Beyond the Story with Josina Guess | Sojourners

Beyond the Story with Josina Guess

“The places that we came from aren’t necessarily the same places that we once knew.”
A black-and-white headshot of a Black woman with a hoop earring and dark curly hair is overlaid on a teal blue outline, with yellow dots on a darker yellow background behind the blue outline.
Graphic by Candace Sanders.

IN THE NOVEMBER 2022 issue of Sojourners, culture columnist Josina Guess explores the legacy of Denmark Vesey, Mother Emanuel AME Church, and the stories that resist removal. Guess spoke with editorial associate Liz Bierly about the connection between art and practice, the mentor that impacted her life and writing, and the full-circle moment of being back in Sojourners’ pages. You can read her November column, “Remembrance as Resistance,” here

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Liz Bierly, Sojourners: You previously pursued a BA in fine and studio arts, and now you are working toward an MFA in narrative nonfiction. What led you to pursue these studies, and what does it look like for you to pursue the intersection of those topics?

Josina Guess: In college, I was just captivated by ceramics and by the process of having something that got my hands dirty and centered me every day in the swirl of college life. I think that’s why I majored in art — I could have studio time — but I wasn’t necessarily pursuing a career in the arts. I had been recognizing that words felt like a medium that I could carry with me anywhere I went, and I didn’t need to have a studio or a kiln.

I ended up not really pursuing ceramics, but I think writing was sort of a continuation of that sort of art as practice. When I’m trying to think about what my days are like [now] — like today I moved some goats, picked some cucumbers, and made some kimchi — I think it’s this combination of these real-life practices of gardening and farming and parenting, and then just engaging in and paying attention to what’s going on in the world and writing about it. [I’m] trying to find a balance in my own life of joy and centering, and then also seeing how to respond to the really broken and wounded parts of myself and of the world, and hope that healing comes in all of those practices.

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