Centralizing Non-White Voices in Midwest Studies

deadline for submissions: 
December 30, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature
contact email: 

From regionalist writers Gene Stratton Porter and Edward Eggleston through modernists Sherwood Anderson and Willa Cather up to contemporary authors Marilynne Robinson and Jeffrey Eugenides, Midwestern literature is often thought to be by and about white people. This is clearly a falsehood.


Two of America’s most celebrated contemporary authors—Louise Erdrich and Toni Morrison—are Midwestern women of color. There is a long tradition of African American literature from the Midwest, from nineteenth-century voices such as Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Ida B. Wells, and Lucy Parsons, to mid-twentieth century writers Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, and Gwendolyn Brooks, up to contemporary figures such as Eve Ewing, Ytasha Malone, and Krista Franklin, whom Chicago magazine identifies as part of a Midwestern Afrofuturist movement. Native American voices abound from the Midwest and Great Plains, including Zitkála-Šá and Heȟáka Sápa (Black Elk) as well as Erdrich, N. Scott Momaday, and Gerald Vizenor. Midwestern Latino/a writers include Sandra Cisneros, Ana Castillo, and members of such Latinx arts collectives as the Twin Cities-based Electric Machete Studios. Asian American authors who have written about Midwestern experiences include Bharati Mukherjee, Celeste Ng, Bienvenido Santos, Susan Choi, and members of the Hmong communities of the upper Midwest, such as Kao Kalia Yang and Mai Neng Moua.


This panel seeks to recognize and explore the literary contributions of Midwestern people of color. We welcome papers on these and other non-white authors, or of communities of writers, to expand the boundaries of what we consider the Midwest and Midwestern literature. We invite papers on texts or authors from a range of historical periods, whether they are part of an established tradition or are creating new forms and communities.


These papers will be presented at “Writing the Midwest,” the 48th annual conference of the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature (SSML), held at Michigan State University on May 17-19, 2018. SSML offers graduate student scholarships to help defray travel expenses. Please send short abstracts (200-300 words) to andy.oler@erau.edu by December 30, 2017.