Tongass Mist Writing is owned and operated by Ruth Underhill @ruth_elizabeth_underhill, a local Sitkan with a dream to see more writers experience and cherish the mists of the Tongass National Forest with the knock of raven call and sound of rocks rolling up the shores of this beautiful Tlingit Aáni land where she lives as a very lucky guest. Ruth shapes retreats and writing resources to allow #artists to carry its wild and beauty into their diverse and empowered writing. The retreat includes lodging on an oceanfront campus, daily meals, wilderness excursions, six literary salons, fireside readings, a wildlife cruise, and sauna. Tongass Mist welcomes its second visiting writer to Sitka in April 2023. Rita Banerjee will join the Sitka Fine Arts Campus April 12-16th for a four day retreat featuring wilderness excursions, generative writing salons, readings by a fire, literary craft talks and the incomparable experience of creating, enjoying a welcoming art community in the heart of the Tongass National Forest. Rita comes to visit us with incredible experience writing, film making, teaching, publishing and directing writing programs across the country. To apply, submit an application on the Tongass Mist Writing Retreat websiteby March 19, 2023 at 3 pm Alaska Standard Time.
The Young Women’s Society of New York City, founded by Sunita Singh of LIU Brooklyn, welcomes Rita Banerjee as a guest speaker to discuss “On Writing and Publishing” on Wednesday, September 28, 2022 from 6:30-7:30 pm EST on Zoom.
The Young Women’s Society of New York City space for females across NYC where they can voice their concerns, feelings, and fears. The club aims to empower young women within the community by providing opportunities to learn STEM-related skills and hear from accomplished women within various fields. Rita Banerjee will be present on writing, publishing, and academia, and how young women (both cis and trans) can flourish in such fields. To join the Zoom conversation on September 28, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Membership to the Young Women’s Society of New York City is open to undergraduate, graduate, and young professional students who identify as female and who live, study, and/or work in NYC. To join the community, please email email@example.com.
Recently Rita Banerjee sat down to Felicia Rose Chavez to discuss her pedagogy-changing book The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop: How to Decolonize the Creative Classroom for Kweli Journal. Launched in December 2009, Kweli is an online literary journal that celebrates community and cultural kinships. In this shared space, you will hear the lived experience of people of color. Our many stories. Our shared histories. Our creative play with language. Here our memories are wrapped inside the music of the Muscogee, the blues songs of the South, the clipped patois of the Caribbean. We currently publish four (4) online issues each year. In the interview and podcast (produced by Tavia Gilbert), Rita Banerjee and Felicia Rose Chavez discuss new approaches to the creative writing classroom. Here is an excerpt from their interview:
To me, it sounds like this anti-racist workshop model is neither a call-out culture or a call-in culture, but much more curious, inquisitive, and dialogue-based. It’s questioning, but not in an interrogating style.
Felicia Rose Chavez:
It’s about “what are you trying to do, and how can we best get you there?”
I would love for you to talk about the way that you utilize the Liz Lerman method. Because the one that I’ve been taught the moderator has a really big role in helping navigate the conversation. But in your model, it’s the artist is the one who’s really propelling the conversation forward.
Felicia Rose Chavez:
Yeah. I go to the extreme where students are seated in a circle to workshop when it comes to formal workshop and I’m actually seated outside of the circle. So I will be in the corner of the classroom. I’m not even participating as a restraint to myself because my impulse would be to turn towards dominance and control of the classroom. I’m not immune to these impulses as an educator. It takes great work for me to step back and say, “that’s not warranted right now. Nobody cares what you think right now, let them learn from one another.” So I do advocate that the student is the one who leads the workshop. They have a timing device and they walk their fellow students through the five steps of the Liz Lerman model in which I add a kind of unspoken sixth step in which they write an artist statement to the group.
