cover image How to Make a Slave and Other Essays

How to Make a Slave and Other Essays

Jerald Walker. Mad Creek, $19.95 trade paper (152p) ISBN 978-0-8142-5599-5

Walker (Once More to the Ghetto), an Emerson College creative writing professor, delivers a stylish and thought-provoking collection of reflections on his personal and professional life. Beginning with Frederick Douglass’s famous declaration, “You have seen how a man was made a slave; you shall see how a slave was made a man,” Walker tackles a number of themes through his 22 selections. Parenting and disability is one: he is the child of blind parents, and the parent of a son with a neurological disorder that causes seizures. His life as a writer is another, with a particular emphasis on paying tribute to his late writing teacher, short story writer James Alan McPherson. Life in academia is yet another—the struggles of graduate school, job seeking, and attaining tenure, and, at times, of being the only Black person in a white milieu. Race threads its way through many of the essays, which reveal the subtle indignities often suffered by Black people in public settings. Nonetheless, he writes, “the stories that I favor are not only upsetting, but uplifting.” Walker’s rich compilation adds up to a rewardingly insightful self-portrait that reveals how one man relates to various aspects of his identity. (Nov.)