Students network with authors during departmental reading series

By Katherine Savage

In his forthcoming book, “A Guest in the House of Hip-Hop: How Rap Music Taught a Kid from Kentucky What a White Ally Should Be,” author Mickey Hess explores his past and how he became a Hip-Hop and American Culture professor at Rider University in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. 

The book, scheduled to be published Nov. 15 by Ig Publishing, “is my attempt to tackle what the hell I thought I was doing,” Hess said during a Feb. 20 reading held at Stage Two, 618 S. Michigan Ave.

Also reading were Negesti Kaudo, an second year English and creative writing graduate student, and David Lazar, author and professor in the English and Creative Writing Department. 

The excerpt Kaudo read dealt with navigating the world as a black woman and losing safe spaces on campus because of racism. Kaudo talked about her experience with a white classmate she said almost made her lose her mind.

“I thought, ‘What kind of mark would my hand leave on her face? Would it redden immediately and swell up?’” Kaudo said during the reading. “’Would my nails catch on the ghostly pale skin of her cheek and leave red lines traveling downwards from the rise of her mediocre cheekbones?’”

Lazar presented excerpts from his book, “I’ll Be Your Mirror, Essays and Aphorisms,” published in September 2017 by the University of Nebraska Press. Lazar explained that aphorisms were short, declarative sentences and the ones he read to the audience resulted in laughter.

“There is nothing better than coming home. Except for leaving home and staying away from home,” Lazar recited. 

Some attended because they were familiar with the writers’ work, while Sidney Thompson, a junior English and creative writing major and Lazar’s former student, had a different reason.

“I was in [Lazar’s] publishing class and I got to know a little bit about his work from there, but I’ve never actually gotten to hear him read any of it,” Thompson said. “I was interested in seeing what it was like.” 

The series concluded with an opportunity to mingle with authors, said Najm Haq, reading series assistant and a second year English and creative writing graduate student. The next program in the reading series is on Monday, March 26, and will feature several Columbia alumni.

“If you are even remotely interested or excited by reading creative work or hearing creative work, you should 100 percent go. It’s both inspirational and informative,” Haq said. “The authors are always very happy to meet with students and speakers afterward. It’s a great way to meet published, successful authors.”