Emily Bernard was born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee. She holds a B. A. and Ph. D. in American Studies from Yale University. Her work has appeared in The American Scholar, The Boston Globe Magazine, Creative Nonfiction, Green Mountains Review, Oxtford American, Ploughshares, The New Republic, and theatlantic.com. Her essays have been reprinted in Best American Essays, Best African American Essays, and Best of Creative Nonfiction. Her first book, Remember Me to Harlem: The Letters of Langston Hughes and Carl Van Vechten, was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. She has received fellowships and grants from Yale University, Harvard University, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Vermont Arts Council, the Vermont Studio Center, and The MacDowell Colony. A contributing editor at The American Scholar, Emily is the Julian Lindsay Green and Gold Professor of English at the University of Vermont. She lives in South Burlington with her husband John, twin daughters Isabella & Giulia, Sammy the dog, a gentle giant, and Willie & Tom, two very interesting cats.
A memoir in essays about race that is as lucid as the issue is complicated.
Though Bernard (English and Critical Race and Ethnic Studies/Univ. of Vermont; Carl Van Vechten and the Harlem Renaissance: A Portrait in Black and White, 2012, etc.) is a scholar, her latest book is almost devoid of jargon. Instead, the writing is deeply felt, unflinchingly honest, and openly questioning. The author makes no claims to have all the answers about what it means to be a black woman from the South who has long lived and worked in the very white state of Vermont, where she might be the first black person that some of her students have encountered.
From the evidence on display here, Bernard is a top-notch teacher who explores territory that many of her students might prefer to leave unexplored. She is married to a white professor of African-American Studies, and she ponders how his relationship with the students might be different than hers, how he is comfortable letting them call him by his first name while she ponders whether to adopt a more formal address. The couple also adopted twin daughters from Ethiopia, which gives all of them different perspectives on the African-American hyphenate.