a time when 91 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are white men, when white people make up 90 percent of elected American officials and an overwhelming majority of top decision-makers in music, publishing, television, movies and sports.

The I in the Internet, Essay # 1 in Trick Mirror

Anthropology of Food: Doreen G. Fernandez

Doreen G. Fernandez was self’s Freshman English professor at the Ateneo de Manila University. Her greatness was in her writing. She wrote beautifully about her subject: Philippine food, and its long history.

Recently, self began re-reading her book Tikim: Essays on Philippine Food and Culture (Anvil Publishing, Philippines, 1994)

Her Process:

My teachers are all those who give me information about food: market vendors, street sellers, cooks, chefs, waiters, restaurant and carinderia owners, farmers, tricycle drivers, gardeners, fishermen, aficionados, nutritionists, readers of my columns, friends, food critics and historians, fellow researchers, authors of books (and cookbooks), writers of columns, food anthropologists — everyone who eats and cares.

— Doreen G. Fernandez, 13 June 1994


For self, the biggest, most interesting stop in her very brief late December visit to Santa Fe, New Mexico was the Farmer’s Market. It was bitter cold, snow lined the tracks of the railyard just adjacent, and inside a vast warehouse were smells, the indescribable smells of chili, pine, roasted coffee. Oh, heaven.

20191228_125705

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The “I” in the Internet: Essay # 1, TRICK MIRROR

  • Having a mutual enemy is a quick way to make a friend — we learn this as early as elementary school — and politically, it’s much easier to organize people against something than it is to unite them in an affirmative vision. And, within the economy of attention, conflict always gets more people to look. — p. 22, Trick Mirror

Featured in Jellyfish Review: Flash by Seventeen Syllables

Grace Loh Prasad curated, Roy Kamada’s Grey Matter has just posted.

Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous.

More goodness — from Caroline Kim Brown and Grace herself — to follow.

Grace’s introductory essay, here.

70736323_2416280168441851_7635444407579181056_n.jpg

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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