Essayists are the writers who produce essays. Essays are the literary pieces of work in which the author presents their own arguments and reflections. Since essays convey the author’s individual views, they make for compelling and interesting reading. Essayists may write on a number of topics like politics, education, social issues, literary criticisms, environment, human rights, etc. Even though essays are primarily written in prose, essayists like Alexander Pope have taken the liberty to compose their essays in verse. Essayists, like writers of other genres, do not always believe in conforming to traditions. John Locke was one such essayist who chose to ignore the brevity element in composing his voluminous essays like ‘An Essay Concerning Human Understanding’. The French author Michel de Montaigne who lived during the 16th century is often hailed as the first essayist, though he himself claimed to have been influenced by the writings of Plutarch and Seneca. Essayists like Joseph Addison, Richard Steele and Samuel Johnson flourished during the Age of Enlightenment when essays became the preferred literary form for convincing people of their position. Scroll down further for more information on famous essayists from all over the world who enriched literature with their writings.
9 Essayists of Color You Should Know About
Make sure these up-and-coming PoC and Indigenous writers are on your radar
I put this together as a list of essayists of color and indigenous essayists you should follow, since many “people to follow” lists aren’t representative. But in truth, these aren’t simply “racially inclusive” writers I’d strongly suggest people follow; they’re really good writers I’d urge people to follow.
You more than likely already know the Roxane Gays, Ashley Fords, Janet Mocks, Aura Bogados, Kaitlyn Greenidges, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Jeff Changs, and host of others who have risen in the ranks to be more prominent voices and sought opinions when it comes to the goings on of our nation and the arts we savor. And, I do hope if you haven’t read their work already you start doing so. But this isn’t a post about who you may already know but who you may not be aware of yet.
This list is in no way comprehensive. (I could add another 50 names of those widely published and unpublished.) What this list is is representative of a group of artists creating exceptional work on a range of topics in art, (pop) culture, identity, and politics with material that is not only distinctive but informative and thought-provoking.
Jonnie Taté Walker
Activist, writer, and visual storyteller Taté Walker served as the editor for Native Peoplesmagazine and has contributed to sites such as Everyday Feminism. She’s spoken about and written extensively on Indigenous culture and representation, as well as sexuality and poverty & health in communities. On my podcast Taté and I discussed ongoing stereotypes and misconceptions for Native Americans and the necessity for artists of all areas to be compensated for their work rather than be an instrument for “busting stereotypes.” As Taté says, we have opportunities to educate via our experiences, not be tokens.
Recommended Reading: “New Indigenous Superheroes Save the Day”
Anjali’s writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Brevity, and Lunch Ticket and in regular contributions to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in her hometown. A board member of the National Book Critics Council and Pushcart nominated writer, Anjali’s reviews and reporting have often focused on social justice, given visibility to refugee communities, and lack of representation in the publishing community. From the personal to the political, Anjali injects her writing with her passions on seeing nation-wide progress.
Recommended Reading: “Thoughts of Home: Blueprint for a Baby”
With her upcoming debut This Will Be My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) America, Morgan is steadily becoming a prominent voice for Black feminism/female identity. Her writing has looked backward and forward, as well as examined the current state of Black people and artists. As associate editor of Catapult, Morgan has also provided a venue for more PoC writers to house their work. Morgan’s interest and dissection of pop culture in particular is also stealthy—just check her Twitter feed.
Recommended Reading: “The Forgotten Work of Jessie Redmon Fauset”
Gabrielle is a staff writer for LitHub. Her essays and reviews can be found in The New York Times, Prairie Schooner, VICE, and The Missouri Review, to name a few. While Gabrielle’s work speaks to politics and racial and gender identity, she also analyzes the literary canon. Looking at world-building to presentations of characters in classics like Invisible Man and Ray Bradbury, Gabrielle provides a refined approach to examining seminal works in current times.
Recommended Reading: “Hollywood’s First Harassment Case, 96 Years Before Weinstein”
If you want to learn more about decolonizing travel writing then Bani is the writer you need to be reading. Bani’s writing covers their own experiences traveling while brown, queer, and disabled, and also engages with the overt influence of the white/cishet/abled/male gaze in covering communities of color in particular and the distinctions that can and should be seen when exploring the world. Bani’s work has appeared in CNN Travel, Nowhere magazine, Bitch magazine, and many other outlets.
Recommended Reading: “Getting Real About Decolonizing Travel Culture”
John Paul (JP) Brammer
In JP’s Hola Papi! advice column on Into and previous work in Buzzfeed and NBC Out, he has been outspoken about his experiences from disability to gender/sexual identity to Latinx culture. The discussions broached on Hola Papi! (as well as JP’s personal essays) reflect a specificity that doesn’t sensationalize but personalizes experiences and concerns within the LGBTQ+ community, providing heart and understanding that’s on par with the Dear Sugar columns.
Recommended Reading: “If Public Schools Don’t Survive, Kids Like Me Won’t Either”
Cross-genre writer Jenny Zhang gained even more visibility from her Buzzfeed essay “They Pretend to Be Us While Pretending We Don’t Exist,” but Jenny’s been writing fiction, poetry, and essays for a longer duration covering Asian American identity, immigration, art, and dissecting the problematic tropes we see and the people this material truly impacts. Her debut story collection Sour Heartalso encompasses similar topics and viewpoints from a more expansive and experimental storytelling style.
Recommended Reading: “The Importance of Angsty Art”
A recently announced book deal with Atria Books means we have more to look forward to from Keah. She is the creator of the hashtag #DisabledandCute and has been a keen voice in pop culture, disability politics, and dating & relationships. She’s interviewed Roxane Gay and is a vocal fan of The Ellen Show. Keah’s Twitter presence is as welcoming and honest as her writing when it comes to weaving personal anecdotes to break down the ableist nature of representations in the arts while also reflecting on the need for more intersectional discourse.
Recommended Reading: “Disabled and Empowered: Why I’m Championing Strong Black Female Athletes”
Dr. Adrienne Keene
Professor and researcher Adrienne Keene maintains the Native Appropriations blog where her discussions and analyses don’t solely focus on Native American erasure. She has also written about misogyny (in light of the Weinstein case), the ongoing effects of colonialism and its inextricability from the American psyche, and cultural appropriation. Adrienne’s work persists to push the conversation forward with a better understanding of the numerous issues Native/Indigenous communities face while dissecting it with a factual approach.
Recommended Reading: “Why Tonto Matters”