When we had to postpone the Festival of Faith & Writing this spring, one of my great sadnesses was that we had so many amazing writers booked, and we’d have to wait a year (and hope for their continued availability) to hear them.

In the present moment, we can’t wait any longer. Our reading list (the complete list is here) includes a powerhouse of Black writers and thinkers who, if you haven’t read them yet, you should immediately add to your list of teachers and guides. (I’ve provided links to their websites, so you can explore all their work).

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

Nikki Grimes

Bernice McFadden

Brenda Salter McNeil

Daniel Minter

Kadir Nelson

Kiki Petrosino

Natasha Sistrunk Robinson

Kim Cash Tate

Jemar Tisby

Truth’s Table

Chanequa Walker-Barnes

Kevin Young

Over past years, we’ve been privileged to host Maya Angelou, Kwame Alexander, James McBride, Jacqueline Woodson (whose stunning Brown Girl Dreaming I taught last week in my summer class), Lisa Sharon Harper, Austin Channing Brown, and many others. Some of these sessions we’ve released on our podcast, Rewrite Radio, or in our video series, Marginalia:

Kwame Alexander, Nate Marshall, and Billy Mark

Austin Channing Brown

Kelly Brown Douglas

Ashley Bryan

Nikki Grimes

Zadie Smith

Afaa Weaver

Jacqueline Woodson

Finally, I’m supremely grateful for words from my colleague, Michelle Loyd-Paige, Executive Associate to the President for Diversity & Inclusion at Calvin, who leads Calvin’s efforts with such grace and truth and who posted this prayer in recent days:

Oh Heavenly Father, our hearts are heavy. Broken. Please give us eyes to see and ears to hear where Your Spirit is working. Help us to see every person the way that You see them. Break our hearts for what breaks Yours, God. Let us not merely say that we love each other. Give us strength to mourn with those who mourn, to weep with those who weep. Let Your justice roll like waters. Let your righteousness and love flow from us like rivers of living water. Purify our hearts, Lord, and fill us with genuine hunger for justice, for mercy, and for true peace. Heavenly Father, let justice and mercy start with me.

Even so, amen and amen.

Jennifer L. Holberg

I’ve taught English at Calvin College since 1998–where I get to read books and talk about them for a living. What could be better? Along with my wonderful colleague, Jane Zwart, I am the co-director of the Calvin Center for Faith and Writing, which is the home of the Festival of Faith and Writing as well as a number of other exciting endeavors. Given my interest in teaching, I’m the founding co-editor of the Duke University Press journal Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition and Culture (and yes, I realize that that is a very long subtitle). As an Army brat, I’ve never lived anywhere as long as I’ve now lived in Grand Rapids, a city I've come to love. I count myself rich in friends and family. I collect cookbooks (and also like to cook), listen to all kinds of music, and watch all manner of movies and tv shows. I love George Eliot, Jane Austen, Marilynne Robinson, Dante, E.M. Delafield, Tennyson, Hopkins, and Charlotte Bronte (among others). And I used to have a bumper sticker on my car that said: “I’d rather be reading Flannery O’Connor.” I don't have the car anymore, but the sentiment is still true.

2 Comments

  • Scott Hoezee says:

    Thanks, Jennifer! Good stuff!

  • Harris says:

    Kevin Young is a favorite poet of mine. Amazingly inventive.

    on the list there are some poets I wish would come (Natasha Trethway, Rita Dove, Tracy K Smith)

    Also in children’s / young adult lit, Sharon Draper (Stella by Starlight, also Out of My MInd)

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