The Assay Interviews: Sejal Shah
October 1, 2020
October 1, 2020
Sejal Shah grew up in Rochester, New York. Her short stories and essays have appeared widely including in The Rumpus, Conjunctions, and Kenyon Review. She is the recipient of a 2018 New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) Fellowship in Fiction. Other awards include fellowships and residencies from The Anderson Center for Interdisciplinary Studies, Kundiman, and the Millay Colony for the Arts. Sejal holds a BA in English from Wellesley College and an MFA from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. She is on the fiction and nonfiction faculty of the Rainier Writing Workshop, a low-residency MFA program at Pacific Lutheran University in Washington State.
About This Is One Way to Dance: the linked essays that make up her debut memoir, This Is One Way to Dance, Sejal Shah explores identity, culture, family, and place. Throughout the collection, Shah reflects on what it means to make oneself visible and legible through writing in a country that struggles with race and maps herself as an American, writer of color, and feminist. She draws upon her ongoing interests in ethnicity and place: the geographic and cultural distances between people, both real and imagined. Her memoir emerges as she wrestles with her experiences growing up and living in western New York, an area of stark racial and socioeconomic segregation, as the daughter of Gujarati immigrants from India and Kenya.
This Is One Way to Dance introduces a vital new voice to the conversation about race and belonging in America.
Sejal and I have never met except online. I reached out to her a few months ago after reading her essay “Things People Said,” and we have been in conversation since then about various aspects of our writing lives. It’s been an extraordinary experience to read her debut collection of essays This is One Way to Dance. It has given me an insight into the lives of Indians living outside of India that I have never had before. For one, I have understood why weddings are an even bigger deal for Indian families outside of India than they are for those “back home.” As Sejal writes in her introduction, “(weddings)…gave me a place to be unselfconsciously Indian, to dance, to connect.” Of course they did. When you are not visible in mainstream culture, when you and your stories are deemed “exotic,” why wouldn’t you long for spaces that give you the freedom to be you?
I too have now lived outside India for fourteen years but because I was born and raised in India, and because I return home as often as ticket prices and global pandemics allow, my worldview, culture, likes, dislikes, and prejudices are all shaped by India. India remains my first and foremost point of reference, so much so that even after all this time, I am determined to not let any other accent enter my speech. And so, This Is One Way to Dance is as new and fresh for me as for any other reader.
Sejal and I chatted over email, and here’s our conversation.
Sayantani Dasgupta: Thank you for writing this beautiful collection. You cover topics ranging from home, family, names and the power they carry, to food, films, books, childhood, identity, and many more. How did you decide on the order of the essays, and which stories of your life to tell? Often with the first book, and especially for a writer of creative nonfiction, there is the temptation to tell every story and incident of importance. How did you pick and choose?
Sejal Shah: This is a great question, Sayantani!
It was challenging to look at essays written over twenty years. I knew I wanted to choose essays for This Is One Way to Dance that would complicate and resist existing narratives of South Asian Americans and Asian Americans and challenge the model minority stereotype, which flattens our multi-dimensional stories and experiences. I wanted to push back against media images of South Asian American life packaged for white audience / editorial consumption: for example, the South Asian wedding-as-cultural-tourism, white woman going to India to find herself on a yoga journey or attending a Hindu wedding as extravaganza in order to boast-post about it on social media. I'd seen someone on Facebook exclaim how much they wanted to go to an "Indian wedding"—one even going so far to admit it was a "an item on her bucket list." I asked her if it was on her bucket list to "have an Indian friend." There is no such thing as an Indian wedding. When I wrote about my wedding, I focused on the conflicts between my in-laws' insistence on a Tamil Hindu ceremony, which conflicted with my family's Gujarati Hindu traditions.
I also looked for essays in which I wrote about home and places (western New York, moving from place to place), ambition, school, failure, and making space for the story that's not the official story, but the more nuanced one–making space for the story of when things don't work out the way you might have hoped. Several of the shorter lyric essays including "Bird," "Street Scene," "Walking Tributaries," "Thank You," "Curriculum," are these quieter narratives.
