Cover image for Multiply/Divide
Title:
Multiply/Divide

On the American Real and Surreal
Author:
Walters, Wendy S.
Subject:
Essays
Politics
Sociology
Nonfiction
Description:
I have never been particularly interested in slavery, perhaps because it is such an obvious fact of my family's history. The fact that I am descended from slaves is hard to acknowledge on a day-to-day basis, because slavery does not fit with my self-image. Perhaps this is because I am pretty certain I would not have survived it.In the manner of Calvino's Invisible Cities, Wendy Walters deftly explores the psyches of cities such as Chicago, Detroit, Manhattan, and Portsmouth. In "Cleveland," she interviews an African-American playwright who draws great reviews, but can't muster an audience. An on-air telephone chat between a DJ and his listeners drives a discussion of race and nutrition in "Chicago Radio." In "Manhattanville" the author, out for a walk with her biracial son, is mistaken for his nanny. There's even a fable, imagining a black takeover of Norway. All of these essays explore societal questions—how eras of immense growth can leave us unable to prosper from that growth, how places intended for safety become fraught with danger, and how race and gender bias threaten our communities. As John D'Agata notes: "What probing, lively, ridiculously smart, gorgeously surprising essays."Wendy S. Walters is the author of two books of poems, Troy, Michigan and Longer I Wait, More You Love Me. Her work has appeared in Harper's, Bookforum, the Iowa Review, and many other publications. She is associate professor of creative writing at The New School University in New York.
Publisher:
Sarabande Books
Date:
2015/08/24
Digital Format:
Adobe EPUB

HTML

Kindle
Language:
English

Summary

Summary

I have never been particularly interested in slavery, perhaps because it is such an obvious fact of my family's history. The fact that I am descended from slaves is hard to acknowledge on a day-to-day basis, because slavery does not fit with my self-image. Perhaps this is because I am pretty certain I would not have survived it.

In the manner of Calvino's Invisible Cities , Wendy Walters deftly explores the psyches of cities such as Chicago, Detroit, Manhattan, and Portsmouth. In "Cleveland," she interviews an African-American playwright who draws great reviews, but can't muster an audience. An on-air telephone chat between a DJ and his listeners drives a discussion of race and nutrition in "Chicago Radio." In "Manhattanville" the author, out for a walk with her biracial son, is mistaken for his nanny. There's even a fable, imagining a black takeover of Norway. All of these essays explore societal questions--how eras of immense growth can leave us unable to prosper from that growth, how places intended for safety become fraught with danger, and how race and gender bias threaten our communities. As John D'Agata notes: "What probing, lively, ridiculously smart, gorgeously surprising essays."

Wendy S. Walters is the author of two books of poems, Troy, Michigan and Longer I Wait, More You Love Me . Her work has appeared in Harper's , Bookforum , the Iowa Review , and many other publications. She is associate professor of creative writing at The New School University in New York.


Author Notes

Wendy S. Walters: Wendy S. Walters is the author of two books of poems, Troy, Michigan and Longer I Wait, More You Love Me . Her work has appeared in Harper's, Bookforum, The Iowa Review , and others. She is Associate Professor of creative writing at The New School University in New York.


Reviews 1

Kirkus Review

A poet's collection of prose that blurs the boundaries of fiction, memoir, and essay. Most of this writing originally appeared in literary journals, and some of the essays work better on their own than others, but the juxtapositions within the collection are formally provocative. In a brief author's note, Walters (Troy, Michigan, 2014) lists which pieces fall into which category but asserts, "the border between nonfiction and fictionwhile seemingly as clear as black and whiteis often porous enough to render the distinction irrelevant." If she hadn't listed the divisions of titles at the beginning, readers would often have no way of knowing, for both the fiction and nonfiction generally have a first-person perspective. The fiction pieces are often more intimate and revelatory, while what could be considered memoir can seem guarded, reticent, and oddly distanced. "How odd it feels to share a space with strangers, each of us sitting intimately in rows, facing the same direction. Everyone here and somewhere else at the same time," writes the author at the conclusion of "The Personal," which combines sexual history with meditation of the inscrutable "I." Walters' opening comparison to "clear as black and white" proves telling as well, since those issues are by no means clear within the identity of the author, as frequently perceived by others, who identifies as black but is light enough to make her race unclear and who is married to a white Jewish man. "Once I was busy caring for my son, my preoccupations with race shifted away from legitimating my own identity to seeking out a community that would acknowledge his," she writes. In addition to questions of identity and categorization, feelings of love and loneliness pervade this collection, through writing that seeks understanding of person and place through history and geography. A curious collection, as interesting for the way the pieces fit together as for the accomplishment of any one of them. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.