So they write a letter, and they write about their fears about the piece they write about their successes of the piece. They write things like “God guys, I am dying right now. And I don’t know what to do when I feel so vulnerable. And so here’s what I need in this moment.” They also have an opportunity to articulate a future draft, saying things like “Here’s where I want to be. Here’s what I need to get there.” They enumerate three craft-based questions. Again, we all understand what those craft terms are. So we’re all speaking to the piece and we can engage with those craft concepts on equal footing that serves as their foundation. And so they have about 30 minutes and they read the piece aloud. Everyone reads the artist statement silently. They read the piece aloud and they’re able to walk through the Liz Lerman steps beginning with “I welcome your statements of meaning” and everyone offers what was challenging and beautiful and exciting to them.
Felicia Rose Chavez is an award-winning educator with an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the University of Iowa. She is author of The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop: How to Decolonize the Creative Classroom and co-editor of The BreakBeat Poets Volume 4: LatiNEXT with Willie Perdomo and Jose Olivarez. Felicia’s teaching career began in Chicago, where she served as Program Director to Young Chicago Authors and founded GirlSpeak, a feminist webzine for high school students. She went on to teach writing at the University of New Mexico, where she was distinguished as the Most Innovative Instructor of the Year, th University of Iowa, where she was distinguished as the Outstanding Instructor of the Year, and Colorado College, where she received the Theodore Roosevelt Collins Outstanding Faculty Award. Her creative scholarship earned her a Ronald E. McNair Fellowship, a University of Iowa Graduate Dean’s Fellowship, a Riley Scholar Fellowship, and a Hadley Creatives Fellowship. Originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico, she currently serves as the Bronfman Creativity and Innovation Scholar-in-Residence at Colorado College. For more information about The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop, and to access (and add to!) a multi-genre compilation of contemporary writers of color, visit www.antiracistworkshop.com.
Rita Banerjeeis an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing and Co-Director of the MFA in Creative Writing and Publishing program at the George Polk School of Communications at Long Island University Brooklyn. She is author of CREDO: An Anthology of Manifestos and Sourcebook for Creative Writing, Echo in Four Beats, the novella “A Night with Kali” in Approaching Footsteps, and Cracklers at Night. She received her doctorate in Comparative Literature from Harvard and her MFA from the University of Washington, and her work appears in Hunger Mountain, PANK, Isele, Nat. Brut., Poets & Writers, Academy of American Poets, Los Angeles Review of Books, Vermont Public Radio, and elsewhere. She is the co-writer and co-director of Burning Down the Louvre (2022), a documentary film about race, intimacy, and tribalism in the United States and in France. She received a 2021-2022 Creation Grant from the Vermont Arts Council for her new memoir and manifesto on female cool, and one of the opening chapters of this memoir, “Birth of Cool” was a Notable Essay in the 2020 Best American Essays. You can follow her work at ritabanerjee.com or on Twitter @Rita_Banerjee.
Writer, performer, producer Tavia Gilbertis the acclaimed narrator of more than 700 full-cast and multi-voice audiobooks. She is a Grammy nominee, Booklist Audiobook Narrator of the Year, the recipient of dozens of Earphones Awards, and a 12-time Audie nominee and Winner of the Best Female Narrator Audie. She produces several podcasts, including eight-time award-winner Stories of Impact, and teaches at Long Island University and Vermont College of Fine Arts.
Founded in 1982 by independent filmmaker and Cinema Studies Professor Al Nigrin, the Rutgers Film Co-op/NJMAC draws thousands of viewers from throughout New Jersey by providing an alternative media culture. The Rutgers Film Co-op/NJMAC is dedicated to the noncommercial exhibition of independent, classic, international, and experimental films and videos. Not only do Film Co-op audiences have the opportunity to view many independently produced films, but also the added benefit of meeting with the filmmakers, actors, screenwriters and other members of production crew. As an undergraduate student at Rutgers College, New Brunswick, Rita Banerjee served as a projectionist, usher, ticket clerk, public speaker, and judge of the United States Super 8 Film Festival at the Rutgers Film Co-Op. In 2022, the Rutgers Film Co-op and Cinema Studies program have created featured profiles of their acclaimed alumnx. In the Rutgers Film Co-Op Profile on Rita Banerjee, Banerjee recalls:
“Growing up, our house was filled with popular music in Bengali, Hindi, Urdu, and Punjabi, Curry Westerns and Golden Age Bollywood films, Bengali Art House Cinema, feminist Pakistani television serials, and recitations of Sanskrit poetry and Rabindra-sangeet whenever my extended family would get together and try to impress or outwit each other during their āḍḍā sessions.