In "Your Wilderness Is Not Permanent" (about going to Burning Man) and "365 Pelham Road" (about returning to live with my parents in my childhood home after losing my job) I wrote about ambition, failure, and adjusting to Plan B. I didn't want the "alumnae class notes" version of my life in these essays: I also wanted to show the bewilderment and disappointment when your life / life plan goes off the rails. I never expected to deal with sexual harassment, manic depression, anorexia, institutional racism and sexism. My eighth grade English teacher wrote "To whom much is given, much is expected" in my yearbook. I knew that I had been given many opportunities and I think I expected that I would succeed. So, I was definitely at a loss for some of these years.
I chose essays that I thought had some resonances and echoes in terms of images and sounds. "Bird" and "Street Scene" and "Walking Tributaries" all involve walking and looking at water; they all move in a circular way, meditations on time and place. I have an essay about getting lost in Sicily ("Who's Indian?," originally titled "Where Are You From?") and then my essay finished 19 years later, "Your Wilderness Is Not Permanent," about being lost in my life after losing a job, and also literally being lost at Burning Man. Essayist Donovan Hohn, with whom I did a wonderful Zoom event in June at Literati Books, pointed out that they are actually companion essays and echo each other.
The challenge was that even if ordered chronologically to make a narrative arc, most of the essays also moved back and forth in time, space, geography. I hit upon the idea of timestamps at the end of each essay to place the essays in time (usually the time the essay was finished and either revised or updated).
I also wanted to be aware of overlaps in the narratives. I was also keenly aware that I wrote most of the essays as individual pieces, so I had to consider how they spoke to one another. And I also had changed over the years as a narrator and as a writer, as a stylist.
I wrote all of the essays' titles down on index cards with notes on themes and places. Eventually I could see themes and I could see a shape, though this last was the hardest. I felt ambivalent about using the familiar trope of Indian weddings, but my brother’s wedding was a formative moment in my life and my own wedding was another—and somehow, I began to see a shape—with those events bookending the other essays. I hoped to have a memoir-like narrative arc, but not have my wedding be the happy ending to the story, but rather present a number of meaningful relationships in my life: friendships, family, relationships that came from teaching and work and moving so much, as well as romantic love.
There are many gaps and silences. In some ways, now I'm most aware of what I left out of the book. I did not write directly about the sexual assault and harassment that I dealt with from a professor in my MFA program who was a key person I came to study with. I did not write about the invisible and plentiful labor of managing a mood disorder, neurodiversity that included major depression, being suicidal, and having untreated and severe ADHD. This is part of why it took me a long time to organize my work and essays—to find the version of the essay I wanted to use, to update or revise it, and to compile all of these into one document.
SD: The first time you went to India you were nineteen. How many times have you been back since? Does it feel like a new place each time, or if there is deepening familiarity?
SS: I've now been to India five times. My experience of India has been very different every time–because India has changed, and I've also been at different points in my life or had different amounts of time and freedom with my itinerary. The first time was in December 1991-January 1992 and it was my introduction to my parents' homeland. I was 19 and my mom and brother and I traveled to India together. Ironically, my dad, the only one in the family who was born and raised in India, was not with us. It was a VERY packed trip–six weeks between semesters of my second year of college. I had pretty severe culture shock when I got back to Boston and school started the next day and I had a hard time adjusting. Jet lag. Also, I saw where and how I would have grown up and it kind of shook everything I thought I knew about myself.
My parents would say, when I was growing up in the US, you can't do this or that because you're Indian–the implication was they and we were not American. And I saw in India just how American I was–how ill at ease I felt–unable to speak Gujarati fluently, not knowing how things worked. And I wondered who I would have been if my parents had returned to India in 1968 after my dad's fellowship year was over.
In 1999 I went to India again. I was joined by other friends from college. This was the trip where I first met my cousin, writer Suketu Mehta, who was living in Bombay to research his 2004 book, Maximum City.
I returned in 2011 on my own to India after I left New York City and my job ended. That time I was there for almost three months, I planned a month-long trip and then extended it. I spent time in Rishikesh, Ahmedabad, the Andaman Islands, Chennai, Bangalore, and Delhi. I had an artist residency, stayed with family in Ahmedabad, stayed with a friend from graduate school in Delhi who is mentioned in my book.
In 2015, after getting married, I went with my husband to meet his parents in Chennai—and then meet extended family. We also made a pilgrimage to many important Hindu temples.
