Boston Book Festival 2020 Boston Book Festival 2020

Memoir: Race and Identity [pre-recorded]

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Issac J. Bailey
Why Didn't We Riot?

Issac J. Bailey is a professor, journalist, and writer. His work has been published in the Washington Post, Charlotte Observer, Politico Magazine, Time, and elsewhere. He has also appeared on NPR, CNN, and MSNBC. His highly acclaimed first book, My Brother Moochie: Regaining Dignity in the Midst of Crime, Poverty, and Racism in the American South, tells the raw story of what Bailey’s family went through when his older brother was sentenced to life in prison. His second book, Why Didn’t We Riot?: A Black Man in Trumpland, discusses a wide range of race-related topics that divide this country, and how millions of non-white Americans have suffered in the wake of a Trump presidency. Kirkus Reviews calls it “brilliant, searing, and surprisingly vulnerable.”

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E. Dolores Johnson
Say I'm Dead

E. Dolores Johnson is an essayist and memoirist with a background in tech. Her writing focuses on the evolution of attitudes on interracial relationships through American history, with an eye to the accelerating browning of America’s future. Her work has appeared in Narratively and Lunch Ticket, among others, and she has consulted on diversity for universities, major corporations, and nonprofits. Her latest is Say I’m Dead: A Family Memoir of Race, Secrets and Love.

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Sejal Shah
This Is One Way to Dance

Sejal Shah is an essayist and recipient of the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Fiction. Her essays have been published in several virtual publications including Brevity, Guernica, and the Kenyon Review Online. Her debut memoir, This Is One Way to Dance, is a collection of essays exploring identity, culture, family, and place. She draws on her experiences as a writer of color, feminist, and a daughter of immigrants to inform her moving memoir. Man Booker Prize–winning author of The Inheritance of Loss, Kiran Desai, says, “While this memoir is frequently heart-breaking, it also dazzles with incandescent humor. One of the most nuanced, wise and tender portraits of immigration I have ever read.”

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Paris Alston is a journalist and associate producer for Radio Boston on WBUR. Alston uses multimedia storytelling to talk about social issues related to identity, community, and culture. She hopes to create a space for people across the world to participate in citizen journalism in relation to current world events. She has loves writing ever since she was a child.


This session explores how race, or more specifically how being nonwhite in America, has formed the identities and lives of our three memoirists. Sejal Shah, in her meditative memoir in essays, This Is One Way to Dance, explores how we are all marked by culture, language, family, and place. In her moving memoir, Say I’m Dead, E. Dolores Johnson tells the astonishing story of her black father and white mother’s flight from Indiana’s antimiscegenation laws to Buffalo, where they married in the 1940s and raised her and her siblings. Journalist Issac Bailey, author of My Brother Moochie and Why Didn’t We Riot? calls out the myth that whites where he lives, in Trumpland, support Trump because of economic distress rather than racism. Listen in to this powerful and timely set of conversations, hosted by Paris Alston, producer for Radio Boston at WBUR.