These essays reflect my experiences teaching at VONA, the writers’ conference for writers of color, and its diverse range of students, faculty, and staff to whom I will be eternally grateful: Junot Díaz, whose brilliant insights inform this book; Elmaz Abinader, who helped save me by bringing me to VONA; Diem Jones, generous leader extraordinaire; Chris Abani, Suheir Hammad, Willie Perdomo, ZZ Packer, Mat Johnson, Evelina Galang, Vanessa Martir, Kira Lynn Allen, Serena Lim, and Liz Huerta. I want to thank all my VONA students for the innumerable lessons they have taught me.
The essays also derive from my teaching at the low-residency Stonecoast MFA program; I’m grateful to former director Annie Finch who brought me to that program. At Stonecoast I taught students in poetry, fiction, and memoir through lengthy correspondences that forced me to articulate my practices in ways I might not have otherwise. I’d like to thank my students for pushing me toward various insights. I’m particularly grateful to Helen Peppe and Alexis Paige, who have since become colleagues and valuable readers.
I’d like to thank my co-teachers in the Stonecoast workshop, “Writing About Race”: Richard Hoffman; Alexs Pate, whose brilliance I’ve drawn on in this book, my great friend and colleague for over twenty-five years; Tim Seibles, who has supported me and my work for the same length of time.
I’d like to thank the students of my Loft class for writers of color and indigenous writers and Loft staff members Britt Udesen, Jen Dodgson, Sherrie Fernandez-Williams, and especially Marion Gomez, for her dedication and hard work to the spirit of that class.
Thanks to those at University of Georgia Press: Jon Davies, Erin New, freelance copyeditor Barbara Wojhoski, and particularly my editor, Bethany Snead, whose belief in and work on this book has been a godsend. My thanks to the anonymous UGA Press readers who definitely helped me improve the manuscript. My gratitude to Paul Mairet, who assisted me in preparing the manuscript and has worked as my assistant.
Other writers and artists have helped me particularly in understanding the areas of race and literature: Frank Wilderson III, Ed Bok Lee, Sun Mee Chomet, Juliana Pegues, Bao Phi, Quincy Troupe, Rick Shiomi, Ananya Chatterjea, Patricia Smith, Randy Reyes, Martín Espada, and Sun Yung Shin.
Garrett Hongo, my BFAM, has been an invaluable source of support and literary insight for years.
Finally, I want to thank my family: my parents, Tom and Terry Mura; my wife, Susan Sencer, who has read this manuscript innumerable times and who has lovingly supported me; and my children, Samantha, Nikko, and Tomo, who continue to inspire and teach me about the diversity they’ve grown up with and live with each day.