In 2017, I returned with my in-laws and my husband for a longer stay at an Ayurvedic treatment center and we were mostly in Chennai. I’ve spent the most time in Chennai (visiting it every trip) and though my parents are originally from Gujarat, and I've only been there twice. India is a country that's gone through enormous changes, capitalism, environmental threats, in the years I've seen it. So, I saw huge changes even between 1991-2 and 1999 and even more between 1999 and 2011.
SD: In the essay “Betsy, Tacy, Sejal, Tib,” you write, “We were more Indian once, I know this.” In a way, time stops for immigrants at the point of their departure from their country, and they hold on to the country and its rules as they remember it. Your parents grew up in India and Kenya. Do you think they taught you the version of India as they remembered it? I remember being shocked by the level of conservatism I saw in some of the Indian families even in cities such as Los Angeles when I first arrived in the US, whereas my actual experience of growing up in New Delhi came with a lot of leeway and freedom.
SS: I noticed that many in my mother's family and my mother herself had an antiquated, frozen, static idea of what was “Indian”–as in of course you wear your hair in two long plaits with coconut oil—didn't matter what the norm was in the US. And of course, Kenya and Uganda were part of British East Africa, which was segregated. I did find our family friends who also had one parent from Kenya or Uganda to have a more rigid idea of what it meant to be Indian. I learned from my college friend, Uttara who had grown up in Madras, that it was actually conservative / traditional / retro to learn Indian Classical Dance (Bharata Natyam) like I did in the US–for Indian Americans it was a way to connect and foster that tradition. But when we stayed with Uttara's family when we first visited India, we watched Steve Martin's The Jerk. We went out for drinks on the beach, listened to George Michael. We never listened to pop music at our house, because my parents couldn't stand it. Maybe if my brother was driving in the car we might, but otherwise not.
I think for families that actually returned more to India than we did or had family there to visit, they had a less rigid or fixed idea of what "Indian" is.
I often return to this passage from Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior, because I think it shows the difficulty of knowing from one's own family what is particular or individual and what can be attributed to cultural heritage: "Chinese-Americans, when you try to understand what things in you are Chinese, how do you separate what is peculiar to childhood, to poverty, insanities, one family, your mother who marked your growing with stories, from what is Chinese? What is Chinese tradition and what is the movies?"
What I learned from going to India and having a friend from India as a college classmate as well as having many South Asian American friends is that there's a real range of progressive versus conservative and interpretation of what "Indian" culture is. Uttara's family was much more progressive than my own. But also, my sister-in-law's family is different than mine and so are our family friends.
SD: I loved “The World is Full of Paper,” your essay on the late Agha Shahid Ali, who was your professor and mentor during your time as an MFA student at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. This essay is not just a tribute to him, it is also an acknowledgment of the literary landscape in the US before and after Jhumpa Lahiri won the Pulitzer Prize for Interpreter of Maladies. What changes are you witnessing in this landscape now? Do you feel encouraged by these changes?
SS: I feel encouraged, but I feel we must push more and insist that there be different gatekeepers. I had a lot of socioeconomic privileges that allowed me to get my book out, and it was still hard. Why were there so few books by South Asian women (fiction or nonfiction) between 1990 and 2019? Who is making the decisions? I don't think it's an accident that both my editors at University of Georgia Press are Black. I've read publishing is 80% white. I had been writing and publishing essays, stories, and poems in terrific juried journals, magazines, and anthologies since the 1990s, but my journey was still arduous. Valerie Boyd and Walter Biggins solicited and shepherded my work through a gatekeeping process in an overwhelming white industry. I'm grateful to them.
White publishing was satisfied with Lahiri's wonderful books as taking up the "Indian American" slot and I don't think they thought there was interest in or need for more voices. That was incredibly demoralizing. It's very, very hard to publish a story collection. I don't know why when for many of us with internet-fractured attention spans, story collections might be even more appealing. I've also always loved short stories. My MFA was in fiction. I have an unpublished story collection, and This Is One Way to Dance includes five essays that used to be short stories. I wrote about it in an essay for Poets & Writers called "Breaking Genre" in their "Craft Capsule" series.