My family gave me a peak into how multicultural, multilingual, mirthful, and messy South Asian culture across languages, religions, nations, and the diaspora could be. They also loved British comedy, sketch shows like The Carol Burnett Show, and bumbling but persistent detectives like Columbo and Inspector Jacques Clouseau. It felt like every time I came home from college to visit my parents for a weekend, there would be an image of James Bond, Sharmila Tagore, Jackie Chan, Uttam Kumar, Edie Murphy, Shah Rukh Khan, or Lucille Ball gracing their Saturday evening movie screen.
And when I began my studies at Rutgers, this picture of a larger, more complicated world was something I was seeking… It was during my first year of college that I met Professor Al Nigrin and fell in love with the NJ Film Festival and Rutgers Film Co-op. I joined the Co-op during the end of my freshman year when I took Susan Martin-Márquez’s thought-provoking and memorable World Cinema II class in which we screened films like Akira Kurosawa’s Rashōmon, Satyajit Ray’s Charulata, Ousmane Sembene’s Camp de Thiaroye, Djibril Diop Mambéty’s Touki Bouki, and Wong Kar-Wai’s Happy Together among many other classics of world cinema.
At the Film Co-op, I worked as a projectionist, usher, ticket clerk, public speaker, and judge of the United States Super 8 Film Festival. I started working at the Film Co-op regularly on weekends in the Fall of 2001 just as September 11th happened and affected so many students, faculty, and staff, many of whom had friends and family in New York at that time or had witnessed the destruction of the Twin Towers themselves from the “safe haven” of New Jersey. While I was still a teenager then, 9/11 proved to be a pivotal moment in my artistic practice and career trajectory. It seemed to me, at that time in all my worldly wisdom, that I would waste my life if I pursued Engineering as a major and if I did not become the artist or intellectual I wanted to be while Rome was burning. Many years later, I finally wrote about what coming-of-age as a young adult during 9/11 really meant in my essay “Birth of Cool,” which went on to be a Notable Essay in the 2020 Best American Essays. This story about Rutgers, literature, my obsession with cool, and 9/11 became the opening to my new memoir and manifesto on how women keep their cool and foster a culture of female cool against social, sexual, and economic pressure post-9/11.
Some of my fondest memories at the Rutgers Film Co-op include watching Mulholland Drive with our exchange students from Japan (and my love interest at the time scolding me afterwards for showing our guests such a scandalous movie!!), and screening films like Meshes of the Afternoon,Bend It Like Beckham, Requiem for a Dream, Amélie, Kandhar, Un Chien Andalou, Potemkin,Lost in Translation, and Bowling for Columbine with our cadre of artists, filmmakers, and writers. One of the most unforgettable moments at the Rutgers Film Co-op happened when we were screening Lars von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark. I had helped with the ticket sales that night, so I snuck into the audience with my friends to watch the film. And being such a stoic person normally, I just remember that moment in the film when Björk’s character passes the point of no-return and I felt my cheeks wet with tears that I didn’t even realize I was shedding.
That’s how meeting Al Nigrin and working at the Rutgers Film Co-op felt to me: an epiphany, a discovery, a challenging of my worldview, a dance and entrance into an exciting new imagination.
I’ve carried my memories of the Rutgers Film Co-op with me over the years. They have helped me to interrogate the world and seek new perspectives and listen to new voices. In so many ways the Rutgers Film Co-op and New Jersey Film Festival created a meeting ground and a place of conversation in New Brunswick that was bohemian, unapologetically artistic and edgy, multicultural, and cognizant of the importance of historical contexts and new world views. I learned so much about how to be an artist, a citizen of the world, how to be curious and always a little punk from Professor Al Nigrin and the Rutgers Film Co-op. And those lessons and that style and that kind of clear-eyed coolness I’ll always carry with me.”
