Through Trying Times: Stories of Loss and Redemption in the American South

Charles M. Blow and Jesmyn Ward
In conversation with Robin Coste Lewis
Thursday, September 25, 2014
Episode Summary

New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow grew up in an out-of-time African-American Louisiana town where slavery’s legacy felt astonishingly close, reverberating in the elders’ stories and the near-constant wash of violence. Award-winning author Jesmyn Ward writes powerfully about the poverty of her Mississippi childhood and the pressures it brought on men and women, revealing disadvantages that bred a certain kind of tragedy. In this conversation, two accomplished storytellers take the stage to discuss their memoirs that pay homage to the troubled past of the South with emotional honesty and moments of stark poetry.


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Participant(s) Bio

Charles M. Blow has been the visual Op-Ed columnist at the New York Times since 2008, is a CNN commentator, and has appeared on MSNBC, CNN, Fox News, the BBC, Al Jazeera, and HBO. Prior to working at The Times, he was Art Director of National Geographic Magazine, and a graphic artist at The Detroit News. Blow lives in Brooklyn with his three children.

Jesmyn Ward is currently an associate professor of creative writing at Tulane University. She is the author of the novels Where the Line Bleeds and Salvage the Bones, the latter of which won the 2011 National Book Award and was a finalist for the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. Her memoir, Men We Reaped, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Ward grew up in DeLisle, Mississippi, and lives there now.

Robin Coste Lewis is a Provost’s Fellow in Poetry and Visual Studies at USC. A Cave Canem fellow, she received her MFA from NYU, and an MTS in Sanskrit from Harvard's Divinity School. A finalist for the International War Poetry Prize, the National Rita Dove Prize, and the Discovery Prize, her work has appeared in various journals and anthologies. Born in Compton, her family is from New Orleans. Her book of poems, Voyage of the Sable Venus, is forthcoming from Knopf.