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Word S9.8 —Travels and travails take us into summer

It’s the season-ender.

Heading into summer, some reading events beyond the upcoming Juneteenth holiday offer a deeper connection to why it’s celebrated.

Plus, I was supposed to be on vacation in Africa recently, but literary conversations happened. So, I couldn’t refuse to partake on the road.

Finally, an ASU professor emerita talks about the difference between writing for academia and writing her first novel.

Guest list

Phoenix-based Emancipation Arts creative director  Clottee Hammons has appeared  on past episodes and also served as a  source for stories on KJZZ.

And while Juneteenth is nearing, Hammons is following it in July with two public recitation events, so as not to compete with the many planned activities in the Valley on June 19, which only became a federal holiday in 2021 after being observed for nearly 160 years.

Hammons is hosting a reading of Frederick Douglass’  famous speech, "What, to the Slave, is the Fourth of July?" on July 3 at the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing on the ASU campus from 4-6 p.m. at 450 E. Tyler Mall, Tempe.

Her 27th annual "Emancipation Marathon" reading occurs at Changing Hands Bookstore in Phoenix on July 8 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

According to the Emancipation Arts website, it's mission, "is to raise the profile of Black artists in Arizona and honor our African and enslaved ancestors through measurably influencing, constructively impacting, and fortifying under-served, at-risk or neglected populations; with particular focus on African American, African and Caribbean immigrant and African refugee communities in Maricopa County, through Arts practices and egalitarian collaborations.

Hammons grew up in the segregated downtown Phoenix area and is the granddaughter of a 10th Calvary Buffalo Soldier. She views that legacy with pride and a strong sense of social responsibility. 

She is an artist, writer, poet, activist, educator, and prevention specialist. She views her special call as a “community builder” and works in grateful collaboration with numerous artists, organizations, and individuals while being conscientious and mindful of honoring her ancestors. Hammons is passionate about literature, history, libraries, and librarians.

Her essay, "Disguised As Nice," was published in "Once Upon a Time in a Different World: Issues and Ideas in African American Children’s Literature" (Routledge 2007). She has written articles for the Black Voice News, Phoenix Downtown Magazine, The Arizona Informant."

Recently, I took a vacation to Africa for the first time in my life.

I’ve been blessed to travel over the course of my 50 years. Having never been to that part of the world, I jetted to Cairo and eventually landed on the beach near Mombasa, Kenya.

One night while at a café in a seaside resort town on the Kenyan coast, I met  Injonge Karangwa from Rwanda by happenstance.

She was ostensibly on leave as well, but busy organizing a slew of papers which caught my eye and led to a conversation about what the musician, poet and burgeoning novelist was working on, her writing and thinking process as well as themes she felt she needed to address after giving up successful vocations in education and business.

Karangwa has worked on "an initiative that sought to accelerate vaccines introduction and improve quality of immunization systems in five African countries and provided foundational leadership to the Clinton Heath Access Initiative (CHAI) Rwanda Nutrition program that aimed at decreasing and preventing chronic malnutrition in the Rwandan under‐five population," according to her resume and also created the "Hamwe festival for the University of Global Health Equity. It was an event with the dual mission to celebrate the contributions of creative communities to the global health equity agenda and enable artists, scholars, and global health professionals to collaborate to improve health around the world."

ASU professor emerita  Roxanne Doty is mostly retired from academia, and last year she released her debut novel, “Out Stealing Water” which is set in Phoenix.

If you’re looking for an upcoming summer read that is rooted in real life, Doty’s book offers sublime characters with questionable morals who stick together in a gripping drama.

According to a synopsis of the book, "When the city turns off her family's water, seventeen-year-old Emily begins to understand why her uncle Dwight thinks the government should keep its hands off people's lives, property, and the things they have a right to — such as water. Set in Phoenix, Arizona, in the summer of 2010, Out Stealing Water tells the story of Emily's increasingly bold schemes to get enough money to leave Phoenix for good. She and her cousin, Paula, begin stealing. At first, it's T-shirts and gym shorts from the university gym, but it soon escalates to stealing cell phones and IDs. When they accept an offer from the shady friend of her uncle Jay to steal suitcases from Sky Harbor Airport, they may have crossed a point of no return. Meanwhile, Dwight struggles to hang on to the family's ramshackle two-acre property located in the heart of a rapidly growing university town by accepting help from an armed antigovernment group. In the wake of a tragic shootout, Emily has to choose: Stay in the place she calls home? Or find a new life for herself?"

Her academic credits include the following: "Roxanne Doty joined the ASU faculty in 1990. She received her MA and MA for Arizona State University and PhD from the University of Minnesota. She is the author of The Law Into Their Own Hands-Immigration and the Politics of Exceptionalism (2009) University of Arizona Press, Anti-Immigrantism in Western Democracies (2003) Routledge, Studies in Global Political Economy Series, and Imperial Encounters: Patterns of Representation in North/South Relations (1996) University of Minnesota Press. Professor Doty has contributed articles to International Studies Quarterly, Review of International Studies, European Journal of International Relations, Security Studies, Alternatives, Cambridge Review of International Affairs, Millennium-Journal of International Studies, and International Political Sociology. She is the recipient of a Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation grant 1997-1998." 

When we talked recently, I was curious what inspired her to take a departure from academic writing into the world of fiction.

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Portions of “Word” have been nominated for Edward R. Murrow and Public Media Journalists Association awards.

Have a great summer and we hope to return for Season 10 in mid-September.

Thanks for listening, and  send us email in the meantime!

EDITOR'S NOTE: This page has been updated to remove a photo of Injonge Karangwa at her request.

Tom Maxedon is the host of KJZZ’s Weekend Edition on Saturday and Sunday from 6-10 a.m. and All Things Considered on Monday from 3-6 p.m.