Our Workshops

Writer as Reader Workshops

Nuclear Family/Nuclear Fallout: Exploring the Intimate Histories of U.S. Race and Gender Relations through James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues” and Mary Burger’s Sonny

November 2, 2012

In this workshop, we look at ways the family unit in Baldwin’s short story “Sonny’s Blues” (1957) and Burger’s novella Sonny (2006) intimately replicates certain race, class, and gender expectations, while at the same time defiantly collapses others. We explore the dynamics that allow the characters to be both permanently exposed to one another (sometimes painfully so) and to remain recalcitrant strangers. Further, we examine how Baldwin and Burger use the act of writing to accentuate, enact, and make newly visible the contours of these relationships.

Using a variety of IWT writing practices and experiments, we investigate how complex individual and collective histories are born out in the bodies and movements of these invented individuals. We ask ourselves how Baldwin and Burger might be using their writing as an opening from which to make room for new resemblances and subjectivities. In the words of Burger, “They mean so many things when they say brother.”

Texts: “Sonny’s Blues,” in Going to Meet the Man: Stories by James Baldwin (Vintage, 1995) and Sonny by Mary Burger (Leon Works, 2005; available through Small Press Distribution at www.spdbooks.org) 

Workshop fee: $150 (includes morning coffee, lunch, and 
workshop materials)