Jean Halley is Professor of Sociology at the College of Staten Island and is our first repeat guest (a little milestone for us!). We picked up where we left off last year, when we discussed her book Horse Crazy: Girls and the Lives of Horses. Jean’s new work-in-progress is a memoir that includes themes of the Western U.S., race, violence, and memory itself. Most of these themes, along with her exquisite writing, can be observed in the essay “Killing Deer” which was published in Harper’s and which will find a place in her new collection. “I should tell you that the very real possibility of intending to do good, and instead doing bad, has haunted me my whole life,” she writes. “I knew about this particular kind of wrongdoing—it lived as close to me as skin. My family was full of good intentions and terrible happenings.” Jean has explored in depth the role that racism has played in her family and confronts and reveals how it has impacted her own life. In another short and powerful story from her memoir, “Joan Trestle: A Good Egg,” she writes: “Like many white people, even white people like me who know about and acknowledge the reality of boundless racism in our world today, I was surprised at Joan’s racism. Like many white people, I can go through life, naively, free from noticing the racism around me.” She reads the story in this episode.
Jean talks about her experience at the Centre for Multidisciplinary Studies on Racism (CEMFOR) and gives us a sneak preview of another forthcoming project, a book she has co-authored (with Ron Nerio) about the Hillbrow neighborhood of Johannesburg that was known as the queerest space in Africa in the 1980s and in more recent years has been called the most violent neighborhood in the world.
Listen to Episode 44 now!