Adverse Abstraction will be featuring poets and writers Rita Banerjee, Bonnie Jill Emanuel, and Virginia Vasquez during their next monthly reading at Otto’s Shrunken Head on Friday, May 20 at 6 pm Eastern. The Adverse Abstraction monthly artist series is curated in New York City by writers Kristine Esser Slentz and Matthew Gahler, and you can read more about the featured authors below.
Rita Banerjee is author of CREDO: An Anthology of Manifestos and Sourcebook for Creative Writing, Echo in Four Beats, the novella “A Night with Kali” in Approaching Footsteps, and Cracklers at Night. She received her doctorate in Comparative Literature from Harvard and her MFA from the University of Washington, and is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing and Co-Director of the MFA in Creative Writing and Publishing program at the George Polk School of Communications at Long Island University Brooklyn. Her work appears in Hunger Mountain, Isele, Nat. Brut., Poets & Writers, Academy of American Poets, Los Angeles Review of Books, Vermont Public Radio, and elsewhere. She is the co-writer and co-director of Burning Down the Louvre (2022), a documentary film about race, intimacy, and tribalism in the United States and in France. She received a 2021-2022 Creation Grant from the Vermont Arts Council for her new memoir and manifesto on female cool, and one of the opening chapters of this memoir, “Birth of Cool” was a Notable Essay in the 2020 Best American Essays.
Bonnie Jill Emanuel’s poems appear or will appear in American Poetry Review, Colorado Review, Mid-American Review, Passages North, The Night Heron Barks, SWWIM, The Laurel Review, Indolent Books Online, Ruminate, Love’s Executive Order, Midwest Review, Chiron Review, and elsewhere. She earned a Creative Writing MFA at The City College of New York in 2020, where she was awarded the Jerome Lowell DeJur Prize in Creative Writing for her full-length thesis manuscript, and the Stark Poetry Prize in Memory of Raymond Patterson for a series of poems she wrote about Detroit. She holds a BA in Creative Writing & Foreign Languages from University of Michigan’s Residential College. Born in Detroit, she now lives in New York.
Virginia Vasquez is a cross-genre writer, multidisciplinary artist, and educator. She taught creative writing at the City College of New York, where she earned her MFA in Creative Writing with a focus on experimental and hybrid poetics. In her artist statement, she explains: “As a multiracial Caribeña, I honor my racial identities, ancestry, and lineage. In my work, I evoke ancestral spirits to give voice to those forgotten and unheard, to bring the ancestors into presence — exalt their pain and sacrifice, resistance and power. My writing is ritualistic, taking on various forms and shapes to challenge perceptions, perspectives, and assumptions about history, identity, and self.” Virginia is also a certified Mental Health First Aid instructor, and has worked in mental health settings for over 6 years. She taught various workshops on mental health at 1199SEIU, and currently facilitates trainings’ for the Mentorship Training Program for Registered Apprenticeship in Healthcare at H-CAP, Inc.
The third and final part of Rita Banerjee’s essay, “The Female Gaze,” an excerpt from her new memoir and manifesto on how young women of color keep their cool against social, sexual, and economic pressure debuts in PANK Magazine today.
In Town Bloody Hall, Germaine Greer engages in a battle of wills and wits with Norman Mailer as he argues that men are merely passive slaves to women, who are the ones who really hold power, in The Prisoner of Sex.
The debate takes place at NYU in 1971.
In the film, Mailer introduces Greer as the “lady writer” from “England,” although Greer is clearly exhibiting an Australian accent and despises the term “lady” to qualify anything.
Her fur stole drags on the floor as she responds to Mailer:
“I turned to the function of women vis-à-vis art as we know it. And I found that it fell into two parts. That we were either low, sloppy creatures or menials, or we were goddesses, or worse of all, we were meant to be both, which meant that we broke our hearts trying to keep our aprons clean.”
Mailer doesn’t look up, Greer doesn’t pause:
“I turned for some information to Freud. Treating Freud’s description of the artist as an ad hoc description of the psyche of the artist in our society, and not in any way as an eternal pronouncement about what art might mean. And what Freud said, of course, has irritated many artists who’ve had the misfortune to see it: He longs to attain to honor, power, riches, fame, and the love of women but he lacks the means of achieving these gratifications.”
