The literary community crawled out of its cafes and bedroom corners last night to see visiting professor at the University of Iowa and bestseller Hanif Abdurraqib at his reading—at least it seemed that way. People sat on the steps of the café, in the aisles between rows of chairs, on countertops of bookcases and in the corners of the reading room.
Let’s go on a psychedelic trip through the soothing scores of an introspective falsetto, floating to the ceiling where we’ll ultimately burst into a descension of glitter. Packed in like sardines, a vibration of anxiety and excitement takes over the room. A girl passes out up front. Another one is held back by her boyfriend as she looks ready to throw hands at the girl beside her. It’s absolute chaos and then—darkness.
An African student at the University of Iowa cut all of her hair off, because nobody could braid her natural hair. A black freshman relies on her mom to drive eight hours round-trip in order to get her hair done. A mixed, queer fourth-year shoves his earphones so far down his auditory canal it rattles his eardrum just to avoid the judgment from other black men in a barbershop.
They tell me this is what it feels like to be a stranger in the place they call home for now.