The Antiracist Writing Workshop is a call to create healthy, sustainable, and empowering artistic communities for a new millennium of writers. Inspired by June Jordan 's 1995 Poetry for the People, here is a blueprint for a 21st-century workshop model that protects and platforms writers of color. Instead of earmarking dusty anthologies, imagine workshop participants Skyping with contemporary writers of difference. Instead of tolerating bigoted criticism, imagine workshop participants moderating their own feedback sessions. Instead of yielding to the red-penned judgement of instructors, imagine workshop participants citing their own text in dialogue. The Antiracist Writing Workshop is essential reading for anyone looking to revolutionize the old workshop model into an enlightened, democratic counterculture.
Colorado College English professor Chavez (coeditor, The BreakBeat Poets, Vol. 4) combines memoir and teaching guide in this spirited call for building more inclusive and supportive writing workshops. Chavez deplores "traditions of dominance and control in the creative writing classroom" that cater to "(white) creativity, (white) imagination, and (white) autonomy on the page." As a private tutor and a college instructor, she developed a workshop model that "decentered whiteness and redistributed power equally among participants and instructors." Classroom objectives and activities include freewriting, reading aloud to develop participants' authentic voices, and the replacement of "canonical texts" with a "living archive" of works by "young people, people of color, women, queer, differently-abled, and gender-nonconforming artists." Chavez documents her own frustration at being "the only person of color present" and feeling "alienated and isolated and deeply lonely" during her graduate studies at the University of Iowa, but makes no mention of low-residency and online creative writing programs that already offer more inclusive alternatives to the traditional model she rails against. Still, the mindfulness and generosity that guide her teaching principles will resonate with other scholars and students who have been working to diversify creative writing and English literature programs.