Greer pronounces the words and the camera settles on Mailer’s worried face. The audience chuckles at his unease. She does not stop:
“As an eccentric little girl who thought it might be worthwhile, after all, to be a poet, coming across these words for the first time, was a severe check. The blandness of Freud’s assumption that the artist was a man sent me back into myself to consider whether or not the proposition was reversible. Could a female artist be driven by the desire for riches, fame, and the love of men?
The second part of Rita Banerjee’s essay, “The Female Gaze,” an excerpt from her new memoir and manifesto on how young women of color keep their cool against social, sexual, and economic pressure debuts in PANK Magazine today.
In Le deuxième sexe, Simone de Beauvoir throws down the gauntlet: On ne naît pas femme: on le devient. One is not born a woman: one becomes it.
Whatever it is or was or could be—female, feminine, feminist, second, subaltern, subordinate, submissive, other sex—Beauvoir asserts that an individual is actively trained, educated, and thus, indoctrinated on how to perform the role of the woman and eventually become it (neutered, masculine category). La femme est une autre. La femme est l’Autre. Je suis l’ Autre. The woman is an Other. The woman is the Other. I am the Other. What did Rimbaud know? Je est un Autre. Godard, too, when he exclaimed, Une femme est une femme? Is a woman just a woman? Who makes a woman? You? Me? Society? A man?”
Happy Lunar New Year! Today Rita Banerjee’s essay “The Female Gaze” debuts in PANK Magazine. “The Female Gaze,” an essay in three parts, is an excerpt from Rita Banerjee’s new memoir and manifesto on how young women of color keep their cool against social, sexual, and economic pressure. In her essay exploring the female gaze, female agency, and female cool, Banerjee asks:
What if women, especially women of color, were the progenitors of cool? That is, did women have to cultivate their own cool—their own sense of style, creative expression, and coldness—in order to survive patriarchy across millennia across cultures? If the male gaze aims subordinate and colonize, what does the female gaze, tempered by cool, desire? What does the female gaze cherish or hold dear? If a woman were fully aware of her gaze, would she use it to objectify and colonize, or could her gaze destabilize and decolonize?
In 2016, at a master class at the Toronto International Film Festival, Jill Soloway, the director and producer of Transparent who recently comes out as transgender, tackles Laura Mulvey’s famous and electrifying essay, “Visual Cinema and Narrative Pleasure.” In 1975, Mulvey introduces the term “male gaze” and describes how scopophilia fetishizes the female body on screen and transforms a woman into an object of pleasure, voyeurism, and eroticism for the male viewer.
Soloway wonders if the female gaze is simply the opposite of the male gaze. That is, is the female gaze simply “visual arts and literature depicting the world and men from a feminine point of view, presenting men as objects of female pleasure?”
Soloway digs further. The female gaze might actually have an identity of its own. An independence, an agency. “The female gaze might be…
I. A way of feeling and seeing, which tries to get inside the protagonist especially when the protagonist is not cis-male. A subjective camera. Reclaiming the body and using it as a tool of the self with intention to communicating a feeling-seeing. II. Demonstrate how it feels to be the object of the gaze. III. Return the gaze. Daring to say, ‘I see you seeing me.’”
This premiere podcast from the latest issue of “YET…Conversations About Bringing Art Into the World,” a monthly newsletter that offers a behind-the-scenes of creating as we talk with creatives around the world. The January issue features Rita Banerjee who is a writer across many different genres including her work on an upcoming documentary, Burning Down the Louvre. In our first audio interview, Shanta Lee talks with Rita about the things that take hold of us and call us to create, some details about what it has been like to branch out into documentary filmmaking, how to continue to keep the fire going when one creates across so many different areas, and more. To learn more about the newsletter or sign up, visit: Shantaleegander.com.
