“Oprah Only Deals With Real Black Writers”

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Hey Brandon, this is my fourteenth thorough revision for you in four years. I know I’m not changing your mind and that’s fine…My book is unapologetically an American race novel, among other things. I’m still not sure why you bought the book if you didn’t dig the vision.

This snatch of Kiese Laymon’s email to his (black) editor sounds like a permanent good-bye, but it’s actually just the beginning of years of exhausting edits and frustrating correspondence about what “real black writers” can and can’t do.

Laymon details the difficulties, both personal and artistic, of those years in a poignant essay for Guernica.


Lauren O'Neal is an MFA student at San Francisco State University. Her writing has appeared in publications like Slate, The New Inquiry, and The Hairpin. You can follow her on Twitter at @laureneoneal. More from this author →