I think we are in the midst of a renaissance of sorts. (Actually, can it be called a renaissance if the last time was just one or two authors?) There are many more South Asian American voices now. I know your essay collection, Fire Girl: Essays on India, America, and the In-Between, came out in 2016. Shailja Patel's Migritude from Kaya Press is such a beautiful cross-genre book (2010). Geeta Kothari's sharp and wonderful story collection, I Break for Moose, came out a few years ago. Mira Jacob, Soniah Kamal, Jenny Bhatt, Anjali Enjeti all have recently had or have books coming out soon. To be honest, the door was closed for many of us for a long time. Mira Jacob has spoken and written about this eloquently.
SD: In the same essay, you write about your teaching style and how it’s different from Agha Shahid Ali’s tough-love style. What, according to you, are the building blocks of a successful essay? What is it that you most want your writing students to take from you?
SS: I loved Shahid and appreciated the other poetry workshop I took, with Dara Wier, as well. But as poet and essayist Cathy Park Hong points out in her new book, Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning, it felt impossible to write about race in poetry workshops at the time I was an MFA student twenty years ago. Acknowledging race was seen as kind of simplistic, an anti-intellectual impulse. From Minor Feelings: "Any autobiographical reveal, especially if it was racial or sexual, was a sign of weakness." We talked about this in much more detail my interview in Guernica with her.
I believe in writing for the truth. And in many ways, I couldn't do that, or it was in code, because the faculty member who had sexually harassed me was on my thesis committee. So I wrote about it, a little bit, in fiction. I wrote fiction and I wrote poetry.
I am more or less self-taught in nonfiction. I learned from reading Best American Essays and teaching essays and books I admired including Eula Biss's Notes from No Man's Land and Margaret Atwood's "Nine Beginnings," Geeta Kothari's "If You Are What You Eat, Then What Am I?" Cheryl Strayed's "The Love of My Life," Joan Didion's "Goodbye to All That."
I learned from my collaborators / writing partners, Wendy Call and Holly Wren Spaulding. I learned more about trusting myself and writing short pieces from Abigail Thomas and her book Safekeeping. I read Dinty Moore's wonderful journal, Brevity, and aspired to publish something there. I am most indebted to brilliant editors Sergei Lobanov-Rostovsky at the Kenyon Review and Bradford Morrow at Conjunctions, who edited my earliest lyric essays when I was going by feel and sound and wasn't certain how to classify what was I was writing. "Bird," "Street Scene," and "Curriculum" all occupied an ambiguous space for me for a little while. Prose. Vignettes. Were they stories? Essays? What is the difference?
I taught at universities from 2003 through 2011. Since then, I have been teaching writing at a community-based literary center and privately. I also taught 9th grade for two years. Both of those experiences were inspiring and humbling. Ninth graders will tell it as they see it. What's most important to me at any level: to create a safe learning environment.
The building blocks of a successful essay: that there's a risk involved for the writer, that it's pushing at something, that it might be formally inventive or considered. That it is reaching for some sort of truth, no matter how specific or particular it is to the individual.
I want my students to take from me: to trust themselves, to listen to themselves and each other, to be able to hear critiques and not take them to heart, but see them as ways to gather information and listen. I want my students to know that they are writers. To give themselves permission to write, to work, to write, in Anne Lamott's words, shitty first drafts, and to keep at it.
SD: Your book is this lovely hybrid given your lyrical sentences, the variety of essay forms you are playing with—be it flash, list, profile, memoir, or braided—and the inclusion of poems. You began your writing life as a poet and then turned to essays. What does this genre offer you, both as a reader and writer, over poetry and fiction?
SS: I came to essays in part because I had been thwarted and discouraged from writing poetry or could not find a way to write anything "poem-like" in graduate school. I applied to graduate programs in both fiction and poetry. I earned a graduate degree in fiction, held two visiting professor positions and a tenure track position in fiction, and published several stories. Agents reached out to me, but then decided that they didn't find my work to be "saleable" or commercial enough to be worth their time.
I repeatedly heard editors and classmates and professors call my stories poetic, which to me was a kind of insult, because it was saying this doesn't have plot and there's a small audience for it and you can't sell a book this way. But a couple of my fiction professors in grad school did have a lot of music in their language and my stories do, too. People seemed to insist on reading my autofiction as nonfiction.
