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2016 Winner LaTanya McQueen up at Ninth Letter



LaTanya McQueen’s winning essay, “Before You Throw Her Body Down,” at Ninth Letter, with an introduction by Philip Graham:

“We here at Ninth Letter feel privileged to be able to publish LaTanya McQueen’s winning essay, ‘Before You Throw Her Body Down,’ which combines brutal history with a certain bruised tenderness in the present. Describing her blind date in a bar where she and her companion are the only African-Americans, McQueen moves back and forth between the tentative conversational steps she and her date make, and her thoughts about the long history of racial stereotypes of and brutality towards African-American women—a history that casts invisible barriers over these quiet, sensitive moments. When she and the man she is with discover an unlikely connection in the past between his father and her grandfather, some unexpected emotional comfort breaks through—despite history’s weight—enabling readers to experience recognition and revelation: ‘As I glance around the room, I try to remind myself that we are just a couple in a bar having a drink, and that if one were to turn and look they would only see two people, each of them cautious and fumbling, who are continuously learning how to be.’ The delicacy of technique in this ambitious essay packs a large emotional wallop. —Philip Graham”