Through essay and commentary, Kei Miller explores the silences that exist in humanity’s conversations around race, sex, and gender in Things I Have Withheld. Through immersion in these silences, Miller extrapolates the experience of discrimination that happens within them and expertly challenges his readers to interrogate what about these conversations seems unsayable. Miller joined The Center for Fiction for a discussion with Uli Beutter Cohen (Between the Lines) on the book and the silences in question.
Co-presented with the Brooklyn Caribbean Literary Festival.
Things I Have Withheld
By Kei Miller
Published by Grove Press
By acclaimed Forward Prize winner, novelist, and poet, Kei Miller’s linked collection of essays blends memoir and literary commentary to explore the silences that exist in our conversations about race, sex, and gender.
In a deeply moving, critical and lyrical collection of interconnected essays, award-winning writer Kei Miller explores the silences in which so many important things are kept. Miller examines the experience of discrimination through this silence and what it means to breach it—”to risk words, to risk truth; and through the body and the histories those bodies inherit” the crimes that haunt them, and how the meanings of our bodies can shift as we move through the world, variously assuming privilege or victimhood.
Through letters to James Baldwin, encounters with Soca, Carnival, family secrets, love affairs, questions of aesthetics and more, Miller powerfully and imaginatively recounts everyday acts of racism and prejudice from a black, male, queer perspective. An almost disarmingly personal collection, Kei dissects his experiences in Jamaica and Britain, working as an artist and intellectual, making friends and lovers, discovering the possibilities of music and dance, literary criticism, culture, and storytelling.
With both the epigrammatic concision and conversational cadence of his poetry and novels, Things I Have Withheld is a great artistic achievement: a work of innovation and beauty which challenges us to interrogate what seems unsayable and why, “our actions, defense mechanisms, imaginations and interactions” and those of the world around us.
Between the Lines
By Uli Beutter Cohen
Published by Simon & Schuster
For the better part of a decade, Uli Beutter Cohen rode the subway through New York City’s underground to observe society through the lens of our most creative thinkers: the readers of books. Between the Lines is a timely collection of beloved and never-before-published stories that reflect who we are and where we are going. In over 170 interviews, Uli shares nuanced insights into our collective psyche and gives us an invaluable document of our challenges and our potential. Complete with original photography, and countless intriguing book recommendations, Between the Lines is an enthusiastic celebration of the ways stories invite us into each other’s lives, and a call to action for imagining a bold, empathetic future together.
Meet Yahdon, who reads Dapper Dan: Made in Harlem and talks about the power of symbols in fashion. Diana shares how Orlando shaped her journey as a trans woman. Saima reads They Say, I Say and speaks about the power of her hijab. Notable New Yorkers open up about their lives and reading habits, including photographer Jamel Shabazz, filmmaker Katja Blichfeld, painter Devon Rodriguez, comedian Aparna Nancherla, fashion editor Lynn Yaeger, playwright Jeremy O. Harris, fashion designer and TV personality Leah McSweeney, designer Waris Ahluwalia, artist Debbie Millman, activist Amani al-Khatahtbeh, and esteemed authors such as Jia Tolentino, Roxane Gay, Ashley C. Ford, Eileen Myles, Min Jin Lee, and many more..
Kei Miller is a Jamaican poet, essayist, and novelist, shortlisted for the Costa Poetry Award and winner of the prestigious Forward poetry prize for his collection The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion. In 2010, the Institute of Jamaica awarded him the Silver Musgrave medal for his contributions to literature and in 2018 he was awarded the Anthony Sabga medal for Arts & Letters. He has taught at the Universities of Glasgow, Royal Holloway and Exeter and, in 2019, he was the Ida Beam Distinguished Visiting Professor to the University of Iowa.
Photo Credit: Naomi
Uli Beutter Cohen
Uli Beutter Cohen
Uli Beutter Cohen is a New York City–based documentarian, artist, and the creator of @subwaybookreview. She explores belonging to a time and place through writing and photography. Uli is a sought-after speaker and panelist. Her work has been featured on TV, in print, and online by New York magazine, Esquire, Vogue, Forbes, Oprah magazine, Glamour, the BBC, and the Guardian, among others. Between The Lines: Stories from the Underground is her first book. Uli lives in Brooklyn.
Photo Credit: Bridgit Badore