While I miss the play and range of fiction and the focus on syntax and word-building and shape of poetry, the lyric essay made sense to me. The essay gave me a lot of freedom and breadth–travel narrative; lyric essay; literary column / commentary; prose poem; room for images and rumination and tracking the mind and making meaning. But also, it comes down to this: within nonfiction, I had little formal training and I trusted myself and my missteps and longtime writing partners and collaborators. My editor at The University of Georgia, Valerie Boyd, solicited my work. After she read "Things People Said: An Essay in Seven Steps," an essay I originally published in the special issue on race*** in Brevity, Valerie wrote me to ask if I had a manuscript available. She co-edits Crux, the literary nonfiction series at University of Georgia Press. So, I not only found nonfiction, but nonfiction found me.
Ironically, that special issue on race came out of a response to reader comments and critique of an essay in an earlier issue of Brevity by a writer who represented India with a focus on poverty and travel-porn clichés, without contextualizing or explaining the circumstances had allowed her, as a white American and an academic, to spend 100 days in India. In fact, I realize that you, Wendy Call, and I all commented on that essay. And I loved the essay you wrote in response, Tigers, Snakes, and Monkey-brains: How to Write about India If You're a Tourist.
SD: The essay “Things People Said,” has the best first sentence of any essay. You write, ‘Seven is an important number in Hindu wedding ceremonies. Wikipedia it.’ I love your voice and tone in this so much. Did you feel it was a risky opening?
SS: Actually, that was a mistake in the galley or review copy! That sentence was meant to be in a footnote for the title, "Things People Said: An Essay in Seven Steps." But I love hearing your response to it as a first sentence. (And even though I love the verb "Wikipedia," I ended up changing the sentence to "Google it," because that seemed more accurate, though I prefer the sound of "Wikipedia" as a verb. One of my proofreaders was also confused by "Wikipedia it" as if I meant Wikipedia in Italian.)
The process of putting my book together really made me ask myself over and over: Who was I writing for?
My press suggested a glossary of Gujarati words in the back and I said no. In my essay "Betsy, Tacy, Sejal, Tib," the colors "strawberry blonde" and "kelly green" are italicized to show their foreignness to the narrator. Maybe those words belong in a glossary. I did, however, write an introduction and extended notes as a kind of afterword, commentary, or final essay.
SD: In “There Is No Mike Here,” you write about the process of naming one of your nephews. ‘I insisted on it—the paternal aunt’s customary right to name—and I wanted a recognizably Indian name.” I have never heard of such a custom—perhaps it’s customary for Gujarati Indians such as you—and because you also write about your misadventures as a result of your “unusual” name Sejal. How is your nephew faring with his name? May we expect a similar essay from him twenty years down the line?
SS: You know, no one in my immediate extended family followed this tradition, which was, my mother tells me, customary in my grandparents' generation for Gujaratis. It helped create a bond: that naming and responsibility. I appreciated that my brother and sister-in-law were willing to let me have some input.
I asked Anand, my nephew, what he thinks of his name. He likes it. He thinks it fits him better than Arjun, the other name we were considering. I wrote in my acknowledgment that at one point he told me "no more books" as the default birthday present or whenever I traveled somewhere. He's fascinated by planes and flying, is a fast swimmer, loves the water and Minecraft (or did at some point). He has a quirky point of view and an interesting mind–I love talking to him–but I don't know that he would ever willingly sit down and choose to write an essay—about his name or anything else. I love your question, though, and look forward to learning the answer!
SD: Thanks to you, I now understand the larger purpose that Indian weddings serve outside of India. As someone who is not a fan of attending weddings in general, and especially not gigantic ones spread over several days, your book has given me the means to approach the next wedding I am invited to with empathy and understanding. Growing up, did you feel this level of comfort in other Indian celebrations as well? Or was it only limited to weddings?
The irony I realize in reading my book now, with some distance, is that I have never really been interested in clothing or fashion or in dressing up in the way my mother, my grandmother, my aunt enjoy. I would rather be in yoga clothes, fleece, comfortable and casual clothes. But weddings were a kind of gathering that was important to me, reunions with friends from different parts of my life and especially with family friends: getting dressed up and the travel and cost was the ticket of admission. I wrote about them in such detail because they were the only places I went to for years where the Gujarati American culture in which I grew up in was the majority culture.
