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Tressie McMillan Cottom on authority and trauma; Remembering Rachel Ingalls

Tressie McMillan Cottom

The New York Times remembers Rachel Ingalls, the recently-rediscovered author of Mrs. Caliban, who died earlier this month. Around the time New Directions began republishing her books in 2017, Ingalls also received a diagnosis of terminal cancer. But according to her sister, Sarah Daughn, “the diagnosis had an unexpected effect” on the author and Ingalls “began to enjoy the recognition that had long eluded her.” “She was so happy,” Daughn told the Times in an interview. “She was getting to say everything she wanted to say.

Jennifer Finney Boylan has sold a new book to Celadon. Good Boy: A Life in Seven Dogs, “a memoir of masculinity, and an investigation into the relationships between men, women, and dogs,” will be published in April 2020.

Last night, the Whiting Foundation named the winners of this year's Whiting Award, each of whom will receive $50,000. Hernan Diaz (In the Distance; Borges, between History and Eternity) and Nafissa Thompson-Spires (Heads of the Colored People) won for fiction; Terese Marie Mailhot (Heart Berries: A Memoir) and Nadia Owusu (Aftershocks) won for nonfiction; Kayleb Rae Candrilli (What Runs OverAll the Gay Saints), Tyree Daye (River Hymns), and Vanessa Angélica Villarreal (Beast Meridian) won for poetry; and Michael R. Jackson (A Strange Loop) and Lauren Yee (Cambodian Rock Band) won for drama.

At Columbia Journalism Review, Jake Pitre chronicles the boom and bust of queer media. “As gay culture became more widely accepted in the United States, particularly with the passage of same-sex marriage in 2015, producers and advertisers grew more comfortable being associated with queer stories,” he writes. “Soon, that media became exploitable—there was money to be made now that this niche community was palatable as a targeted demographic.”

At Guernica, Roxane Gay talks to Tressie McMillan Cottom about authority, trauma, and her new essay collection, Thick. “I think when you come out on the other side of trauma, one of two things can happen: You can be more of who you were before it happened. . . . Or you can come out different,” McMillan Cottom explained. “That’s what happened to me. For the first time, I was asking questions of myself rather than responding to how people wanted me to behave. For the first time, I was making affirmative decisions about what I wanted. In a real way, the trauma wiped the slate clean for me mentally. And that’s when I started the process of teaching myself to take myself seriously.”

“We narrativize our personalities and create our own story arcs because life is so messy and bat shit and mostly incomplete and unsatisfactory that we need to tidy it, to story it, to make it feel full and circular and interesting,” Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls author T Kira Madden tells Electric Literature. “I learned through writing this book that there is no getting your own story right; forget about anyone else’s. When you’re trying to wrangle every version of yourself and harness every refraction of light and shadow from lived experiences — experiences that change color with every subsequent recall — what you get is a mess.”