Camille T. Dungy
Tuesday, June 27, 2017, 7:00 p.m., City Lights Booksellers, 261 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco
discussing her new book
Guidebook to Relative Strangers: Journeys into Race, Motherhood, and History
published by W.W. Norton
An award-winning African American poet debuts in prose with a stunningly graceful and honest exploration of race, motherhood, and history.
As a working mother whose livelihood as a poet-lecturer depended on travel, Camille Dungy crisscrossed America with her infant, then toddler, intensely aware of how they are seen, not just as mother and child, but as black women. With a poet's eye, she celebrates her daughter's acquisition of language and discoveries of the natural and human world around her. At the same time history shadows her steps everywhere she goes: from the San Francisco of settlers' and investors’ dreams to the slave-trading ports of Ghana; from snow-white Maine to a festive, yet threatening, bonfire in the Virginia pinewoods.
With exceptional candor and grace, Dungy explores our inner and outer worlds—the intimate and vulnerable experiences of raising a child, living with illness, conversing with strangers, and counting on others’ goodwill. Across the nation, she finds fear and trauma, and also mercy, kindness, and community. Penetrating and generous, Guidebook to Relative Strangers is an essential guide for a troubled land.
Critical praise for the work of Camille T. Dungy:
"An elegant, meditative love letter to the life of the writer, the natural world, histories from which we cannot nor should not extricate ourselves, black womanhood, black motherhood, and the unabashed joy of raising up a black girl… [A]s intimate as it is expansive." — Roxane Gay, author of Difficult Women
"Calm, lucid, and sturdy, Dungy’s account stares down the effects and unevenly distributed burdens of our shared past and present with clear eyes, full heart, and the kind of dedication to fact, feeling, and history that we truly need now, as ever." — Maggie Nelson, author of The Argonauts
“In stirring and insightful prose, the wonder of our shared journey is spelled out on these pages. The music from Dungy’s pen is as intimate as the blues and as epic as a symphony.” — Tayari Jones, author of Silver Sparrow
“For Dungy, history is a shared root system that nourishes her vital imagination. Guidebook to Relative Strangers is a balm for the American soul.” — Gregory Pardlo, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Digest
“Dungy’s voice engages as a conversation with a dear friend might, with affection for the possibilities revealed in human relationships. These gorgeous essays are essential and deeply compelling. ” — Wendy S. Walters, author of Multiply/Divide
“Dungy’s prose is like the landscapes she has known: rich, fertile, astoundingly beautiful, and also singular and exacting. What better a voice to explore the rapture of motherhood, the fraught vulnerability of living in a black body, and the beautiful intimacy that can arise between near strangers? Guidebook to Relative Strangers is world-enlarging and indispensable.” — Tracy K. Smith, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Life on Mars
“Forthright, entertaining, often potent essays that successfully intertwine personal history and historical context regarding black and white in America.” — Kirkus