In ‘Scar Tissue,’ the first essay in Emily Bernard’s debut collection, Black is the Body, she writes the story of a violent attack that left her critically injured as a graduate student, but which also led her consider her own voice and how she would use it to speak the truth of her own history and that of America.
In a fascinating, illuminating conversation with Lissa Jones, Bernard shares the journey that eventually led her to write Black is the Body: stories from my grandmother’s time, my mother’s time, and mine (Alfred A. Knopf, 2019), not her first book, but the first focused on her own life. She discusses growing up in the American south, and carrying through her life a love of the place, complicated by the historical legacy of racism and segregation; what led her to an academic career in American Studies and the history of the discipline itself (she chose it because she wanted to learn about the human beings that make art rather than just the art itself); and how she conceptualizes home as black woman. In the episode, she reads from a long essay called ‘Interstates’ (8:30, p. 49).
Emily Bernard was born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee. She holds a B. A. and Ph. D. in American Studies from Yale University. A contributing editor at The American Scholar, Emily is the Julian Lindsay Green and Gold Professor of English at the University of Vermont. She is the author of Carl van Etchen and the Harlem Renaissance (Yale University Press, 2013) and Michelle Obama: The First Lady in Photographs ( W.W. Norton & Co., 2009), as well as editor of the collections Remember Me to Harlem: The Letters of Langston Hughes and Carl Van Vechten (Vintage, 2007) and Some of My Best Friends: Writings on Interracial Friendships (Amistad, 2004).
To learn more about Emily Bernard’s work and purchase her book, visit her website: