Black Lives Matter: Writers Talk Back

Four Black writers talk back on solidarity, history, representation, freedom, justice, and how to support sustainable transformation in our literary communities.

Dana Johnson, Moderator
Ishmael Reed
Danzy Senna
Douglas Manuel

Recommended Readings

Ishmael Reed:
Robert Coover and Louise Meriwether

Danzy Senna: Melungeons

Douglas Manuel:
White Blood by Kiki Petrosino
I Can’t Talk About the Trees Without the Blood by Tiana Clark
Good Stock Strange Blood by Dawn Lundy Martin
Confessions of a Barefaced Woman by Allison Joseph
Voyage of the Sable Venus by Robin Coste Lewis
Scratching the Ghost and Abracadabra Sunshine by Dexter Booth,
Cannibal by Safiya Sinclair
Blood for the Blood God by Mary-Alice Daniel


Dana Johnson is the author of the short story collection, In the Not Quite Dark, Counterpoint 2016. She is also the author of Break Any Woman Down, winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, and the novel Elsewhere, California. She is a professor of English at the University of Southern California.

Ishmael Reed is the winner of the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship (genius award), the renowned L.A. Times Robert Kirsch Lifetime Achievement Award and the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Award. He has been nominated for a Pulitzer and finalist for two National Book Awards and is Professor Emeritus at the University of California at Berkeley; and founder of the Before Columbus Foundation, which promotes multicultural American writing. The American Book Awards, sponsored by the foundation has been called The American League to the National Book Awards’ National League. He also founded PEN Oakland which issues the Josephine Miles Literary Awards. PEN Oakland has been called “The Blue Collar PEN” by The New York Times. Now distinguished professor California College of the Arts.

Danzy Senna is the author of five books of fiction and nonfiction, including the novels Caucasia, Symptomatic, and most recently, New People, named one of the best books of the year by Time, Vogue and the New York Times. Senna is a recipient of the Whiting Award and the Dos Passos Prize for Literature. She teaches creative writing at the University of Southern California and lives in Los Angeles.

Douglas Manuel was born in Anderson, Indiana. He received a BA in Creative Writing from Arizona State University and a MFA from Butler University where he was the Managing Editor of Booth a Journal. He is currently a Middleton and Dornsife Fellow at the University of Southern California where he is pursuing a PhD in Literature and Creative Writing. He has served as the Poetry Editor for Gold Line Press as well as one of the Managing Editors of Ricochet Editions. His poems are featured on Poetry Foundation’s website and have appeared or are forthcoming in Pleiades, Poetry Northwest, The Los Angeles Review, Superstition Review, Rhino, North American Review, The Chattahoochee Review, New Orleans Review, Crab Creek Review, and elsewhere. His first full length collection of poems, Testify (Red Hen Press, 2017), won an IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award for poetry. In 2020, he received the Dana Gioia Poetry Award.