My parents are very religious, Hindu, and my father led Bhagavad Gita study groups for their close friends. They have been following the same guru, Morari Bapu, since the 1980s and their yearly vacation is to hear his US lectures. It's their Burning Man–their annual pilgrimage. Sometimes I cringe when I'm asked about what it was like to grow up Indian American. I can't distinguish between who my parents are as individuals and their culture. They are serious readers and people. Their siblings are more jovial and outgoing than them. So partly it's just their personalities more than their overall culture.
I appreciated the social aspects of these religious gatherings, study groups, and Hindu functions, because we didn't have a Hindu Temple in town at that time, so often gatherings were at people's houses, often in our large finished basement, or the interfaith chapel at the university, or maybe in a rented a church. Our closest family friends and my closest Gujarati girl friends didn't live in my town/suburb, so we only saw each other at these social or religious gatherings.
I went to the roller skating rink and to movies or camping when I stayed over at Indian friends' houses and those were just not things my parents did. They don't play bridge. They were more bookish than many of their friends, but also I was more bookish than many of their friends' kids. I know what it was like to grow up in my family. I can tell you that my brother had a different experience than I did–definitely because of gender and what gender roles are in both Indian and American culture and also from being almost six years older than me he was really a kind of third parent to me.
I always felt ambivalent about how important it was to my mother that I be dressed appropriately. Meaning, Indian clothes, salwaar kameez, jewelry, necklace, and chandlo (bindi). "Guys could wear anything." As someone who would have rather been in pajamas reading, I always found the dressing up part annoying and time-consuming. On the other hand, as an adult, I can also appreciate what it feels like to wear a beautiful sari and be dressed up for an event.
I see now, from the perspective of my forties, that writing about weddings was also writing about being young. In 2014, I attended more memorial services or funerals than I did weddings. That was a turning point--that's one of the other occasions that people are likely to make an effort to travel and it's a kind of community gathering.
SD: Who are your literary influences? Which contemporary essayists should readers of This is One Way to Dance read next?
SS: Literary influences: I'll pick out a few from different parts of my life!
From college: Frank Bidart, Sujata Bhatt, Maxine Hong Kingston, Audre Lorde, Toni Morrison, Adrienne Rich. From graduate school: Alice Adams, Agha Shahid Ali, James Baldwin, Anne Carson, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Joan Didion, Noy Holland, bell hooks, Geeta Kothari, Dawn Lundy Martin, Alice Munro.
From the years I've been teaching and writing nonfiction as a professor and teaching artist: Eula Biss, Joy Castro, Alexander Chee, Melissa Febos, Cathy Park Hong, Sonya Huber, Leslie Jamison, Bhanu Kapil, Kiese Laymon, Sonja Livingston, Carole Maso, Michael Martone, Carley Moore, Dinty W. Moore, Maggie Nelson, Claudia Rankine, Cheryl Strayed, Deborah Tall, Jesmyn Ward.
My amazing collaborators: essayists Wendy Call and Holly Wren Spaulding. Hilton Als (that introduction to Best American Essays 2018--it was very hard to write my introduction after reading that—he sets the bar high!)
Contemporary essayists that readers of This Is One Way to Dance should read next if they haven't already read their work: Jaswinder Bolina, Camille Dungy, Donovan Hohn, Porochista Khakpour, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Beth Bich Minh Nguyen, Shailja Patel, Esme Weijun Wang. I also want to recommend anthologies. There are so many excellent ones. Here are a few: Good Girls Marry Doctors: South Asian American Daughters on Obedience and Rebellion (Edited by Piyali Bhattacharya); Under Her Skin: How Girls Experience Race in America (Edited by Pooja Makhijani); Strange Attractors: Writers on Chance (Edited by Emmalie Dropkin and Edie Meidav).
SD: Thank you, Sejal. Thank you for this conversation.
SS: Thank you so much, Sayantani! I am grateful for the time you put into reading the work of so many South Asian authors and for the brilliant and specific questions you asked.
Born in Calcutta and raised in New Delhi, Sayantani Dasgupta is the author of Fire Girl: Essays on India, America, & the In-Between—a Finalist for the Foreword Indies Awards for Creative Nonfiction—and the chapbook The House of Nails: Memories of a New Delhi Childhood. Her essays and stories have appeared in The Rumpus, Hunger Mountain, The Bellingham Review, The Southern Humanities Review, The Hindu, and others. She is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing in the MFA program at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, and has also taught in India, Italy, and Mexico. She is a Contributing Editor at Assay.