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In the Tradition: A Year of Great Black Books - Session 1

Black Americans have a unique identity that is movingly illustrated and celebrated in literature. In this course, we will take a year to read, examine, and discuss some of the seminal books written by Black authors that deal with the inescapability of history, the intersection of race and gender, and the difficulty of cultural assimilation. By spending time with these important and accomplished books, we will learn a great deal about the august Black literary tradition and how literature has functioned as a tool for revelation, connection, and progress for the Black community and American society at large.

NOTE: You can register for just the first session, or receive a discount by committing to the full year.

Session 1: The Inescapability of History

Jan 8: Kindred by Octavia Butler
Feb 12: The Chaneysville Incident by David Bradley
Mar 12: Beloved by Toni Morrison 
Apr 9: The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates


Session Two: The Intersection of Race & Gender 

May 14: Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston 
June 11: I Know Why the Caged Bird Eyes by Maya Angelou
July 9: Meridian by Alice Walker
August 13: Caucasia by Danzy Senna


Session Three: The Difficulty of Cultural Assimilation  

September 10 & October 8: The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
November 12: The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead
December 10: Erasure by Percival Everett


About Reader Series: Reader series classes take you on a deep dive into specific topic or author to gain a more advanced understanding of literature and the world. Experienced instructors will provide history, context, and analysis, and guide in-depth discussion that will help make you an instant expert in a single subject or author’s body of work.

Each participant can decide how they choose to engage with the classes. You can read the books ahead of time, read them as the class progresses, or read them after the class has concluded. No matter your level of prior knowledge, you will receive a wealth of materials and insights in a condensed period, like a master class or a great course, only right here in Cleveland.

Instructor: Michelle R. Smith is a writer, educator, cultural facilitator, and native Clevelander. She is the programming associate for Literary Cleveland and a teaching artist for Lake Erie Ink. She is the author of the poetry collections Ariel in Black (2015) and The Vagina Analogues (2020). She has been published in poemmemoirstoryMeridians: feminism, race, transnationalism; The Normal School; and The Gasconade Review. She has been a featured reader, instructor, and panelist at The Lakewood Public Library, The East Cleveland Public Library, The Cuyahoga County Public Library, The Cleveland Museum of Arts, Cleveland Drafts – Brews + Prose, PNC Fairfax Connection, Case Western Reserve University’s Writers House, and Literary Cleveland’s Inkubator Conference. She is also the creator, co-producer, and director of BLAX MUSEUM, an annual performance showcase for Northeast Ohio artists open to all forms and dedicated to honoring notable black figures in American history and culture. Michelle’s favorite novelist is Toni Morrison, and she splits her “favorite poet” title between Ntozake Shange, Sylvia Plath, Victoria Chang, and Saeed Jones.

Details: In the Tradition: A Year of Great Black Books - Session 1 takes place Saturdays January 8, February 12, March 12 & April 9 from 10am-12pm remotely through Zoom. 

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