About the authors:
Shanta Lee Gander is a visual artist, poet, and prose writer based in Vermont. She is co-author with her husband MacLean C. Gander of Ghosts of Cuba: An Interracial Couple’s Exploration of Cuba in the Age of Trump—Told in Images & Words (forthcoming). She has an MBA from the University of Hartford and an undergraduate degree in Women, Gender and Sexuality from Trinity College, and is completing her MFA in Creative Non-Fiction and Poetry at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her exhibition Dark Goddess combines cultural anthropology, photography, and an individual’s personal vision as it relates to unearthing deeper aspects of the goddess. The Dark Goddess exhibition was featured at the Southern Vermont Arts Center in Manchester, VT as a solo show from August 7 – September 26, 2021 and will be at the Fleming Museum of Art, February – May 2022.
Rita Banerjee is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing and Co-Director of the MFA in Creative Writing and Publishing program at LIU Brooklyn. She is the author of CREDO: An Anthology of Manifestos and Sourcebook for Creative Writing, Echo in Four Beats, the novella “A Night with Kali” in Approaching Footsteps, and Cracklers at Night. Her work appears in Hunger Mountain, Isele, Nat. Brut., Poets & Writers, Academy of American Poets, Los Angeles Review of Books, Vermont Public Radio, and elsewhere. She is a co-writer of Burning Down the Louvre (2022), a documentary film about race, intimacy, and tribalism in the United States and in France. She received a 2021-2022 Creation Grant from the Vermont Arts Council for her new memoir and manifesto on female cool, and one of the opening chapters of this new memoir, “Birth of Cool” was a Notable Essay in the 2020 Best American Essays. You can follow her work at ritabanerjee.com or on Twitter @Rita_Banerjee!
Writers House is an undergraduate learning community at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. Writers House provides a gateway to the experience of creativity and serves as a laboratory for developing expression in all the media of the twenty-first century. At Writers House, students can work on poetry, fiction, drama, creative nonfiction, autobiography, grant-writing, nature writing, and screenwriting. They can also collaborate on documentary film-making, multimedia composition, and web design. The goal of Writers House is to give students direct access to writing’s constructive and life-changing powers for personal and social good. The entrance to Writers House has no doors. All are welcome.
RITA BANERJEE is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing and Co-Director of the MFA in Creative Writing and Publishing program at LIU Brooklyn. She is the author of CREDO: An Anthology of Manifestos and Sourcebook for Creative Writing, Echo in Four Beats, the novella“A Night with Kali” in Approaching Footsteps, and Cracklers at Night. Her work appearsin Hunger Mountain, Isele, Nat. Brut., Poets & Writers, Academy of American Poets, Los Angeles Review of Books, Vermont Public Radio, and elsewhere. She is a co-writer of Burning Down the Louvre (2022), a documentary film about race, intimacy, and tribalism in the United States and in France. She received a 2021-2022 Creation Grant from the Vermont Arts Council for her new memoir and manifesto on female cool, and one of the opening chapters of this new memoir, “Birth of Cool” was a Notable Essay in the 2020 Best American Essays.You can follow her work at ritabanerjee.com
CASSANDRA GILLIG is a writer, archivist, and musician who lives in Kansas City. She writes about policing and gentrification for the Kansas City Defender and co-organizes the Stray Cat Film Center, where she runs the Institute for Whoopi Goldberg Studies. She graduated from Rutgers in 2014 with degrees in English and WGS and still owes $19,000 in student loans. More at orlandogillig.blogspot.com.
BECCA KLAVER is a writer, teacher, editor, scholar, and literary collaboration conjurer. She is the author of the poetry collections LA Liminal (Kore Press, 2010), Empire Wasted (Bloof Books, 2016), and Ready for the World (Black Lawrence Press, 2020), as well as several chapbooks. Midwinter Constellation, a book cowritten with 31 other poets in homage to Bernadette Mayer’s Midwinter Day, will be published in 2022. As an editor, she cofounded Switchback Books; is currently coediting the anthology Electric Gurlesque; and has created pop-up journals such as Women Poets Wearing Sweatpants and Across the Social Distances. She lives in Chicago. For more see: https://beccaklaver.com/.