Juneteenth, Black Lives Matter, and a Live Yuba Lit Discussion Online Wednesday July 22nd

Dear literature-loving friends,

Today is Juneteenth, the day a Union general announced in Texas that all slaves in the United States were legally free. In an age when the commercialization of so many holidays can turn me cynical, this is a holiday whose skyrocketing popularity I can get behind. And it feels like an auspicious day to finally reach back out to the Yuba Lit community with an opportunity for discussion on Wednesday, July 22nd.

When you last heard from Yuba Lit, we were cancelling our March presentation in response to the rapidly spreading coronavirus. Now we all seem to be living two lifetimes past that event, having endured three months of this new pandemic reality, and then the murder of George Floyd, which–captured graphically on video–awakened so many people to the reality of so many unjust deaths, including Ahmaud Arbery and Brionna Taylor but also Oscar Grant and Trayvon Martin and countless others, names known and unknown.

If, like me, you seek to maintain hope for a better society through these challenging times, I believe we can find it together in the particular power of books and literature to challenge invisible assumptions, open hearts, and widen perspectives. The latest New York Times best-seller list reads like a crash course syllabus in anti-racism, and that’s good news. The surge of these book sales, to me, holds a truth: to really understand the history of the United States and its current structures and cultures, we need more than social media and news flashes. We need literature and books.

Amid the wealth of books, articles, and podcasts supporting constructive conversation on racial injustice (in my PS you will find a highly recommended list of resources compiled by seminarians), two very different works of literature have been on my mind. The same day George Floyd’s murder was filmed in Minneapolis, Christian Cooper filmed a white woman in the Central Park Ramble making false 911 accusations against him, pointedly describing him to dispatchers as “an African American man.” This took me back to a landmark article by Yale sociologist Elijah Anderson published in 2015, “The White Space,” which studies the problem of our entrapment in “white spaces,” where black people perform a delicate “dance” to prove a belonging that can be swiftly and dangerously revoked, while white people exist oblivious to their dominance. Re-reading Anderson’s article took me back, in turn, to Eula Biss’s 2008 essay in The Believer, “No Man’s Land,” which makes further connections to the “pioneering” eviction of Native Americans from their own lands.

The two articles with their complex, interconnected truths led me to an open question: Moving beyond “white spaces” is hard. But it is possible. What realities do these articles show us so that we might hold the awareness to make this possible?

Yuba Lit right now cannot produce live, in-person author readings. But we can hold discussions of literature, much as Yuba Lit did back in Winter 2019 with our “Reading Chekhov for Our Times” meetings. And so, I would like to make a space for reading “The White Space” and “No Man’s Land” and discussing them together, on Wednesday, July 22nd, from 5 to 6:30 p.m. This free discussion will take place on Zoom. Please press “reply” to this email and RSVP if you’d like to attend, and you will be sent connection information.

This will be a community discussion rooted in the readings. I will guide and lightly moderate with a series of structured prompts. The two readings are available free online, here: https://sociology.yale.edu/sites/default/files/pages_from_sre-11_rev5_printer_files.pdf

and here: https://believermag.com/no-mans-land/

Again, if you’d like to take part on Wednesday, July 22nd, from 5 to 6:30 p.m. on Zoom, please just reply to this email to let me know. It will be such a joy to reconnect with members of the Yuba Lit community! And I look forward to the day when we can also connect in person again at live readings.

Yours in the love of literature,

Rachel Howard

Yuba Lit founder



An important PS: I highly recommend this helpfully organized list of anti-racism resources. Check out where you are on the chart and start exploring the plethora of thoughtfully selected links:  https://docs.google.com/document/d/1PrAq4iBNb4nVIcTsLcNlW8zjaQXBLkWayL8EaPlh0bc/preview?fbclid=IwAR2oirDMyZotWm1g7QFdNc-xzcBtc3BFlzbUWh9UCJVGms5IqsVge

Save the Date for Matthew Zapruder and Why Poetry, Thursday October 11th!

Much-lauded poet Matthew Zapruder’s Why Poetry is now out in paperback, and this is good news both for poetry diehards and the poetry befuddled. (No shame in being the latter!)

For poetry diehards: “Why Poetry is part-inspiration, part-guidebook, and part literary memoir. . . . Zapruder’s spiritual undercurrent raises Why Poetry into something rare: the cogent and lively argument that poetry truly matters, fueled by passion rather than pretense.” (The Millions)

And for the poetry befuddled: “Poetry frustrates people . . . Every now and then one of the poets, in turn, steps up helpfully to explain how to read the stuff. In his friendly new book, Why Poetry, poet, editor and teacher Matthew Zapruder does this very thing with unusual clarity and generosity.” (Newsday)


Matthew Zapruder.

Yuba Lit is thrilled that Zapruder will share Why Poetry at a special Yuba Lit on Thursday, October 11th, at 7 p.m. at the Stone House, 107 Sacramento St., Nevada City. The evening will open with five Nevada County poets offering one poem and one sentence on why, to them, poetry matters. Then Matthew Zapruder will read, followed by live Q and A with Yuba Lit founder, novelist and memoirist Rachel Howard.


Yuba Lit founder Rachel Howard holding Why Poetry. Photo by Andrea Roach.

Wine and a small bites menu will be available from the Stone House. Admission at the door is $10, which supports Yuba Lit’s production costs, and is tax deductible, as Yuba Lit is fiscally sponsored by Nevada County Arts, a 501c3 not-for-profit.

Your RSVP is greatly appreciated, as it helps Yuba Lit with event planning! RSVP to save your seat by emailing yubalit@gmail.com with your name and number of guests.

We hope to see you Thursday, October 11th at the Stone House for Why Poetry!

The Art of Memoir with Sands Hall, March 15th, 8 p.m., at the Stone House

Thank you to all who came out for Krys Lee’s reading! We were so thrilled to introduce Krys to our area and the Yuba Lit community, and heartened by the appreciative audience feedback. We will soon post photos. In the meantime, please mark your calendars for:

Yuba Lit Presents: The Art of Memoir

With Sands Hall

Celebrating the release of her acclaimed new memoir

Flunk. Start.: Reclaiming My Decade Lost in Scientology

Plus five audience flash-readers chosen by raffle

Thursday, March 15th

Special time: 8 p.m.

The Stone House, 107 Sacramento St., Nevada City

$10 at the door

No-host bar

RSVP to save your seat by emailing yubalit@gmail.com

An early candidate for memoir of the year, this is a thrilling story of one woman’s search for truth and her place in the world.

–Library Journal

In Flunk. Start., Sands Hall chronicles her slow yet willing absorption into the Church of Scientology. Her time in the Church, the 1980s, includes the secretive illness and death of its founder, L. Ron Hubbard, and the ascension of David Miscavige. Hall compellingly reveals what drew her into the religion―what she found intriguing and useful―and how she came to confront its darker sides.


SANDS HALL is the author of the novel Catching Heaven, a WILLA Award Finalist for Best Contemporary Fiction, and a Random House Reader’s Circle selection; and of a book of writing essays and exercises, Tools of the Writer’s Craft. She teaches at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival and at the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley, and is an associate teaching professor at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.